Jezebel, as recounted in the Old Testament’s First and Second Book of Kings, is the Phoenician princess and priestess of Asherah who was married to Ahab, King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (circa 872–851 BCE). Her name may be interpreted as meaning “Woman of Ba’al” or “Where is his High ness?” referring to a myth of Ba’al. (It may be interpreted in less flattering ways, too.)
The bible portrays Jezebel as the active and direct opponent of the passionate monotheist, Elijah the Prophet. Jezebel is vilified for persecuting Jewish prophets and for allegedly encouraging Israelite veneration of Asherah. (The possibility that Israelites were already worshipping Asherah without Jezebel’s help is discussed in Raphael Patai’s groundbreaking book, The Hebrew Goddess.) Jezebel notoriously persuaded her husband to seize a vineyard he coveted after the vineyard’s owner refused to sell it.
For many, Jezebel epitomizes the archetypal “evil queen.” Conventional Jewish wisdom suggests that she was a powerful witch who led Ahab astray although there are occasional moderating voices (even the Talmud describes Jezebel as sometimes very charitable). The bible describes Jezebel’s death and comeuppance in gruesome detail but like her New Testament compatriot, Herodias, Queen of Judea, Jezebel’s spirit continues to evoke dread, disgust, and also veneration. She is a charismatic spirit of witchcraft and woman’s wiles.
As the royal priestess of Asherah and a queen, Jezebel may have perceived herself as an avatar of a goddess (Asherah, Astarte, and/or Anat) in the same manner that Cleopatra identified herself with Aphrodite and Isis.
The name Jezebel appears a second time in biblical sources, this time in the Book of Revelation (2:20). Yet another woman named Jezebel is accused of falsely calling herself a prophetess while seducing people toward idolatry and fornication.
Over the centuries, the name “Jezebel” has developed intensely erotic overtones, possibly deriving from this biblical second coming of Jezebel and/or because of associations of Semitic goddess religions with sacred prostitution. “Jezebel” has transcended its status as a name and evolved into a word indicating a sexually autonomous woman. Although also used to sell cosmetics and lingerie, it is most often used as a pejorative, especially by those who would seek to control women’s sexuality. To describe a woman as a “painted jezebel” is essentially to call her a slut. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “jezebel” as “an impudent, shameless, and morally unrestrained woman.” To Demonstrate how deeply the word “jezebel” has permeated language, The New English-Polish and Polish-English Kosciuszko Foundation Dictionary, published in 2005, translates the Polish word “Rozpustnica” as “jezebel”, “harlot” and “notorious sinner”. (“Rozpust nica” is translated elsewhere as “libertine”.)
Not surprisingly, Jezebel has emerged as a spirit of sex, dominance, and women’s power. Whether this is positive or negative depends upon the eyes of the beholders. Jezebel is venerated by some, used by others and actively opposed by still others.
Amongst Neo-Pagans and Judeo-Pagans, Jezebel is venerated as a powerful and complex spirit: the epitome of one who will not be cowed by opposition or convention. In folk magic traditions like Hoodoo, Jezebel is respected as a spirit who gets things done and who successfully exerts her will. She is not necessarily considered evil but is an amoral spirit.
In Hoodoo tradition, the root of a species of iris flower is known as “Jezebel root” because it is used in magic spells to get one’s way or desire, regardless of obstacles or odds. (The simplest Jezebel root spell involves holding a root in one’s left hand while focusing intensely on one’s desire. Maintain that concentrated focus for a sufficient length of time and then bury the root in Earth, confident that one’s wish will come true. More Jezebel root spells may be found in Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells.)
The notion that an ageless, eternal spirit may assume many human bodies and names is not uncommon. In the 2007 biographical film, Vampira: The Movie, performance artist and horror hostess, Maila “Vampira” Nurmi (1921–2008) describes the Vampira spirit as a timeless force who has been animated in “many carcasses”.
In conservative Christian circles, Jezebel remains an active and notorious evil spirit although she has transcended her ties to the biblical queen. A primordial “Jezebel spirit” existed before the queen and survived her death. This spirit is an incorporeal force that works through women’s bodies but is not restricted to them. Thus, the name appears twice in the Bible, attached to different women: the Jezebel spirit is a possessing spirit who takes over women’s bodies and minds.
Author Francis Frangipane in his 1994 book, The Jezebel Spirit associates Jezebel with obsessive sensuality, unbridled witchcraft, and hatred for male authority. His Jezebel spirit operates through women who seek dominance and do not behave modestly or humble themselves before male authority. In accordance with Hoodoo sources, this Jezebel spirit is a spirit who craves control.
The Jezebel spirit may simultaneously possess many women: hordes, in fact. According to Christian sources, the Jezebel spirit is sneaky and manipulative. The most dangerous Jezebel spirit is not the one who is openly a harlot or witch but the one who disguises herself as a good Christian in order to infiltrate and undermine. She inevitably reveals her true identity, however, by her need for attention and control and by her sensuous nature. The woman harboring a Jezebel spirit will seek public attention, desire to lead prayer groups, and publicly interpret scripture all for ultimately nefarious purposes. This Jezebel spirit is not obscure but a popular topic and concern. Among the many other books she has inspired are Steve Sampson’s 2003 Confronting Jezebel: Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control; John Paul Jackson’s 2002 Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit; Jonas Clark’s 1998 Jezebel, Seducing Goddess of War, and Don Richter’s 2005 Overcoming the Attack of the Jezebel Spirit. Exorcism rituals are conducted to expel this Jezebel spirit.
Regardless of whether she is venerated or opposed, all agree that Jezebel is charismatic and beautiful.
A Hebrew seal (controversially) identified as having belonged to biblical Queen Jezebel depicts a sphinx with a woman’s face, similar to images of Egyptian female pharaoh Hatshepsut. In terms of popular culture, references to Jezebel in books, movies, advertising, and song are literally countless.
Jezebel may be venerated alongside Lady Asherah of the Sea, Astarte, Anat, Ba’al, Kadesh, the sphinx, and possibly Lilith and Herodias.
Jezebel root (Iris fulva; I. foliosa; I. hexagona; I. tectorum)
Her altar or her images may be placed beside a window, looking out.
In view of the saying “painted jezebel”, it may be presumed that Jezebel enjoys fine cosmetics and perfume; also incense and, in honor of that vineyard, Israeli wine.
- Arsinoë II
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.