Over the last couple of month’s I’ve been mulling over the role of not looking back in various ritual contexts with an eye on the divine prohibition against looking back for which Lot’s wife got herself salted. I’ve written a couple of posts on this. Despite the posts, this has been somewhat of a background effort while I focused on something more pressing (to me). Parallels with the Biblical probation against looking back in Genesis 19:17 are a dime a dozen. You can hardly think about the subject without running into what happened to Eurydice when Orpheus looked back at her on the why up from the Hades. But a few Akkadian medical rituals provide parallels that abnormally interested me. Until yesterday afternoon, I was able to deceive myself into thinking that I was the only person who had noticed these parallels. Well, I’m not! Not very surprisingly, Theodor Gaster noticed them also. In fact, this may well go back to Sir James G. Frazer’s Folklore in the Old Testament in 1918. Gaster (or Frazer) writes of Genesis 19:17 and the prohibition against looking behind,
Thus, in a Hittite ritual for exorcism of demons, the witch is instructed to depart, at the end of her ministrations, “without turning around”; and in a Babylonian charm to relive sickness the patient is given the warning that he must return home with his gaze fixed ahead. [159, references deleted]
I knew of the Hittite ritual but haven’t had a chance to look at it. But his reference to the “Babylonian charm” took the wind out of my sails. This “charm” is over 100 lines long. I have looked at this text but that isn’t the point. Gaster doesn’t directly reference the “charm” but he cites as his source L. W. King’s 1896 work on Akkadian shuilla prayers! King’s book is online.
Anyway, I thought there might be a short note in all this and I still thing so. But it seems that I didn’t discover anything. I didn’t even notice something that no one else had noticed. Perhaps, I can explain what Gaster noticed more fully and in a somewhat different light but that isn’t nearly as exciting.
Note: Most, but not all, of the notes on this section of Gaster reference works published before 1918. But I can’t find this material in Farzer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I just can’t find it. All three volumes of Frazer are online.
King, Leonard W., Babylonian Magic and Sorcery: being the prayers of the lifting of the hand (London, Luzac, 1896)
Gaster, Theodor, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament: A Comparative Study With Chapters from Sir James G. Frazer’s Folklore in the Old Testament, Vol. 1)
(New York: Harper & Row, 1969)