With the advent of cuneiform, the Oral Tradition continued to develop alongside ‘written literature’, but the primary purpose of recording stories in writing was not necessarily to supply individual readers with a coherent or connected account of ‘historical’ events.
Ancient stories were used for a multitude of purposes, often in extracts attached to ritual, to give authenticity, or to provide an aetiology, i.e. a reason for the way things are as they are, to lend weight to ancient traditions, or customs, or to an incantation.
Many of the ancient scribes were Incantation Priests.
“When in doubt,” smiles Wen, producing a battered copy of Longmans from the murky depths of her shoulder bag, and, rather too conspicuously, for my liking, clearing her throat…
Sure enough, this unwarranted live event has now started to draw the attention of some idle strays who sidle over and form a crescent around Wen as she finally gets her reading specs onto her conk and launches into the definition…
“Incantation – noun the use of spoken or sung spells as part of a magic ritual; also, a written or recited magical formula of words designed to produce a particular effect fr Latin incantus, past participle of incatare, to enchant…”
“That’s not too bad, considering,” I concede, after I have finished dragging Wen away from our unsolicited audience of now somewhat bemused looking spectators.
“It’s bloody brilliant,” says Wen, “and so precise!”
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