Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fiendish Forces in Hebrew Amulets - Part 1

Whilst the patronage of higher spiritual forces are enlisted in Hebrew amulets by means of their names, malevolent powers are equally identified in Kameot in order to, as it were, bind them and weaken their impact on the living. Restraining demonic entities is particularly necessary, since it is said that "if the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the demons." Furthermore, "they are more numerous than we are and they surround us like the ridge round a field," and it is claimed "Every one among us has a thousand on his left hand and ten thousand on his right hand." [Talmud Bavli, Berachot 6a]

It is said demonic entities are "living souls without bodies," [Thompson, R.C.: Semitic Magic: Its Origins and Development, Luzac & Co., London 1909] and it is believed they resemble humans in three ways, "they eat and drink like human beings; they propagate like human beings; and they die like human beings" [Talmud Bavli Chagigah 16a]. We are informed that "the injury of the human race in every possible way was believed to be the chief delight of evil spirits," [Cassels, W.R.: Supernatural Religion: An Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation Vol. 1, Longmans Green & Co., London 1874] which is another "quality" they share with so many of the human race who "delight" in doing just that to their fellow human kind. The demoness Lilit certainly ranks amongst the most dangerous of those spirit forces who take pleasure in killing humans.

The saga surrounding the person and career of this demonic dame reads like a popular soap opera. She "was a failure as Adam’s intended wife, became the paramour of lascivious spirits, rose to be the bride of Samael the demon King, ruled as the Queen of Zemargad and Sheba, and finally ended up as the consort of God himself." [Patai, R.: The Hebrew Goddess, Third enlarged edition, Wayne State University Press, Detroit 1990] Her incredible career in evil and depravity spanning more than four millennia, rivals that of any other career criminal, whether human or demonic. At least there is some protection against the killer instincts of this lady. We are told she informed the Propher Elijah "whenever I shall see or hear any of my names I shall straightway flee.... And whenever my names shall be mentioned I shall have no power to do evil or to injure." [Hanauer, J.E.: Folk-Lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish, Duckworth & Co., London 1907]

It would seem the history of Lilit can be traced back to the Lillu, who "was one of four demons belonging to a vampire or incubi-succubae class" mentioned in a Sumerian King list. [Patai, R.: The Hebrew Goddess] Thus it has been suggested that the traditions regarding "Lilit" were derived by Jews from Sumerian and Gnostic lore, and it is further alleged that much of Sumerian folklore was absorbed into Judaism by the patriarch Abraham, and the fact that he hailed from Chaldean Ur was cited in support of this claim.

There is certainly no evidence that Abraham received the Lilit mythology from the Sumerians, or that it was from thence that it found its way into kabbalistic lore. There is also no reference to Lilit in the Pentateuch, and all evidence points to it having been extracted from Babylonian-Assyrian sources. After all, Jews lived in exile in Babylonia for centuries, and even after the "return" and Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, many preferred to remain in the settled comfort of Babylonia, where the great Jewish academies continued to thrive well into the early centuries of the common era.

We know for certain that Lilit is part of Babylonian demonology, and that there are some Sumerian antecedents. In fact, Lilit was one of a demonic couple, Lilu the male and Lilitu the female, both of which were associated with a whole set of "harmful spirits" called mazikim. Now, whilst Lilit in "Jewish lore" is particularly associated with endangering the life of the newly born infant, the Babylonian equivalents of this spirit fulfilled various nefarious functions. For example, there is an incantation in an Assyrian ritual text against an Ardat-Lili who preys on males. Others would strangle infants and threaten pregnant women.

There is only one reference to Lilit in the Bible (Isaiah 34:14), hence it is understood that most of what we know of the early Jewish traditions regarding Lilit, derives mainly from the Babylonian Talmud. Amongst the early "Jewish" references to Lilit we should include one from the Qumran community (Dead Sea Scrolls), whilst aspects of this tradition were also absorbed into "The Testament of Solomon," a third century Greek work. More details on the Lilit as the first wife of Adam were also included in the "Alphabet of Ben Sira."

Now, just because Lilit is called the "mother of demons," does not mean that she does not have enemies amongst her own kind. In this regard, the demoness Machalat, the "Dancer," and her daughter Agrat bat Machalat, the latter being the consort of Ashmodai and queen of the demons, are said to live "in strife with Lilith." The hostility of these female demons towards Lilit is no simple matter. Agrat bat Machalat is the consort of Ashmodai and she ranks "queen of the demons." Furthermore, she is said to have "a retinue of one hundred and eighty thousand evil spirits." [Rappoport, A.S.: The Folklore of the Jews, The Soncino Press, London 1937]

(More to follow)

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