The Testament of Solomon: People’s (and Demon’s) Court, Part 2

Last time, Solomon was curious as to why the demon Ornias laughed when he heard an old man and his son disputing in court. Ornias claimed that the old man wanted to kill his son. Solomon dismissed the two men and asked the demon just how he could possibly know this. The demon responds:

“We demons go up to the firmament of heaven, fly around among the stars, and hear the decisions which issue from God concerning the lives of men… But we who are demons are exhausted from not having a way station from which to ascend or on which to rest; so we fall down like leaves from the trees and the men who are watching think that stars are falling from heaven… we are dropped like flashes of lightning to the earth. We burn cities down and set fields on fire…”

As we’ve seen before, demons often occupy something of an ambiguous position in the Jewish and Christian myths. Both faiths have separated the spiritual from the physical, but it becomes difficult to determine what happens when one affects the other. How similar are demons to angels? To God? To men?  To some degree, making demons too spiritual is an affront to God, but on the other hand, making them too physical tends to devalue the spiritual.

How is this handled?  As Greenfield states in his Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology, the theological traditions typically make the demons highly spiritual in nature, with emphasizing their lack of materiality.  On the other hand, the popular – and, by extension, magical – traditions tend to see demons as much more physical.  Thus, Solomon or a magician can tie them down, beat them, threaten them with a sword, or treat them in very physical ways.

The Testament follows the latter tradition while acknowledging both.  The demons are spiritual enough to be able to fly to the very gates of heaven.  At the same time, they are material enough to become exhausted and fall from the sky – yet to return, their material is obviously spiritual enough that they survive their fiery and destructive impact.

Ornias’ statement also is proof of just how contradictory the Testament can sometimes be.  For most of what we’ve read, we’ve emphasized just how many different origins and natures the beings have, ranging from ghostly giants to transformed humans.  Yet here Ornias is setting out a rule that would seem to apply to the entire diverse cast of spirits, no matter their origins.  It’s especially odd when we consider Ornias is one of the spirits who dwells in Aquarius– you’d think he’d be a little better at flying.

Next time – the verdict!

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Published in: on April 20, 2008 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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