The Testament of Solomon, Part 22

After the three-headed dragon, Solomon once more calls up another demon, this one a wild-haired woman.  The notes to the Duling translation draw parallels between this figure and the monster Medusa, a woman with snakes for hair who turned men into stone.  It’s another example of pagan material showing up in what is supposedly a Judeo-Christian source.

Solomon asks who she is, and he immediately gets attitude:

“And who are you?  Or what need is there for you to inquire about the sort of deeds I do?  But if you want to inquire, go to the royal chambers and, after you have washed your hands, sit again on your throne and ask me and then you will learn, King, who I am.”

“And scrub those cuticles while you’re at it!”

On the surface, this is an act of ritual purification as is common in many religious and magical traditions.  What sets it apart is the fact that a demon, a being traditionally associated with uncleanliness, is demanding that he perform it.  I wish I had an answer for this.

Solomon’s troubles with this interview had just begun, however:

I did not look at her shape, for her body was darkness and her hair savage.

Further support for the Medusa theory, I wonder?

Upon questioning her, Solomon learns who she is:

“Obyzouth.  I do not rest at night, but travel around all the world visiting women and, divining the hour (when they give birth), I search (for them) and strangle their newborn infants…  You are not able to give me orders.”

We’ve heard that before.  Solomon nonetheless extracts the name of Raphael from her, to which she adds:

“…when women give birth, write my name on a piece of papyrus and I shall flee from them to the other world.”

Experienced readers will recognize parallels between this figure and the legendary Jewish figure Lilith.  Lilith, the first wife of Adam, left him instead of submitting to him.  She became a demon who strangled newborn infants, and the only protection from her was the names of three angels written over the child’s bed.  She has since become an icon of women’s spirituality, which tends to underplay that whole child-strangling angle.  Yet she possesses an even greater pedigree, reaching back to the lilim of the Sumerians.

Perhaps fitting with her status, Obyzouth might be the only demon not assigned a particular task in the book.  Instead, Solomon hangs her on the Temple’s front to show the glory of God.

Next time – a Sagittarius dragon?

Published in: on February 1, 2008 at 11:21 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Testament of Solomon, Part 23 Once Solomon finishes with Obyzouth, he calls up another demon: …there came to me one who was in the form of a wallowing dragon, […]

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