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Study Guide to Babylonian Magick

Stages in the Career

A reference in an Assyrian text list the stages in the typical career of a magician as:

  1. Šamallu (Student)
  2. Šamallu MAŠMAŠ sehru (Student Young-Magician)
  3. MAŠ.MAŠ sehru (Young Magician)
  4. MAŠMAŠ (Magician)
  5. MAŠ.MAŠ bit Aššur (Magician of the Aššur Temple)

I hope the following guide will serve as the outline for a self-study curriculum leading to at least partial attainment of each of these stages in turn. I must say partial attainment for two reasons - first, I have very little idea of what these titles may have really meant 2700 years ago; second, even technical mastery of every detail of the following proposed curriculum will not necessarily mean success in the main project, which is spiritual attainment. Technically speaking, lines 41-42 of KAR 44 intimate what is to be expected.

People undoubtedly practiced theurgy in ancient Mesopotamia. "Theurgy," a neo-Platonic Greek term meaning "Work of the God(s)," describes a process for becoming one with the Gods - it required esoteric study, initiation under a master, and disciplined practice. The Babylonians also had a "Work of Gods," dullu ili, which was the task appointed to humankind at its creation. While the simple meaning of the term implies the daily work of the priesthood in praying and maintaining the deity in the temple, a personal layer of meaning for those engaged in the task for the thousands of years of active service in the temples of Babylonia seems not too much to suspect, despite the lack of direct textual evidence. Or perhaps we are missing something right in front of us?

I imagine that this esoteric dullu ili occured both within the officially recognized "licensed" careers of ašipu/ašiputu (male and female magicians) and baru/barutu (male and female diviners) as well as the careers of the "unauthorized" practitioners - the countless witches, sorcerers, necromancers and other users of magick who populate the tablets of Maqlu, Šurpu and many other prophylactic rituals. Although our information about magick in Babylon comes from the "establishment," I believe they are an organic extension of the primordial magickal tradition in the ancient Near East. The grades from Šamallu to Mašmaš bit Aššur are therefore a good standard upon which to model a modern magician's development in the lore of ancient Babylon.

Correspondences - Syncretisms

Assyri anGolden DawnA.A.Holy OrdersTemple Officers
0. - - - - -
1. ApkalluIpsissimusIpsissimusBish opSecret Chiefs
2. ApkalluMagusMagusBishopSecret Chiefs
3. MAŠ.MAŠ biti AššurMagister TempliMagister TempliPriestSecret Chiefs
4. MAŠ.MAŠAdeptus ExemptusAdeptus Exemptus-Praemonstrator
5. - Adeptus MajorAdeptus MajorDeaconImperator
6. - Adeptus MinorAdeptus Minor - Cancellarius
7. MAŠ.MAŠ sehruPhilosophusPhilosophusAcol yteHegemon, Dadouchos
8. - PracticusPracticusExorcist Hegemon, Stolistes
9. Šamallu MAŠ.MAŠ sehruTheoricusZelatorHealerKerux
-ZelatorNeophyteReader, Cleric -
10. ŠamalluNeophyte
Probation erDoorkeeper
Candida te

These syncretisms are not to be taken as exact equivalencies: especially between the Officers and Holy Orders, the positions often reflect duties rather than grades.

Doing It Yourself

In the following, I suggest a curriculum and a suggested amount of time you should devote to each "grade." Each is the minimum amount of time possible, assuming you have nothing else to do. Take as long as you need, and do not be in a hurry. In the absence of a Master, you must decide for yourself when and under what conditions you should advance. If you have practiced hard, your clues should be unmistakeable.

1.Šamallu - Student
Three Months Minimum

The Šamallu will come to a general knowledge of Mesopotamia - the history of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylon, as well as an overview of the ancient Near East's prehistory, up to the present day; will be familiar with their stories and songs, must begin to study Sumerian and Akkadian, as well as their cuneiform writing system; will begin to make daily offering of first drink to ancestors, Gods, and Guardian Angel (šedu and lamassu); will begin to seek communication with the Gods through dreams, as well as signs of the šedu and lamassu; will memorize and perform four daily prayers at sunset, midnight, sunrise and noon, as well as the Kibratu (Babylonian Pentagram) Ritual.
Performance of the Self-Initiation Ritual opens grade of Šamallu MAŠMAŠ sehru.

2.Šamallu MAŠ.Š sehru - Student Young Magician
Six to Nine Months Minimum

The Šamallu MAŠ.MAŠ sehru will continue the studies and practices of the Šamallu/Šamallutu; must begin studies of anatomy, physiology and psychology; must begin to learn basic healing practices, such as rythmic breathing, massage and relaxation, herbal medicine and the effects of foods, and must develop a repertoire of simple cures for common problems; will learn the major bodies of the solar system and basic astronomy; will, if possible, assist in or observe births, work with the elderly and dying, and if possible deaths and mortuary practices; will travel alone to a foreign country for at least two weeks, continuing these studies.
Study and performance of Šurpu self-initiates into grade of MAŠ.MAŠ sehru.
Šamallu MAŠ.MAŠ sehru may also perform the 8 Gate Initiations at monthly intervals.

MAŠ.MAŠ sehru - Student Magician
One plus Nine Months Minimum

The MAŠ.MAŠ sehru/tu must give up all practices for one month (one lunar month, beginning on the New Moon), except those studies which do not pertain exclusively to the work, such as astronomy and physiology. The purpose of this "fallow" period is to see what of these studies has gone deepest in the soul, and to let the results of the past 9 months to a year show themselves. It is a period of introspection, a vacation. Observe your dreams, your daydreams and the forms your leisure takes. Depending on the results of this introspection, the MAŠ.MAŠ sehru/tu may then either a) abandon the Work (the daily practices, copying and memorization), or b) make a formal declaration to continue.
Deciding to continue, the MAŠ.MAŠ sehru/tu will resume all practices and studies of the previou grades; will study and memorize favorite portions of Šurpu, and the stories of the Gods (in English and Akkadian or Sumerian); will consecrate a permanent Temple; will study Divination and the Omen Texts, as well as hepatoscopy and dreams; will make statues of the God, Goddess and Dæmons, and representations of Ancestors; will pray continually for some visible sign of the šedu and lamassu.
For proof of success in these studies, the MAŠ.MAŠ sehru/tu will diagnose and successfully treat at least three minor (but persistent) illnesses in other people; will predict the future from divination so frequently and accurately that it cannot be due to knowledge of causality; will receive the names of the šedu and lamassu.
Study the Bit Rimki, the Akitu, or the Seven Day Larsa Ritual, and devise an adaptation. This will be the initiation to the grade of MAŠ.MAŠ.

MAŠ.MAŠ - Magician
Indefinite duration, under guidance of šedu and lamassu

The MAŠ.MAŠ will continue and become perfected in all previous studies, to the point that the Magician can discuss competently (although not necessarily minutely) with scholars of these areas. Intellectually, the Magician should aim to become a master of general knowledge, and a master conversationist. The MAŠ.MAŠ will master cuneiform to the point of being able to identify the basic contents of any text without sign-lists or dictionaries; will obtain complete knowledge of three methods of impretated divination (such as Libanomancy, or Smoke Reading, Oil on Water, Tarot, Dice, Ifa, Geomancy, or I Ching), and three methods of natural signs (such as Hepatoscopy, the Flight and Singing of Birds, Cloud shapes and movement, Animals and Astrology); will memorize Namburbis in 10 different areas; will achieve wealth and love (if not possessing them already) through the aid of Magick.
All the work of the MAŠ.MAŠ/ašipu/tu depends upon the relationship with the personal God and Goddess and with their representatives, the šedu and lamassu. There is therefore no specific duration for the grade of MAŠ.MAŠ. All private work of the dullu ili culminates in this grade.
However, if the MAŠ.MAŠ decides upon a public or semi-public career devoted to Magick, he or she will take the title MAŠ.MAŠ biti with the first public announcement of this decision, either on publishing a document of magick or teaching magick publicly.

MAŠ.MAŠ biti - Magician of the Temple

The MAŠ.MAŠ biti will found or become part of a Temple or an organization of service to the Gods and Humanity. The life of the MAŠ.MAŠ biti will be completely given to this service. In addition, the Temple Magician will attain complete understanding of the universe, and communicate this in teaching and publication.
The title of MAŠ.MAŠ biti is the last the Magician can take by will. When the service and wisdom of the Magician have been proven, the Gods and the people whom he or she has served will confer of themselves the honor of the title Apkallu - Sage. (They need not confer it with this precise word - the sign of the bestowal of the "grade" is both inward and outward; you will have a dream or series of dreams giving you the honor, and your people will commemorate your work with a celebration of election, in which you have had no part of the preparation. You may only then assume the title when this dual sign of the grade has occured).

Apkallu - Sage

The Apkallu/tu must only aim to work ever more closely with the Gods on behalf of her and his people, to achieve perfect understanding of every part of the Work, to serve the community under her or his charge, and to unite each part in unbroken wholeness.


The requirements for the grades culminating in MAŠ.MAŠ biti are often not achieved sequentially; if you have already achieved the Goal, or even a certain degree of magickal mastery, through another system, and know the basic sciences, and would like to master the Babylonian curriculum, make your goals

Remember that this latter is the most difficult part of the specifically Babylonian magickal education. In general, then, experienced magicians who want to become Babylonian Magicians should perform the Self-Initiation Ritual after reading it over a few times, and then proceed with those parts of the curriculum that deal exclusively with Babylonian Magick. They should also skip the one month fallow period between Šamallu MAŠ.MAŠ sehru and MAŠ.MAŠ sehru. I would also suggest taking an Akkadian or Sumerian name at the outset.
As far as the final "grade," Apkallu, is concerned, you may have all of the spiritual and intellectual qualities of the grade, but unless you have put in the time an service to a community you cannot claim to be a "Sage." This is the only grade you cannot deceive yourself in taking, because others will grant it to you on the basis of worthiness, whether you feel qualified or not. If you are a Bishop in another Church, or a Magus in an Order (presuming you have also founded your own organization), you are a de facto Apkallu. If you wish to to incorporate larger or smaller aspects of Babylonian religion into your church, you might add parts of the above curriculum to the training of your clergy.