The Testament of Solomon, Part 4

Last time, Ornias was dragged before King Solomon, and the king’s problems begin.

Seeing Solomon’s eventual downfall beginning here is not a majority opinion.  Klutz, in his Rewriting the Testament of Solomon, states that early Jewish versions of the book were much more sympathetic to Solomon, with the tales of his eventual downfall being inserted by Christian authors later on.  The scholarly editions of the text are actually composites of several different manuscripts which, at least one author has argued, does not show the diversity of the tradition.  (I’m choosing to read the book as a whole, which might be problematic historically, but I’d like to see where it gets me.)

Still, the tale of Solomon’s downfall goes back to 1 Kings, so the readers of the Testament would likely have had it in mind.  I’d argue that the seeds of Solomon’s downfall are sown from the very beginning.

Let’s get to the interrogation of the demon Ornias from Duling’s translation:

When I heard these things, I, Solomon, got up from my throne and saw the demon shuddering and trembling with fear.  I said to him, “Who are you? What is your name?”  The demon replied, “I am called Ornias.”

The formula “Who are you?  What is your name?” is quite common in this text.  As Solomon learns the names of the demons, he gains power over them.  Yet this, as we’re about to see, might not be sufficient.

I said to him, “Tell me, in what sign of the zodiac do you reside?”

A quick note on demons.  In Christian tradition, demons are usually seen as rebellious angels fallen from heaven, condemned to torment humanity and cast out from the site of God.  The grimoires follow the same idea – though some ambiguity as to the goodness or evil of particular spirits often arises – and many treat us to similar lists of demons, their stations, and their attributes.  The Testament, on the other hand, is less systematic, with demons having all manner of origins and fields of influence (often stellar).

As it turns out, Ornias does live in a constellation:

“In Aquarius; I strangle those who reside in Aquarius because of their passion for women whose zodiacal sign is Virgo.”

Puts a whole new pespective on “What’s your sign?”, doesn’t it?

Klutz gives what I think is a better answer.  The ancients had a number of different types of astrology.  One of these attributed particular parts of the world to particular signs of the zodiac.   Thus, Ornias strangles men who love women from another part of the world, when they should really be looking closer to home.  It’s a reiteration of the theme of danger coming from foreigners that turns up so often in the Testament.

For Monday – more than we ever wanted to know about Ornias!

Published in: on November 30, 2007 at 4:03 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This reminds me of Ashmedai and his murder of Sarah’s husbands.

  2. […] Testament of Solomon, Part 5 When we left Ornias, he was describing his curiously xenophobic murderous habits to King Solomon. Shortly thereafter, […]


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