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Penitential Prayer to Every God

 

 

This prayer was found on a tablet which dates from the mid-seventh century BC. The original prayer is from Sumer and probably dates from somewhat earlier.

May the wrath of the heart of my god be pacified!
May the god who is unknown to me be pacified!
May the goddess who is unknown to me be pacified!
May the known and unknown god be pacified!
May the known and unknown goddess be pacified!
The sin which I have committed I know not.
The misdeed which I have committed I know not.
A gracious name may my god announce!
A gracious name may my goddess announce!
A gracious name may my known and unknown god announce!
A gracious name may my known and unknown goddess announce!
Pure food have I not eaten,
Clear water have I not drunk.
An offense against my god I have unwittingly committed.
A transgression against my goddess I have unwittingly done.
0 Lord, my sins are many, great are my iniquities!
My god, my sins are many, great are my iniquities! . . .
The sin, which I have committed, I know not.
The iniquity, which I have done, I know not.
The offense, which I have committed, I know not.
The transgression I have done, I know not.
The lord, in the anger of his heart, hath looked upon me.
The god, in the wrath of his heart, hath visited me.
The goddess hath become angry with me, and hath grievously stricken me.
The known or unknown god hath straitened me.
The known or unknown goddess hath brought affliction upon me.
I sought for help, but no one taketh my hand.
I wept, but no one came to my side.
I lamented, but no one hearkens to me.
I am afflicted, I am overcome, I cannot look up.
Unto my merciful god I turn, I make supplication.
I kiss the feet of my goddess and [crawl before her] . . .
How tong, my god . . .
How long, my goddess, until thy face be turned toward me?
How long, known and unknown god, until the anger of thy heart be pacified?
How long, known and unknown goddess, until thy unfriendly heart be pacified?
Mankind is perverted and has no judgment.
Of all men who are alive, who knows anything?
They do not know whether they do good or evil.
0 lord, do not cast aside thy servant!
He is cast into the mire; take his hand.
The sin which I have sinned, turn to mercy!
The iniquity which I have committed, let the wind carry away.
My many transgressions tear off like a garment!
My god, my sins are seven times seven; forgive my sins!
My goddess, my sins are seven times seven; forgive my sins!
Known and unknown god, my sins are seven times seven; forgive my sins.


From: "Penitential Psalms," Robert F. Harper, trans., in Assyrian and Babylonian Literature, R. F. Harper, ed. (New York, 1901). Reprinted in: Eugen Weber, ed., The Western Tradition, Vol I: From the Ancient World to Louis XIV. Fifth Ed., (Lexington, MA; D.C. Heath,1995) pp. 38 and 39.

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