In ancient times, in everyday speech and custom, the most mundane happenings were connected with the grandest cosmic events. A charming example is an incantation against the worm which the Assyrians of 1000 B.C. imagined to cause toothaches. It begins with the origin of the universe and ends with a cure for toothache:
After Anu had created the heaven,Our ancestors were eager to understand the world but had not quite stumbled upon the method. They imagined a small, quaint, tidy universe in which the dominant forces were gods like Anu, Ea, and Shamash. In that universe humans played an important if not a central role. We were intimately bound up with the rest of nature. The treatment of toothache with second-rate beer was tied to the deepest cosmological mysteries.
And the heaven had created the earth,
And the earth had created the rivers,
And the rivers had created the canals,
And the canals had created the morass, And the morass had created the worm, The worm went before Shamash, weeping, His tears flowing before Ea:
‘What wilt thou give me for my food, What wilt thou give me for my drink?’
‘I will give thee the dried fig
And the apricot.’
‘What are these to me? The dried fig
And the apricot!
Lift me up, and among the teeth
And the gums let me dwell! . .
Because thou hast said this, O worm,
May Ea smite thee with the might of
(Incantation against toothache.)
Its treatment: Second-grade beer . . . and oil thou shalt mix together;
The incantation thou shalt recite three times thereon and shalt put the medicine upon the tooth.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The treatment of toothache with second-rate beer was tied to the deepest cosmological mysteries
From Cosmos by Carl Sagan.