King Solomon (10th century B.C.E.) was the legendary king of the Israelites, son of David, builder of the Temple of Jerusalem, and commander of an army of Demons or Djinn. The actual existence of Solomon and his father, David, remains unproved, but they are among the most important figures of the Old Testament. Solomon is granted great wisdom and understanding by God, far surpassing the wisdom of any other man. He knows the lore of plants, animals, and everything in the natural world. Men from far away seek him out for his counsel. In legend, his wisdom expands to include formidable magical knowledge, and his name (including Son of David) is used to control both good and bad spirits.
In 1 Kings, Solomon takes the throne upon his father, David’s, death. The Lord goes to him in a dream and says, “Ask what I shall give you” (3:5). Solomon replies that he wishes to be given an understanding mind for governing and for discernment between good and evil. Pleased that he has not asked for riches, God says, “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you” (3:12). God also grants him incomparable riches. Thus does Solomon become famed for his wisdom.
In the fourth year of his reign, Solomon builds his famed Temple of Jerusalem, and his palace and administrative complex. In the temple, he places two gilded olivewood Cherubim in the innermost part of the sanctuary. He positions them so that a wing of one touches one wall and the wing of the other touches the other wall, and their other wings touch each other in the middle of the house. When the temple is dedicated, priests place the ark of the covenant, containing the two stone tablets of Moses upon which are written the Ten Commandments, underneath the wings of the Cherubim.
Solomon has another vision, in which the Lord promises that his house will prosper as long as the commandments are kept and no other gods are worshipped. If there are any transgressions, God will cause the ruination to the kingdom.
For most of the 40 years of his reign, Solomon prospers: “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind” (10:23–24). He rules over the natural world as well as people.
By his later years, he has acquired 700 wives and 300 concubines. Some of his wives convince him to turn away from God and worship pagan deities, especially the goddess Ashtoreth. Angry, God sends adversaries against him. In the end, God decides not to wrest his kingdom away from Solomon but instead to take it away from all but one of his sons.
One day, Solomon went to a person described as “the Jebusite” and fell in love with his daughter, who is called the Shulamite (Soumanitis). The priests of Moloch, however, said, “Thou canst not have her to wife except thou worship the great gods Remphan and Moloch.” Solomon refused, but they gave him five locusts and said, “Crush these upon the altar of Moloch, and it will suffice.”
Solomon said, “And so I did, and immediately the Spirit of God departed from me . . . and I became a laughingstock unto the idols and to the Demons. Therefore have I written this my Testament that ye which come on it may pray and take heed to your latter end and not to your beginning, that ye may find grace perfectly for ever.” Other texts expand upon Solomon’s wisdom; he becomes the greatest of magicians, a ruler over the realm of nature, able to summon angels and command Demons.
Such details are found in the Testament of Solomon, Odes of Solomon, and Psalms of Solomon, all part of the pseudepigrapha, and in the Wisdom of Solomon, part of the apochrypha. Josephus’ Antiquities credits Solomon with writing 1,500 books of odes and songs and 3,000 books of parables and similitudes and knowing how to exorcize Demons. The Sefer Raziel, a magical text, says that Solomon was heir to the famed book (also called the Book of Mysteries), which enabled him to become the source of all wisdom.
From the time of Origen, Solomon becomes more prominent in Christian lore than in Jewish lore, appearing on Amulets, talismans, and lintels and in numerous incantations for protection against and removal of Demons. His magical seal is a pentagram or hexagram. In Islamic lore, Solomon becomes the greatest of world rulers, a true apostle and messenger of Allah, and the prototype of Muhammad. His magical powers against Demons, the Djinn, are famous. Solomon acquired his power over the Djinn by asking for “soverignity not allowed to anyone after me” (sura 38:35). Allah responds by granting him unique power: “Then We subjected the wind to his power, to flow gently by his order wherever he wished, and also the evil Jinns, every builder and diver as well as those bound together in chains” (sura 38:36–38). Solomon alone was given the power to bind the Djinn; however, much later, the prophet Muhammad repelled Iblis by invoking Solomon’s prayer request for sovereignty (see Exorcism).
According to tradition, after Solomon died, the Djinn wrote books of magic filled with acts of disbelief, or disinformation, and put them under his chair. When the books were discovered, the Djinn claimed that Solomon had used the magic in them to control the Djinn. As a result, Solomon was discredited by some Christians and Jews. Others took the books and began practicing the magic. Both groups erred, according to scholars, one by practicing magic, which earns no happiness in the afterlife, and the other by discrediting Solomon, whose power was directly from Allah. The Qur’an says: When a messenger from Allah came to them conforming what was revealed to them, a group of those given the scripture cast the book behind their backs as if they did not know about it. They followed what the devils claimed about Sulaymaan’s dominion. However, Sulaymaan did not disbelieve, but the devils did by teaching men magic and what was revealed to the two angels Haaroot and Maaroot in Babylon. Though neither of them taught anyone without first saying, “We are only a trial, so do not commit disbelief,” they learned from them means to separate a man from his wife. But, they could not harm anyone with it except by Allah’s will. They learned what would harm themselves and not what would benefit them, though they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness in the next life. They sold their souls for an evil price if they only knew. (Sura 2:101–102)
Despite the warnings of Islam, the allure of Solomonic magic proved irresistible. Numerous magical handbooks, or Grimoires, attributed to the authorship of Solomon were popular in the early centuries of Christianity. By the 12th century, at least 49 texts were in existence. The most famous was the Greater Key of Solomon, quoted often in the magical books of the 17th–19th centuries.
Testament of Solomon
The Testament of Solomon, a text in the pseudepigrapha probably written between the first and third centuries C.E., is a legendary tale about how Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem by commanding Demons. The text is rich in Demonology, angelology, and lore about medicine, astrology, and Magic. The author is unknown and may have been a Greek-speaking Christian who was familiar with the Babylonian Talmud. The magical lore related to Demons, which dominates the text, shows Babylonian influences.
The Demons are described as Fallen Angels or the offspring of fallen angels and human women, and they live in stars and constellations. They can shape shift into beasts and forces of nature. They lurk in deserts and haunt tombs, and they dedicate themselves to leading people astray. They are ruled by Beelzeboul (Beelzebub), the Prince of Demons.
The stellar bodies themselves are Demonic, wielding destructive power over the affairs of humanity. The 36 decans, or 10-degree portions of the zodiac, are called heavenly bodies and likewise are ruled by Demons, who cause mental and physical illnesses. There are seven “world rulers,” who are equated with the vices of deception, strife, fate, distress, error, power, and “the worst,” each of whom is thwarted by a particular angel (with the exception of “the worst”).
The testament considers angels as God’s messengers but does not describe their origin or hierarchy. The main purpose of angels is to thwart Demons and render them powerless. Each angel is responsible for thwarting specific Demons. Humans must call upon the right angel by name in order to defeat a Demon; otherwise, Demons are worshipped as gods. Among the angels named are the archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. When the Demon ORNIAS vampirizes Solomon’s favourite boy by sucking out his soul through his thumb, Solomon begs God for power over the Demon. While he prays, Michael appears and gives Solomon a ring with a seal engraved upon a precious stone. Michael tells Solomon that this magical ring will give him power over all Demons, male and female, and that they will help him build the temple. The Demons are subdued when the ring is thrown at their chests with the command “Solomon summons you!” Solomon interviews the Demons and demands from them the names of their thwarting angels. When they are subdued, they are made to construct his temple.
One of Demons interrogated by Solomon gives no name but describes himself as “a lecherous spirit of a giant man who died in a massacre in the age of giants.” He lives in “inaccessible places.” When someone dies, he sits in the tomb near the body and assumes the form of the dead man. If anyone visits, he tries to seize him or her, and, if he can, he kills that person. If he cannot kill the person, the Demon causes him or her to become possessed by a Demon and to gnaw his or her own flesh and drool at the mouth. The Demon admits to Solomon that he is thwarted by the Savior, and if anyone bears the cross, the mark of the Savior, on his forehead, the Demon flees. Solomon binds the Demon and locks him up as he has the others.
The Testament of Solomon also describes the Demons of the decans of the zodiac, the 36 degrees dividing the 12 zodiacal signs. The decans are ruled by Angels, but in the Testament, they are reduced to lower-level Demons who cause disease and strife.
Solomon summons them to appear before him for interrogation to learn what they do and the names of the angels who thwart them. They appear with heads of formless dogs and as humans, bulls, dragons with bird faces, beasts, and sphinxes.
The Demons are, by order of decan:
1st—Ruax (also Rhyx), or “the Lord”: He causes headaches and is dispatched by the words “Michael, imprison Ruax.”
2nd—Barsafael: He causes those who live in his period to have pains in the sides of their heads. He is repelled by the words “Gabriel, imprison Barsafael.”
3rd—Artosael: He damages eyes and is sent away by the words “Uriel, imprison Artosael.”
4th—Oropel: He causes sore throats and mucus and is thwarted by the words “Raphael, imprison Oropel.”
5th—Kairoxanondalon: He causes ear problems and is dispatched by the words “Ourouel (Uriel), imprison Kairoxanondalon.”
6th—Sphendonael: He causes tumors of the parotid gland and tetanic recurvation (the body bent backward rigidly) and is quelled by the words “Sabael, imprison Sphendonael.”
7th—Sphandor: He paralyzes limbs, deadens the nerves in hands, and weakens shoulders. He is subdued by the words “Arael, imprison Sphandor.”
8th—Belbel: He perverts the hearts and minds of men and is dispatched by the words “Karael, imprison Belbel.”
9th—Kourtael: He causes bowel colic and pain and retreats when he hears the words “Iaoth, imprison Kourtael.”
10th—Methathiax: He causes kidney pains and is sent away by the words “Adonael, imprison Methatiax.”
11th—Katanikotael: He causes domestic fights and unhappiness. To dispel him, write on seven laurel leaves the names of the angels who thwart him: “Angel, Eae, Ieo, Sabaoth.”
12th—Saphthorael: He causes mental confusion. To get rid of him, write down the words “Iae, Ieo, sons of Sabaoth” and wear the AMULET around the neck.
13th—Phobothel: He causes loosening of the tendons and retreats when he hears the word “Adonai.”
14th—Leroel: He causes fever, chills, shivering, and sore throats and retreats when he hears the words “Iax, do not stand fast, do not be fervent, because Solomon is fairer than eleven fathers.”
15th—Soubelti: He causes shivering and numbness and is dispatched by the words “Rizoel, imprison Soubelt.”
16th—Katrax: He causes fatal fevers. He can be averted by rubbing pulverized coriander on the lips and saying, “I adjure you by Zeus, retreat from the image of God.”
17th—Ieropa: He causes men to collapse and creates stomach problems that cause convulsions in the bath. He retreats if the words “Iouda Zizabou” are repeated three times in the right ear of the afflicted person.
18th—Modebel: He causes married couples to separate but will retreat if the names of the eight fathers are written down and posted in doorways.
19th—Mardeo: He causes incurable fevers and is sent away by writing his name down in the house.
20th—Rhyx Nathotho: He causes knee problems and is repelled if the word “Phounebiel” is written on a piece of papyrus.
21st—Rhyx Alath: He causes croup in infants and is dispelled if the word “Rarideris” is written down and carried on a person.
22nd—Rhyx Audameoth: He causes heart pain and is dispatched by the written word “Raiouoth.”
23rd—Rhyx Manthado: He causes kidney disease and is thwarted by the written words “Iaoth, Uriel.”
24th—Rhyx Atonkme: He causes rib pain. If a person writes “Marmaraoth of mist” on a piece of wood from a ship that has run aground, the Demon retreats.
25th—Rhyx Anatreth: He causes bowel distress and is quelled by the words “Arara, Arare.”
26th—Rhyx, the Enautha: He alters hearts and “makes off” with minds. He is thwarted by the written word “Kalazael.”
27th—Rhyx Axesbuth: He causes diarrhea and hemorrhoids. If he is adjured in pure wine given to the sufferer, he retreats.
28th—Rhyx Hapax: He causes insomnia and is subdued by the written words “Kok; Phedisomos.”
29th—Rhyx Anoster: He causes hysteria and bladder pain and is thwarted when someone mashes laurel seeds into oil, massages it into the body, and calls upon Mamaroth.
30th—Rhyx Physikoreth: He causes long-terms illnesses but retreats when the sick person massages his or her body with salted olive oil while saying, “Cherubim, seraphim, help me.”
31st—Rhyx Aleureth: He causes choking on fish bones. If one places a fish bone into the breasts of the afflicted one, the Demon retreats.
32nd—Rhyx Ichthuron: He detaches tendons and retreats when he hears the words “Adaonai, malthe.”
33rd—Rhyx Achoneoth: He causes sore throats and tonsillitis. He is sent away by writing “Leikourgos” on ivy leaves and heaping them into a pile.
34th—Rhyx Autoth: He causes jealousy and fights between people who love each other. He is subdued by writing the letters alpha and beta.
35th—Rhyx Phtheneoth: He cast the Evil Eye on everyone and is thwarted by the “much suffering eye” amulet.
36th—Rhyx Mianeth: He holds grudges against the body, causes flesh to rot, and demolishes houses. He flees when the words “Melto Ardad Anaath” are written on the front of the house.
King Solomon orders the Demons of the decans to bear water and prays that they will go to the Temple of God (Jerusalem).
The Testament provides a significant contribution to the legends of Solomon’s magical powers and the magical handbooks attributed to Solomon. The two most important magical handbooks, or Grimoires, are the Key of Solomon, also called the Greater Key of Solomon, and the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, said to be based on Solomonic wisdom. Many other grimoires borrow from these texts.
- The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 & 2. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. 1983. Reprint, New York: Doubleday, 1985.