Ancient Assyria, 10th century BC, a king passes through a series of seven themed stations. At each station, an exorcist recites an invocation and, as the sun rises, the king echoes the incantations by reciting a su’illa – or prayer of lifted hands.
Housed within a temporary reed-built structure called bīt rimki, the stations lead to a bathhouse, where the king undergoes a ritual cleanse to rid himself of evils foretold by phenomena such as a lunar eclipse or even witchcraft.
Although an ancient ceremony, bīt rimki – which translates to ‘House of Ablution’ – alludes to a very modern technology. As his status portends, the king likely stepped into a bath heated to a comfortable temperature, perhaps infused and fragranced with myriad herbs and spices. To heat bath water in Assyria, it has been suggested that biogas was commonly used, marking the first recorded instance of its application.
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