chapter
1 Pages

aI am speaking the gods’ words . .

women ofpractitioners

A fascinating look at the role certain females might play that crosses the boundaries between the public and private domains can be found in the recorded rituals of the MI.SU.GI (Hittite: MI.1}asauwas), or "old women.,,49 These women constitute the class ofpractitioners most often mentioned in Hittite ritual texts, and were truly indispensable to the functioning of that society. Many of the rituals by them are recorded in the first person, so we have a sense of a qualified inforn1ant bequeathing her "recipe" for the restoration of health, purity, and peace to the tradition for use in similar circumstance. Many of these women appear to be from the provinces of I(izzuwatna and Arzawa, and the Hurrian element in these rituals is especially pronounced.50 An Old IZingdom edict of }j:attusili I aims at curtailing the influence of the MI.SU.GI on the women of the palace, and it has been suggested that they, along with the Hattic city elders and the Tawananna (the king's wife in Hittite times, but originally the king's sister and mother of the heir-presumptive in the Hattic period), represented one of the indigenous groups attempting to resist the imposition of cultural changes brought by the Indo-European Hittite conquerors.51 We know the names of thirteen women designated as MI.SU.GI, with many other women appearing as "authors" of magical rituals whom scholars also consider to be recognized practitioners.52 Among these, the proposed MI.SU.GI Ayatarsa is said to be the female slave ofone Nawila; one Anniwiyani is called "mother of Armatis, the birdmaker, slave of Hurlus," so that we know that MI.SD.G1 were not cloistered as the nadttu were.53 Here, then, we have an exception which tests the rule by which modern scholars usually assume that slave-women are necessarily women of low status. The Hittite MI.SD.G1 was endowed with powers so formidable that kings must legislate against them and tradition must encode her words, and yet she could be owned by another.