(In) the month of Nisannu, you (that is, the healer) shall place cypress wood (in a bag made of) cat skin on his (the patient’s) neck, you shall anoint him with oil, and he will get well again.
The text does not specify which kinds of illnesses the treatments were meant to cure, but two other treatises housed in the British Museum (BM 47755, BM 56605; Heeßel 2000, 112–124; Geller 2014, 85–87) do provide such information. Both texts offer exact parallels to the list of plants and animal hides in the Yale text, but indicate, in addition, which specific body parts were to profit from the application of the bags. Moreover, instead of linking the treatments to a month, the texts provide information on the celestial bodies and constellations that were deemed responsible for the respective afflictions. The first entry of one of these texts (BM 56605), for example, is modified in the following way:
If … the “Great Star” (Aquarius) touches the patient and his pelvis/ upper thigh hurts him on the right side, you shall place cypress wood (in a bag made of) cat skin on his (the patient’s) neck, you shall anoint him with oil, and he will get well again.
The assumption that stellar constellations influenced the well-being of the human body and soul, later developed by the Greeks of the Hellenistic age into the concept of “melothesia,” is also behind the zodiacal references found in the list of rituals in a previously presented tablet.
See it in the exhibition “Ancient Mesopotamia Speaks ... Highlights from the Yale Babylonian Collection” at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, 6 April 2019 – 30 June 2020
CDLI entry: P310382
credit: Frahm, Eckart; Koubkova, Evelyne
image credit: Wagensonner, Klaus