Shedim

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35. And they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds. 36. They worshipped their idols, which became a snare for them. 37. They slaughtered their sons and daughters to the demons. 38. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters whom they slaughtered to the idols of Canaan, and the land became polluted with the blood. 39. And they became unclean through their deeds, and they went astray with their acts.

Tehillim (Psalms), 106.35-39[1]

17. They sacrificed to demons, which have no power, deities they did not know, new things that only recently came, which your forefathers did not fear.

Devarim (Deuteronomy), 32.17[2]

Shedim (Hebrew: שדים‎) are spirits or demons in early Jewish mythology. However, they are not necessarily equivalent to the modern connotation of demons as evil entities.[3] Evil spirits were thought as the cause of maladies; conceptual differing from the shedim,[4] who are not evil demigods, but the foreign gods themselves. Shedim are just evil in the sense that they are not God.[5]

They appear only twice (always plural) in the Tanakh, at Psalm 106:37 and Deuteronomy 32:17 both times, it deals with child or animal sacrifices.[6] It was possibly a loan-word from Akkadian in which the word shedu referred to a protective, benevolent spirit.[7] The word may also derive from the "Sedim, Assyrian guard spirits"[8] as referenced according to lore "Azazel slept with Naamah and spawned Assyrian guard spirits known as sedim".[9] With the translation of Hebew texts into Greek, under influence of Zorastrian dualism, shedim were translated into daimonia with implicit negativity. Otherwise, later in Islamic culture, shedim became the Hebrew word for Jinn with a morally ambivalent attitude.[10]

Folklore and Kabbalah[edit]

Origin of Shedim[edit]

According to one legend, the shedim are descendants of serpents, or of demons in the form of serpents, alluding to the serpent in Eden as related in Genesis. To others they are descendants of Adam and Lilith. Another legend said that God had started making them, intending for them to be humans, but did not complete their creation because He was resting during the Sabbath. Even after the Sabbath, He left them how they were to show that when the Sabbath comes, all work must be viewed as complete.[11]

Traits[edit]

Shedim are said to have had the feet and claws of a rooster[12] and share some characteristics both of humans and angels. Like angels, they know the future and have wings, but like humans they eat, drink, procreate and die. They can also cause sickness and misfortune.[13]

Supposedly, sinful people sacrificed their daughters to the shedim, but it is unclear if the sacrifice consisted in the murdering of the victims or in the sexual satisfaction of the demons. To see if the shedim were present in some place, ashes were thrown to the ground or floor, and then their footsteps became visible.

The shedim are supposed to follow the dead or fly around graves.

There are many things that one is admonished not to do in order to avoid invoking shedim, such as whistling or even saying the word "shedim". Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg wrote in his will and testament that one should not seal up windows completely because it traps shedim in the house.

The shedim are not always seen as malicious creatures and are also considered to be helpful to humans. They are said to be even able to live according to the Torah, like Asmodeus.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Complete Jewish Bible
  2. ^ The Complete Jewish Bible
  3. ^ Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence BRILL 2015 ISBN 9789004306219 page 127
  4. ^ Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence BRILL 2015 ISBN 9789004306219 page 128
  5. ^ Benjamin W. McCraw, Robert Arp Philosophical Approaches to Demonology Routledge 2017 ISBN 978-1-315-46675-0 page 9
  6. ^ W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary (Union for Reform Judaism, 2005), p. 1403 online; Dan Burton and David Grandy, Magic, Mystery, and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 120 online.
  7. ^ Rachel Elior; Peter Schäfer (2005). על בריאה ועל יצירה במחשבה היהודית: ספר היובל לכבודו של יוסף דן במלאת לו שבעים שנה. Mohr Siebeck. p. 29. ISBN 978-3-16-148714-9. 
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses - Judika Illes - HarperCollins, Jan 2009 - p. 902 [1]
  9. ^ The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology - Rosemary Guiley - Infobase Publishing, May 12, 2010 = p. 21 [2]
  10. ^ Jan Dirk Blom, Iris E.C. Sommer Hallucinations: Research and Practice Springer Science & Business Media 2011 ISBN 978-1-461-40958-8 page 237
  11. ^ Maureen Bloom Jewish Mysticism and Magic: An Anthropological Perspective Routledge 2007 ISBN 978-1-134-10329-4 page 128
  12. ^ Marc Carlson, Notes on a demonic pantheon
  13. ^ Maureen Bloom Jewish Mysticism and Magic: An Anthropological Perspective Routledge 2007 ISBN 978-1-134-10329-4 page 128
  14. ^ Raphael Patai Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions Routledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-317-47170-7

Further reading[edit]

  • Ben-Amos, Dan. "On Demons." In Creation and Re-creation in Jewish Thought: Festschrift in Honor of Joseph Dan on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Mohr Siebeck, 2005, pp. 27–38, limited preview online.
  • Charles, R.H. The Apocalypse of Baruch, Translated from the Syriac. Originally published 1896, Book Tree edition 2006 online.
  • Charles, R.H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2: Pseudepigrapha. Originally published 1913, Apocryphile Press Edition 2004, p. 485 online and p. 497.
  • Chajes, Jeffrey Howard. Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003, pp. 11–13 online.
  • Goldish, Matt. Spirit Possession in Judaism. Wayne State University Press, 2003, p. 356 online.
  • Koén-Sarano, Matilda. King Solomon and the Golden Fish: Tales from the Sephardic Tradition. Translated by Reginetta Haboucha. Wayne State University Press, 2004. Limited preview online.
  • Plaut, W. Gunther. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Union for Reform Judaism, 2005, p. 1403 online.