Libmonster ID: JP-1325
Author(s) of the publication: L. S. Bayun

Among the various types of Hittite divination (SU - hepatoscopy, MUSEN - ornithomancy, KIN-divination by lot, etc.), the MUS oracles occupy a special place. This is the only variety of oracles that is not found in combination with other types, while KUS, MUSEN, and KIN were often used for mutual confirmation / rechecking of results. Like the KIN oracles, the main character here is MUNUS SU.GI "(Priestess) An Old Woman." The essence of the procedure is the interpretation of the movements and actions of the creature denoted by the sumerogram MUS (1) in a closed reservoir (2). In quantitative terms, the preserved MUS oracles are significantly inferior to other texts of this genre. One large text iBot I 33 and several smaller fragments of texts are known (KUB XXII 38; KUB XVIII 6-KUB XXII 19 = CTH 575; KUB XXII 42 + 43 = CTH 581) (3).

The text of iBot I 33 provides an overview of the procedure for conducting MUS oracles and their implementation.

1. The sumerogram MUS means "snake", but in the oracles, as researchers believe, any predatory waterfowl could be used (see Laroche E. Lecanomancie hittite / / RA. 1958. 52. P. 159), so in our article this term is enclosed in quotation marks.

2. The conventional designation of this type of oracles - "lecanomancy", lit. "divination by oil (poured into water)" - was adopted by E. Laroche with the reservation that we are talking about a system of predictions that developed from "passive lecanomancy" (Laroche. Lecanomancie... P. 162).

3. Ibid. P. 150; last fragments added by A. Arki (Arc hi A. II sistema KIN della divinazione ittita / / Oriens, Antiquus. 1975. 3. P. 113).

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place in the Hittite divination system (4). It contains 114 almost intact lines and is a detailed account of the MUS oracle requested for the king, who is called TU' "My Sun" (5), a priestess named Mizzulla - and her assistants MUNUS" SU. GI. The text under consideration is divided into four parts: (i) an explanation of the reason for contacting the oracle and a general request regarding possible misfortunes for the king (stcc. 1-8); ( / ?) queries for each of the next 20 years, including the current year (stcc. 9-82); (c) rechecking of individual results (stcc. 83-88); (and?) specific questions about upcoming disasters and their sites (stcc. 89-114). From a formal point of view, each call to the oracle involves a standard set of actions and their interpretation.

Let's look at examples of the four listed parts of the text.


(1) e-ni-za ku-it ISKIMb1-'* HUU" a A$ Kum-ma-hi ki-ik-kis-ta-at

(2) nu-za a-pdt-tin ku-it EGIR-a/г HUL DV-at ki-nu-un-ma-za nam- ma ku-it

(3) ISKIM a HUL-" ki-ik-kis-ta-ri SA SAG. DU TU- HUL

(4) i-se-eh-hi-is-kdn-zi nu MUS. SAG. DU WU- NU. SIG-ah-du

(5) MUS." SAG. DU-kdnlu-lu-ti SUM-u-en na-as-kdn UGU DIB-za MU1113 GID. DA

(6) na-as DUGUD-w mu-un-na-it 2 A-NA GUNNI UGU IS-BAT

(7) na-aS-kdn DUGUD-m mu-un-na-it 3 har-ki ak-kdn-ni ha-da-an- da-za GAM-da [u]-it

(8) GVL-sa-ai DUGUD-w mu-un-na-it SIG

(1) Those (known) evil omens appeared in Kummah,

(2) after which misfortunes then occurred: now

(3) evil omens yet to appear, for the head (6) of My Sun misfortune

(4) foreshadow? Let the "Serpent of My Sun's Head" be unfavorable (7).

(5) The "Snake of the Head" we summoned to luluti (8). After rising to the surface, it (sailed away) for Many Years

(6) and disappeared in Dignity (9); 2 (for the second time?) (10) - at the Hearth rose to the surface

(7) and hid herself in Dignity; 3 - in Destruction and Death, down from the Dry (place) (11) [when]sailed

(8) (i) hid in the Dignity of the Goddesses of Fate. Favorable.

4. The full transliteration of the text was published by E. Laroche more than 40 years ago (Lecanomancie...). However, since then the reading of some characters has changed, additions and clarifications are also possible (the latter are discussed everywhere below), so we considered it necessary to reproduce some rather significant fragments of the text in a new edition.

5. Title of the New Hittite kings; the text dates from the time of Hattusilis III (second quarter of the 13th century BC), see Kummenhuhi'r A. Orakelpraxis. Traume und Vorzeichenschen bei den Hethitern (Texte der Hethiter 7). Heidelberg, 1976. S. 27, 72.

6. Sumerogram SAG. DU also means "person; being".

7. Oracle signs, both expected and actually observed, are transmitted by schumerograms (NU.) SIG, less often (NU.)?E (= het. luzziya -) "(unfavorable": CHD 3/1, p. 50 ff. (with literature).

8. Ср. CHD 3/1, р. 84: "a desirable condition, such as flourishing, thriving". In our text, everything has a double gloss wedge. Here and further capital letters indicate symbolic designations of sections of the reservoir.

9. The sumerogram DUGUD (= het. nakki-, often found in the MUS oracle, see Friedrich./. Hethitisches Worterbuch. Heidelberg, 1952. S. 269; here-the abstract name nakkiyatar) is translated as " dignity; respect; significance "(E. Laroche: "Respect").

10. The second and third attempts in the text are indicated by two or three vertical clips, respectively.

11. About the meaning of het. haciant- см. Puhvel J. Hittite Etymological Dictionary. V. III. N.Y., 1984. P. 54 f. Otherwise, E. Laroche (Lecanomancie ... P. 155 et passim).

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(13) nu AS MU. 2. KAM-ma NU. E-du MUS. SAG. D[\J-kdn] A-NA GUNNI SUM-en

(14) nu-kdn A-NA KU? 1S-BAT pal-la [Tl-ni] e-ez-za-as

(15) 2 la-ah-la-hi-ma-za u-it n[a-as-kdn\ A-NA EZEN" DINGIR" mu- un-na-it

(16) 3 du-us-ga-ra-na-za u-it E-ri M! (12) mu-un-{na)-it

(35) MU.8.KAM W.SIGs-du MUS. SAG. DV-kdn Tl-ni SUM-en nu UGU IS-BAT

(36) al-da-ni an-da wa-ah-nu-ut MUb'-a GID. DA dugud-/!/ KI.MIN

(37) 2 TA GIDIM111 a th-it al-da-ni an-da wa-ah-nu-ut xx]. SIG5

(38) 3 EGIR. SUM-za u-it E. LUGAL DUGUD-w mu-un-na-it SIG

(13) Bo the 2nd year may be unfavorable. We summoned the Snake Head to the Hearth.

(14) At the Thunder God, she grabbed a fish (and) ate (it) in palla Tl-ni (13);

(15) 2-out of Anxiety (14) she sailed and hid herself in the Feasts of the Gods;

(16) 3-out of Joy, she sailed (and) hid in the Temple of the Storm God (?).

(35) (C) Let the 8th year be unfavorable. We brought the" Snake of the Head " to Life by rising to the surface,

(36) she made a circle in the reservoir (and) idem (==hid) (15) in the Dignity of Long Years;

b. 0 came from the Ghosts, made a circle in the pond (i) at the Good God XX (16) (disappeared);

(38) 3-she sailed from Return (17) (and) hid in the Dignity of the Royal Palace Favorably.



(83) e-ni ku-it Mi-iz-zu-ul-la-aS MUNUS". SU. Gl-ya me-mi-ir A-NA T'-wa

(84) MU 4 MU 8 NU. SIG5 e-ni-is-sa-an-za i-wa-ar MUNUS. SU. GI DU-n-NU SIG, du

(85) [MUS]. SAG. DU A-NA SUM-en nu-kdn du-us-ga-ra-ni UGU IS-BAT

(86) [na-as-k] an UGU DIB-za A-NA MV-ti KI. MIN 2 TA MU11 ' a GID. DA ar-ha UGU DIB-za u-it

(87) 1-NA EGlR-UD- KI.MIN 3 GIS. MAH u-it na-aS-kan GUL-sa- as

(88) dugud-/!/ KI.MIN SIG5


(83) This is what Mizbullah and the Old Women said: "For My Sun

(84) 4-and (and) 8-and years are unfavorable." Will it be like (says) Old Woman Let it be unfavorable.

(85) We called the [Serpent] head to the God of Thunderstorms. She is in Joy, rose to the surface

12. Presumptive reading of the sign that stands after the determinative of the deity and should be close (E. Laroche: "X-X"). The sign is somewhat different from the ideogram IM (=im), especially on the left side, but this is not the only case of the"P" 011 entry in the " m " text (Laroche. Lecanomancie... Passim)

13. CHD 3/3, p. 59: "abbreviated writing". Possibly related to the wed-het. pallanti (ya) - " depravation "(ibid p 62) and the Luwian verb pallaSSarinuwa (meaning unknown: ibid.).

14. Wed. in ornithomancy: lahlahimaS MU?EN1"a (CHD 3/1, p. 11)' " birds (in condition?) alarms"

15. The schumerogram KI. MIN "(to do) the same" (Friedrich. Op. cit. S. 289) in our text often replaces the verb form munnait. See their distribution below.

16. In the text, two cuneiform characters are erased, the name of God is not read.

17. EGIR. SUM-ha (ablative) = hit. appapiyannaz < * appa-piyatar " return / return gift (?)".

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(86) [and,] having risen to the surface, in the Year idem; 2 - out of the Long Years it came up, having risen to the surface,

(87) (s) in the Future idem; 3-she sailed from the (Wooden) Beam and

(88) in the Dignity of the Goddesses of Fate idem. Favorable.

As you can see from the above fragments, the procedure for getting a response to a request in the oracle includes a series of sequential actions. The "snake" moves in a reservoir divided into sections, each of which has a symbolic designation such as" Royal Palace "or"Joy". The priestess "Old Woman", who is assisted by "assistants", calls the " snake "to a certain section, while guessing the result with the words:"Let it be (not)favorable." The "snake" makes some movements and hides in one of the sections. Each request is followed by observing three, or at least two, cycles of movement of the "snake", then the result is reported (if it is obvious).

18. In E. Laroche - a-kdn-x-ma; but in the lacuna, the end of the sign aS is visible and there is enough space for the sign pa.

19. E. Laroche mistakenly says " let it be unfavorable "(Lecanomancie... p. 158), although the transliteration is correct (SIG5-n<).

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The principle of interpretation is well known from other oracles and is based on the coincidence or discrepancy of expected and real results, i.e. SIG (+)... SIG5 ( + ) and NU. SIG5 ( - ) ... NU. SIG5 ( - ) mean the answer is "yes", and NU.SIG5 ( -)... SIG5 ( + ) and SIG5 ( + ) ... NU. SIG5 ( - ) - " no " (20).

In the text under consideration, requests are formulated in such a way that the oracle's response (in cases where it is received), which is interpreted as negative, does not portend anything bad, for example: "Is My Sun in danger?" (the answer is "no"). In only one case out of 29, the oracle's response can be considered positive (see above, stcc. 89-94, SIG5 ... SIG5), but the request is also expressed in such a way that a negative answer would be undesirable ("If I do not see humiliation and decline (of the days of My Sun), let it be favorable"). Since, as the answer suggests, we must look for other causes of possible misery, the next question concerns the Hatti country - will it not perish? This is followed by a series of questions about the king and his years of life, whether they are in any danger, but the answers received are negative.

The set of actions performed by the "snake" is very limited and is described by several verb forms (hereafter, the numbers after the translation indicate the line number in the text):

(KUfi) epta " caught (fish)": 104.

= (CC,) IS-BAT: 14, 18.61.

(Sard) epta " rose (to the surface)": 103.

= (UGU) IS-BAT: 6, 34, 35, 40, 50, 58, 67, 70, 79, 85, 92, 96, 108, 112.

(UGU) DIB-za (= Sara appanza) " rising (to the surface)": 5, 22, 26 (2), 29, 31, 43, 65, 68, 71, 72, 75 (UGU-za DIBza), 77, 80, 86 (2), 93, 98, 99, 104, 110.

ezzaS "ate": 14, 18, 105 (,e-ez-za {- aS}).

munnait "скрылась": 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16 {mu-un-{na}-it. 19, 20, 22, 23, 29, 38, 48, 59,63, 113.

= KI.MIN "idem": 24, 26, 27 (2), 30 (2), 32, 33, 34, 36, 40, 42, 43, 45 (2), 46, 49 (2), 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 58, 60, 62, 63, 65, 66, 68, 69, 71, 73, 74, 76, 77, 78, 80, 81 (KI.(MIN)), 82, 86, 87, 88, 93 (2), 94, 97, 98, 100, 104, 105, 109, 110, 112, 113.

(andd) pait "floated (in), floated in": 41, 56, 74, 81.

Hit "arrived": 7, 11, 12, 15, 16, 19 (u-[i]t), 20, 22, 23, 27, 29, 30, 32, 37, 38, 41 (pian EGlR-pa uit "sailed back and forth"), 42 (arha uit "surfaced"), 45, 46, 48, 49, 52 (2), 55 (pian EGlR-pa uit), 59, 60, 62, 63 (arha uit), 66, 68, 72, 73, 77, 78, 80 (pian EGIR-/?a uit), 82, 86, 87, 93, 94, 98 (pian EGlR-pa uit), 99 (pian EGlR-pa {uit)), 105, 110, 113 (2).

wahnut "made a circle": 10, 33, 36, 37, 40, 44, 47, 51, 54, 58, 71, 76, 77, 92, 97, 99, 109, 112.

An analysis of the use of the above verb forms allows us to draw some conclusions about the structure of the report as a genre in the Hittite language. The text in question has a clear graphical and syntactic organization.

The graphic design of the document is quite consistent with its genre. Each fragment contains one request and is separated from the next by a horizontal line (see Figure 1-2). The "I line - 1 sentence" principle (21) is quite consistent, and although it is not exclusively a feature of the Hittite business style, it contributes to a more precise presentation of the material. In most cases, this explains how the line goes beyond the right border of the table when the sentence is added to the margins (Figure 1-2). The distribution of characters on a line is relatively uniform, but unlike literary texts (22), there are quite a few of them.

20. См. Roos J. de. "Yes, No, No answer". Aspects of Hittite Oracle Practice / / JAC. 1996. P. 37. The situation is incorrectly presented in the book: Gurney O. R. Hitty. Moscow, 1987. p. 142.

21. See about him Justus C. F. Visible Sentences in Cuneiform Hittite / / Visible Language. 1981. XV. 4. P. 379.

22. On the peculiarities of writing cuneiform literary texts, see Falkenstein A. Literarische Keilschrifttexte aus Uruk. V., 1931. S. 12 ff.

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Figure 1. Text of the MUS oracle, iBot 133, stcc. 39-74 (приводится по: Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzelerinde bulunan Bogazkoy tabletlerinden se9me metinler. I. Istanbul, 1944)

short, half-filled or less lines. Usually this is the last line of the fragment (23), all the others were added to the end of the sentence, and to preserve graphic integrity, it was possible to vary the phonetic and logographic notation of words. For example, the meaning "rose to the surface" is conveyed 14 times by the Sumerian-and Akkadogram UGU IS-BAT and once by the syllabic signs Sa-ra-a e-ip-ta, which are 2.5 times longer than the Sumerian-Akkadian form and fill the end of the stk well. 103 (see Figure 2).

In the text that records monotonous actions, the schumerogram KI.MIN "does /did the same thing" (here - in the meaning of munnait "disappeared") is often used, which for the first time replaces the form munnait in the 24th line, for the next

23. However, the characters are often "stretched" along the line to create the illusion of its fullness, see Fig. 2, page 88, 100.

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2. Text of the MUS oracle, iBot 133, stcc. 75-110

40 lines alternates with it (the last one appears approximately every 10 lines), then completely displaces it up to the penultimate (113th) line, so munnait + + SIG5 (stkk. 113-114) form a frame construction with a similar sequence in the first fragment (stkk. 8). Another frame construction is noted in part (B), where in queries regarding the next 20 years of the king's life, MUS anna/ (1)is "the former "snake" appears twice - in the last lines related to the 1st and 20th years, which also end in the same SIG form "Favorably".

The report shows that the "snakes" with a striking pattern perform the same actions, and in a strictly defined sequence. The full chain contains four positions: (la) UGU DIB-za/UGU IS-BATIsard epta "rose to the surface". (lb) ku (, epta + ezzas "caught a fish" + "ate" (24); (2) Hit "sailed";

24. la and lb never occur within the same chain.

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(A) wahnut "circled", (3b) anda pait "sailed in "(25); (4) munnait/Kl.MW "disappeared". However, in reality, all the positions were filled only in one case out of 61: (stcc. 76- 77) ... 2 DINGIR-a.? iS-ga-ra-na-za UGU DIB-za u-it al-da-an-ni anda wa-ah-nu-ut AMA.UZU.U.MA? DUGUD - "KI. MIN" 2-from the Cleft of the Gods (26) Having risen to the surface, she swam, circled in the reservoir (and) disappeared in the Dignity of AMA. UZU. U. MAS."

Selecting one of the forms - UGU DIB-za (lit. "rising to the surface" and UGU IS-WAT were determined, apparently, not by extralinguistic reasons, but by some syntactic distribution, according to which UGU DIB-za appears more often before the verb munnait, and UGU IS-BAT - before UGU DIB-za. liit. wahnut.

From the point of view of style, the text under consideration is characterized by a large number of standard formulas, which are carefully reproduced 10-20 times. Minor liberties allowed by the scribe are the alternation of logograms with syllabic writing. However, the monotonous repetition of verb forms and expressions is not a stylistic flaw here, but serves the purpose of recording what is happening as accurately as possible. In a certain sense, this text can be considered an example of its genre.

As for the symbols that denote sections of the reservoir, the number of them is large (more than six dozen), and many terms are found that are common to the KIN oracles (in the catalog below they are marked with a*).

25. For and 3b are additionally distributed.

26. E. Laroche translates the combination DINGIR' - a.? iSgaratar "la Pointe des Dieux" ("The edge of the gods"). But in all cases, the "snake" floats into D.;., and then disappears somewhere: apparently, this was the designation of a through section. Cf. also het. iSgar - "stick; split".

27. By tradition, words in syllabic notation are given in the alphabetical order adopted in Hittite lexicography, in particular, deaf and voiced consonants are considered as corresponding to deaf ones, for example, d-lt-follow 5-.

28. Reading the last sign by: Riister M., Neu E. Hethitisches Zeichenlexikon. Miinchen, 1986. S. 112. E. Laroche's old reading-AMA. UZU. O. BAR.

29 E. Laroche: "Tabou ou demon "(Lecanomancie ... p. 162).

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30. Probably "God-destroyer", cf. GAZ "to beat; to kill" (Ruster, Neu. Op. cit. S. 46), AA "strong, powerful" (= het. mu- wa-; Friedrich. Op. cit. S. 264).

page 71

The symbols used in the MUS oracle form several lexical and semantic groups. The most numerous are abstract concepts ("joy", "future", "oath" , etc.), designations of buildings and their parts ("house", "palace", "gate", etc.), and theonyms (31). The latter group is particularly significant: along with the Hittite sun goddess of the city of Arinna (32), there are many characters associated with the south-eastern Anatolian area (Khepat-Sharrumma, Hishura, the god of thunderstorms Halpa, the god of thunderstorms Kum-my, etc.). These connections are also indicated by the dialect vocabulary (lulu(t) -, palla: see above). There is no doubt that the MUS (and KIN) oracles are of local Anatolian origin [33].

A prominent Hittite scholar, O. R. Gurney, once called the Hittite tablets containing references to the oracle "a curious monument of wasted ingenuity" (34). His point is contradicted by the facts: occupying a large part of the cuneiform archive in Boghazkei, reports on oracles indicate the important place of these types of divination in Hittite culture. It is obvious that a type of thinking that was alien to our time developed ways of adapting to the surrounding reality, which supported the stability of society, creating confidence in the ability to influence the course of events. Keeping in the archives of the most detailed reports about oracles meant that it was possible to refer to old records that recorded the relationship between omens and phenomena of the real world (cf .the beginning of our text: "...those evil omens appeared in Kummakh, after which the omens of the real world appeared in Kummakh)... accidents have occurred"). The peculiarity of Hittite culture is that, while reflecting the specifics of written consciousness, it also retained the features of oral culture [35], which developed a powerful system for predicting the future, which outlived its creators by millennia.


L.S. Bayun

The paper deals with the longest MU? oracle text IBoT I 33 published by E. Laroche in 1958. The discussion includes the interpretation of several terms as well as the analysis of the text structure and its stylistic characteristics. A more positive approach to the position of Hittite oracle texts in Anatolian culture is proposed.

31. In contrast to KIN oracles, there are no designations of persons such as "enemy", "king", etc., which is quite natural, since KIN oracles use figurines, and MUS oracles use significant elements - sectors of the reservoir.

32. See Laroche E. Les dieux des Hittites. P., 1968. P. 64.

33. It is interesting that these two types of oracles were preserved in Anatolia many centuries after the Hittite state ceased to exist. E. Laroche (Lecanomancie... p. 162) cites Elian's report that in Lycia (Southern Anatolia!) there was a practice of divination by observing the behavior of fish (the second half of the first millennium BC); A. Arki (with reference to the article Roux J.-P., Boratav P. N. La divination chez les Turcs // La Divination. V. 2. P., 1968. P. 324) notes divination similar to the KIN oracle in modern Turkey (Archi. Op. cit. P. 130).

34. Gurney. Uk. soch. p. 143.

35. On" written "and" oral " cultures, see Lotman Yu. M. A few thoughts on the typology of cultures / / Languages of culture and problems of translation, Moscow, 1987. p. 3 sll.


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L. S. Bayun, DIVINATION IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST. II. HITTITE ORACLES MUS // Tokyo: Japan (ELIB.JP). Updated: 17.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 19.07.2024).

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