Who is Astaroth?

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Astaroth is a male demon of the highest ranking, joining Lucifer and Beelzebub as part of the unholy trinity ruling the kingdom of hell. His title is the Duke of Hell, yet who he is today is far different from where he originated.

Astaroth is an unfamiliar name to many. He is not mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible or the Christian New Testament and is not featured as prominently in literature as Lucifer and Beelzebub. This seems to be in line with the characteristics, powers and paths of influence associated with him. He is a subtle, behind the scenes influences among the demons of hell. 

The Goddess Astarte

The name Astaroth is associated with the ancient Phoenician goddess Astarte, also known as Ashtart or Athtart. Astarte is the Hellenized version of this goddess related to the better-known goddess Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love, sex, beauty, war, and justice. Ashtart was worshipped among the Phoenicians and other ancient people of Canaan.

Astaroth in the Hebrew Bible

Astaroth
Astaroth illustrated in the Dictionnaire Infernal (1818). PD.

There are several references in the Hebrew Bible to Ashtaroth. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 14 give an account of the capture of Lot, Abram’s nephew during a battle. During the battle, King Chedorlaomer and his vassals defeated an army known as the Rephaim at a place called Ashteroth Karnaim.

Joshua chapters  9 and 12 refer to this same location. As the Hebrews’ reputation for conquest grew, many of the people already present in Canaan began to seek peace treaties with them. One of the places where this happened was a city east of the Jordan river called Ashteroth.

The name of a goddess being used to name a city was a common way to invoke the blessing of the deity, much like Athens being named after its patron goddess Athena. Multiple archaeological sites in present day Syria have been identified with Ashteroth. 

Subsequent references in the books of Judges and 1Samuel refer to the Hebrew people, “putting away the Ba’als and Ashteroths”, referring to foreign gods which the people had been worshipping but were turning away from and back to Yahweh.

Astaroth in Demonology

It seems that the name Astaroth was appropriated and adapted from these references to a male demon during the 16th century.

Multiple early works on demonology, including False Monarchy of Demons, published in 1577 by Johann Weyer, describe Astaroth as a male demon, the Duke of Hell and member of the evil trinity alongside Lucifer and Beelzebub.

His power and influence over men does not come in the typical form of physical strength. Rather he teaches humans the sciences and mathematics which lead to the use of magical arts.

He can also be summoned for the powers of persuasion and friendships for political and business advancement. He seduces by way of laziness, vanity, and self-doubt. He can be resisted by calling upon St. Bartholomew, the Apostle of Jesus and first missionary to India.

He is most often depicted as a naked man with dragon’s claws and wings, holding a serpent, wearing a crown, and riding upon a wolf.

Modern Culture

There is little of Astaroth in modern culture.  There are but two prominent depictions in film and literature. He is one of the demons summoned by Faustus in the famous play Doctor Faustus, written and performed between 1589 and 1593 when it’s author Christopher Marlow died. 

The play is based upon preexisting German legends of a man named Faust. In it the doctor learns the art of necromancy, communicating with the dead, and makes a pact with Lucifer.  The play had such a profound impact and powerful effect on many that several reports of actual demons appearing during the show and attendees being driven mad were reported.

The Star of Astoroth is a magical medallion which features prominently in the 1971 Disney Film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury. In the movie, based upon books by author Mary Norton, three children are sent to the English countryside and placed in the care of a woman named Miss Price during the German blitz of London.

Miss Price is learning witchcraft somewhat accidentally, and her spells have unintended consequences. They all must travel to magical places in search of the medallion in order to undo the previous spells. In the movie Astaroth is a sorcerer.

In Brief

A male demon, Astaroth ruled the kingdom of hell together with Beelzebub and Lucifer. He represents a danger to humans, leading them astray by tempting them to misuse the sciences and mathematics.

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