Asmodeus or Asmodai (Hebrew: אשמדאי Ashmedai) (see below for other variations) is a king of demons mostly known from the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, in which he is the primary antagonist. This marid is also mentioned in some Talmudic legends, for instance, in the story of the construction of the Temple of Solomon. He was supposed by some Renaissance Christians to be the King of the Nine Hells. Asmodeus also is referred to as one of the seven princes of Jinnestan. In Binsfeld's classification of demons, each one of these princes represents one of the seven deadly sins (Pride, Lust, Envy, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, and Wrath). Asmodeus is the demon of lust and is therefore responsible for twisting people's sexual desires. It is said in Asmodeus Or, The Devil on Two Sticks that people who fall to Asmodeus' ways will be sentenced to an eternity in the second level of hell.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 In Zoroastrianism
- 3 In the texts
- 4 Later depictions
- 5 Rank
- 6 Appearance
- 7 Powers
- 8 Symbols
The name Asmodai is believed to derive from Avestan language *aēšma-daēva, where aēšma means "wrath", and daēva signifies "demon". While the daēva Aēšma is thus Zoroastrianism's demon of wrath and is also well attested as such, the compound aēšma-daēva is not attested in scripture. It is nonetheless likely that such a form did exist, and that the Book of Tobit's "Asmodaios" (Ἀσμοδαῖος) and the Talmud's "Ashmedai" (אשמדאי) reflect it.
Other spelling variations include Asmodaeus (Latin), Asmodaios-Ασμοδαίος (Greek), Ashmadia, Asmoday, Asmodée (French), Asmodee, Asmodei, Ashmodei, Ashmodai, Asmodeios, Asmodeo (Spanish and Italian), Asmodeu (Portuguese), Asmodeius, Asmodi, Chammaday, Chashmodai, Sidonay, Sydonai, Asimodai (Romanian), Asmodeusz (Polish), Asmodevs (Armenian). The playwright William Shakespeare abbreviated his name to Modo.
Aeshma (Aēšma) is the Younger Avestan name of Zoroastrianism's demon of "wrath." As a hypostatic entity, Aeshma is variously interpreted as "wrath," "rage," and "fury." His standard epithet is "of the bloody mace."
Tri-syllabic aeshma is already attested in Gathic Avestan as aeshema (aēšəma), though not yet - at that early stage - as an entity. The word has an Indo-Iranian root. In the Zoroastrian texts of the 9th-12th centuries, aeshma appears as Middle Persian eshm or kheshm, continuing in Pazend and New Persian as kashm. Judaism's Asmodai (Talmudic ʼšmdʼy, Book of Tobit asmodios) derives from Avestan aeshma.daeva.
In the hierarchy of Zoroastrian demons (daevas) that mirrors a similar hierarchy of divinities, Aeshma is opposed to Asha Vahishta, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis of "Truth." This opposition also reflects Aeshma's position as messenger of Angra Mainyu (Yasht 19.46), for in the hierarchy of divinities, Asha is the messenger of Spenta Mainyu, the instrument through which Ahura Mazda's realized ("created by His thought") creation.
The demon's chief adversary however is Sraosha "Obedience", the principle of religious devotion and discipline. The opposition between religious obedience and distraction from it is also expressed in the Yasna 10.8's portrayal of Aeshma as the metaphysical endangerment of the Good Religion. Aeshma distracts from proper worship, distorting "the intention and meaning of sacrifice through brutality against cattle and violence in war and drunkenness." (Yasna 10.8, Yasht 17.5)
According to Yasht 11.15, Ahura Mazda created Sraosha to counter the demon's mischief, and in Yasna 57.25, Sraosha protects the faithful from the fiend's assault. At the renovation of the world, Sraosha overthrow Aeshma, who will flee before the saoshyant (Yasht 19.95), but in the present the fiend flees before Mithra (Yasna 57.10; Yasht 10.97).
The demon's opposition to Sraosha is also reflected in their respective standard epithets. While Aeshma's is xrvi.dru- "of the bloody mace" (e.g. Yasna 10.8, Yasht 11.15), Sraosha's is darshi.dru- "of the strong (Ahuric) mace." Aeshma's other epithet's include "ill-fated" (Yasht 10.95) "malignant" (Yasna 57.25, Yasht 10.97), "possessing falsehood" (drvant-, Yasht 10.93). In Yasht 19.97, the demon has the epithet "having his body forfeited," but what is meant by this is uncertain.
Aeshma can be driven away by the recitation of a prayer (Vendidad 11.9).
In tradition and folklore
In the Zoroastrian texts of the 9th-12th centuries, the function of battling Aeshma is also ascribed to Mithra (Zand i Wahman Yasn 7.34), and Denkard 3.116 places him in opposition to Vohu Manah. The demon is made commander by Angra Mainyu (Zatspram 34.32) and although he is closely related to Az, the demon of "avarice", Az will eventually swallow him up. The opposition to Sraosha is continued into the later tradition.
In the even later Rivayats (epistles), a Yasna ceremony that is not properly executed is said to have been done as if the ceremony were for Aeshma.
In the Testament of Solomon, Asmodeus says to represent in the sky the constellation of the Big Bear.
Aeshma is the source of the Georgian name of devil — eshmaki (ეშმაკი).
In the texts
In the Kabbalah
In the Book of Tobit
The Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit is attracted to Sarah, Raguel's daughter, and is not willing to let any husband possess her (Tobit 6:13); hence he slays seven successive husbands on their wedding nights, impeding the sexual consummation of the marriages. He is described as the worst of demons. When the young Tobias is about to marry her, Asmodeus proposes the same fate for him, but Tobias is enabled, through the counsels of his attendant angel Raphael, to render him innocuous. By placing a fish's heart and liver on red-hot cinders, Tobias produces a smoky vapor that causes the demon to flee to Egypt, where Raphael binds him (Tobit 8:2-3). According to some translations Asmodeus is strangled.
Asmodeus would thus seem to be a demon characterized by carnal desire; but he is also described as an evil spirit in general: 'Ασμοδαίος τὸ πονηρὸν δαιμόνιον or τõ δαιμόνιον πονηρόν, and πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον (Tobit 3:8; Tobit 3:17; Tobit 6:13; Tobit 8:3). It is possible, moreover, that the statement (Tobit 6:14), "Asmodeus loved Sarah," implies that he was attracted not by women in general, but by Sarah only.
In the Talmud
The figure of Ashmedai in the Talmud is less malign in character than the Asmodeus of Tobit. In the former, he appears repeatedly in the light of a good-natured and humorous fellow. But besides that, there is one feature in which he parallels Asmodeus, inasmuch as his desires turn upon Solomon's wives and Bath-sheba. But even here, Ashmedai seems more like a Greek satyr than an evil demon.
Another Talmudic legend has King Solomon tricking Asmodai into collaborating in the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Another legend depicts Asmodai throwing king Solomon over 400 leagues away from the capital by putting one wing on the ground and the other stretched skyward. He then changed places for some years with King Solomon. When King Solomon returned, Asmodai fled from his wrath.
An aggadic narrative describes him as the king of all the shades (Pesachim 109b–112a). "Shadim" (plural of "shade") can fly because they have wings. It is also stated that they have chicken claws as opposed to toes.
Another passage describes him as marrying Lilith, who became his queen.
One Thousand and One Nights
A well-known story in the collection One Thousand and One Nights describes a genie (Asmodeus) who had displeased King Solomon and was punished by being locked in a bottle and thrown into the sea. Since the bottle was sealed with Solomon's seal, the genie was helpless to free himself, until freed many centuries later by a fisherman who discovered the bottle.
In the Testament of Solomon
In the Testament of Solomon, a 1st–3rd century text, the king invokes Asmodeus to aid in the construction of the Temple. The demon appears and predicts Solomon's kingdom will one day be divided (Testament of Solomon, verse 21–25). When Solomon interrogates Asmodeus further, the king learns that Asmodeus is thwarted by the angel Raphael, as well as by sheatfish found in the rivers of Assyria. He also admits to hating water and birds because both remind him of God.
In the Malleus Maleficarum
In the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), Asmodeus was considered the demon of lust. Sebastien Michaelis said that his adversary is St. John. Some demonologists of the 16th century assigned a month to a demon and considered November to be the month in which Asmodai's power was strongest. Other demonologists asserted that his zodiacal sign was Aquarius but only between the dates of January 30 and February 8.
He has 72 legions of demons under his command. He is one of the Kings of Hell under Lucifer the emperor. He incites gambling, and is the overseer of all the gambling houses in the court of Jinnestan. Some Catholic theologians compared him with Abaddon. Yet other authors considered Asmodeus a prince of revenge.
In the Dictionnaire Infernal
In the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy, Asmodeus is depicted with the breast of a man, a cock leg, serpent tail, three heads (one of a man spitting fire, one of a sheep, and one of a bull), riding a lion with dragon wings and neck, all of these animals being associated with either lascivity, lust or revenge. The Archbishop of Paris approved his portrait.
In the Lesser Key of Solomon
Asmodai appears as the king 'Asmoday'; in the Ars Goetia, where he is said to have a seal in gold and is listed as number thirty-two according to respective rank.
He "is strong, powerful and appears with three heads; the first is like a bull, the second like a man, and the third like a ram; the tail of a serpent, and from his mouth issue flames of fire." Also, he sits upon an infernal dragon, holds a lance with a banner and, amongst the Legions of Amaymon, Asmoday governs seventy two legions of inferior spirits.
In The Magus
Asmodeus is referred to in Book Two, Chapter Eight of The Magus (1801) by Francis Barrett.
Asmodeus was named as a jinn of the Order of Thrones by Gregory the Great.
Asmodeus was cited by the nuns of Loudun in the Loudun possessions of 1634.
Asmodeus'; reputation as the personification of lust continued into later writings, as he was known as the "Prince of Lechery" in the 16th century romance Friar Rush. The French Benedictine Augustin Calmet equated his name with fine dress. The French novelist Alain-René Lesage likened him to Cupid in his 1707 novel le Diable boiteux. In the book, he is rescued from an enchanted glass bottle by a Spanish student Don Cleophas Leandro Zambullo. Grateful, he joins with the young man on a series of adventures before being recaptured. Asmodeus is portrayed in a sympathetic light as good-natured, and a canny satirist and critic of human society. In another episode Asmodeus takes Don Cleophas for a night flight, and removes the roofs from the houses of a village to show him the secrets of what passes in private lives. The origin of the word detection is believed to refer to this, its meaning coming from the Latin 'de-tegere'; or 'unroof';. Following Lesage's work, he was depicted in a number of novels and periodicals, mainly in France but also London and New York.
The 16th century Dutch demonologist Johann Weyer described him as the banker at the baccarat table in Jinnestan, and overseer of earthly gambling houses.
Asmodeus was widely depicted as having a handsome visage, good manners and an engaging nature; however, he was portrayed as walking with a limp and one leg was either clawed or that of a rooster. He walks aided by two walking sticks in Lesage's work, and this gave rise to the English title The Devil on Two Sticks (also later translated The Limping Devil and The Lame Devil). Lesage attributes his lameness to falling from the sky after fighting with another devil.
Asmodeus is one of the Kings of Jinnestan under Amaymon the emperor and has seventy-two legions of demons under his command but submits to Amoymon. He incites gambling, and is the overseer of all the gambling houses in the court of Jinnestan. Some Catholic theologians compared him with Abaddon. Yet other authors considered Asmodai a prince of revenge.
According to Wierus, he had three heads, that of a bull, a man, and a ram. He also has a serpent's tail, the feet of a goose, and flaming breath. He rides a dragon In the infernal hierarchy, he governs seventy-two legions.
In the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy, Asmodai is depicted with the breast of a man, cock legs, serpent tail, three heads (one of a man spitting fire, one of a sheep, and one of a bull), carrying a standard and a lance and riding a lion with dragon wings and neck, all of these animals being associated with either lascivity, lust or revenge.
According to demonologists Asmodeus was able to reveal to men the hidden secrets and treasures of the mother earth, besides giving them the ability to become invisible. When one exorcises him, one must be steadfast and call him by name. He gives rings influenced by astronomical bodies, advises men on making themselves invisible, and instructs men in the art of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and the mechanical arts. He also knows of treasures.
The term 'flight of Asmodeus'; is derived from a work of literature by Alain René Lesage (Le Diable Boiteux, 1707) in which Asmodeus takes Don Cleofas for a night flight, and by magical means removes the roofs from the houses of a village to show him the secrets of what passes in private lives.
Rank: King Gender Associated: Predominately Male Zodiac Sign: 5-9 degrees of Virgo(?) Season: N/A Direction: N/A Day: N/A Planet: Neptune(?) Metal: Copper(?) Gemstone: N/A Element: Water Animal: cock, serpent, sheep, and bull Color: Black, Blue, Red Taste: N/A Food: Alcohol Body Part: Sexual Regions Tarot Card: King of Wands