Friday, July 1, 2011

Rooting Out Demons With Baaras

People are often spoken of as if they were plants. I probably don't have to explain myself when I tell you "My family has its roots in this country". You just know what I mean.

My family once had an over-sized Bible. It was not the kind you would pick up and carry off to church on Sunday. In the front of the Bible was a line drawing of a tree. On the tree were names. These were names of people in my family going back generations. After the page with the picture of the tree were even more hand written pages. These pages recorded births, marriages, baptisms, and important events. This family tree are called my "roots".

This concept of laying down roots is also applied to religious groups, political movements, and spy networks.

At times people get the feeling they don't know who they are or who they should be. They say "I need to find my roots." Or, if they are speaking for a family or church, they might say "We need to go back to our roots."

The Bible is filled with horticultural references that are actually about people. Grape vines, olive trees, the grafting of gentiles into Israel.

When things go wrong and something has "taken root" that we do not like or that might be harmful, what do we do? We "root out the evil", whether it be dissenters or heretics. But have you ever stopped to look at the symbolism as it appears in the Bible?

Although there are many references to the uprooting of evil, there are a couple whose imagery I would call to your attention. The first is Malachi 4:1:

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." 

Here we have YHVH Sabaoth taking the evildoers and throwing them in a fire, leaving neither root nor branch.

And again in Isaiah 10:17:
The LORD, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night.

In this imagery we find the evil weeds are rooted out and consumed entirely in flames. These are, of course, not references to weeds and trees, but men and demons and their eternal souls.

Compare this imagery with that given by Jesus in Luke 17:6:
And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you."

Here Jesus is also using the imagery of a tree being uprooted and cast in the see, but is actually talking about the casting of demons into the abyss. The imagery of the uprooting of plants and bitter roots applies to people, but it also applies to the spirits that are behind the evil actions of men.

With this in mind, read the description Josephus gives of the root baaras in The Wars of the Jews (7.6.3):
But still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself its color is like to that of flame, and towards the evenings it sends out a certain ray like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. 

The name of this root is baaras, which probably comes from the Hebrew ba'ar which means "to burn". The root baaras is uprooted and burns with a ray "like lightning". Baaras "quickly drives away those called demons". This is probably the root applied to Eleazer's ring which, if held to the nose of the possessed, "roots out" the demon.

(Note: there is an archaic connection of the words 'root' and 'rout' which fits the lore of this plant well. Both root and demon need to be routed carefully and then plucked out whole so no portion remains below the surface.)

Many people have pointed out how much the lore behind this baaras root matches up with that of the mandrake. Others point out that the mandrake was a common plant in Palestine whereas baaras grew in just one small area. Being a common plant, Josephus was well aware of mandrake and elsewhere used its common name. Baaras may be the common mandrake, it may be a specific type of mandrake (this is what I believe), or it might be another plant entirely.

Eleazar's ring is the prototype of the ring found in the Goetia. Applying baaras or mandrake to the Ring of Solomon is a restoration of the original practice of exorcism handed down by Solomon. Use it on Beelzebub, Astaroth, your in-laws, or wherever you find evil that needs to be uprooted.

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