“Ea Loves Seduction-Magic” (MAD V 8)
Note: This is the oldest surviving love-incantation in the world. Because of its age (at least 4200 years old), many of the terms and idioms are obscure, so I have more footnotes than usual. Ea/Enki is the god of magic; Ishtar/Inanna is the goddess of sexuality and love. In general, “she/you” is the female target of the spell, and “he/I” is either the magician (casting the spell) or the client (securing the woman’s affection); the descriptors of “the magician/the client” are my own, and are tentative.
Ea Loves Seduction-Magic
Seduction-magic, the child of Ishtar,
dwells between her thighs.
They swell up with fragrant nectar.
Oh lovely maidens, you are both blossoming;
you came down to the garden.
To the garden you came,
and you produced the fragrant nectar.
I seize your nectar-filled mouth;
I seize your openings of every color;
I seize your wet genitals.
I mount on the “garden of Sîn”;
I “cut down the poplar-tree for her day.”
Fence me in amidst the boxwood trees,
like a shepherd fences in a flock,
a goat her kid, an ewe her lamb,
a jenny her foal.
Adorned are his hands,
harpweed oil on his lips,
a cup of oil in his hands,
a cup of cedar on his shoulders.
The seduction-magics have whispered to her,
and they have driven her crazy.
I hereby seize your mouth of lovemaking.
By the goddesses Ishtar and Ishara,
I adjure you:
Until your neck and his neck are pressed together,
you shall have no relief!
 In my view, the “two beautiful maidens” are metaphors for the woman’s labia, which enlarge and grow wet as she becomes aroused. (This is not a view shared by other scholars, but their interpretations, which tend to take this as a literal story about two young women, have little relevance to the rest of the love-charm.) “Fragrant nectar” is a translation of “saliva of the incense-tree,” which I view as a poetic metaphor for the fluids of female arousal, as they have a consistency like saliva and a notable scent.
 “Seize” is the same verb used when a man “takes” a woman in marriage, but here it refers to acquiring magical control over her body parts. All three of these lines have difficulties or obscurities, so my translation is tentative. Nonetheless, I believe this to continue the quasi-metaphorical description of a woman’s arousal. Her “mouth of saliva/sap” is her aroused vulva; her “multi-colored eyes” refer to her various orifices (“eye” can mean “spring, portal”). The third line most literally translates to “genitals of urine,” which scholars usually interpret as an abruptly derogatory description of her. But since the fluid of female ejaculation is often mistaken as urine, even in recent years, this interpretation seems more likely. Moreover, the combination of these interpretations makes for a much more natural sequence. Instead of giving two odd descriptions of the woman’s face and one insult to her genitals, the client is staking his claim on the progressive stages of sexual intercourse: arousal, penetration, and ejaculation.
 These two metaphors are obscure. In the light of the “Cow of Sîn” story (for which, to be fair, our copy is over a thousand years later), I wonder whether “mounting the garden of Sîn” is an allusion to copulating like animals. “Poplar-tree” (ṣarbatum) could be a pun on *ṣarpātu, “red dye”; if so, “cutting down the poplar-tree for her day” could mean that he is deflowering her, i.e. stopping her from having a blood-stained marriage bed. But this is pure speculation.
 “Fence in” is otherwise unattested in Akkadian as a verb, but it has parallels in other languages, and it’s connected to the Akkadian word for “wall.” Thus, all four lines talk about the action of enclosing something securely, just as the client hopes that the woman’s vagina will enclose him. Boxwood was a luxury wood that did not grow natively in Mesopotamia and had to be imported; thus, the allusion to it may add exoticism to the text, or it may compare the woman’s vagina to a precious container.
 “Harpweed” is my translation of tibuttum, a word that could mean a musical instrument or an unknown kind of herb. We actually have an Akkadian medical text that talks about mixing tibittum-plant with grease to make a soothing salve to put on the anus, so it makes sense to me that “oil and tibittum” would describe some sort of known lubricant or soothing ointment.
 Literally, “they have made her into a religious ecstatic.” “Drive her crazy” is the equivalent modern idiom.