Asmodeus, also known as Ashmadia, most likely originated from the Persian Aeshma-deva (“demon of wrath”).
The apocryphal Book of Tobit describes an instance where Raguel’s daughter, Sarah, was tormented by the demon. She was married to seven times, each time the Asmodeus killed off the husband before they could have intercourse. Sarah, was about to hang herself in grief, but decided against it after thinking about the shame it would cause her father. She then prayed to God for death.
God answered her prayer by sending the angel, Raphael, to her aid. He instructed Tobiah to place fish liver and heart on the embers for incense. Asmodeus was repelled by the odor:
“The demon, repelled by the odor of the fish, fled into Upper Egypt; Raphael pursued him there and bound him hand and foot.” – Book of Tobit 8:3
In the Testament of Solomon (dated 1st – 3rd centuries CE) , Solomon invokes Asmodeus to aid in the construction of the Temple. The demon appears and predicts Solomon’s kingdom will one day be divided.
“My constellation (is like an animal which) reclines in its den in heaven; some men call me the Great Bear, but others the Offspring of a Dragon. Moreover, a smaller constellation accompanies my constellation, for the high position and throne of my father is always in the sky. So do not ask me so many things, Solomon, for eventually your kingdom will be divided. This glory of yours is temporary. You have us to torture for a little while; then we shall disperse among human beings again with the result that we shall be worshiped as gods because men do not know the names of the angels who rule over us.” – Testament of Solomon 5:4-5
After Asmodeus had spoken, Solomon ordered him to state his name and activities, to which the demon responded that he:
“Is always hatching plots against newlyweds; I mar the beauty of virgins and cause their hearts to grow cold”
– Testament of Solomon 5:7
When Solomon interrogated Asmodeus further, he learned that Asmodeus was thwarted by the angel, Raphael, as well as sheatfish found in the rivers of Assyria. He also admitted he hated water.
Milton writes in Paradise Lost
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse
Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Egypt, there fast bound.
– Paradise Lost , iv. 167–71.
Dictionnaire Infernal – Collin de Plancy (1863) (paraphrased)
Asmodee (also Chammadai or Sydonai) is the destroying demon and superintendent of the gaming houses. He may be also the equivalent of Samael. It is said that he will be the one to dethrone Solomon, but that Solomon will force him to aid in the battle for the Jerusalem temple. After Tobie expells him with the smoked spleen of a fish from Sara, the angel Raphael will bind him in the depths of Egypt. According to the Courrier de l’Egypte, the people of the country still adore Asmodee, whose temple sits in the desert of Ryanneh. He allegedly will cut himself into pieces and immediately after, disappear.
Other legends associate Asmodee as the serpent who seduced Eve. As “Asmodai,” he is prince of demons. According to Wierus, he had three heads, that of a bull, a man, and a ram. He also has a serpent’s tail, the feet of a goose, and flaming breath. He rides a dragon and carries a standard and a lance. In the infernal hierarchy, he governs seventy-two legions but submits to Amoymon. When one exorcises him, one must be steadfast and call him by name. He gives rings influenced by astronomical bodies, advises men on making themselves invisible, and instructs men in the art of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and the mechanical arts. He also knows of treasures.
Pseudomonarchia daemonum – Johann Wier (1583) (quoted)
Sidonay, alias Asmoday, a great king, strong and mightie, he is seene with three heads, whereof the first is like a bull, the second like a man, the third like a ram, he hath a serpents taile, he belcheth flames out of his mouth, he hath feete like a goose, he sitteth on an infernall dragon, he carrieth a lance and a flag in his hand, he goeth before others, which are under the power of Amaymon. When the conjuror exerciseth this office, let him be abroad, let him be warie and standing on his feete; if his cap be on his head, he will cause all his dooings to be bewraied, which if he doo not, the exorcist shalbe deceived by Amaymon in everie thing. But so soone as he seeth him in the forme aforesaid, he shall call him by his name, saieng; Thou art Asmoday; he will not denie it, and by and by he boweth downe to the ground; he giveth the ring of venues, he absolutelie teacheth geometrie, arythmetike, astronomie, and handicrafts. To all demands he answereth fullie and trulie, he maketh a man invisible, he sheweth the places where treasure lieth, and gardeth it, if it be among the legions of Amaymon, he hath under his power seventie two legions.
Goetia – S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1904) (quoted)
The Thirty-second Spirit is Asmoday, or Asmodai. He is a Great King, Strong, and Powerful. He appeareth with Three Heads, whereof the first is like a Bull, the second like a Man, and the third like a Ram; he hath also the tail of a Serpent, and from his mouth issue Flames of Fire. His Feet are webbed like those of a Goose. He sitteth upon an Infernal Dragon, and beareth in his hand a Lance with a Banner. He is first and choicest under the Power of AMAYMON, he goeth before all other. When the Exorcist hath a mind to call him, let it be abroad, and let him stand on his feet all the time of action, with his Cap or Headdress off; for if it be on, AMAYMON will deceive him and call all his actions to be bewrayed. But as soon as the Exorcist seeth Asmoday in the shape aforesaid, he shall call him by his Name, saying: “Art thou Asmoday?” and he will not deny it, and by-and-by he will bow down unto the ground. He giveth the Ring of Virtues; he teacheth the Arts of Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, and all handicrafts absolutely. He giveth true and full answers unto thy demands. He maketh one Invincible. He showeth the place where Treasures lie, and guardeth it. He, amongst the Legions of AMAYMON governeth 72 Legions of Spirits Inferior. His Seal is this which thou must wear as a Lamen upon thy breast, etc.
Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage – SL MacGregor Mathers (1898) (quoted)
Asmodee: Usually written “Asmodeus,” and sometimes “Chashmodai”. Derived by some from the Hebrew word “Asamod,” to destroy or exterminate; and by others from the Persian verb “Azmonden,” = to tempt, to try or prove. Some Rabbins say that Asmodeus was the child of the incest of Tubal-Cain and his sister Naafrfah. Others say that he was the Demon of impurity. Others again relate that he was employed by Solomon in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem; that he then attempted to dethrone Solomon, to put himself in his place; but that the King vanquished him and the Angel Gabriel chased him into Egypt, and there bound him in a Grotto. The Rabbins say that when Asmodeus was working at the building of the Temple, he made use of no metal tool; but instead of a certain stone which cut ordinary stone as a diamond will glass.
- Book: The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity
- Book: Satan, a Portrait by Edward Langton. ISBN: 0848215621 (c) 1977
- Book: Paradise Lost
- Book: The Goetia the Lesser Key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton, Book 1 Clavicula Salomonis Regis
- Book: Discoverie of Witchcraft
- Web: The Goetia – the Lesser Key of Solomon (from sacred-texts.com)
- Web: Pseudomonarchia daemonum (from esotericarchives.com)