Samael is a fallen angel, being one of the most important according to various religious traditions. For Jews it is the “angel of death” and for Christians, it represents a conception very similar to that of Satan himself.
Its characteristics include destruction, death and its abilities for accusation and temptation. However, Samael also possesses qualities related to good. It is part of both the hierarchies of heaven, and the list of the exiles of paradise.
Its name comes from two Jewish words, “Sam” which means poison and “He”, which refers to God, so that in its entirety it means “The poison of God.” It is said that he was in charge of the death trials decreed by God.
The Greeks, on the other hand, claimed that the name “Samael” refers to the angel of death, who rules the fifth heaven.
In anthroposophy it is related to the Zeitgeist , a concept from 19th century German philosophy that speaks of an invisible force that exerts influence on a specific moment in history. Each epoch had a span of 360 years in which the Zeitgeist was carried out by an archangel.
Saint Gregory the Great, Pope of the 6th century, classifies Samael within the seven main archangels who had to fulfill a particular task in a certain assigned period.
Samael through different cultures
Around Samael there are multiple stories, meanings and studies that vary according to the different traditions of the world related to culture and religion.
In Jewish tradition, Samael is represented as the “angel of death.” Within the Book of Baruch, a deuterocanonical text of the Bible, he appears as the person in charge of planting the “Tree of Knowledge” and then being banished by God.
In the form of revenge, Samael provokes Adam through temptation. He is associated with being the serpent of Eve’s temptation. The Book of Enoch also mentions Samael as part of a rebellion of angels, although it does not appear as a leader.
Samael appears within the Zohar, a compendium of commentaries that focus on mysticism, psychology, and cosmogony in relation to the Torah. In these writings Samael is associated with Satan, being referred to as “god of severity.” In other Kabbalistic texts, Samael is listed as the “fifth archangel of the world Briah,” the second heavenly world described within the Kabbalah.
There is also talk of the union of Samael with Lilith, a woman who had been created before Eva to fulfill the same role. Lilith is said to have fathered several demon children, including one of Samael’s sons, called “Sword of Samael.”
Both Samael and Lilith figured as the main demons in early times of Jewish tradition, however, it wasn’t until the 13th century that they were related as a couple.
Within the documents related to Gnosticism, Samael is linked with the demiurge, defined as an entity that promoted the creation of the Universe.
The demiurge is known by other names such as Yaldabaoth, who proclaimed himself the highest and absolute divinity of the universe. Later, it was the voice of Sofia (feminine divinity related to knowledge), who gave him the name of Samael, because of his ignorance.
In some Gnostic texts, the name of Samael is manifested as “blind god”. This characteristic is closely related to the Christian conception of evil, since it is thought that it is capable of blinding men.
In the Hypostasis of the Chests, Samael is the first sinner since the beginning of the world. Symbolically he is represented as a lion-headed serpent. This same image is used by Jewish tradition.
Stories about Samael
Samael and Lilith
Some writings such as the Kabbalah and texts prior to the Zohar, describe the union between Lilith and Samael as a spiritual reflection of the union of Adam and Eve. They also describe both couples as beings born or created as one person: Samael and Lilith, beings born at the same time in the image and likeness of the human couple, Adam and Eve.
Due to the union between Samael and Lilith, and to prevent the spread of demons sons of Samael, God decided to castrate him.
This story is related to some Kabbalah myths dating back to the seventeenth century, in which God decides to castrate the male monster Leviathan and kill the female to prevent its reproduction. After castration, Lilith moved away from Samael.
Samael and the fifth heaven
Within the Jewish, Islamic and Hindu tradition, the mythology of the seven heavens is found as part of religious cosmology. The heavens are related to the spiritual life of human beings and each one of them possesses the power of the archangel that dominates it and the power of the place.
In ancient times they were associated with the visible planets and included the Sun and the Moon. In this way, Mercury , Venus , Mars , Saturn and Jupiter appeared as layers of heavens.
The fifth heaven is the one governed by the archangel Samael and attended in turn by two million more angels. This great community is divided between four quarters of the world.
In this heaven the twelve months are controlled, each one led by an angel. The northern areas within the fifth heaven are inhabited by the Grigori and those in the south by the ministering angels or shepherds, who praise God with songs.
Origin of the name Samael
In the first instance, the name of Samael appeared in the book of Enoch, as a proxy among the angels who rebelled against God. This Hebrew text exposes the names “Sammane” and “Semiel” as antecedents of the current Samael.
The Greeks took the Byzantine version of the Book of Enoch and kept the name “Samiel” with its original meaning “blind.” The Samael version comes from the work of the Greek bishop Irenaeus for the Ophite sects.
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