The Testament of Solomon

Numbers aren’t really important, right?  We return to the Testament with Solomon calling up another demon and getting much more than he bargained for:

There came to me thirty-six heavenly bodies, their heads like formless dogs.  But there were among them (those who were) in the form of humans, or of bulls, or of dragons, with faces like the birds, or the beasts, or the sphinx.

Those who have read the Simon Necronomicon will see parallels to the dog-headed demons, or Allu, mentioned in that book.  Simon actually took the name, an authentic Mesopotamian one, and seems to have merged it with a description of a demon from The Chaldaean Oracles, a book which might not be particularly Chaldaean nor oracular. But who are these guys?

All at once, with one voice, they said, “We are thirty-six heavenly bodies, the world rulers of hte darkness of this age.”

What these seem to be are the decans.  Each one of them represents one-thirty-sixth of the sky, thus each takes up a 10 degree arc of the sky (from which the term “decan” derives).   Decans originated in dynastic Egypt, passed through the Egypto-Judeo-Hellenistic ferment of the centuries close to Christ (becoming grouped three to a sign of the zodiac), and later came to occupy an important place in various tracts on ceremonial and astrological magic.

There’s a really good book on the decans, Wilhelm Gundel’s Dekane und Dekanesternbilder, which I fully intend to read someday.  As an interesting side note, Cornell’s copy has a letter tipped in describing how Professor Gundel, a scholar in Germany in the 1930s, had run afoul of the Nazis and had his teaching position revoked.

This is actually one of the oldest sections of the Testament.  As I’ve stated before, most manuscripts of the book we have date from late medieval times, but the portion with the decans has been found in a work dating back to the 5th or 6th century.  Does this mean the Testament as a whole dates to this period?  Or did this section circulate separately?  No one’s quite sure.

Next time, the decans introduce themselves!

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Published in: on March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Testament of Solomon Last time, Solomon had encountered thirty-six demons most likely identical with the decans.  Next, […]


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