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Sammael/Satan in Kabbalah

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,talk.religion.misc,alt.satanism,alt.christnet.demonology,alt.mythology
From: hara 
Subject: Sammael/Satan in Kabbalah (was Hermetic QBL...) 
Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 09:46:23 GMT

50011219 VI om

shalom alechem, my kin.

thanks for the seed on this one, Poke! (Gnome d Plume):
>>> ...the rabbinical kabbalah is not "magical" and it was considered
>>> heretical to use it for such purposes. It is not configured in a
>>> magical way. One indication of this is the Martian (Geburah) 
>>> reference to Samael, the Jewish Satan.

>> arguably this is a mischaracterization of Samael, whose function or role
>> has to do with death, though I know the case can be made to support you.
>> Jeffrey Burton Russell fairly summarizes the differences between the
>> Christian Satan and the Jewish Samael (by virtue of their relation to
>> the Godhead). even the Jewish Satan is arguably a God-approved office
>> (as in the "Book of Job").

"Nightshade & Flat" :
> summarized what I have remembered about Samael/Sammael quite 
> nicely.  

thanks, but I only summarized what I could remember. when I went back to
look (in Russell's "The Devil..." and "Satan...") I found mixed results.
by and large it is difficult to justify the characterization of Sammael
as "the Jewish Satan", but amongst the most dualistic, and specifically
(applying to Poke/Gnome's claim above) in *Kabbalah*, Samael is at least
at times understood in direct relation to Satan. here's what I could find:

	The kabbalah, the literature of the Jewish magical/mystical 
	movement that reached its height in the thirteenth century
	and remained popular into the eighteenth, gives the Devil
	much more attention than the rabbis did. Influenced by Greek
	philosophy, Gnosticism and Christianity, the kabbalah taught
	that all things came forth from the divine being in a series
	of emanations, each inferior to the one preceding. Originally
	the God was both good and evil: his right hand was love and
	mercy and his left hand wrath and destruction. The destructive
	aspect of God's personality broke away from the good and is
	known as the Devil. Rabbi Isaac Luria offered the unusual
	argument that the God contracted into himself (a process
	called *tzimtzum*) in order to make room for the Creation; the
	created world thus suffers from incompleteness, the absence
	of God, evil. Another interpretation of Luria's ideas has it
	that God contains within him a minute grain of evil called
	the *shoresh ha-din*, "the root of strict judgement." Jewish
	legends report details about Satan or Sammael: he has twelve
	wings, he is covered with eyes, he is like a goat, he can
	shift his shape at will. He is a rebellious angel who flies
	through the air causing disease and death. Humanity can
	defeat him only by following Torah.

	The place of the Devil in Jewish thought after the apocalyptic
	period is slight and is in large part derived from
	surrounding, non-Jewish thought. As Joshua Trachtenberg put
	it, the Jewish Devil "was little more than an allegory" of
	the evil inclination among humans.
	"Satan: The Early Christian Tradition", by Jeffrey B. 
	 Russell, Cornell University Press, 1981; pp. 28-9.

now this is one of the few non-Pan-related mentions of Satan and the form
of a GOAT that I can think of. it is a direct connection within Jewish
culture between Satan and Sammael, and obtains in the Jewish Kabbalah.
this is no doubt to what Poke/Gnome refers, and his concentration on the
Kabbalah of Luria probably informed him of this more dualistic Sammael
rather readily. 

Russell has a few other things to say about dualistic Jews, notably those 
who wrote Qumran texts and the variety of names applied to rebel angels, 
including 'angel of Satan', which he describes as an extreme development 
from the *mal'ak Yahweh* (wandering angels such as the Satan of Job).

> Death is not evil, it is a part of existence.

that seems a prominent instruction in Judaism. however, it isn't always
what is instructed, and where we enter into Kabbalah it may not be how
death is consistently seen. perhaps there's a *reason* why the more
dualistic concepts of Luria take hold in a comparably more dualistic 
religion of Christianity, later turned toward mystical aims by those
who were in turn influenced by Gnostics and Greek emanationists (i.e.
the Hermetic culture).

of particular note here is Scholem's chapter on Samael in his 
"Kabbalah", and here justification (albeit limited in time) is given
for Poke's claim of Samael as 'the Jewish Satan':

	From the amoraic period onward, Samael is the major name of
	Satan in Judaism. 
	"Kabbalah", by Gershom Scholem, Dorset Press, 1987; p. 385.

and Scholem goes on to mention the Book of Enoch, Irenaeus' contention
that the Ophites "gave the snake a double name: Michael and Samael"
(Ibid., p. 385), and that in the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, 
referenced several times in Russell as important to an understanding 
of Samael, it is mentioned that Samael took the form of the snake
that tempted Adam.

where this begins, exactly, to enter into Kabbalistic tradition is
not made clear to me in a brief read here. there are numerous
connections with early Christianity, Gnosticism, and, strangely
enough, Jewish heavens -- at one point (in the Hebrew Enoch, prior
to his defeat) Sammael was described as the leader of the rebel armies, 
with "12 wings and his place was higher than the *hayyot* ('holy
heavenly creatures') and the seraphim." Scholem describes at least
some Jews as having believed that the scapegoat was an offering,
"a bribe", for Sammael (another GOAT reference).

there is a very long history due to etymology of association between
Sammael and BLINDNESS. *sami* apparently is the root, and literally
means 'blind'. for this reason sometimes Sammael is called 'the
blind angel', 'the blind archon', and is at times depicted as being
blind in literature featuring him. 

now I come across other material to which Poke might have pointed
us, had he the patience to withstand my back and forth on the matter:

	In Jewish astrological sources, which in time influenced
	those of other groups, Samael was considered the angel
	in charge of Mars. This idea recurs at first among the
	Sabans in Harran, who called him Mara Samia, "the blind
	archon," and later in medieval Christian astrological
	magical literature. He appears as the angel in charge
	of Tuesday in *Sefer Razi'el (Amsterdam 1701), 34b; in
	*Hokhmat ha-Kasdim*...; in Judah b. Barzillai's
	commentary on *Sefer Yezirah* (1885), 247, and in many
	other words. In demonological sources known to the
	brothers Isaac and Jacob b. Jacob ha-Kohen, Spanish
	kabbalists of the mid-13th century, and echo of the
	ancient etymology is still retained and Samael is 
	called Sar Suma ("blind angel").
	Ibid., p. 387.

Scholem goes on to mention the relation to POISON (of death) and puts 
to rest any controversy of the identity of Samael and Satan in Kabbalah,
particularly in relation to Zohar and to Lilith:

	In later literature, Samael often appears as the angel
	who brought the poison of death into the world. These same
	demonological sources contain the earliest references to
	Samael and Lilith as a couple in the kingdom of impurity.
	These sources are full of contradictory traditions
	concerning the roles of Samael and the war against Asmodeus,
	regarded in his source as guardian angel of Ishmael.
	Different systems were constructed of the hierarchy of the
	leaders of the demons and their consorts.... According to
	one view, Samael had two brides, an idea which also appears
	in *Tikkunei Zohar* (Mantua, 1558). The couple Samael and
	Lilith are mentioned many times in the Zohar, mostly without
	specifically mentioning the name Lilith (e.g., "Samael and
	his spouse"), as the leaders of the *sitra ahra* ("the other
	side"; i.e., evil). In *Ammud ha-Semali* by Moses b. Solomon
	b. Simeon of Burgos, a contemporary of the author of the
	Zohar, Samael and Lilith constitute only the eighth and
	tenth *Sefirah* of the left (evil) emanation. In the Zohar,
	the snake has become the symbol of Lilith and Samael rides
	on her and has sexual intercourse with her. Samael is cross-
	eyed and dark (*Zohar Hadash* 31, 4) and has horns
	(*Tikkunei Zohar* in *Zohar Hadash* 101, 3), perhaps
	influenced by the Christian idea about the horns of Satan.
	However, the image of Satan is linked with the goat in
	Targum Jonathan to Leviticus 9:3. The party, hosts, and
	chariots of Samael are mentioned in Zohar part 2, 111b;
	part 3, 29a. Different classes of demons, all called
	Samael, were known by the writer of *Tikkunei Zohar*
	(published in the main body of the Zohar 1:29a). "There is
	Samael and there is Samael and they are not the same."

	Conjurations of Samael often appear in magical literature
	and in practical Kabbalah. In 15th-century Spain a system
	was developed in which the heads of the demons were
	Samael, the representative of Edom, and his assistant
	Amon of No, representing Ishmael. A legend telling of
	their downfall at the hands of Joseph della Reina appears
	in several sources. After Isaac Luria had introduced the
	practice of not pronouncing the name of Satan, the custom
	of calling him *Samekh Mem* became widespread....
	Ibid., pp. 387-8.
> As I've always understood it, the role of Satan in the Old Testament/Judaism
> is more of a divine prosecutor.  (Perhaps I'm wrong, but does not the Hebrew
> translate into something along the lines of "judge"?)  

no I think you've gone too far. I've made something of a study of the history
of imagery and instructions surrounding the figure of Satan, from antiquity
in its origins as a noun in Hebrew (satan, ADVERSARY) of variable and
relative application (Balaam gets an angel for a satan in Torah, for example,
and it is clear that the angel is Yahweh) and there are other references of 
this sort, up to and including the Satan -- an office? an appointed name for 
a District Attorney? -- of Job). my memory and impression is that as 'Ha
Satanas' in the Greek of the New Testament, we've got a full-fledged
Opponent to the Divine (an anti-god).

> Even if one looks at the part Satan played in the New Testament, 
> it was the same.  

now you'll have a VERY difficult time recovering the blemished character
of, in the New Testament (especially its last book), the Devil as the
personification or agent of Cosmic Evil.

> Merely tempting Jesus was not evil; it was a test of his character.  

here we agree, but I'm not sure many Christians would. as I see it this
was a clear ordeal-initiation-through-temptation-of-(and-Baptism-of-)Earth.

> I've always interpreted the subsequent part about God banishing Satan 
> to "hell" to be a Greek ideal, as the Jews do not believe/have never 
> believed in "hell".
> Rather, the deceased go to a place called "Sheol", which is more of a
> no-place than a place for condemned souls.

hmm, your contentions seem too restricted. there's Sheol and there's
Gehennom, and while both originated in something other than Underworlds,
apparently they became at least the punitive destination of the dead
(if nothing else bodies onto the burning trash heap) if not post-mortem
torturing places (as metaphors?).

> Also, as I recall after some research I did after Sammael appeared to me
> during a Geburic working, Sammael is also the Archon of Mars.  Quite
> Geburic, I would say.  While quite terrifying, his manifestation was not
> evil in the least.  

this may be due to your relation to the being. I maintain that Satan, as
I understand Hir, takes different forms and bears differing faces and
positions with respect to people dependent upon their character. in
particular I suspect that one's relation to the uncontrolled, to the
WILD, determines most absolutely one's attitude and relation with Satan.
it would be ironic to identify the primary role of Satan as the bringer
of death, the control or limiting agent brought by the Uncontrolled.

> I was taught a valuable lesson about myself and the ultimate result of 
> my real-life behavior at the time that required some drastic changes to 
> avoid.  An "evil" spirit would have acted quite the opposite, 
> encouraging me in my self-destructive path.

that does argue, at least personally, against a strictly dualistic
assessment of that being, whatever it may be.

>>> Realizing this the Golden Dawn retired Samael from the Geburah position,
>>> replacing him with Kamael.

>> really? very interesting. is this because having accepted Christian norms
>> they could only file Samael as God-opposed?

or perhaps they saw the dualism of Samael as he appears on Zohar and thought
better of integrating him into their mystical ritual technology. this seems
to be what Poke is getting at.

> This makes no sense to me either.  The "el" in Sammael, as in other Angelic
> names, indicates divinity.  How can part of the Divine be evil?

good question, but it isn't without precedent or support. Sammael and a
number of 'els rebelled in Enoch and Noah, becoming, for all intents
and purposes, 'evil'. the Problem of Evil looms large in most Christian

peace be with you, blessed beast!


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