The shedim are in Hebrew Demonology, evil spirits created by the union of a succubus or Lilith and a man. The shedim are a man’s “Demonic children.” When a man dies, they go to the grave to weep. Tradition called for a man’s legitimate offspring to stay away from the graveside at burial in order to avoid dangers from the shedim. A 17th-century account of beliefs of German Jews describes them:
They [Jews] firmly believe that if a man’s seed escapes him, it gives rise, with the help of mahlath [a female Demon] and Lilith, to evil spirits, which however die when the time comes. When a man dies and his children begin to weep and lament, these shedim, or evil spirits, come too, wishing, along with the other children, to have their part in the deceased as their father; they tug and pluck at him, so that he feels the pain, and God himself, when He sees this noxious offspring by the corpse, is reminded of the dead man’s sins.
One custom called for 10 men to dance in a circle around a man’s body seven times before it was lowered into the grave, reciting the 91st Psalm or other prayers to ward off the shedim. Then a stone was laid on the bier while Genesis 25:6 was recited: “But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away.”
In later lore, the shedim were hairy, wild Demons who lived in the woods and danced. They were known for their tricks, such as leaving human beings with grotesque deformities if they were displeased.
The shedim are ruled by Asmodeus.
See also : shaytan.
Further Reading :
- Davies, T. Witton. Magic, Divination and Demonology among the Hebrews and Their Neighbors. First published 1898.
- Mack, Carol K., and Dinah Mack. A Field Guide to Demons: Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. New York: Owl Books/Henry Holt, 1998.
- Scholem, Gershom G. On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism. New York: Schocken Books, 1965.
Also known as: Sheydim (Yiddish)
Shedim is a Hebrew word that has become a catch-all term for supernatural beings. It is variously translated as “spirits,” “ghosts,” “Demons,” or “supernatural beings.” Shedim is plural; the singular form is shed or sheyd. That root word, sheyd, entered the Yiddish language where it takes many forms:
• Sheydish is an adjective meaning “ghostly” or “supernatural.”
• A sheydl is an imp.
• Sheydim-tanz, literally “dance of the Sheydim” may be a ghost dance, the danse macabre, Walpurgis night revels, or just kids running around really crazy.
Despite modern nebulous definitions, Shedim originally indicated specific types of spirits. According to Jewish folklore, after the expulsion from Eden, Adam left Eve and was temporarily reunited with Lilith. Their many spirit children are the Shedim. Alternatively the Shedim are the children of Naamah and the rebel angels Azazel and Shemhazai. The Shedim are neither wholly benevolent nor malevolent. They may bring illness or torment, but individually can also be friendly, helpful spirits.
The word and the spirits may derive from the Sedim, Assyrian guardian spirits. Alternatively, the word may derive from Shaddai, among the names of the Jewish god.
Highly influential Biblical commentator Rashi (1040–1105) wrote that Shedim have human form and consume food and drink like humans. They are found congregating in cemeteries.
See also: Azazel; Ghost; Imps; Lilith; Mazzik; Naamah