Pazuzu

Demons
Fast Facts:
  • Classification: Demon
  • Also Known As: Fazuzu, Pazuza, Dark Angel of the Four Winds, Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms
  • Related to: Son of Hanbi, brother of Humbaba
  • Powers: Controls the west and southwest winds, known to bring famine and locusts, sometimes seen as a protector against other evil spirits, telepathy
  • Weapons: Magical greatsword
  • Symbols: Thread, bull, serpent

Who is Pazuzu?

Pazuzu is a fearsome demon who was introduced first through Sumerian mythology. While Pazuzu is considered to be a fearsome demon, he also seen as a protector against certain evils.

The origins of Pazuzu as a demon have become muddled over time. In Babylonian mythology (where Pazuzu was originally created) Pazuzu may have always existed as a demon. In their culture, a demon was an evil entity, though that didn’t mean all of their acts would be evil in nature. Because of this, it was possible for Pazuzu to exist as a protector spirit as well.

Pazuzu

Pazuzu Transforms

When Christians were introduced to the Sumerian myths, they created an alternative storyline. Because their religion only had one benevolent god, it was necessary to display all demon spirits as purely evil entities whose sole purpose was to corrupt those who served God. It was then that Pazuzu became known as Lucifer’s right hand man. It was said that the two conspired together to overthrow God but were unsuccessful and were thrown out of Heaven as punishment. It was through this interpretation that Pazuzu became known to be a fallen angel who had transformed into a demon.

Although modern day perspectives of Pazuzu may be limited through the Christian interpretation of this Sumerian demon, Pazuzu was actually seen as a very powerful and respectable demon of his time. He was the son of Hanbi – a god of evil who ruled over all evil spirits. He was also brother to Humbaba – a demon spirit who was known to guard the Cedar Forest where the gods lived.

Pazuzu According to Legend

Pazuzu himself was also known to have an impressive history and list of abilities. He was a primordial being called an obyrith and was said to predate the existence of the Abyss itself. He was known to rule over the first layer of the Abyss which was called Pazunia in his honor. There are even stories that suggest Pazuzu may have been responsible for creation of the Abyss through manipulation of the god Tharizdun.

Pazuzu’s powers were known to be numerous and powerful. He was said to have control over the west and southwest winds, which were thought to come from the land of the dead. As controller of these winds, he also had the power to bring pestilence and famine over any land that he wished. He was also known to breathe swarms of locusts and could create poisonous clouds of acidic waste with his breath at will. He was also known to have low-light vision as well as blindsight (the ability to perceive surroundings without visual sight). He spoke many languages and was also thought to have some form of telepathic abilities. Pazuzu is also known to have a magical greatsword that granted him impressive agility and speed.

Pazuzu statue

It is also important to note that Pazuzu was a member of the Anunnaki (gods who came from the sky and settled on Earth). He was known to be part of the Sebettu – followers of the war god Nergal who used their powers to spread destructive forces like famine and disease after an area had been brutalized by the forces of war.

Pazuzu’s Practices

Pazuzu was fond of corrupting beings that he considered to be innocent and pure. He would prey on any mortal that turned to him for help, but almost always made the victim regret their appeals for his aid. Pazuzu was said to be fond of offering help that appeared benevolent, but secretly required the victim to ask for more help from the demon lord. He would then cause them to become more and more in debt to his services until he had corrupted them entirely. His favorite prizes were those who were seen to be the purest of the pure and he would eagerly seek out victims to corrupt and sentence to an afterlife of eternal agony in the Abyss.

Pazuzu was known to corrupt many by appearing to mortals in disguise as Imdugud, Pazrael, and Typhon. He would grant the prayers of those who sought his mercy and often used these victims to spread cults and worship in his name. It was said that if one was to invoke the name of Pazuzu three consecutive times, he would be able to read the thoughts of the person trying to summon him. He could then appear next to them when he wished and often granted their wishes to make them feel indebted to his services – though the cost would be great. It was thought that Pazuzu used these tactics to spread his influence to whole communities.

Pazuzu’s Followers

He also had many worshipers among evil flying creatures. Those who were thought to worship Pazuzu included the following:

Kenku

Kenku

  • Kenku: Kenku are thought to have evolved from avians but are largely humanoid in appearance. They have the head of a bird and humanoid arms and legs, though their hands and feet were given bird-like claws and talons. Kenkus are known to be selfish and are always scheming for ways to acquire wealth and power. Unlike most avian hybrids, Kenkus are not able to fly.
  • Harpies: Harpies were evil avian humanoids with the capability of flight. They were often pictured as having a female upper body with a reptilian lower half that ended in the sharp talons of a bird. Harpies are known to have magnificent wings, but are considered to be unclean creatures. They are known for their irresistible songs that acted as charms to lure their victims to certain death.
  • Gargoyles: Gargoyles are evil creatures that enjoy inflicting pain on other creatures. They are often described to eat their victims alive to enjoy hearing the screams of the subject they tortured even though they don’t need food to survive. It is common for gargoyles to work for evil masters. Sometimes they are paid with treasures, but most gargoyles will serve an evil purpose so long as they are able to hurt and torture others.
  • Manticores: Manticores were large hybrid beasts with the head of a man and the body of a lion. They were also described as having wings like that of a dragon. Manticores were thought to be impossible to kill and were known for their great love of human flesh.
  • Wyverns: Wyverns were large winged lizards that were similar in appearance to dragons – though not nearly as intelligent. The creatures were known to be poisonous and had sharp teeth and claws. They were often used as mounts.
  • Fey: Fey are considered to be any type of creature with supernatural abilities that exemplified or inhabited natural wonder. Not all fey were evil, but it was thought that many evil fey worshiped Pazuzu.
  • Dragons: Dragons were magical creatures with impressive powers. Not all dragons were evil, but it was thought that evil dragons (like chromatic dragons) were worshipers of Pazuzu.

Sumerian Perspective of Pazuzu

Many question why the Sumerians would risk invoking the spirit of Pazuzu if they knew him to be an evil entity. It is likely that the answer lies in their belief system.

Those who worshiped Pazuzu or prayed on his behalf often believed that as long as they offered the demon sacrifices and were careful in their practices, Pazuzu would use his wrath against their enemies instead of themselves.

Many who worshiped Pazuzu were known to carve small statues or idols of the demon lord to invoke his protection. It was thought that because Pazuzu was a powerful demon, he could be invoked as protection against equally powerful demons or the wrath of the gods. Ancient Sumerians would carve or create images of the beings of the underworld they intended to summon because they believed that carving the image of the chosen demon would capture their attention. It is important to note, however, that no large statues of Pazuzu were created for fear of bringing too much attention to the creator. Instead, small figurines and amulets were made. It was thought that small figurines would be large enough to capture the demon’s attention, but small enough to ensure that this attention was rewarded with protection. In this way, the mortal who invoked Pazuzu would have been seen as honoring the demon, causing Pazuzu to turn his fury to those who threatened those loyal to him.

While the image of Pazuzu was sometimes used to invoke protection against the southwest wind he was known to control, he was more often called upon to protect expecting mothers and young children against the wrath of the demon goddess Lamashtu. This goddess was known to have wrath towards expectant mothers, unborn infants, and young children. She is thought to devour the flesh of children and sometimes cause the death of pregnant women.

According to legend, Lamashtu was once the lover of Pazuzu. This ended when Lamashtu betrayed Pazuzu. As punishment, he blinded the demon goddess and banished her to the 503rd layer of the Abyss, known as Torremor. It is thought that Pazuzu was willing to protect pregnant women and young children against Lamashtu because of his anger over her betrayal of his trust.

What was an Obyrith?

Pazuzu’s role as an obyrith is important because it expresses the sheer power he holds over much of the demon realms.

An obyrith is considered to be a demon with origins so ancient that they predate the existence of the gods. Pazuzu is one of the few obyriths that is considered to have a humanoid shape. Many of the obyriths are considered to have a shape that isn’t able to be comprehended by mortal man. In fact, it is thought that gazing upon the image of an obyrith could drive a mortal insane.

While it is thought that there were originally many obyriths, only twelve survive in the modern world. The rest were victims of the destruction of their reality and the wars that occurred as a result of the Abyss.

Pazunia

Pazunia is a desolate layer of the Abyss. The realm is void of sun and moon, but still has an orange colored light that lights up the barren land. The ground is covered with rusted metals that have crumbled over time and are easily scattered. Much of the terrain in Pazunia is stained with blood, bile, and the entrails left behind from those who wagged war in this layer of the Abyss.

Pazunia is also known to have uncomfortably cold temperatures, though the weather can still be tolerated by mortals and demons alike. Pazuzu’s temples and homes are said to be built in extreme locations that can only be reached by those capable of flight.

Stories of Pazuzu

Pazuzu and Tharizdun

Pazuzu in the Howard the Duck comic book

Pazuzu in the Howard the Duck comic book

Tharizdun was a god who was hungry for power that was denied to him by the other gods. In his search for power, he came upon a shard made of pure evil.

The shard had been created as a trap for Tharizdun by the obyriths, who were trapped inside a dying world. As soon as he touched the shard, his mind and spirit were corrupted by the obyriths and he was overtaken with madness. As it is often speculated that Pazuzu was the creator of this plan, he is often credited with corrupting Tharizdun’s spirit.

The obyriths commanded Tharizdun to plant a seed of evil in the Astral Sea and promised him full control of the new realm that would be created in exchange for his cooperation. In the midst of his madness, however, Tharizdun realized that attempting to follow through with this plot would result in the other gods turning against him before he could claim the power that the obyriths promised. If he followed through with their plan, he would not be the one to rule over the new dominion.

Instead, Tharizdun attempted to craft a plan that would allow for the creation of a new realm which he would maintain total control over. He took the seed of evil to forgotten expanse inside the Elemental Chaos (a realm of fallen primordial), hoping to seize this world as his own. When he planted this seed of evil, it eventually grew into what is now known as the Abyss.

For a short time, he was granted the power that he had so desperately longed for. Eventually, however, the other gods recognized the danger Tharizdun now posed and put their disagreements aside to come together and imprison the god. He was locked inside another universe known only as ‘Voidharrow’ so that he could not cause harm to this world, though he was left with all of his powers.

Tharizdun is thought to largely be controlled by the madness that was implanted in him by Pazuzu’s evil shard, but he is said to have small periods of lucidity which he uses to plot his escape from Voidharrow.

Pazuzu Corrupts Asmodeus

Asmodeus was originally thought to be a loyal servant to the lawful gods that inhabited the Astral Sea. He and his companions were thought to have been created to fight the demons that inhabited the Abyss and prevent them from entering the Astral Sea so that the gods could focus on creating other worlds and beings.

After an incomprehensible period of time thought to span billions of years, Asmodeus and the other protectors began to be corrupted by the influence of the demons they were fighting. It is thought that Pazuzu himself was responsible for the corruption of Asmodeus by introducing an idea of power to him that was impossible for the being to turn away from.

It was at this point that the gods who created Asmodeus put him on trial and demanded that he leave the Upper Planes, fearing that he had become an evil being. Pazuzu had coached Asmodeus well however, and Asmodeus managed to argue a case that allowed him to remain in the Upper Planes for the time being.

When humans were finally created, the demons attacked them as well as the Upper Planes. Asmodeus and his fellow protectors were sent to protect the human beings, but were unable to do so because the humans continued to defy the orders of the gods and attempted to explore the Abyss. The gods were upset by the defiance of their creations and could not understand their disobedience. Asmodeus explained to them that human beings could not be expected to avoid these areas of their own volition and must be threatened with an incentive to be obedient. Through this act, it is said that Asmodeus invented the concept of punishment.

Asmodeus then convinced the gods to sign a pact that allowed him to take over the abandoned realm of Baator and punish the souls of wicked mortals that defied the gods and attempted to pledge allegiance to the demons of the Abyss. In order to maintain power, he suggested that he be allowed to extract magical energy from the souls of these wretched creatures. This would allow them to be powerful enough to teach humans a lesson without having to be granted the powers of godhood. At this point, Asmodeus was a fully demonic entity, though with help from Pazuzu, he was able to avoid detection from the gods. They agreed to his pact (known as the Pact Primeval) and he was granted dominion over evil mortals.

At first the gods were pleased with Asmodeus’ plan, but eventually they realized that fewer and fewer mortal souls were ascending to the Upper Planes in their afterlife. It was then that they discovered that Asmodeus had conspired against them and was purposefully tempting mortals into eternal damnation. It is unclear if the help of Pazuzu was made known at this point, though many indicate no one was aware of Pazuzu’s involvement besides Asmodeus and the other obyriths.

Because he refused to leave the Upper Planes willingly, he was cast to the Lower Planes and received many wounds that to this day have not healed. It is said that he still conspire to use the magical energy from wicked mortal souls to heal himself and will eventually seek the destruction of the Upper Planes. He is thought to conspire with Pazuzu frequently.

Pazuzu and Lamashtu

When Pazuzu was a younger demon, he was once known to be accepting to the company of any demon or evil entity, regardless of their motive. It was because of this recklessness that he encountered the demon Lamashtu.

Lamashtu is known to have become the lover of Pazuzu, though this was only done to distract him from her true goals. Once she felt she had become close enough to Pazuzu for him to be blinded by their connection, she asked Pazuzu to reveal his true name to her. She claimed that if he was as powerful as he claimed to be, revealing his true name would not threaten his power.

Pazuzu was arrogant and thought little of Lamashtu’s challenge. He told her his true name and Lamashtu turned against him immediately. She attempted to use the magic of his true name to take over his realm and render him powerless. She was not successful, but forced him to flee and go into hiding.

Pazuzu became enraged with Lamashtu and devised a plan to extract his revenge. He lured Lamashtu into the Terremor (the 503rd layer of the Abyss). He tricked Lamashtu into venturing into the tight crevices of the Terremor where her large form was a disadvantage. He allowed her to think she was in control of the outcome of the fight by simply evading her attacks instead of retaliating in defense and then dove inside her mouth as if he had been defeated.

Lamashtu thought herself victorious and began to rejoice until she felt one of her teeth being ripped from her jaw. Pazuzu reemerged and used the tooth to carve through Lamashtu’s skull and tear out her eyes. He then condemned her to an eternity in Terremor for her betrayal and resigned himself to Pazunia. Once there, he slaughtered all of his minions and changed his tactics. From that day forward, Pazuzu would not be reckless, but would be known for being one of the most cold and calculating demons in the Abyss.

Physical Appearance

There are varying descriptions of Pazuzu in history. Some said that he was extremely tall and well proportioned, but also had characteristics that were known to be demonic. He was said to have birds feet in these stories, as well as wings that were covered in oil and could constantly be seen releasing smoke. His face was said to be handsome, though instead of a mouth he was known to have a beak similar to that of a bird of prey.

Other records of Pazuzu indicate that he had a much more fearsome appearance. Records suggest that he may have had a canine face with large, terrifying eyes. He has also been depicted as having a penis with the head of a snake and a reptilian-like body. He is also said to have enormous wings in these versions, as well as talons that were unfathomably sharp.

As an obyrith, it is possible that both of these images were accurate to some extent. It is possible that these were the forms that Pazuzu chose to appear in to make it easier for the mortal mind to comprehend his form.

Motivation

Pazuzu is known to be a highly intelligent demon who is always scheming to cause chaos and corruption among the pure of heart.

Although it is said that Pazuzu will corrupt any soul that makes itself vulnerable, his utmost joy comes from corrupting the purest of the pure – as was the case when he corrupted Asmodeus.

Pazuzu is often confused as having benevolent tendencies if approached with respect, though this is likely because he enjoys luring an innocent soul into corruption by making them dependent on his favors. He is known to use this tactic to corrupt entire communities through one individual.

If Pazuzu is capable of any truly benevolent actions, it is only to thwart the efforts of the demon Lamashtu. It is thought that this is because of his deep anger towards Lamashtu for her betrayal of his trust.

Possible Connections

Pazuzu is sometimes depicted as being the devil (also known as Lucifer). While there are many historical accounts that claim Pazuzu often consorted with the devil, he is not seen to be the actual devil because he was never part of the Upper Plane.

Explanation of the Myth

Pazuzu is often seen as a being who was used to explain the events in the ancient world that were evil or tragic. As the controller of the southwest winds (which were thought to originate from the land of the dead), it was thought that Pazuzu was able to cause famine, death, and destruction if he wished.

However, Pazuzu was also seen as a protector from other evil entities. He invoked his powers to protect his followers – especially against the demon Lamashtu. Though the intent behind his benevolent acts is questionable, it may have been comforting to think that even an evil spirit was capable of doing good if it was properly honored.

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