And Now For Something Completely Different – Extispicy

The follow is from the Bārûtu: Manzāzu Commentary 1, tablet 2 according to the colophon on Rm 2, 103 i:17.

BE SILIM MÁŠ ina UGU MÁŠ e.ṣir šá ana SIG5 u ḪUL DUG4ú IGI.MEŠ-šá ana 15 šá GAR.MEŠ-ma SIG5 ana 150 GAR.MEŠ-ma BAR-tum
Šumma šulum ṣibti ina muḫḫi ṣibti eṣir ša ana damqi u lemutti iqbû panū ša ana imitti šaknū-ma damqtu ana šumēli šaknū-ma aḫītu(m)
If the wellbeing(?) (šulum < šulmu) of the ṣibti is drawn over the ṣibti: they speak of good fortune and misfortune; features that are deposited toward the right are good fortune; (those) deposited toward the left are misfortune.

Rm2, 103 was first published by Boissier, 11-19, in 1894. Ulla Koch-Westenholz, 132-150, republished it along with several duplicates in a more contemporary, user friendly, style in 2000.
Koch, 45, 64-5, 66-7, tells us that the ṣibtu which she renders “increment” is the processus papillaris of the liver and the šulmu, rendered “wellbeing” is the lobus quandratus. It’s not so clear to me what the šulum ṣibti, “the wellbeing of the increment” is. Perhaps it only means that thelobus quandratus is drawn over the processus papillaris. I suppose that’s possible but from Koch’s, 45, drawing, they don’t seem to be all that near each other. Do I really need to learn liver anatomy?
Several things attracted me to this extispicy commentary. But at this point I dare not reveal them. Well, one of them I can reveal. Notice that the šulum ṣibti “speaks.” More common figures for how expispicy works involve writing and reading. But if free association has led you to wonder about whether damqi u lemutti might help us understand something else, keep it to yourself. People will think you are crazy. At least they will for now.

Boissier, Alfred, Documents Assyriens relatifs aux présages (Paris: Librairie E. Bouillon, 1894)
Koch-Westenholz, Ulla Susanne, Babylonian liver omens: the chapters Manzāzu, Padānu, and Pān tākalti of the Babylonian extispicy series mainly from Aššurbanipal’s Library (Copenhagen: Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Near Eastern Studies, University of Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000)

One thought on “And Now For Something Completely Different – Extispicy”

  1. “Do I really need to learn liver anatomy?”
    Yes, I’m afraid there’s no getting around that if we want to get into the mindset of the ancient haruspices. I’m no veterinarian myself and struggle. But my fascination of these religious aspects of history keeps me determined to understand. This haruspicial diagram really helps out.
    “It’s not so clear to me what the šulum ṣibti, “the wellbeing of the increment” is.”
    Is it possible then that ṣibtu represents the entire middle section of the liver with the wellbeing as a subset? All I can surmise based on Etruscan haruspicy and my own attempts at analysis of the ever-curious Liver of Piacenza is that these areas have to do with the earthly realm (the region of the liver dominated by the gall bladder and finger which is also represented in the Etruscan model). I can only assume that the extra pyramidal structure represents something non-anatomical (ie. a great mountain atop which the celestial gods reside?).
    I see here three worlds (with three kingships) much like among the Norse: the kingdom of the sky, the kingdom of the earth and the kingdom of the underworld (ie. world of the dead). So the increment and wellbeing would be the central region referring to the kingdoms of the earth and their fate. However I’ve had to infer much of this for myself based simply on how the Etruscan model is organized. I keep on putting off scouring these related Babylonian texts which could certainly add more detail and insight. Your entries here always manage to reinvigorate my curiosity.

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