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.
Did you know there's a difference between devils and demons?
What do angels really look like? (According to the bible)
Azazel The Serpent
For those of you who are disappointed when fallen angels don't look like they belong on a heavy metal album cover, 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, 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.
Azazel The Scapegoat
The Azazel you're going to be most familiar with probably involves the annual scapegoat ritual performed by the tribes in the Old Testament. 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 and 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 or heaped upon in order to expunge any and all wickedness from the actual village.
Pictured: The Face of Pure Evil
Azazel The Fallen Angel
The other Azazel, the really interesting one, is found in the Book of Enoch. This Azazel is an angel who came down to humanity and taught them the secrets of steel and cosmetics (apparently that's not a translation error, either). It's also been theorized that the passage in Genesis about the "sons of god" coming to the "daughters of man" and creating "giants who walked the earth" refer to Azazel and other angels having children with mortal women, thus creating a powerful race of half-breeds called the Nephilim. Just in case we needed another sin to heap onto Azazel's shoulders.
Azazel The Pagan God
And The Se'Irim
If you reach way back to before the Old Testament's publication you'll run into some possible sources that inspired Azazel. One of those sources is the Canaanite god Asiz, who 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. Whether they were local spirits given sacrifice by pre-Judaism Israelites, a pagan god who was demonized by a new faith, or just a legitimate part of the Old Testament which was created separate from these other cultural influences though is very difficult to say.