Lilith Favorite Demoness
Of the hordes of demons the Jew who would win out must use and dismiss, none is more prominent than Lilith. Some of the amulets meant to keep her in check, as reproduced from the Jewish Encyclopedia, appear in Exhibits 286 and 287.
Lilith is supposedly jealous of lying-in mothers and their new-born babies. Her main job is apparently "spawning demons."
In his above noted publication, Rabbi Trachtenberg repeats the Talmudic tale that "when Adam was parted from Eve, he had relations with female demons who bore him demonic offspring." He was at this for 130 years, we are told.
Says Trachtenberg (page 7):
As a result of the legend of Adam s relations with Lilit [another spelling] the Lilits were most frequently singled out as the demons who embrace sleeping men and cause them to have nocturnal emissions which are the seed of a hybrid progeny . As the demons whose special prey is lying-in women, it was found necessary to adopt an extensive series of protective measures against her . We seem to have here a union of the night demon with the spirit that presides over pregnancy, influenced no doubt by the character of the Babylonian Lamassu, and the lamiae and striga of Greek and Roman folklore.
One of the most characteristic and least charming of the Talmudic customs is the gesture "to fig." This is cited in Rabbi Trachtenberg's work (page 162) as one of the most widely used anti-demonic devices It is made by closing the fist and inserting the thumb between the two fingers. Its particularly obnoxious character derives from the fact that it is meant as an obscene representation of the sexual act. Menasseh ben Israel was correct both in his explanation of the intent of this gesture, and his association of it with the Talmudic recommendation that to protect oneself against the evil eye one should place his right thumb in his left fist and his left thumb in his right fist When a man encloses his thumb in his fist he simulates a pregnant woman, and they, the spirits, do not harm him. People who employed this gesture were warned that it infuriates the demons at the same time that it renders them harmless; therefore a weak person, especially one who is dangerously ill, should forebear to use it, for the spirits may subsequently take vengeance on him. Variations on this theme were also employed: For safety on a journey one should place the little finger of the right hand in the left fist and recite a charm formula. The fingers were used as phallic symbols to the same end, and we learn that a witch is transfixed when one raises his index finger and thumb and recites the name Uriel seven times, or that an evil impulse may be vanquished by pressing the thumbs on the ground, repeating Pipi nine times and spitting.
[page 49] Here, as in all cases, the documentation of Rabbi Trachtenberg was monumental.
Spirits and Cemeteries
Obviously the spirits can help as well as harm the living An observant visitor to the tomb of Simon bar Yohai, for instance, at Meron, Palestine, will discern a host of written entreaties for the saint s aid [Note: the saint was a second century Talmudic voodoo-worker associated with the Zohar, principal multi-volumed work of the Jewish Cabala] The ancient practice of visiting the cemetery to entreat the offices of deceased relatives or scholars persisted In addition to such individual visits, there grew up the custom of the entire congregation repairing to the cemetery annually on several occasions, such as the seven rain fasts, and on Tisha B ab and on the eves of New Year and the Day of Atonement, that the dead may beseech mercy on our behalf.
(Jewish Magic and Superstition by Trachtenberg, page 64) The custom of washing the hands after a funeral is very widespread . Efforts were made to find a Biblical precedent for this act, but there was a general admission that it was done to dispel the spirits of uncleanness which cling to one s person, these being the demons that follow them home. (page 179, same publication).
Today, one may note Jews at such places as Temple Sholom, on elegant Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, dripping water on their hands after a funeral.
The Jewish Encyclopedia (under "Cemetery") refers to the custom of visiting the cemetery to consult the spirits, and cites the Talmud, Niddah l7a. There it is stated that one "spending a night in a graveyard in order that a spirit of uncleanness may rest upon him — to enable him to foretell the future might sometimes be exposed to danger." (Talmud, Soncino edition, Niddah, page 113) Reference to this practice is also made in Sanhedrin 65b (See Exhibit 72). That cemeteries are infested with spirits and demons is the general idea.
Says Rabbi Trachtenberg:
The future is an open book to the denizens of the supernatural realm, and like the demons and the angels, the deceased can by eavesdropping pick up the latest decisions of the court on high; they flit through the universe to hear what has been decreed. Then they report back to intimates on earth, in dreams or personal appearances But in general the spirit-world is chary of its secrets and can be induced to reveal them only by magical means mystical invocations and occult rites are effective in forcing the dead to obey the magician s will. The art of necromancy is a specialized function of sorcery. (Jewish Magic and Superstition, page 65)
The official language of the celestial court is Hebrew This principle was advanced in the
Talmud. (page 74)
In a chapter "The War With the Spirits," Rabbi Trachtenberg states:
The methods of warding off the spirits fell into three general categories: 1. to drive them away 2. to buy them off with gifts, to bribe them and thus conciliate them; 3. to deceive them by disguising their intended victims, or by pretending that the situation was other than what it was. Each of these methods, and often two or three of them combined, was known and employed by Jews even found expression in special ceremonies which have become part and parcel of Jewish ritual.
Rabbi Trachtenberg mentions putting a severed foreskin in a bowl of water, with attendants dipping their fingers in bloody fluid, and burying the circumcizer with the foreskins he has severed, as demonic ritual. The unluckiness of even numbers except on special nights when four cups of wine, instead of an odd number may be imbibed, the protective, and divine nature of Talmud study for blunting demons, and the recitation of the Shema at night are noted by the Rabbi, and he states: "There was no attempt to disguise the purpose of this prayer-service; it was frankly admitted time and again that 'it exists only because of the demons." He quotes: "at my right Michael, at my left Gabriel, before me Uriel, behind me Raphael." This is nothing more than the Jewish version of the ancient Babylonian incantation, 'Shamash before me, behind me Sin, Nergal at my right, Ninib at my left,' or 'May the good Shedu at my right, the good Lamassu at my left,' etc. (Jewish Magic and Superstition, page 156)
"The final weapon in the anti-demonic strategy is that of deceit." Apart from wailers at weddings to deceive the demons into thinking it a sad instead of glad occasion, breaking a glass at a wedding and the Shofar being blown to scare the demons, this strategy of deceit, says the Rabbi, is "most commonly employed in changing an invalid's name so that the spirits who might be charged with effecting his death would be unable to locate him ... just as criminals adopt aliases to evade the police." (same publication, page 168)
Under "Shinnuy-ha-shem" in the Jewish Encyclopedia, one may read the synagogue formula for changing the name of an invalid so as to fool the demons:
"When the Righteous Judgement has already decreed death from illness, our saintly rabbis said: Three things annul the decree; and one of them is changing the name of the patient. We therefore, in conformity with their advice, have changed the name of (mention here the former name) to the name of (mention the adopted name) who is now another person. The [page 50] decree shall not have any force with regards to him .
Was Christ so wrong to call the Pharisees "Fools and blind"? (Matthew 23:17)