Review: Babylonian Magic and Sorcery – Leonard W. King, M.A.

Babylonian Magic and Sorcery: Being “The Prayers of the Lifting of the Hand” – Leonard W. King, M.A.
Weiser Books. 1896, 2000. 275pp. 0877289344.

In the seventh century BCE Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, had a series of prayers collected and copied down from an earlier Babylonian source (xix). Known as “The Prayers of the Lifting of the Hand” this collection is the foundation of King’s text. This is not a how-to book on Babylonian magick, this is not a historical or anthropological analysis of Babylonian magick, this text is just a modern re-enactment of Ashurbanipal’s collection.

King is not an occultist, he’s an Assyriologist which means he isn’t translating this text with a magickal or religious bias. His interest wasn’t in reproducing a viable magickal system, quite simply he just wanted to translate a collection of Babylonian prayers to help further the study of the culture. The book contains an introduction about the work and the source, the transliterations and translations of the different tablets, a vocabulary, and finally a reproduction of the tablets as a source text.

This book is not something most magickians could pick up and make any practical use of, but for the more historical and academically inclined magickians this book is utterly fascinating. Unfortunately like most cuneiform tablets there is a lot of damage. Some tablet/prayers are just slightly damaged and pose no real problem, others are so heavily damaged that of an entire prayer only a few words remain.

This book is a great resource, as King wrote this over a century ago before the neopagan revival, and is writing as an Assyriologist so it is wonderful to see prayers and magick from an ancient culture without reinterpretation and reworking for “modern sensibility.” It is strictly a translation, and as a Western magickian it is great to be able to see how different the world view was, and yet occasionally see glimmers that persist into magick today.

If you’re looking for a practical occult text to get results with, this is not the book you’re looking for. If you’re a historian, Assyriologist, or academic magician then this book as a rare reproduction of a source text is an amazing read.

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