In Jewish demonology, an evil spirit or doomed soul that possesses a person’s body and soul, speaking through the person’s mouth and causing such torment and anguish that another personality appears to manifest itself. The term dybbuk (also spelled dibbuk) was coined in the 17th century from the language of German and Polish Jews. It is an abbreviation of two phrases: dibbuk me-ru’ah (a cleavage of an evil spirit) and dibbuk min ha-hizonim (dibbuk from the demonic side of man). Prior to the 17th century, the dybbuk was one of many evil spirits call ibbur.
   In early folklore, dybbukim were thought only to inhabit the bodies of sick persons. Possessive evil spirits are referred to in the Old Testament. For example, Samuel I describes the possession of Saul and the way David exorcized the spirit by playing the harp. In the book of Tobit the archangel Raphael instructs Tobit in ways of EXORCISM. In the rabbinical literature of the first century, exorcisms called for the ashes of a red heifer, or the roots of certain herbs, to be burned under the victim, who was then surrounded with water. Other methods included incantations in the name of King SOLOMON, repetition of the Divine Name of God, reading from Psalms, and wearing herbal AMULETs.
   By the 16th century, the concept of possessive evil spirits changed. Many Jews believed the spirits were transmigrated souls that could not enter a new body because of their past sins and so were forced to possess the body of a living sinner. The spirits were motivated to possess a body because they were tormented by other evil spirits if they did not. Some thought the dybbukim were the souls of people who were not properly buried and, therefore, became demons.
   The KABBALAH contains rituals for exorcizing a dybbuk; many are still in use in modern times. The exorcism must be performed by a ba’al shem, a miracle-working rabbi. Depending on how the exorcism is done, the dybbuk either is redeemed or is cast into HELL. It usually exits the body of its victim through the small toe, which shows a small, bloody hole as the point of departure.
   - Winkler, Gershom. Dybbuk. New York: Judaica Press, 1982.

Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. . 2009.

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