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Assyrian Exorcisms

In addition to the half-human, half-supernatural beings that were thought to prowl through Assyrian homes, it was believed that anyone who hadn’t been honored with a proper burial would return to haunt the living as a ghost. Looking at the unburied, unprepared corpse of a dead man could allow the spirit to enter the body of a living person, but they were equally troublesome when they were haunting the living in their ghostly form.

 They were believed to suck the life force from the living, with strange rituals performed for those who were plagued by a ghostly presence. In some cases, the man who was haunted would be bathed, or the body of the person believed to be doing the haunting would be buried. In other cases, a ritual involving the god Shamash would be used. In this ritual, the Assyrian would first ask the ghost why they had returned and why they had targeted a particular person. Then the Assyrian would mix flour and leaven in an ox horn while a drink was poured in the name of Shamash. Finally, the mixture was put inside a hoof that came from a dark-colored ox, which supposedly put the ghost to rest.However, invoking the power of Shamash was no small request.

One of the three major Mesopotamian deities, he ruled over the Sun during the day and the underworld at night. Shamash was believed to be the god that delivered the famous code of laws to Hammurabi. Shamash was also widely known as being above the petty and often unjust squabbles of the lesser gods.Another Assyrian belief painted ghosts as the harbingers of death, destruction, and tragedy. When a ghost appeared to the living, the house that it visited would be destroyed. If the ghost spoke to the living, those who heard it would die soon afterward.