Sunday, March 6, 2011

Knowing Me And Knowing Zu

Following on from my previous swag focused post, here is another interesting thing I own. Much more overtly grotesque-centric this time.

This is the demon Pazuzu, a replica of a very old statuette from ancient Mesopotamia circa 1st millennium BC. I believe the original bronze resides in the Louvre Museum (pic here) but I bought my model from the British Museum when I visited a while ago. I was perusing the museum shop looking for potential Christmas presents (for other people, I swear) when I saw him amongst the other replica statues. I was struck right away by his composite body and fierce posture. My professional interest was piqued, as he seems very human, while also displaying the hybrid anatomy that is characteristic of the early 'grotesque' style.

According to the accompanying paperwork, which is taken from this description from the Louvre:
"Pazuzu first appeared in the 1st millennium BC in hybrid form, with the body of a man and the head of a scowling dragon-snake which also has both canine and feline features. He is represented as a spirit with two pairs of wings and talons like those of birds of prey. He also has a scorpion's tail and his body is usually depicted covered in scales."

The description also explains the rings on the statue:

"Pazuzu was widely depicted in Assyrian art of the 1st millennium BC in the form of numerous bronze statuettes and protective amulets, made in a variety of materials ranging from plain terracotta to precious steatite or jasper. During this period, many beliefs and magical practises were associated with Pazuzu. The ring at the top of the statuette suggests that this type of object was worn round the neck or hung up in the home, particularly where invalids were sleeping."

Why would you need Pazuzu to protect you? I mean, he has a bit of a reputation.
"The inscription on the back of the wings describes the figure's personality: "I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil spirits of the air which issues violently from mountains, causing much havoc." The demon Pazuzu was associated with ill winds, particularly the west wind which brought the plague."
Well it turns out that Mrs Puzuzu is also pretty scary. As "a demon from the hellish underworld," Pazuzu's "terrifying, scowling face and his scaly body repel the forces of evil."

Evil, in this case, often in the form of Madam Puzuzu.

The demon "had the power of repelling other demons, and was thus invoked for beneficial ends, particularly to drive his wife Lamashtu back to the underworld. Lamashtu was a demoness who attacked men to infect them with various diseases."

Sadly, I do not have a model of Lamashtu. However this description of the lady should give you a rough idea of her character:
"Lamashtu is described in texts as having the head of a lion, the teeth of a donkey, naked breasts, a hairy body, stained hands, long fingers and finger nails, and the talons of a bird. Plaques also show her suckling a piglet and a whelp while she holds snakes in her hands. She stands on her sacred animal, the donkey, who is sometimes depicted in a boat, riding through the underworld."


We all have bad days.

I didn't realise until today, but the demon that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist was called Pazuzu. He has also appeared in Futurama.


Far too cutesy. And why is everyone in their underwear? I should watch this episode for research.

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