Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2012

Dr. Christopher G. Frechette, School of Theology and Ministry

This book is about a rubric that names a class of ritual-prayers written in cuneiform, but the rubric and the rituals are about something much less esoteric: the role of recognition in a human's relationship with the divine. In Mesopotamian culture, to lift the hand to the deity expressed one’s desire for and anticipation of the deity’s recognition, affirming a favorable relationship with the deity, and that relationship was characterized not only by the obvious asymmetry, but also by reciprocity. This study covers an array of linguistic and visual sources relevant to understanding the conventional exchange of gestures of recognition between subordinates and authorities, whether human or divine. It brings these to bear on other sources related to the enactment of a particular family of "hand-lifting" rituals intended to establish such recognition. Those rituals were enacted in order to address concerns arising from events that called into question one’s relationship with the divine and sought to heal that relationship.

Read a review of Dr. Frechette’s book in Orientalia NS 81 (2012): 264-266. PDF

Mesopotamian Ritual-prayers of Hand-lifting