With so many types of demons wrecking havoc on human lives, the Babylonians, Assyrians and early Jews concocted numerous ways to deal with their menacing foes. Common ways people protected themselves included carrying around an amulet such as a ring or inscribing various symbols or numbers on tablets or discs.
Later Jewish rituals were similar. They would hang aloes or cacti from the arch of their doorways to ward off evil spirits. They would also turn to God in prayer, often quoting passages from Scripture such as the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:22-27
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
“Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’
“So they shall (H)invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
– Numbers 6:22-27
Other frequently quoted passages included repetition of the Shema – Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.
Because demons were thought to gravitate towards food and water, Jews would guard themselves by striking the cover of the water-jar and say to themselves
Thou N son of N [ie himself], thy mother has warned thee, and said, Guard thyself from Shabriri, Briri, Riri, Iri, Ri. I am thirsty in a white cup.
It was believed that as the person recited the syllables of the demon’s name, the demon also faded away – demonstrating how powerful words can be.