Shedim is a generic word for spirits or demons in Babylonian and Jewish mythology.
The word possibly derives from the root meaning 'to be violent'. The name "shed" also means a propitious genius in Babylonian magic literature.
In Chaldean mythology the seven evil deities were known as "shedim," storm-demons, represented in ox-like form. They were also used as protective genii of royal palaces like the winged bulls that guarded the entrances to temples. Some shedim are supposed to have had the legs of a cock.
In Babylonian and Assyrian religions, Shedim was a generic name like the Hebrew and Christian word 'spirit.'
Some of the Babylonian amoraim employed shedim as friendly spirits, and received useful instruction from them, calling them by familiar names
In Jewish mysticism, shedim are demons or spirits. ; The term became pejorative in the context of Judaism because these foreign deities were regarded as evil. The chief of the Shedim according to the T.B. Pesachim is Asmedaj. They are thought to live in deserted and/or unclean places.
The Bereshith Rabba vii says they were created by God. God created their souls, but then the Sabbath came and He rested, so as a result, they remained disembodied. It is also said they were begotten by Adam and Lilith during the period that he and Eve were separated after their transgression. According to one legend, the shedim are descendants of serpents, or of demons in the form of serpents, as Satan is alluded to in the Hebrew Bible's serpent at Genesis.
The Hebrew word shedim appears only twice (always plural) in the Tanakh, at Psalm 106:37 and Deuteronomy 32:17L.
- "They sacrificed to demons [Hebrew: Shedim], no-gods,
- Gods they had never known,
- New ones, who came but lately,
- Who stirred not your fathers' fears." - Deuteronomy 32:17
- "Their own sons and daughters,
- they sacrificed to demons [Hebrew: Shedim].
- They shed innocent blood,
- the blood of their sons and daughters,
- whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
- so the land was polluted with bloodguilt." - Psalms 106:37-38
Supposedly, sinful people sacrificed their daughters to the shedim, but it is unclear if the sacrifice consisted in the murdering of the victims or in the sexual satisfaction of the demons. There are many things that one is admonished not to do in order to avoid invoking shadim, such as whistling or even saying the word "shedim.". To see if these demons were present in some place, ashes were thrown to the ground or floor, and then their footsteps became visible. The shedim are also supposed to follow the dead or fly around graves.
- Ben-Amos, Dan. "On Demons." In Creation and Re-creation in Jewish Thought: Festschrift in Honor of Joseph Dan on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Mohr Siebeck, 2005, pp. 27–38, limited preview online.
- Charles, R.H. The Apocalypse of Baruch, Translated from the Syriac. Originally published 1896, Book Tree edition 2006 online.
- Charles, R.H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2: Pseudepigrapha. Originally published 1913, Apocryphile Press Edition 2004, p. 485 online and p. 497.
- Chajes, Jeffrey Howard. Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003, pp. 11–13 online.
- Goldish, Matt. Spirit Possession in Judaism. Wayne State University Press, 2003, p. 356 online.
- Koén-Sarano, Matilda. King Solomon and the Golden Fish: Tales from the Sephardic Tradition. Translated by Reginetta Haboucha. Wayne State University Press, 2004. Limited preview online.
- Plaut, W. Gunther. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Union for Reform Judaism, 2005, p. 1403 online.