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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/392

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Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, being "The Prayers of THE Lifting of the Hand." By Leonard W. King. London : Luzac «S: Co., 1896.

Babylonia was the native land of magic. Here it was reduced to a science which made its way, with the other elements of Babylonian culture, into Western Asia, and from Western Asia to Europe. The folklore of our own country still contains echoes of the superstitions and practices that were formed into a system by the Babylonian priests several thousand years before the Christian era.

Among the clay tablets which have come from the sites of the Babylonian libraries, or from that of the library of Nineveh, which contained little else than reproductions of older Babylonian works, a considerable proportion relate to magic and sorcery. George Smith was the first to draw attention to them, but it was Fr. Lenormant who laid the foundations of a scientific study of the subject ; indeed, but little advance has been made upon the principles and results embodied in his work La Magie chez les Chaldeens, published in 1874. New texts, it is true, have been edited and translated since that date, and our knowledge of the Assyrian vocabulary is more complete than it was twenty years ago, but the progress in philological knowledge has not been accompanied by a corresponding progress in a knowledge of what may be termed Babylonian folklore.

Mr. King's book is a welcome contribution towards a small corner of the subject. It deals with a certain class of prayers and ceremonies addressed to the great powers of heaven and earth after sickness, an eclipse of the moon, or some other untoward event. The prayers partake of the nature of incantations, and the ceremonies embody older superstitious rites and observances. But in calling the rubrics which prescribe the rites " magical

ocs too far ; they are no more magical than