This essay provides an introduction to the topic of demons and the means of opposing them in ancient Mesopotamia during the early third to late first millennia BCE. Demons and witchcraft were integrated aspects of the Mesopotamian
world. They could threaten individuals, often causing illness or ill fortune, as well as target society as a whole, encroaching upon the protected and ordered world of the Mesopotamian city. There were a number of ways to counter such threats, such as protective amulets and incantations, but the foremost, particularly in the first millennium BCE, was the figure of the ašipu, or exorcist. A trained ritual professional, the ašipu had a range of tools at his disposal, as well as the protection and sanction of the gods. This article provides an introduction to the issue of demons and exorcism by presenting four key aspects of this complex topic: first, an overview of characteristics and role of demons in Mesopotamia; second, a summary of the two notable demonic figures known as Lamashtu and Pazuzu; third, the demonic and chaotic figure of the witch; and fourth, an overview of the ašipu and his methods.