Friday, May 31, 2013

Demonology: #2 on Our Top 10 Demons List: Asmodeus


Described as “the king of demons,” Asmodeus appears in many ancient books and writings. He is one of the chief demons involved in a cases of possession. Throughout history, he has been regarded as one of the most evil of Satan’s infernal demons. He is usually portrayed as having three heads: those of an ogre, a ram, and a bull—all sexually licentious creatures; he is also portrayed as having the feet of a cock, another sexually aggressive creature; having the wings and tail of a serpent; he rides on a dragon and breathes fire.

                Asmodeus has roots in ancient Persia. The name Asmodeus is derived from Aeshma, one of the seven archangels, or amarahspands, of Persian mythology. The Hebrews absorbed him into their mythology, where he attained the highest status and most power of all his legends. Prior to his fall from heaven, he was part of the seraphim—the highest order of angels [but this a contradiction—how could he be a seraph when he was the also said to be the offspring of a demon and a human?].

                In other Hebrew legends, he is either associated with or the husband of Lilith, the demon queen of lust. Sometimes he is said to be the offspring of Lilith and Adam.

In the Book of Tobit  [also sometimes known as the Book of Tobias], the demon Asmodeus fell in love with the beautiful human female Sarah, daughter of Raguel. Asmodeus wanted Sarah for himself, and he refused to allow her to be married to any human male. So, every time Sarah was married, the demon came to the marriage bed and took the life of her new husband. Seven men fell to the predations of this jealous demon, until Tobias received a visit from the angel Raphael, who instructed him on how to handle Asmodeus (by burning the gall of a certain fish). Tobias subsequently married Sarah and drove the demon away with the technique Raphael had told him. Asmodeus reportedly fled to the furthest reaches of Egypt, where he was then tracked down and bound by the angel Raphael.

In the pseudepigraphical Testament of Solomon, Asmodeus lives in the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and is called up by King Solomon. Asmodeus is taken into the presence of the King by Beelzebub, and King Solomon demands to know his names and functions. Sullen, arrogant and defiant, he tells the king he was born of a human mother and an angel father. He also says that Solomon will have only a temporary hold over the demons; his kingdom will eventually be divided, and demons will go out again among men and will be worshipped as gods because humans will not know the names of the angels who thwart the demons. He admits that he is afraid of water. He is said to be in charge of “the destruction of fidelity (faithfulness in marriage), either by separating man and wife through calamities or by causing husbands to be led astray. One of his main objectives is to prevent intercourse between spouses, wreck new marriages, and entice husbands to commit adultery.  He is also said to commit murders and to attack the beauty of virgins, causing them to waste away. He has knowledge of the future. In one passage from the Testament, which is similar to the Book of Tobit, Asmodeus admits that the angel Raphael holds power over him.

                Further in the Testament of Solomon, Asmodeus claims to have been “born an angel’s seed by a daughter of man,” which connects him firmly with the tradition of the Watcher Angels of Genesis  chapter six in the story of Noah, and also the First Book of Enoch as well as the Second Book of Enoch.

                This statement about Asmodeus being the offspring of a fallen watcher Angel and a human female is also reflected in the portion of the Jewish Haggadah  concerned with the life of Noah. Here, he is said to have been born of the union between the fallen angel Shamdon and the lustful maiden Naamah. He was reputedly bound by King Solomon with iron, a metal that was often presented as an anathema to demons.

[Strictly speaking, this would make Asmodeus an Evil Spirit, and not a demon – if one defines a demon as strictly a fallen angel. This is the subject of debate and discussion among even Christian demonologists—whether there is such a thing as evil spirits as being the spirits of the now dead offspring of demons (fallen angels) with human females (one explanation of the identity of the Nephilim of Genesis 6).]

                The Grimoire of Armadel  mentions Asmodeus in conjunction with leviathan, claiming that the two demons can teach about the malice of other devils. This same text cautions against summoning them, citing the fact that they lie.

                Francis Barret’s The Magus  depicts an image of Asmodeus, associating him with the sin of wrath.

                In Arthur Edward Waite’s 1910 Book of Black Magic and Pacts,  he is listed as the superintendent of hell’s casinos. This demonic hierarchy stems from the writings of the nineteenth century demonologist Charles Berbiguier.        

                In Mather’s translation of Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, he is called Asmodee, and is identified as one of eight sub-princes ruling over all the other demons. In this text, he has the power to produce food—typically in the form of huge banquets; he can know the secrets of any person; has the power to transmute metals and transmogrify (to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect) people and animals, changing their shapes at will.

                In the Goetia,  he appears as the thirty-second demon under the name Asmoday.

                Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s encyclopedia lists him as a demon of lust (the third of the seven deadly sins), and of jealousy (which is born out in his jealousy of Tobias.)

                Asmodeus was absorbed into Christian lore, becoming one of the Devil’s leading agents of provocation. Witches were said to worship him, and magicians and sorcerers attempted to conjure him to strike out at enemies. Grimoires of magical instruction sternly admonish anyone seeking an audience with Asmodeus to summon him bareheaded out of respect. Johann Weyer said Asmodeus rules gambling houses.

                According to the Lemegton, a major grimoire, Asmodeus is the “first and chiefest” under Amaymon and goes before all other demons. He gives the ring of virtues and teaches arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and all handicrafts. When properly summoned, he gives full and true answers to all questions. He can make a person invisible and will reveal all treasures under the guard of Amaymon. He was also one of the infernal agents blamed for the obscene sexual possession of the Louviers nuns in 17th century France.

Variations of his name include: Asmodeus, Asmodius, Hasmoday, Sydonay, Asmoday, Aeshma, Ashmedai, Asmodee, and Asmodai.

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