Asmodai (also Asmodeus, Asmodaeus) is mostly known thanks to the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit; he is also mentioned in some Talmudic legends and in demonology. His origin is likely the Mazdian (Zoroastrian) religion. He was incorporated into Judaism and Christianity probably during Persian Achaemenid's rule over Jews.
|Table of contents|
The Persian Asmodai
In Mazdeism, Æshma-deva (Asmodai) is the chief of all demons, a personal being under direct command of Angra Mainyu, the principle of evil, and the enemy of Sraoscha, one of the suras or angels that serve Ahura Mazdah, the principle of good (see dualism). Æshma's mission is to fill the hearts of men with anger and vengeful desires, and to create all evil on Earth. He incites men to abandon the path of good and follow that of evil. It could never be proved that Æshma was a demon of carnal desire, as was also an early nazi predecent, another demon mentioned in Mazdeism. Avestan Æshma is cognate with modern Persian language kheshm.
Asmodai in Judaism
Note, however, that the Book of Tobit is not part of the established Jewish Canon. In the Book of Tobit, Asmodai falls in love with Sarah, daughter of Raguel, and kills her husband each time she gets married. In this way, he killed seven men on their wedding night, thus impeding the consummation of the sexual act. After this, Sarah becomes engaged to a young man called Tobias. Tobias is menaced by the demon and receives the aid of the angel Raphael. Raphael teaches Tobias how to deal with the demon, making him catch a fish and put its heart and liver on lit coals. This produces a vapour that makes Asmodai flee to Egypt, where Raphael binds him. More about the demon's fate in this story is unknown, but here he is presented as feeling carnal desire as well as having evil behaviour.
In the Talmud, Asmodai seems not to be the evil creature he is in other books. However, there are some legends concerning Asmodai and King Solomon. One of them tells that King Solomon tricked the demon and obliged him to collaborate in building the temple of Jerusalem. In another legend Asmodai changed place for some years with King Solomon. Yet another legend tells that Asmodai is the king of all demons, comparable to the Christian notions of Satan, and married Lilith after she left Adam.
Asmodai in demonology
The importance given to Asmodai in demonology is less than in Judaism, being considered somewhat lower to other hellish authorities by most Christian demonologists (according to The Lesser Key of Solomon he is the thirty second in rank), but all of them coincide on his duty, being this to exacerbate carnal desire.
In the Testament of Solomon (dated 1st - 3rd centuries CE) , Solomon invokes Asmodeus to aid in the construction of the Temple. The demon appears and predicts Solomon's kingdom will one day be divided.
"My constellation (is like an animal which) reclines in its den in heaven; some men call me the Great Bear, but others the Offspring of a Dragon. Moreover, a smaller constellation accompanies my constellation, for the high position and throne of my father is always in the sky. So do not ask me so many things, Solomon, for eventually your kingdom will be divided. This glory of yours is temporary. You have us to torture for a little while; then we shall disperse among human beings again with the result that we shall be worshiped as gods because men do not know the names of the angels who rule over us." - Testament of Solomon 5:4-5
When Solomon interrogated Asmodeus further, he learned that Asmodeus was thwarted by the angel, Raphael, as well as sheatfish found in the rivers of Assyria. He also admitted he hated water.
In the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), he was considered the demon of lust, to which agreed Sebastian Michaelis saying that his adversary is St. John. To some demonologists of the 16th Century, that assigned each month to a demon, Asmodai's power is stronger in November. According to other demonologists his zodiacal sign is Aquarius but only between the dates of January 30 and February 8, he has seventy-two legions of demons under his command, and is one of the kings of Hell (Lucifer being the emperor). They also add to his mission that of inciting gambling, as he was said to be overseer of all the gambling houses in the court of Hell; and some Catholic theologians compared him with Abaddon. To other authors this demon is considered a prince of revenge and protector of male homosexuals, homosexuality being one of his methods of seduction. In the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy he is depicted with the chest of a man, cock legs, serpent tail, three heads (one of a man spitting fire, one of a ram, and one of a bull), riding a lion with dragon wings and neck, all of these creatures being associated with either lasciviousness, lust and revenge.
Other spellings: Æshma (Old Persian), Æshma-dæva, Ashmadia, Ashmedai (Hebrew), Asmodaios (Greek), Asmoday, Asmodée (French), Asmodee, Asmodei, Asmodeios, Asmodeo (Spanish, from a Latin declination), Asmodeius, Asmodeus (Latin, as he is known in most translations of the Book of Tobit), Asmodi, Chammaday, Chashmodai, Sidonay, Sydonai.
- Wikipedia (2005). Asmodai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asmodai). Retrieved Nov 19, 2005