Chapter 5: Scapegoats & Azazel
Throughout history, people have blamed other people or other things for their problems. Sickness has been the result of a curse. Mental health issues the spell of a witch. And a murderous spree the act of demon possession. What are the ORIGINS for our need to find something to blame? How did the concept of the scapegoat begin?
ORIGINS is written and produced by award-winning author Jaimie Engle.
Goats are considered to be both good and evil, depending on the culture. In Ancient China, they represent the yang, and signify both peace and what is good. In Russia, a wood-spirit resembling Pan named Leshi is part of the country’s folklore. The goat in Heraldry is said to be armed when presented in multiple colors. Even Thor, the god of thunder, uses goats to draw his chariot and to supply heavenly mead to the gods. The lore is even stranger: from breathing through their horns or ears to maintaining perpetual fever, this animal has developed a knack for the dark side. In fact, historically, the he-goat is depicted as the personification of lust, and one with the head of a human depicts depravity.
Among the goat’s best known accolades (besides being a tasty dish in some cultures), is their role as the scapegoat. The scapegoat was an animal that a community laid its sins upon. The transfer usually occurred by the religious authority in some sort of a ceremony. This universal custom can be found in the rites of the ancient Babylonians to the customs of modern day Japan. The name, however, was coined through the ceremonious Hebrew Holy Day of Atonement, when two goats were brought to the people to receive and remove their sins. One goat was sacrificed to God while the other carried the burden of the community’s guilt from the hands of the priest. This sin-bearing goat was then driven out into the wilderness, thus taking the sins of the people away, where it most certainly was ripped apart by wild animals. The scapegoat, after all, was covered in blood. Other texts, such as the Book of Enoch state that the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness for Azazel. According to Enoch, Azazel is the responsible party for bringing weapons and cosmetics to man after he was cast out of heaven. Kind of a weird combination, don’t you think? A waring beautician? Again, I see the start of a great story there.
Does that name sound familiar? It should if you’ve watched the film Fallen with Denzel Washington and John Goodman (and if you haven’t watched it, you must). I loved the creepy way Azazel jumped from body to body committing crimes in an almost taunting game of tag, unable to be caught, which is one of the ways Azazel is described. Azazel is clearly defined as the most mysterious extra-human character in sacred literature. Much of this Semitic goat-god is fascinating, as he is said to be one of the fallen angels who fornicated with the women of Earth; one of the Chief Grigori, or Watchers, created to be shepherds of the first humans. The children of the Grigori and human women were called Nephilim. Together, Azazel and the Grigori bring about the degradation of mankind with war and bloodshed and lawlessness.
Enter God, stage right. He’s been watching the whole show, and sends his four best angels to intervene, commanding Raphael to bind Azazel and cast him out. Thus, making Azazel the world’s first scapegoat. See, he carried the sins of humanity into his wilderness so man had a chance to start again. Azazel was cast into a dark desert in Dudael, laden with jagged rocks and rough terrain. And to make matters worse, his face was covered, placing him in eternal darkness.
Now there is a bias to this story written by Enoch. You see, later, Enoch states how Azazel and three other angels opposed his high rank after Enoch became the angel Metatron, a name familiar to anyone who fans over the CW show Supernatural. Apparently, Enoch disliked the mysterious eight order of Angels of which Azazel was head of the club, and Metatron had them cast out as demons. Basically, all the blame for this hellish behavior was laid upon the shoulders of Azazel, Azza, and Uzza. And we haven’t stopped behaving this way ever since.
Side note: I’ve mentioned that some theories state the Egyptian pyramids were orchestrated by fallen demons, trying to reconstruct the home they’d left behind in Heaven. Azazel and an angel named Shemhazai were the tuletary guardian angels said to be the leaders of the Fallen Ones and of Egypt, where they were accused of sharing Heaven’s secrets. Were those secrets the schematics from heaven to build the pyramids? Were they trying to do more than just create places of worship or were they actually trying to build beacons to reach God? (see podcast 4 for more on portals and demons). True or not, it’s a very interesting theory to speculate. Much of my book series Exposure deals in this realm, and without giving too much away too soon, I’ll only say that these concepts of the Fallen Ones and their influence on humanity is a large part of the story line.
In modern culture, Azazel is a fictitious supervillain in the Marvel Comics line, particularly in the X-Men franchise. Azazel is a mutant with the ability to teleport. He is also the father of Nightcrawler. The story goes that Azazel led a demonic biblical horde of mutants known as the Neyaphem to battle against angelic xenophobic mutants called the Cheyarafim. He was the only one to breach the dimensional void due to his incredible teleportation powers, believing that impregnating women would insure his return to Earth, linking his own children to the dimension. His many love affairs usually involved strange women with unusual characteristics, such as unique looks or abilities closer to those of mutants. After all, giving birth to an angel-human hybrid took great physical and emotional strength.
Azazel eventually met Mystique, and it was lust at first sight, even though she was in love with a rich baron named Christian Wagner. Her hesitation to betray the man she loved was overshadowed by her instant attraction to Azazel (not to mention the fact that Christian was unable to provide her with offspring). And this was used against her. By the time she actually falls in love with Azazel, he seems to be using her to have a child, one who will be a strong mutant through the combination of their genes. In reality, he actually does care for Mystique, and she becomes the only woman he truly ever loves. But Azazel must leave when the Cheyarafim find his location. He must keep Mystique and Nightcrawler protected. In the end, it seems he becomes the scapegoat.
Other scapegoats in the ancient world include Pandora, depicted as the first female scapegoat. The Greeks lived in a happy world free of turmoil until Prometheus stole fire from the gods and Haphaestus was instructed to form a woman out of clay. Zeus gave her a jar, which later becomes a box, and tells her never to open it, knowing her curiosity will win out over her obedience. When it does, the contents of the jar are all of man’s troubles. You can blame it on the woman, but was it really her fault?
How about the devil? Beelzebub himself is the scapegoat for all things bad in the world. From war to famine to the guy who cuts you off, blame is easily shifted to the figure with the red face, pointy tail, and horns. I guess when you try taking over heaven that sort of stigma will follow you for several millennia. Shows such as Lucifer take this concept to new heights with the idea of a restless Satan seeking a more fulfilling life among mortals. In the end, the only thing we can all agree on is that the scapegoat concept is nothing new.
On the flipside of the coin, many would argue that God is also a scapegoat. Consider this: a single mom driving home after a hard day of work just trying to provide for her two kids is struck by a drunk driver and killed. The driver walks away with a cut on his forehead. Who do you blame? Or a family who loves one another and gives their lives to the community suddenly finds cancer claiming one of them. Up the road a guy with a long rap sheet, no job, and on both welfare and drugs lives to the ripe old age of 96. That’s not fair. God can become the scapegoat in those situations, but unless you are divine, maybe it’s best not to mess with the idea of God or the Devil being the blame for problems. Perhaps, if we took the blame for our own side of the street, we would find surprise in how often the consequence is a result of our own doing. But where’s the fun in that? On the other hand, Azazel, the ultimate scapegoat, seems to have found a place in today’s culture, yet according to the lore if he finds you and takes hold of your soul, there is no hope for your escape.
Is it possible that Azazel really existed on Earth? Did he lead a group of fallen angels to create a superhuman breed of man? According to my research, at the end of the Ice Age, the first signs of agriculture appear in the Middle East. Within a few thousand years, the Kurdish culture develops copper and lead smelting, weaving, and pottery making. We’re talking around 8050 BCE. The Kurds themselves claimed they were descendants of the children of the Djinn or spirits, who mated with human women. The ancient Middle East is known as the cradle of civilization. What if the cradles are oversized for Nephilim babies? The Sumerians and Akkadians studied the stars and wrote so much that they created extensive libraries to hold all their books. The Babylonians and Assyrians followed suite. In the mythologies of all these people groups—the Kurds, Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians—are histories of gods descending to earth and teaching arts and civility to the people. This is not Bible study; it’s humanities. Could it be true? Did demons get thrown out of heaven and make earth their home? Are they among us today, walking and wreaking havoc? Perhaps the next time something bad happens, you can shift the blame to them, the scapegoats of earth who seem to have been here longer than us. Or, you can decide you don’t believe, blame fate or some other otherworldly force. It’s all the same, really. After all, that’s what a scapegoat is all about.
I’m Jaimie Engle, and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet; written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle of The Write Engle. If you like stories with a supernatural slant, I happen to write them. In fact, I have a new book releasing this summer. It’s a collection of my supernatural, humor, and historical short stories titled The Toilet Papers: Places to Go, While you Go. You can learn more about it by clicking on the BOOKS tab. Please follow on all social media @theWRITEengle. I follow back. As always, subscribing, liking, and sharing this podcast is your greatest compliment. Thank you. And finally, if you’d like to stick around you can hear a sample from The Toilet Papers titled “At the Crossroads” a story about a noir era detective who’s about to face the reality of his own scapegoat.
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Music by Ben Sound