Seal of Solomon

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The Seal of Solomon

The Seal of Solomon (Hebrew: חותם שלמה, Ḥotem Shelomo; Arabic: خاتم سليمان, Khātam Sulaymān) is the legendary symbol attributed to King Solomon in medieval mystical traditions, from which it developed in parallel within Jewish mysticism, Islamic mysticism and Western occultism. It is the predecessor to the Star of David, the contemporary cultural and religious symbol of the Jewish people.

It was often depicted in the shape of either a pentagram or a hexagram. In religious lore, the ring is variously described as having given Solomon the power to command the supernatural, including angels and demons, and also the ability to speak with animals. Due to the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, it came to be seen as an amulet or talisman, or a sigil in medieval magic, occultism, and alchemy.


The varied traditions refer to a seal, stamp or die, utilized to mark an impression often or most frequently by means of a signet ring owned, possessed or fabricated by King Solomon and was thus referred to as the "Seal of Solomon" or "Solomon's Seal". The mark it made left either the name of God or that of a hexagram and was used to attest to the authority of its bearer, often to magical effect.

Historical traditions

The earliest reference to Solomon's seal/signet stem from within Jewish traditions. It is first mentioned by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, and is similarly referenced by the third-century Jewish magical text Sefer HaRazim and then again finds expression in an aggadic section of the Tractate Gittin within the Babylonian Talmud as well. In parallel a first century Greek manual of Judeo-Christian magic known as Testament of Solomon also makes reference to the Seal of Solomon.

The tradition of Solomon's Seal later made its way into Islamic Arab sources, as Gershom Scholem (the founder of the modern, academic study of Kabbalah) attests "It is difficult to say for how long certain definite names have been used for several of the most common seals. The Arabs made many such terms especially popular, but just the names Seal of Solomon and Shield of David, which are often used interchangeably for the two emblems, go back to pre-Islamic Jewish magic. They did not originate among the Arabs who, incidentally, know only the designation Seal of Solomon."

The legend of the Seal of Solomon was developed primarily by medieval Middle Eastern writers, who related that the ring was engraved by God and was given to the king directly from heaven. The ring was made from brass and iron, and the two parts were used to seal written commands to good and evil spirits, respectively. In one tale, a demon (either Asmodeus or Sakhr) obtained possession of the ring and ruled in Solomon's stead for forty days. In a variant of the tale of the ring of Polycrates from Herodotus, the demon eventually threw the ring into the sea, where it was swallowed by a fish, caught by a fisherman, and served to Solomon.

The date of origin legends surrounding the Seal of Solomon is difficult to establish. It is known that a legend of a magic ring with which the possessor could command demons was already current in the 1st century (Josephus 8.2 telling of one Eleazar who used such a ring in the presence of Vespasian), but the association of the name of Solomon with such a ring is likely medieval notwithstanding the 2nd century apocryphal text the Testament of Solomon. The Tractate Gittin (fol. 68) of the Talmud has a story involving Solomon, Asmodeus, and a ring with the divine name engraved.

The specification of the design of the seal as a hexagram seems to arise from a medieval Arab tradition, and most scholars assume that the symbol entered the Kabbalistic tradition of medieval Spain from Arabic literature. The representation as a pentagram, by contrast, seems to arise in the Western tradition of Renaissance magic (which was in turn strongly influenced by medieval Arab and Jewish occultism); White Kennett (1660–1728) makes reference to a "pentangle of Solomon" with the power of exorcising demons.

Hexagrams feature prominently in Jewish esoteric literature from the early medieval period, and it has been hypothesized that the tradition of Solomon's Seal may possibly predate Islam and date to early Rabbinical esoteric tradition, or to early alchemy in Hellenistic Judaism in 3rd-century Egypt.

The hexagram or "Star of David", which became a symbol of Judaism in the modern period and was placed on the flag of Israel in 1948, has its origins in 14th-century depictions of the Seal of Solomon. In 1354, King of Bohemia Charles IV prescribed for the Jews of Prague a red flag with both David's shield and Solomon's seal, while the red flag with which the Jews met King Matthias of Hungary in the 15th century showed two pentagrams with two golden stars.

Use in magic

In many representations of the Seal of Solomon, the two triangles are interlaced giving the appearance of a 3-dimensional figure. This was said in the Testament of Solomon to make demons confused and dizzy, unable to do Solomon any harm. The Secret Seal of Solomon is a closely related symbol used for similar purposes.

In different traditions, the hexagram can be seen as the combination of the four elements:

  • Fire is symbolized as an upwards pointing triangle.
  • Air (its elemental opposite) is also an upwards pointing triangle, but with a horizontal line through its center.
  • Water is symbolized as a downwards pointing triangle.
  • Earth (its elemental opposite) is a downwards pointing triangle with a horizontal line through its center.

In Islamic eschatology, some believe that the Beast of the Earth, which should appear near the Last Judgment day, will come bearing "the Seal of Solomon", and will use the latter to stamp the noses of the unbelievers.

The symbol appears on the back of The Oracle of Heaven and Hell and on the cover of the The Grimoire of Heaven and Hell, a modern grimoire which gives instructions for using the symbol in magic.