Well, it’s the back half of October, and you know what THAT means? Two whole weeks of… well, mostly Halloween. One of the posts next week will be entirely seasonally on-topic, but related to a different holiday. But first, Halloween! And that means scary stuff! Monsters!
The Exorcist is pretty much the scariest movie ever made. Let’s just let this statement stand on its own, because holy hell, it sure does. But one thing has always bugged me – the demon in The Exorcist is Pazuzu, right? Well… just who was Pazuzu? And what’s he doing in this movie? So, I did some research – the first half of this will actually talk about Pazuzu and his (sister? wife? enemy?) Lamashtu, and the back half will discuss their toys.
Hailing from Sumerian mythology – whicn encompassed Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Chaldean, and anythign else in the area – Pazuzu was both a demon and a god. He was the King of the Demons of the Southwest Wind, and his idols, amulets, and plaques can be found all over the middle-east. He was really worshipped pretty widely for a long time. His appearance was pretty much always the same: The head of a lion, four wings, bird’s talons, scorpion tail, and a snake instead of genitals. To be honest, a lot of gods, demons, and monsters from that area looked like this, particularly the combination of lion and scorpion – two of the most deadly animals in the desert.
So, what was Pazuzu? He was an evil, cruel, vengeful demon-god who brought plagues, famine, and storms. As the son of Hanbu, he was brother to Humbaba, the giant from the Epic of Gilgamesh. One of his surviving pieces of Scripture reads as such:
I am Pazuzu, the son of Hanbu, king of the evil lilu-demons.
I ascended the mighty mountains that quaked.
The winds that I went amongst were headed towards the west.
One by one I broke their wings.
So yes, Pazuzu is exceptionally strong. But there was an aspect to him besides the terror. You see, his arch-enemy was Lamashtu. I’ll get into more detail about her soon, but suffice to say, Lamashtu wasn’t very friendly. She devoured newborn children and klled their mothers. Essentially, Lamashtu was a goddess of miscarriage. Pazuzu hated and opposed her, thus producing a very interesting dicohotomy of “Male Fear” versus “Female Fear” – one will send storms and spread famine, and make it so you can’t provide for your family. The other will kill your baby. THe only way to protect against Lamashtu was to pray to Pazuzu, because he hated her so much that he would protect innocent humans if it would spite her. The special prayer/incantation to call for Pazuzu’s help is as such. Note its similarities in structure to biblical Psalms, since they are both hymns of praise/prayers and invocations written in the ancient near-east in roughly the same time period:
You, mighty one, who ascends the mountains,
Who faces all the winds,
Angry wind, whose rising is terrible,
Fierce one, raging one, who comes on furiously,
Who roars at the world regions, who wrecks the high mountains,
Who parches the marshland, who withers its reeds.
He confronted the wood, dropped its trees,
He passed to the garden, dropped down its fruit,
He descended to the river, poured out ice,
He went up to the dry land, covered it with hoarfrost,
He struck the young man, hunched him over,
He knocked the young woman, hit her womb,
He descended to the river, poured out ice,
He went up to the dry land, covered it with hoarfrost.
Agony of mankind, disease of mankind, suffering of mankind,
Do not enter the house I enter, do not come near the house I come near, do not approach the house I approach!
Be conjured and stay conjured by Anu and Antu, Enlil and Ninlil, Ea and Dakina, heaven and earth!
…Holy yikes. I want you to put yourself in those shoes for a moment. Your wife is giving birth, and the gods are evil, cruel monsters who wish to devour her. Your only hope is to invoke the help of a vicious demon-deity, he who strikes down the young and healthy. And as you pray, you call him the Agony of Mankind, and beg for him not to personally show up – his protection is welcome, but if he were to arrive, you would be doomed. And that is your hope. That is your faith.
Dang, we’ve really been spoiled by all those lovey-dovey modern religions, haven’t we?
(that picture is massive. Click on it.)
Lamashtu is essentially a demon-goddess of miscarriage. She is horrible. Seriously, she’s just the worst. Notably, while you can find artifacts worshipping Pazuzu and begging for his help, you can’t find many speaking positively about Lamashtu. yes, she opposed Pazuzu, and theoretically could protect against his storms and famine, but would you really want to invite the baby-eater home?
Lamashtu is another chimeric beast. Her head is a mixture of lion and donkey (and possibly other things), and she is usually depicted suckling a pig and a wolf. The plaque shown here is actually one invoking Pazuzu’s help, hence why he appears to be grasping the scene – but you can get a really clear picture of Lamashtu in the center. Sometimes she has a donkey’s body, sometimes only the teeth or the ears. You can see a little of it in this description of her:
Great is the daughter of Heaven who tortures babies
Her hand is a net, her embrace is death
She is cruel, raging, angry, predatory
A runner, a thief is the daughter of Heaven
She touches the bellies of women in labor
She pulls out the pregnant women’s baby
The daughter of Heaven is one of the Gods, her brothers
With no child of her own.
Her head is a lion’s head
Her body is a donkey’s body
She roars like a lion
She constantly howls like a demon-dog
…Yikes. Seriously, reading ancient mythology scares me more than most horror movies, because this is what people used to believe about the universe. This was their entire worldview. And here’s an incantation meant to chase her away, to keep mother and child safe (it’s a little incomplete, unfortunately):
Anu begot her, Ea reared her,
Enlil doomed her a dog’s face.
She is tiny of hands,
She is long of finger, long(er still) of nail.
Her forearms(?) are…
She came right in the front door,
Slithering over the (door)post casing,
She has caught sight of the baby!
Seven seizures had she done him in the belly!
Pluck out your nails! Let loose your arms!
Before he gets to you, Ea, the warrior, as sage for the task.
The (door)post casing is big enough for you,
the doors are open,
Come then, be gone through the (door) post casing!
They will fill your mouth with dust, your face with sand.
With fine-ground mustard seeds they will fill your eyes.
I exorcise you by Ea’s curse: you must be gone!
One of the most horrible things about Lamashtu is that she is actually the root of Lilith – “Lilith” as Adam’s first wife and a symbol of female independence wasn’t really a thing until roughly the 9th or 10th century AD. before then, she was an evil demon who seduced men and strangled babies, based on Lilitu, who was based on Lamashtu. So please, if you want to pick a good strong, feminist icon out of Jewish or Christian traditions, pick somebody like Deborah (who led a freaking army) or Esther (who saved her people), not Lilith. Because Lilith is just the worst.
So, wanna know about the toys?
Because who doesn’t want to play with a baby-eating monstrosity, right???
Pazuzu actually has quite a few collectibles! This figure, based on his appearance in the Shin Megami Tensei games, is very accurate to his idols, even in pose! They emphasized his leonine features a little (his idols did have a mane, it was just hard to see), and forgot the scorpion’s tail, though. That lack of a tail is unfortunate. This figure is about four or five inches tall, so it is quite capable of terrorizing your GI Joe and Star Wars toys. It’ll cost you about $30.
This one comes from Demon’s Chronicle Vol. X. It bears more than a few similarities to the Shin Megami Tensei figure, but really is its own beast. For one, it has a scorpion tail, albeit a small one! The wings are more differentiated as well, and overall the idea seems to be to follow his description, but not the idols.
Volume X is mostly inexpensive by Demon’s Chronicle standards, so this figure should cost you $10-ish., It’s about two inches tall, but made up of nine pieces, which is impressive even for a line like this. He’s also ridiculously photogenic.
Pathfinder Miniatures has their own Pazuzu, because he is a demon lord in the RPG setting. Notably, the sculpt is really dynamic and impressive, although he is almost entirely bird. Where’s the lion’s head? It is also a little on the fragile side – that post snaps really easily, for example. But the pose and sculpting make up for these odd quirks, although the figure may cost you about $20, and is about three inches tall. Just be careful, as it is fragile.
Finally, Neclos Fortress has a Pazuzu of their own, a little 1″ tall rubber guy. He is clearly just a generic demon, but if you squint, you can see a tiny bit of inspiration from the idol, sort of. Really, he just bears the name Pazuzu, the poor fellow. He shouldn’t cost you much more than $5, and changes color (to a small extent) when warmed.
Although I believe that a few versions of Lilith have toys, Lamashtu herself only has one figure. Yes, the baby-eater herself. Lamashtu has a Pathfinder RPG miniature, just like Pazuzu – same height, same set, and everything. Her Pathfinder design takes some inspiration from classic imagery, but goes off on its own in several details. Notably, her head is reimagined more like a jackal than anything else, with three eyes and a long tongue. She is also visibly pregnant, which conflicts with the whole “no children of her own” idea… though it does fit Lilith’s concept as the Mother of All Monsters. Classical mythology often contradict. Lamashtu should costs the same as Pazuzu, and she is also pretty fragile – those tiny swords are liable to snap if you aren’t careful.
And that’s the thing. When you read about something like this, it’s just frightening. Here was a world where an evil monster wanted to eat your babies, and the only way to save them was to call another evil monster, and hope he didn’t feel like torturing you, as well. Imagine the begging, the pleading, and the hopelessness in that kind of life. So, why did they pick Pazuzu for The Exorcist? Honestly, probably because the idol looks cool. But on a deeper level, this horrible fiend spent the movie tormenting a small child, essentially performing the opposite of his one good deed. And if the King of the Southwest Wind has forgotten what little generosity he had, is there any hope left for anyone?