The prevailing element in the incantations consists in the exorcism of devils.
El-lil, around whose sanctuary Nippur had grown up, was lord of the ghost-land, and his gifts to mankind were the spells and incantations which the spirits of good or evil were compelled to obey.
Egyptian inscriptions indicate that the physician-priests sent their prescriptions to be dispensed by the priests of Isis when, accompanied by the chanter of incantations and spells, they visited the sick'.
The essential feature of this cult is the bringing down of the celestial spirit by proper incantations and ritual into these fetish objects, the dove perched on a column sometimes indicating its descent.
The purely theoretical character of Anu is thus still further emphasized, and in the annals and votive inscriptions as well as in the incantations and hymns, he is rarely introduced as an active force to whom a personal appeal can be made.
How strongly his mind revolted against the use of charms, amulets, incantations and such devices appears from his writings; and he has expressly recorded, as underlying all his practice, the conviction that, however diseases may be regarded from the religious point of view, they must all be scientifically treated as subject to natural laws (De acre, 29).
The culture-myth on which the account of Berossus rests has not yet been found in Babylonian literature, but there are numerous indications in hymns and incantations that confirm the indentification with Ea, and also prove the substantial correctness of the conceptions regarding Oannes-Ea as given by Berossus.
The consecration of material objects and in general their use in religion and cult was consistently avoided by the Manicheans; not because they failed to share the universal belief of earlier ages that spirits can be inducted by means of fitting prayers and incantations into inanimate things, but because the external material world was held to be the creation of an evil demiurge and so incapable of harbouring a pure spirit.
It may be noted that in all the ceremonies in the religion of the Avesta, incantations, prayers and confessions play a very large part.
Nevertheless in all religions, and especially in the Brahmanic and Christian, the cathartic virtue of water is enhanced by the introduction into it by means of suitable prayers and incantations of a divine or magical power.
The Babylonian storm-god presents two aspects in the hymns, incantations and votive inscriptions.
Ninib appears in a double capacity in the epithets bestowed on him, and in the hymns and incantations addressed to him.
He professed to have discovered the philosopher's stone, and by his assistance Dee performed various incantations, and maintained a frequent imaginary intercourse with spirits.
Main Sources.(a) The Pyramid texts, a vast collection of incantations inscribed on the inner walls of five royal tombs of the Vth and VIth Dynasties at Sakkgra, discovered and first published by Maspero.
It is possible that these incantations were recited as part of the funerary ritual, but there is no doubt that their mere presence in the tombs was supposed to be magically effective for the welfare of the dead.
The older incantations, associated with Ea, were re-edited so as to give to Marduk the supreme power over demons, witches and sorcerers; the hymns and lamentations composed for the cult of Bel, Shamash and of Adad were transformed into paeans and appeals to Marduk, while the ancient myths arising in the various religious and political centres underwent a similar process of adaptation to changed conditions, and as a consequence their original meaning was obscured by the endeavour to assign all mighty deeds and acts, originally symbolical of the change of seasons or of occurrences in nature, to the patron deity of Babylon - the supreme head of the entire Babylonian pantheon.
It left its trace in incantations, omens and hymns, and it gave birth to astronomy, which was assiduously cultivated because a knowledge of the heavens was the very foundation of the system of belief unfolded by the priests of Babylonia and Assyria.
Incantations originally addressed to Ea of Eridu, as the god of the watery element, and to Nusku, as the god of fire, were transferred to Marduk.
At the same time, since the invoking of the divine powers was the essential element in the incantations, in order to make the magic formulae as effective as possible, a large number of the old local deities are introduced to add their power to the chief ones; and it is here that the astral system comes into play through the introduction of names of stars, as well as through assigning attributes to the gods which clearly reflect the conception that they have their seats in the heavens.
The incantations pass over naturally into hymns and prayers.
The connexion between the two is illustrated by the application of the term shiptu, " incantation," to the direct appeals to the gods, as well as by the introduction, on the one hand, of genuine prayers into the incantations and by the addition, on the other hand, of incantations to prayers and hymns, pure and simple.
This was regafded as a miraculous feat brought about by the incantations of the magician Merlin, who caused a great stone circle in Ireland (said to have been previously carried thither out of Africa by giants) to be transported to Salisbury Plain, where, at Merlin's "word of power," all the stones moved into their proper places.
The conceptions connected with Nusku are of distinctly popular origin, as is shown by his prominence in incantations, which represent the popular element in the cult, and it is significant that in the astro-theological system of the Babylonian priests Nusku-Girru is not assigned to any particular place in the heavens.
Diarmait, son of Fergus Cerbaill (544-565), of the southern Hy Neill, undoubtedly professed Christianity though he still clung to many pagan practices, such as polygamy and the use of druidical incantations in battle.
To some extent, the individual came in for his share in the incantations and in the purification ritual through which one might hope to rid oneself of the power of the demons and of other evil spirits, but outside of this the important aim of the priests was to secure for the general benefit the favour of the gods, or, as a means of preparing oneself for what the future had in store, to ascertain in time whether that favour would be granted in any particular instance or would be continued in the future.
It is much to be regretted that the Atharva-Veda, which contains the magical formulae and incantations of the Vedic Indians, is still untranslated, though, by the very nature of its theme, it must contain matter of extreme antiquity and interest.
As among the gods and Asuras of the Vedas, there were many wars in the divine race, and as the incantations of the Indian Brahmanas are derived from those old experiences of the Vedic gods, so are the incantations of the Maoris.
As the stronger side of Gotama's teaching was neglected, the debasing belief in rites and ceremonies, and charms and incantations, which had been the especial object of his scorn, began to spread like the Birana weed warmed by a tropical sun in marsh and muddy soil.
She was able by means of drugs and incantations to change human beings into the forms of wolves or lions, and with these beings her palace was surrounded.
Bible, where examples are given of incantations with magical by-play.