The Legend of Lugalbanda, The First Sumerian Shaman

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The Standard of Ur mosaic, from the royal tombs of Ur, is made of red limestone, bitumen, lapis lazuli, and shell. The

The Legend of Lugalbanda, The First Sumerian Shaman

According to the Sumerian King List, Lugalbanda was one of the kings who belonged to the First Dynasty of Uruk in Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia. What is particularly striking about Lugalbanda is the way in which he is portrayed as a great shaman in the legends told about him. In fact, the stories about Lugalbanda, which date back to the Ur III Period in ancient Sumer (about 2100 BC), constitute the earliest account of shamanistic travelling or journeying in world literature.

The story of Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave, Old-Babylonian period, from southern Iraq. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP/ CC BY-S A 4.0)The story of Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave, Old-Babylonian period, from southern Iraq. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP/ CC BY-S A 4.0)

The story of Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave, Old-Babylonian period, from southern Iraq. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP/ CC BY-S A 4.0)

Legend Of Lugalbanda

Lugalbanda’s narrative is told in two parts, namely Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave and Lugalbanda and the Thunderbird. The first part tells how Enmerkar, named as Lugalbanda’s predecessor as king of Uruk in Sumer in the Sumerian King List, devised a campaign against the land of Aratta in the north. He called on the people to take up arms and placed them under the command of eight warrior-leaders, including Lugalbanda together with seven other young men. On the road to Aratta, Lugalbanda fell ill and his companions left him behind in a cave high up in a mountain. His companions “made him a bower like a bird’s nest” and left some food to serve as a funeral meal in case he died.


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