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Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos

  Libation Vase of the God Ningishzida

AO 190

Neo-Sumerian era, around 2120 BC.

Telloh, Ancient Girsu


Richelieu room 2

The overall composition of this ritual vase
evokes the regenerative power of nature,
of which this god is the driving force.

In front of two winged reptiles,
demi-gods with their horned tiaras
are two upward spiraling serpents.
This is an image of vital power which is also
reminiscent of the Greek caduceus.

 This libation vase of the God Ningishzida
evokes worship regeneration of nature

The first statement of the practice of libation concerns the patriarch Jacob, when God changed his name in Israel to Bethel. To consecrate this place, “Jacob stationed […] a pillar of stone, and he poured a drink offering upon it and poured oil upon it.” - Genesis 35:9-15, 28:18.

Libations accompanied the majority of sacrifices performed by the Jews. Consequently, a libation of wine follows the offering of the first wheat sheaf during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:13). In Isaiah 57:6, the Prophet condemns libations made to stones, erected as sexual symbols, which are worshipped.

The first evidence for a libation biblical relates Jacob

Drinking to someone’s health is today no longer considered a religious gesture. However ‘this custom very probably draws its origins from the ancient religious ritual according to which people drank in honour of the gods and the dead. During meals, the Greeks and Romans poured libations and drank to the health of their gods.’   A130

Could this popular social custom, today free of any religious implication, be a vestige of the sacrificial libations practiced in Antiquity, during which the gods were offered sacred liquid, blood or wine, in return for the granting of a wish?


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