Asmodeus (//; Ancient Greek: Ἀσμοδαῖος, Asmodaios) or Ashmedai (//; Hebrew: אַשְמְדּאָי, ʾAšməddāy), also Ashema Deva (see below for other variations), is a prince of demons, or in Judeo-Islamic lore the king of the earthly spirits (shedim/jinn), mostly known from the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, in which he is the primary antagonist. In the Binsfeld's classification of demons, Asmodeus represents lust. The demon 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[who?] to be the King of the Nine Hells. Asmodeus also is referred to as one of the seven princes of Hell. In Binsfeld's classification of demons, each one of these princes represents one of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride).
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.
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. In the Zoroastrian and Middle Persian demonology, there did exist the conjuncted form khashm-dev, where the word dev was the same as daeva.
The spellings Asmodai, Asmodee (also Asmodée), Osmodeus, and Osmodai have also been used. The name is alternatively spelled in the bastardized forms (based on the basic consonants אשמדאי, ʾŠMDʾY) Hashmedai (חַשְמְדּאָי, Hašmədʾāy; also Hashmodai, Hasmodai, Khashmodai, Khasmodai), Hammadai (חַמַּדּאָי, Hammadʾāy; also Khammadai), Shamdon (שַׁמְדּוֹן, Šamdōn), and Shidonai (שִׁדֹנאָי, Šidonʾāy). Some traditions have subsequently identified Shamdon as the father of Asmodeus.
The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 rejects the otherwise accepted etymological relation between the Persian "Æshma-dæva" and Judaism's "Ashmodai" claiming that the particle "-dæva" could not have become "-dai" and that Æshma-dæva as such—a compound name—never appears in Persian sacred texts. Still, the encyclopedia proposes that the "Asmodeus" from the Apocrypha and the Testament of Solomon are not only related somewhat to Aeshma but have similar behaviour, appearance and roles, to conclude in another article under the entry "Aeshma", in the paragraph "Influence of Persian Beliefs on Judaism", that Persian Zoroastrian beliefs could have heavily influenced Judaism's theology on the long term, bearing in mind that in some texts there are crucial conceptual differences while in others there seems to be a great deal of similarity, proposing a pattern of influence over folk beliefs that would extend further to the mythology itself in general. However, the Jewish Encyclopedia asserts that 'though Æshma does not occur in the Avesta in conjunction with dæva, it is probable that a fuller form, such as Æshmo-dæus, has existed, since it is paralleled by the later Pahlavi-form "Khashm-dev". Furthermore it is stated that 'Asmodeus (Ashmedai) embodies an expression of the influence that the Persian religion or Persian popular beliefs have exercised on the Jewish'.
In the texts
In the Bible
The full name "Ashmedai" is not found, but in 2 Kings 17:30, a certain Ashima appears as the false god for whom the Syrian Hamathites made an idol. Not only does this name better resemble that of the Persian daeva Aeshma, but the name (אֲשִׁימָא) also greatly resembles the name Ashmedai (אַשְמְדּאָי) in Hebrew.
In the Book of Tobit
The Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit is hostile to Sarah, Raguel's daughter, (Tobit 6:13); and 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 vapour that causes the demon to flee to Egypt, where Raphael binds him (Tobit 8:2-3). According to some translations Asmodeus is strangled.
Perhaps Asmodeus punishes the suitors for their carnal desire, since Tobias prays to be free from such desire and is kept safe. Asmodeus 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).
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, in as much as his desires turn upon Solomon's wives and Bathsheba.
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. Similar legends can be found in Islamic folklore. There Asmodeus is called Sakhr (Arabic: صخر the Rock or the Stony One), because in Islamic lore, Solomon banished him into a rock, after he takes his kingdom back from him. There he counts as the king of the jinn.
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 Hell. 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 creatures being associated with either lascivity, lust or revenge. The Archbishop of Paris approved his portrait.
In the Lesser Key of Solomon
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
In Christian thought
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 a fine dress. The 16th-century Dutch demonologist Johann Weyer described him as the banker at the baccarat table in hell, and overseer of earthly gambling houses.
In 1641, the Spanish playwright and novelist Luis Velez de Guevara published the satirical novel El diablo cojuelo, where Asmodeus is represented as a mischievous demon endowed with a playful and satirical genius. The plot presents a rascal student that hides in an astrologer's mansard. He frees a devil from a bottle. As an acknowledgement the devil shows him the apartments of Madrid and the tricks, miseries and mischiefs of their inhabitants. The French novelist Alain-René Lesage adapted the Spanish source in his 1707 novel le Diable boiteux, where he likened him to Cupid. 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. Following Lesage's work, he was depicted in a number of novels and periodicals, mainly in France but also London and New York.
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.
On 18 February 1865, author Evert A. Duyckinck sent President Abraham Lincoln a letter, apparently mailed from Quincy. Duyckinck signed the letter "Asmodeus", with his initials below his pseudonym. His letter enclosed a newspaper clipping about an inappropriate joke allegedly told by Lincoln at the Hampton Roads Peace Conference. The purpose of Duyckinck's letter was to advise Lincoln of "an important omission" about the history of the conference. He advised that the newspaper clipping be added to the "Archives of the Nation".
In the Kabbalah
In Islamic culture
The story of Asmodeus and Solomon has a reappearance in Islamic lore. Asmodeus is commonly named Sakhr (rock) probably a reference to his fate in common Islam-related belief, there, after Solomon defeated him, Asmodeus was imprisoned inside a box of rock, chained with iron, and thrown it into the sea. In his work Annals of al-Tabari, the famous Persian Quran exegete (224–310 AH; 839–923 AD) Tabari, referred to Asmodeus in Surah 38:34. Accordingly, the puppet is actually Asmodeus who took on the shape of Solomon for forty days, before Solomon defeated him.
Asmodeus is consulted by a young Jewish boy, who tried to find the Islamic prophet Muhammad, in The Nights. During their conversation, he asked about hell, thereupon Asmodeus describes the different layers of hell.
In popular media
Asmodeus is a recurring antagonist in the 13th season of The CW series Supernatural, portrayed primarily by Jeffrey Vincent Parise. Created by Lucifer himself, Asmodeus was originally a Prince of Hell alongside siblings Azazel, Dagon, and Ramiel. Upon the death of Crowley, Asmodeus succeeds him as the King of Hell despite being Lucifer's weakest creation. Asmodeus is killed in the episode "Bring 'em Back Alive" by the archangel Gabriel, whose grace Asmodeus had been feeding on to make himself stronger.
The character 'Asmodai' in A. L. Mengel's supernatural series The Tales of Tartarus (2013–2016) is based on the demon Asmodeus. The demon haunts the main protagonist, Antoine, through the series of novels.
Asmodeus appears in the television series The Librarians (season 4, episode 10) as a blue-skinned, growling demon in knight's armor and carrying a sword.
Asmodeus also features heavily in the lore of the game Dungeons & Dragons as the ruler of the Nine Hells, formerly the greatest of the angels since the earliest editions (though his name was edited out in some releases of the Second Edition alongside all other references to devils and demons). He resides in the lowest layer of Hell, Nessus, and all the other layer's Archdevils owe fealty to him, even though they would like nothing more than to depose him and take his place. Asmodeus cleverly plays them against each other and he has plans within plans millennia in the making. In certain editions, he is mentioned to have been an angel of law who was tasked by the gods to punish sinful mortals, and he took it upon himself to gain power to fight the demonic hordes of the Abyss by creating Hell and tempting mortals to sin so he has souls to power his armies. While good gods do not like Asmodeus, the lawful deities accept him as a necessary evil who plays a role in Creation's great cycle. Asmodeus is always depicted wearing his Ruby Rod, a powerful artifact of rulership. His secret goal is to either defeat or subjugate the demons of the Abyss and then to conquer the Upper Planes.
Asmodeus is also present in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in a similar role to his D&D one. The main difference is that his church is widespread on Golarion, and this has elevated him to actual godhood.
Asmodeus appears as Magnus Bane's father and Prince of Hell, otherwise known as Edom on the third season of Freeform's Shadowhunters television series based on Cassandra Clare's popular book series The Mortal Instruments. He is portrayed by Jack J. Yang.
Asmodeus appears in the 1997 book Asmodeus – a Forkful of Tales from Devil's Peak by Alex D'Angelo, illustrated by Tony Grogan. One story "Asmodeus and the Bottler of Djinns" is included in the anthology Favorite African Folktales edited by Nelson Mandela, published by Norton and available as an audio book.
References and sources
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- Robert Lebling Robert Lebling I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3
- Raphael Patai Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions Routledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-317-47170-7 page 39
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- Asmodeus; Or, The Devil on Two Sticks By Alain Rene Le Sage - 1841 - London - Joseph Thomas
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since it is paralleled by the later Pahlavi-form "Khashm-dev" ("Khashm dev" = "Æshma dev"), written with the Aramaic "sheda," but pronounced "dev." [..] Asmodeus (Ashmedai) embodies an expression of the influence that the Persian religion or Persian popular beliefs have exercised on the Jewish—an influence that shows itself very prominently in the domain of demonology.
- Bane, Theresa (Jan 9, 2012). McFarland (ed.). Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-786-46360-2.
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- Jewish encyclopedia unedited full text 1906 version, entry "Aeshma"
- Strave, Erik. "Æshma (Asmodeus) etymology in Jewish Encyclopedia".
Though "Æshma" does not occur in the Avesta in conjunction with "dæva," it is probable that a fuller form, such as "Æshmo-dæus," has existed, since it is paralleled by the later Pahlavi-form "Khashm-dev" ("Khashm dev" = "Æshma dev"), written with the Aramaic "sheda," but pronounced "dev."
- Ibid. Jewish Encyclopedia.
In fine, Asmodeus (Ashmedai) embodies an expression of the influence that the Persian religion or Persian popular beliefs have exercised on the Jewish—an influence that shows itself very prominently in the domain of demonology. Thus 'Ασμο, , corresponds to "Æshma," and the ending δαῖος, , to "dæva," "dev."
- Talmud. Gittin. pp. 68b.
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But the very devil of Fornication, and the chief of that abomination, is called Asmodeus, which means the Creature of Judgement: for because of this kind of sin a terrible judgement was executed upon Sodom and the four other cities.
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- Mathers & Crowley 1995, pp. 68–70.
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