The Dybbuk

Don’t worry, you read that title correctly. This blog post isn’t about the infamous Dybbuk Box, but rather the demon and lore of Dybbuks at large. Before the name became synonymous with a cursed object, a Dybbuk was a spirit. The name ‘Dybbuk’ translates from Yiddish to ‘cling’ it’s safe to say Dybbuks are hard to shake.

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According to lore, it is believed that Dybbuks escaped from Jewish purgatory (known as Gehenna), or were barred from entering Gehenna due to evil acts in life. They are believed to be an animating force that lingers after death to seek out and then possess the body of a living person for evil purposes. The kind of person a Dybbuk seeks out to possess seems to vary. In some tellings of the lore, the Dybbuk specifically seeks out an evil person to possess as some kind of punishment. However, other lore seems to suggest that the Dybbuk is capable of possessing almost any kind of person, although those with weaker wills are easier to take over.

Whoever the living host may be, one thing is for certain: Dybbuks are hell. 

For example, a Dybbuk that died alone may inhabit a person and drive them to isolate themselves further and make them as miserable as the Dybbuk was in life. Or, a Dybbuk with certain vices like drugs or alcohol may also turn those who they possessed into drug addicts or alcoholics. Even worse, Dybbuks who died before they could finish what they had started on earth may force their will and evil actions on who they possess.

However, if a person was possessed by a Dybbuk there were exorcist rites that could be taken up in order to rid the person of the clinging spirit. However, the rites are anything but simple and painless. Ceremonies would have to be conducted within a synagogue and be witnessed by ten men wearing white corpse shrouds, arms bound with sacred parchments. Prior to this, these ten men would have had to have purified themselves (usually with rituals and fasting). 

Then the exorcist and leader of the ritual would enter the space wearing all black and immediately address the Dybbuk and not the victim. As the exorcist approached the Dybbuk he would begin listing all the crimes that the Dybbuk had made the victim commit. Once the Dybbuk was faced with its sins and the strength of those backing up the ritual, it may be convinced to leave the body it's possessing. If it was more stubborn more rituals would arise, curses would be made, incantations to rid the Dybbuk would be read aloud, and different combinations of the 42-letter name of God would be pronounced. Eventually, the Dybbuk would be shamed and ritual-ed out with a lot of warnings to never inhabit another living person again.

Why does shame work? Well, Dybbuks are believed to be the souls of humans and thus were once they are still likely to fall prey to the same things as any person like shame, fear, and fear of consequences. 


The above image is in the public domain and is Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) - Book of Job, appearing in Die Bucher Der Bibel.