Anyone who's read even a bit of the Bible has come across the creation story, and the loss of the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden until the Serpent tempted Eve with knowledge that was only supposed to be God's. So she ate of the tree of Knowledge, and so did Adam. The couple got caught big time, and they were cast out along with the Serpent who had begun the whole mess. The moral of the story is that you should never trust anything a snake tells you is a good idea, right?
Well some argue that the serpent is supposed to be the Devil (capital D), but there is another school that argues that the Serpent is in fact a fallen angel named Azazel. Who is that? Keep reading and find out.
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Azazel The Serpent
According to Spiritual Experience, Azazel is described in the Book of Enoch as one of the angels god originally sent to watch over humanity. One of the angels who succumbed to temptation, who had children with the daughters of man, and who taught corrupting knowledge to humanity. Metalworking, weapon making, and war were some of Azazel's chief contributions, and it is this widespread teaching that causes many comparisons with the serpent to be drawn; knowledge, much like power, corrupts.
The prophet Enoch met the creature, and for those who like their fallen angels to look like something off the cover of a heavy metal album Azazel does not disappoint. In the Book of Abraham 23:7 we get a pretty good description of the great serpent. It has 7 heads serpent heads, 14 faces, hands and feet like a man's, and 12 wings with six to a side. It's also intimated that in the end times Azazel will be cast down into hell, and there he will devour sinners who will rot and suffer in his belly. This beast exists in the untrodden places of the earth, and he is a furnace to all who live in this world.
That is some Hieronymus Bosch level stuff right there, but it's not the only reference to the creature known as Azazel.
Outside of apocryphal sources and other secondary references, the context most people are going to be most familiar with Azazel is probably the annual scapegoat ritual performed by the tribes in the Old Testament.
According to Bible Study Tools, the ritual is laid out in the book of Leviticus. Once a year a village would buy two goats who were very similar in appearance, health, cost, etc. and then one of the goats would be given to Yaweh, while the other would be given to Azazel. This means that a man of the village (typically the holy man) would walk twelve miles out of the village, to a precipice in the waste lands. The goat would then be pushed off the edge, and its leaving and death represented the purging of all the sins of the village. In this case Azazel was thought to represent the physical place, but there was also an idea that it was some kind of entity that sin could be given to in order to expunge any and all wickedness from the actual village.
Was Azazel A Pagan God?
If you reach way back to before the Old Testament's publication, you'll run into some possible sources that inspired Azazel, since the Abrahamic faiths are known for enfolding the religious and spiritual beliefs of those around them into their own faith, and demonizing the gods and spirits of their neighbors to discourage their worship. One of those sources is the Canaanite god Asiz, according to Delirium's Realm. Asiz was connected to the sun, and thus would have been a powerful being to people who depended on crops for survival.
In addition to Asiz there are the old legends of the se'irim, which were hairy, goat-like creatures (who are referenced alongside Lilith in the book of Isiah 34:14) who were similar in appearance and scope to satyrs in Greek mythology. These are creatures that Azazel is generally connected to in occult rituals and practice, as he's seen as the protector of goats, and the spirits who serve him as goat demons.