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Legend of Asmodeus

Asmodeus also known as Ashmedai or Asmodai is an “archdemon” who rules lechery, jealousy, anger, and revenge. He is one of the most prominent and evil of fallen angels which has wings, three heads (an ogre, a ram, and a bull), feet of a cock, rides on a dragon, and breathes fire. He also has 72 legions of demons under his command. According to Binsfeld's classification of demons, Asmodeus is referred to as one of the seven princes of Hell under Lucifer the emperor, each one of these princes represents one of the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride). Asmodeus is the demon of lust and his goals are to prevent intercourse between husband and wife, wreck new marriages, and force husbands to commit adultery. He also frequently blamed in cases of demonic possession.

Asmodeus has his roots in ancient Persian mythology, in which he is identified with Aeshma, one of seven archangels. The Jews absorbed him into their mythology, where he attained the highest status and most power of his legends. According to Jewish lore, he is the son of Naamah and Shamdon. He is part of the Seraphim, the highest order of angels, but fell from grace when Lucifer was cast from heaven.

According to the Testament of Solomon, Asmodeus lives in the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). He spreads the wickedness of men, plots against newlyweds, spreads madness about women through the stars, ruins the beauty of virgins, and commits murders. He is thwarted by Raphael and the smoking liver and gall of a fish, especially the sheatfish, which lives in Assyrian rivers. He has knowledge of the future.

Asmodeus is brought to the presence of King Solomon by the Prince of Demons, Beelzebub. He tells the king he was born of a human mother and an angel father. Solomon will have only a temporary hold over the demons; his kingdom eventually will be divided, and demons will go out again among men and will be worshiped as gods because humans will not know the names of the angels who thwart the demons. He also admits to hating water and birds because both remind him of God.

Solomon binds Asmodeus with care, puts him in chains, and surrounds him with jars full of water, which makes the demon complain bitterly. Asmodeus is forced to make clay vessels for the temple. Solomon also burns the liver and gall of a fish beneath the demon, which quells his nasty tongue.

A rabbinic tale relates how Asmodeus is captured by King Solomon and then steals his magical ring. In order to cut stone for his Temple of Jerusalem, Solomon requires a Shamir, a stone-cutting worm. Asmodeus knows where the worm is, for he comes to earth to watch debates in the house of learning and to take a drink of water from a stone-capped mountain well.

Solomon sends his chief man, Benaiah ben Jehoiadah, to the well with a chain engraved with the divine name, a ring engraved with the divine name, a bundle of wool, and a skein of wine. Benaiah drills a hole and drains the well and stuffs the hole with the wool. He fills the well with the wine. Asmodeus comes and drinks the wine and falls asleep. Benaiah chains him about the neck and traps him with the seal of the ring.

Asmodeus and other demons are forced to build Solomon’s temple. After completion of the temple, Solomon tells Asmodeus that he cannot understand why demons are so powerful when their leader could be so easily chained. Asmodeus says he will prove his greatness if Solomon will remove his chains and lend him the magical ring. Solomon does so, only to be hurled far away from Jerusalem. Asmodeus steals the ring, forces Solomon into exile, and becomes king himself. He throws the ring into the sea. But Solomon’s lover, the Ammonite Namah, finds the ring in a fish belly, and the king regains his power. He is immediately transported to Jerusalem when he puts on the ring. As punishment, he puts Asmodeus in a jar.

In the Greek text of Tobias, Asmodeus plagues a young woman named Sarah by killing her husbands on their wedding nights in the bridal chamber before the marriages can be consummated. God allowed the demon to slay these men because they entered marriage with unholy motives. Raphael instructs Tobias to take the liver, heart, and gall of a fish and burn them to make a foul incense that will drive away Asmodeus. Tobias is dubious, but Raphael assures him the trick will work, and Tobias will be able to claim Sarah as his wife. Tobias becomes betrothed to Sarah, and, on their wedding night, prepares the foul smoke to repel Asmodeus. The demon is driven out and flees to Egypt, where he is bound up by another angel.

Asmodeus appears in Christian demonology as one of Satan’s leading agents of provocation. Witches in the Middle Ages were said to worship him, and magicians and sorcerers attempted to conjure him to strike out at enemies. The medieval Grimoires of magical instruction sternly admonish anyone seeking an audience with Asmodeus to summon him bareheaded out of respect.

Some demonologists of the 16th century assigned a month to a demon and considered November to be the month in which Asmodeus's power was strongest. Other demonologists asserted that his zodiacal sign was Aquarius but only between the dates of January 30 and February 8. According to Johann Weyer, a 16th-century physician and demonologist, Asmodeus also ruled the gambling houses.

In 17th-century France, Asmodeus was one of the infernal agents blamed for the obscene sexual possession of a convent of nuns, during the height of the witch scare that ran through Europe. The incident occurred at a convent in Louviers in 1647, and involved 18 nuns who allegedly were possessed through the bewitchments of the nunnery’s director and the vicar of Louviers. According to confessions—most extracted under torture—the possessed nuns committed unspeakable sexual acts with the devil and demons; attended witches’ sabbats, where they ate babies; and uttered obscenities and spoke in tongues. The nuns were subject to public exorcisms. The vicar, Father Thomas Boulle, was burned alive. The body of the nunnery director, Mathurin Picard, who died before sentencing was passed, was exhumed and burned. A nun who broke the story to authorities, Sister Madeleine Bavent, was sentenced to the dungeon.


The Encyclopedia of Angels by Rosemary Ellen Guiley;

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