The Testament of Solomon, Part 11

We were getting to know Asmodeus better, and we’d arrived at the point where Solomon needed to assign him a task.  Suddenly, the once proud demon is humbled:

“I beg you, King Solomon, do not condemn me to water.”

After all that talking smack earlier, what does Asmodeus really think is going to happen?  Is Solomon going to be nice to him?

But I smiled and replied, “As the Lord, the God of my fathers lives, you shall have irons to wear and you shall mold clay for all the vessels of the Temple, eliminating the cost of the mold.”  Then I ordered ten water jars to be made available and (I commanded) him to be encircled by them.

So not only does Asmodeus have to touch iron – which, we’ll recall, was a hideous dislike of Ornias – he has to sit among water jars.  Is he really just making clay, or is something else going on?

To get some context, we might look at the Gnostic text The Testimony of Truth, which includes the following statement:

…[David’s] son Solomon, whom he begat in adultery, is the one who built Jerusalem by means of the demons, because he received power. When he had finished building, he imprisoned the demons in the temple. He placed them into seven waterpots. They remained a long time in the waterpots, abandoned there. When the Romans went up to Jerusalem, they discovered the waterpots, and immediately the demons ran out of the waterpots, as those who escape from prison. And the waterpots remained pure thereafter. And since those days, they dwell with men who are in ignorance, and they have remained upon the earth.

The text goes on to say that it’s allegorical, but it does indicate that this sort of imprisoning of demons might have been a common motif.  I’m also reminded of the Mesopotamian demon-capturing bowls (on which see here).   Over a millennium later, the Goetia contains a similar prescription for capturing demons in a brazen vessel.  Who’s that one attributed to?  Why, Solomon!

From a broader perspective, we might see this as similar to – or possible stemming from – the art of vessel divination.  In these divinations, a person scries into a reflective surface – in this case, a jar of water, possibly with oil at the top – to commune with a spirit whose face appears in the water.  This sort of procedure was quite popular in the magical papyri at the time, usually involving a boy stare into a basin and address the spirit as the magician whispers into his ear and asks questions of the spirit.  My post on child-scrying in Abramelin doesn’t touch directly upon this, but it shows how much similar procedures were still used up until the present day.  It’s not a precise match, but it does make me wonder.

But Solomon’s not done!

…then, taking the liver and gall of the fish, along with a branch of storax, I lit a fire under Asmodeus because he was powerful…

Moral:  Don’t tick off Solomon.

On Wednesday:  Beelzebub gets a callback!

(Quotes from Duling’s translation, in case anyone’s wondering.)

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 9:52 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interesting, that, about the begging and the water. Initially, it smacked of B’rer Rabbiting. But I gather not…

    Am digging the due diligence on demons. Care to extend that to the realm of fiction and report back?

  2. If you have check your stats you will have noticed someone has read the entirety of your blog. I’ve had a blast and my reading list has grown by leaps and bounds. I have decided to read the testement of Solomon along with you.
    Thank you for all the work and sources.

  3. FTL,

    I’ll add to the “when I get a chance” list. That’s the best I can do.


    Wow! That’s impressive.

    As a warning, you’ll be stopping every paragraph on a work that can be read in half an hour, which will likely become jarring after a while.

  4. […] Testament of Solomon, Part 12 After sending Asmodeus off to make clay, Solomon realizes he hasn’t given Beelzeboul or Beelzebub the third degree when they first […]

  5. […] One of the people in the interview that such a bowl would have likely have been used for scrying to allow the operator (or a medium) to see spirits.  I’d agree, as that procedure was reported a few centuries later in the magical papyri and the Testament of Solomon. […]

  6. I’m with Monica on that. I’m working my way through. Very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

  7. […] Book of Tobit.  He also briefly speaks with Solomon in his Testament (details here, here, and here) and makes an occasional appearance in rabbinical lore.  He becomes prominent in the grimoires, […]

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