I’m still playing around with talking snakes and such. I just can’t quite bring the whole issue to closure. In the Hebrew Bible the snake in Genesis 3 speaks and Balaam’s ass speaks in Numbers 22:21-30. In the latter case the context is rather clearly one of contact with a god who has something to tell Balaam. “And then YHWH opened the ass’s mouth and she said to Balaam, . . .” I’m in the process of bringing together other ancient, mostly Near Eastern, examples of animals talking and I may post a few in the future.
I’ve also taken a somewhat different direction on this. The common wisdom is that the Mesopotamians saw their literate gods as “writing” omens on things like livers and so forth in a way that a properly trained diviner could read them. But do omens also speak?
Side note: if someone reads an omen from say a liver, then of course that person speaks but that’s a somewhat different issue. I’m trying to figure out if omens can “speak” for themselves.
There are several occasions where the Akkadian word qabû, “to speak, say, pronounce” is used in association with omens. For example,
Concerning good and bad they (protases) speak: (if) its (a ṣibtu’s [a part of a liver]) front parts lie toward the right, it is good; (if) toward the left, misfortune.
I have the complete publication of the text on order from interlibrary loan but it hasn’t arrived as yet so I’m not completely clear of the context but I think this is part of a list of haruspicy omens.
But I just can’t convince myself that this use of qabû is meaningfully related to vocalizing an omen. I wish I could find a clear example. If you know of one, please tell me about it.