Although Asmodai is mostly known thanks to the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, he is also mentioned in some Talmudic legends and in demonology. But he comes from the Mazdian (Zoroastrian) religion. He was incorporated to Judaism and Christianity because of the influence the Persians had on the Jews, principally during their captivity under the power of that nation.
The Persian Asmodai
Æshma-deva (Asmodai), in Mazdeism, is the chief of all demons, a personal being, under direct command of Angra Mainyu, the principle of evil, and the enemy of Sraoscha, one of the suras or angels that serve Ahura Mazdah, the principle of good (see dualism). Æshma's mission is to fill the heart of men with anger and vengeful desires, and to be the agent by means of whom all evil on Earth is made; he incites men to abandon the path of good and follow that of evil. It could never be proved that Æshma was a demon of carnal desire, as Azi, another demon mentioned in Mazdeism, was.
Asmodai in Judaism
In Judaism Asmodai appears in the Book of Tobit and the Talmud.
In the Book of Tobit Asmodai falls in love with Sarah, daughter of Rachel, and kills her husband each time she gets married; in this way, he killed seven men on their wedding night, impeding the consummation of the sexual act. After this, Sarah becomes engaged to Tobias, a young man, who, menaced by the demon, receives the aid of the angel Raphael. Raphael teaches Tobias how to deal with the demon, making him catch a fish and put its heart and liver on lit coals, which produces a vapour that makes Asmodai flee to Egypt, where Raphael binds him. More about the demon's fate in this history is unknown, but here he is presented as feeling carnal desire as well as having evil behaviour.
In the Talmud Asmodai seems not to be the evil creature he is in other books. There are, besides, some legends concerning Asmodai and King Solomon. One of them tells that King Solomon tricked the demon and obliged him to collaborate in building the temple of Jerusalem, and in another legend Asmodai changed place for some years with King Solomon. There is, however, another legend, saying that Asmodai is the king of all demons, comparable to Satan, and married Lilith after she left Adam.
Asmodai in Demonology
The importance given to Asmodai in demonology is less than in Judaism, being considered somewhat lower to other hellish authorities by most Christian demonologists (according to The Lesser Key of Solomon he is the thirty second in rank), but all of them coincide on his duty, being this to exacerbate carnal desire. In the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), he was considered the demon of lust, to which agreed Sebastian Michaelis saying that his adversary is St. John. To some demonologists of the 16th Century, that assigned each month to a demon, Asmodai's power is stronger in November. To other demonologists his zodiacal sign Aquarius but only since January 30 to February 8, has seventy-two legions of demons under his command, is one of the kings of Hell (being Lucifer the emperor), adding to his mission that of inciting gambling, and some Catholic theologians compared him with Abaddon. To other authors this demon is considered a prince of revenge and protector of male homosexuals, homosexuality being one of his methods of seduction. In the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy he is depicted with the chest of a man, goat legs ending in talons, serpent tail, three heads (one of a man spitting fire, one of a ram, and one of a bull), riding a lion with dragon wings and neck, a strange depiction for a seducer.
Other spellings: Æshma (Old Persian), Æshma-dæva, Ashmadia, Ashmedai (Hebrew), Asmodaios (Greek), Asmoday, Asmodée (French), Asmodee, Asmodei, Asmodeios, Asmodeo (Spanish, from a Latin declination), Asmodeius, Asmodeus (Latin, as he is known in most translations of the Book of Tobit), Asmodi, Chammaday, Chashmodai, Sidonay, Sydonai.
See also The Lesser Key of Solomon, Ars Goetia.
Asmodai in Literature