Amulet of Pazuzu, Iraq, ca. 900-612 B.C. Bronze, 14.0 cm H, 9.3 cm W|
Purchased in New York, 1943 OIM A25413. (photosource joanannlansberry.com)
- Amulet of Pazuzu, Iraq, ca. 800-600 B.C. Bronze, 14.0 cm H, 9.3 cm W Purchased in New York, 1943 OIM A25413. The demon Pazuzu represented by this figurine stands like a human but has a scorpion's body, feathered wings and legs, talons, and a lion-like face on both front and back. Pazuzu, the "king of the evil wind demons," was not entirely unfriendly to mankind. As an enemy of the dreaded Lamashtu demon, bearer of sickness especially to women and children, Pazuzu is often portrayed on amulets used as protection in childbirth. The ring at the top of this figurine suggests that it was such an amulet. (oi.uchicago.edu/)
- Pazuzu: Friend or Foe?
By Kiersten Neumann, PhD
This bronze figurine of the first millennium bc is of the Meso- potamian demon Pazuzu. Pazuzu has earned celebrity status in recent years as the demonic clay sculpture in the opening scene of the 1973 Hollywood film The Exorcist, which was filmed at the famous Iraqi site of Hatra. The demon in the film is based on a bronze figurine of Pazuzu on display in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, that has the following inscription across the back of its wings: “I am Pazuzu, son of the god Ḫanbu, king of the evil lilû-demons. I ascended the powerful mountains that trembled. The winds that I went amongst were headed west. One by one I broke their wings” (N. Heeßel, Pazuzu: archäologische und philologische Studien zu einem altorien- talischen Dämon; Leiden, 2002).
Pazuzu’s appearance fits that of a demon of the evil winds that brought destruction and disease to humankind — his leonine face, scaly body, large razor-like talons, scorpion tail, and wings of a bird. Yet because of his ferocious appearance and strength, Pazuzu was also invoked in antiquity as a protective force to expel other destructive demons. This duality makes Pazuzu a complicated and ambiguous demon. The Assyrians and Babylonians placed figurines and plaques of Pazuzu throughout their homes as protection against the harmful forces of the world. Pregnant women wore Pazuzu- head amulets, fibulae, and pendants in order to ward off the lion-headed demoness Lamashtu who threatened to snatch and devour their newborn children. Additional supernatural beings are depicted alongside Pazuzu on a number of protective am- ulets, for example Ugallu, a lion-headed creature with human torso and eagle-feet who carries a mace and dagger. This equal- ly fearsome figure helped to protect humankind, by expelling demons but perhaps also by keeping Pazuzu’s power in check.
This bronze figurine is currently on display in the Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery at the Oriental Institute Museum.
ISSUE 227 | AUTUMN 2015