One of the chief names for the priest was baru - literally the "inspector" - which was given to him because of the prominence of his function as an inspector of livers for the purpose of divining the intention of the gods.
It is to the collections formed by these baru-priests as a guidance for themselves and as a basis of instruction for those in training for the priesthood that we owe our knowledge of the parts of the liver to which particular attention was directed, of the signs noted, and of the principles guiding the interpretation of the signs.
The constantly varying character of these markings, no two livers being alike in this respect, furnished a particularly large field for the fancy of the baru-priest.
In the course of time the collections of signs and their interpretation made by the baru-priests grew in number until elaborate series were produced in which the endeavour was made to exhaust so far as possible all the varieties and modifications of the many signs, so as to furnish a complete handbook both for purposes of instruction and as a basis for the practical work of divination.
AmOng the Babylonians and Assyrians the baru (from bars to see, inspect) was a soothsaying priest who was consulted whenever any important undertaking was proposed, and addressed his inquiries to Samas the sun god (or Adad) as bet biri or lord of the oracle (accompanied by the sacrifice of lambs).
The signs were usually obtained from the inspection of the liver (according to Johns, that of the lamb that was sacrificed); or it took place through birds; hence the name in this case given to the baru of dagil insure " bird inspector."
As contrasted with the baru or soothsaying priest, as he is called by Zimmern, we have the asipu, who was the priestmagician who dealt in conjurations (siptu), whereby diseases were removed, spells broken, or in expiations whereby sins were expiated.
(I) According to Zimmern the baru and the asipu formed close gilds and the office passed from father to son.
This is certainly true of the sangatu or priesthood, which was connected with a special family attached to a particular temple and its worship. (2) Johns also points out the existence of the rab-baru, chief soothsayer, and the rab-masmasu or chief magician.
The seer (roeh) appears individually, and his function was probably not so much one of speech as of the routine of close observation of the entrails of slaughtered victims, like the Assyrian baru (see Priest).