In a world where dualistic tendencies are apparent in our cultural indoctrination, it’s very difficult to approach a subject such as this without the usual biases that are associated with it. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family, equipped with all the prejudices that such an upbringing provides. There was a necessary element of fear associated with discussions that concerned Demons, most notably because such things were deemed dangerous. More often than not, some third person anecdote, (I know this guy who messed around with “evil stuff…” or I know this priest who works with this sort of thing…”) was all the exposure I got to this but never really witnessed it firsthand.
Oh sure, I’ve had weird and sometimes scary experiences, but nothing quite to the caliber of “evil” preached from the pulpits of my priests. Even now, as a practicing Old Catholic Priest (a derivative of Roman Catholicism much more open and accepting to other forms of thinking), I still find it hard to let these traditional notions of good and bad, or black and white thinking concerning demonology out of my perspective. I think part of me is still a little leery of such investigation. Perhaps I was content in letting it be a question mark in my understanding. Nevertheless, I’ve resolved to investigate this further.
I’m no longer content in leaving this source of knowledge blank. I really want to know if these things are real, or if it is some psychological state that lends itself to some believability but is nonetheless contained within the inner workings of a very active mind.
On that note, I wanted to start with a discussion of the Demon Astaroth, a Duke, (or in some interpretations a Duchess) of the Demon Realm (Lesser, 2016). His/Her name is derived from the Phoenician goddess Astarte, Babylonian Ishtar, and the Sumerian goddess, Inanna (Astaroth, 2016). In other interpretations, the name is also a derivative of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of the sky (Demon, 2016). In traditional lore, Astarte was one of the most revered goddesses of the old world, becoming demonized with the arrival of newer religious points of view (2016). In these myths, she was considered an arbitrator, providing council to humans and demons alike, as well as a teacher of the sciences and humanities (2016). In earlier pseudepigraphal works, she was regarded as an angel also, in opposition to demons (Astaroth, 2016).
The first use of Astaroth as a male demon comes to us around 1458 CE, with the writing of the Book of Abramelin, a book about Kabbalistic magick (Book, 2016). From here, we find Astaroth reappearing throughout the grimoires coming down throughout the middle ages, most notably the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the Lesser Key of Solomon (Astaroth, 2016). We find Weyer’s description of Astaroth as such:
Astaroth is a great and a strong duke, comming foorth in the shape of a fowle angell, sitting upon an infernall dragon, and carrieng on his right hand a viper: he answereth trulie to matters present, past, and to come, and also of all secrets. He talketh willinglie of the creator of spirits, and of their fall, and how they sinned and fell: he saith he fell not of his owne accord. He maketh a man woonderfull learned in the liberall sciences, he ruleth fourtie legions. Let everie exorcist take heed, that he admit him not too neere him, bicause of his stinking breath [lit. “because of the intolerable stench which he exhales”]. And therefore let the conjuror hold neere to his face a magicall [silver] ring, and that shall defend him. ~ Weyer, Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (Weyer, 1577).
This is quite a different take on our Near Eastern goddess but still retains some of the original attributes such as knowledge of past, present, and future, and a knowledge of the humanities (1577). We find a similar description of him in the Lesser Key of Solomon (Astaroth, 2016). Most descriptions of him are similar.
In De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, Astaroth is described as riding a “hellish dragon” and carrying a viper in his left hand (De Plancy, 1863). It also states that he is one of the seven princes of Hell, appearing to Faust as a serpent with “jaundiced body, a ruddy chestnut neck, with arrow points like those of a hedgehog” (1863). Outside of the traditional lore surrounding the origins of his name, Astaroth is generally described with attributes similar to this. Also the use of a silver ring when conjuring him is a common theme running through these grimoires as well (1863). I think this is best explained with sources copying older sources for information without changing anything very much.
Moving on from Astaroth, I want to next discuss Asmodeus. a King of the Demon Realm and one of the seven princes of Hell (Asmodeus, 2016). We find his name coming to us from a derivative of the name aesma-daeva, an Avestan name meaning “wrath demon” or “wrath divine being” (Asmodeus). From here, he makes in appearance in the Book of Tobit, killing of the husbands of Sarah on their wedding nights (Tobit 3:8, New Revised Standard Version, 1995). He was eventually overcome by the righteousness of Tobias, who sent him fleeing to Egypt (1995). He also makes appearances in the Talmud, collaborating on the construction of the Temple of Solomon, marrying Lilith, and temporarily overthrowing Solomon (Asmodeus, 2016).
In the middle ages, we find him in demonology texts and grimoires as a much darker character (2016). We find him in the Malleus Maleficarum, a witch hunting manual from 1486, where he is described as a King of Hell with 72 legions under his command (Summers, 1928). The source also tells us that he is the source of gambling, overseeing Hell’s gambling houses (1928). In John Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, Asmodeus is referred to as Sidonay and is described as:
a great king, strong and mightie, he is seene with three heads, whereof the first is like a bull, the second like a man, the third like a ram, he hath a serpents taile, he belcheth flames out of his mouth, he hath feete like a goose, he sitteth on an infernall dragon, he carrieth a lance and a flag in his hand, he goeth before others, which are under the power of Amaymon. When the conjuror exerciseth this office, let him be abroad [brave], let him be warie [courageous] and standing on his feete; <if his cap be on his head> [! if he is afraid he will be overwhelmed], he will cause all his dooings to be bewraied [divulged], which if he doo not, the exorcist shalbe deceived by Amaymon in everie thing. But so soone as he seeth him in the forme aforesaid, he shall call him by his name, saieng; Thou art Asmoday; he will not denie it, and by and by he boweth downe to the ground; he giveth the ring of venues, he absolutelie teacheth geometrie, arythmetike, astronomie, and handicrafts [mechanics]. To all demands he answereth fullie and trulie, he maketh a man invisible, he sheweth the places where treasure lieth, and gardeth it, if it be among the legions of Amaymon, he hath under his power seventie two legions. ~ Weyer, Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (Weyer, 1577).
This description of Asmodeus is also shared by the Dictionnaire Infernal and the Ars Goetia (The Lesser Key of Solomon) (De Plancy, 1863) (Mathers, 1904). Common themes include having three heads, riding a serpent, carrying a banner, and associations with impurity or lust (De Plancy, 1863) (Mathers, 1904) (Asmodeus, 2016).
What I’ve Learned and Points of Interest
I’m not going to lie, when I set out to do some research on this, I was a little nervous. This topic is still pretty taboo in the circles I run in. That being said, it was pretty fascinating! I had no idea that such a broad range of literature going back throughout history even existed, let alone in a manner that is comprehensible and understandable to someone in our day and age. The sheer volume of material was a bit overwhelming, but definitely worth the read over! I want to explore this further, now that I have a place to start, and see how much information there is out there that is available. I don’t necessarily imagine I’ll be performing any of the conjuring rituals I read about, like those in the Lesser Key of Solomon, but knowing that they are there for reference is invaluable to a future wizard and the study of demonology from a practical point of view. I learned a lot about myself, including the underlying fears that I have concerning these topics, but I also learned that these things can be studied safely without compromising any type of internal conviction. This is important to note as I still feel as though a certain amount of discretion is needed when studying these topics.
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