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New versions of the databases (Goel and Ziz) and changes in the categories

For the last several weeks I have been developing the biblical database and due to the specificity of the source text, I had to devise several new supernatural entities and topics. With these new categories it was only natural to update the Talmudic database as well and this was also a good opportunity to revise the ontology in toto and introduce some modifications to make the labeling less confusing. Let us have a look at the changes.

The biblical database version 003 Goel

  • Version 003 contains 474 units what makes it only slightly bigger than its predecessor. This has to do with the fact that some of the units present in versions 002 and 001 have been removed: this was the case with the fragments simply mentioning the tzevaot as a part of Yahweh’s appellation – I finally decided to exclude them, since they did not say anything substantial about the divine hosts. Similarly, I removed the units which utilized the terms such as nefesh, neshamah or ruach in clearly idiomatic expressions with no references to actual supernatural entities (e.g., the upset soul of the people in Numbers 21).
  • This version contains all the figures listed by the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible and recognized by the EvT system as supernatural entities and supplemented with additional electronic searches. Moreover, I have included the figures present in the Babylonian Talmud such as ziz sadai or yetzer: even though at this stage they do not have the supernatural meaning, it was important to acknowledge them as an important point of reference for the later works.
  • Much work in supplementing the database with the results of the electronic searches has been done by Julia Miążek as a part of her BA thesis on the biblical aquatic monsters, such as tehom, Rahab or Leviatan. Thank you very much i kłaniam się w pas!
  • This all means that version 003 has reached the status of “nearly complete”. Although much fine-tuning has yet to be done, no significant content additions are expected.
  • The goel ha-dam (featured in the codename) could be roughly translated as “avenger of blood”. This is a name of a function carried out by a person responsible for “redeeming” the blood spilled by a murderer, described in detail in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19. Although this role was supposed to be played by a regular human, it seems that it might have some supernatural, if not plainly vampiric, undertones.

The Goel version of the biblical inventory has been created as a part of the grant The Construction of the Database of the Supernatural Entities in the Hebrew Bible using the System of the Elyonim veTachtonim Project (Excellence Initiative, [H.1.12.2020] MiniGRANTY POB Heritage) issued by the Jagiellonian University.

For more information about the project click here.

The Talmudic database version 007 Ziz

  • Version 007 contains 800 units – that is only three more than the previous version. Analogically as was the case with the biblical database, I removed the units featuring tzevaot solely as a part of the divine appellation and these operating with idiomatic expressions featuring the ghosts (e.g., nefesh, ruach).
  • To make sure all the inventories are fully compatible, I updated the annotations. The version 007 contains the updated labels (e.g., the #jurisprudence instead of #halakhah) and new tags which were designed primarily for the biblical database (such as #aboutentities/#hierarchy/#totem, #spheresoflife/#warfare or #cooperation/#cook).
  • Ziz (featured in the codename) is a mysterious creature mentioned in Psalms 50 and 80, later adopted by Bava Batra 73b and further on incorporated into Jewish mythology as one of Yahweh’s primeval monsters along with Behemoth and Leviathan.

The Ziz version of the database has been prepared as a part of my ongoing research project The Supernatural Entities and Their Relationships with Humans according to the Babylonian Talmud from the Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives (SONATA 14; Registration number: 2018/31/D/HS1/00513) financed by the National Science Center, Poland.

Topical tags

Due to the organic nature of the project development, some of the tag labels gradually drifted away from their original meaning and as a result, became somewhat misleading – to the point I myself became confused and had to consult the system manual during annotation. Hence, the following changes:

  • the #underworld was substituted with #postmortem (the unit concerns the post-mortem existence not necessarily restricted to the land of the dead);
  • the #abodeofdead was substituted with #underworld (a SE inhabits an underworld – which is not always an abode of the dead but simply a land underneath);
  • the #village was substituted with #latitude (a SE inhabits a specific location, which can be localized on a map - not necessarily a village);
  • the #halakhah was substituted with #jurisprudence (the latter term is less culture-specific and more universal, which is all the more important given the future applications of the system);
  • the #divination was removed – in case the contents of knowledge are not specified, only the first-tier tag (i.e., the #knowledge) is used;
  • the #chameleon described only one unit in the Babylonian Talmud and since it was used so rarely, I decided to resort solely to #disguise which is more universal.


The new sources demanded designing new hashtags and to avoid multiplying the labels, it was necessary to slightly modify some of the existing descriptions:

  • #enliven – apart from enlivening a SE can also inspire to action;
  • the main difference between the #enliven and the #possession is that the latter denotes the cases of chaotic behaviors evoked by the SEs;
  • the #reification denotes the cases in which an item symbolizes or substitutes a SE;
  • the #undead is used also to denote the units which explicitly deny the possibility of the dead possessing the cognitive facilities.


Last but not least, several new tags have been devised, inter alia:

  • the #idolatry and #morality (sub-tags of #jurisprudence);
  • the #spheresoflife/#chaoskampf, when a SE appears in a context of chaoskampf;
  • the #aboutentities/#hierarchy/#totem, when a SE is a representative of a certain group of people;
  • the #genesis/#transformation, when an agent or a SE is transformed into another SE.


Finally, some changes have been introduced to the roster of the SEs.

  • The #ruachbennefilim was a demon responsible for causing epilepsy and as such appeared only in Bekhorot 44b. Due to very low popularity, I decided to resort to more universal tags: this entity is now annotated as a #hybrid of #ruach2in and #nafil4 what more aptly acknowledges the associations with other SEs.
  • The Hebrew Bible occasionally speaks about barad (Eng. "hail") which has been annotated as #sarbarad to harmonize it with the existing category present in the Babylonian Talmud.

Forthcoming changes

As noted, the biblical database still requires much detailed work regarding text division and annotation. Since this is a part of a dedicated research project, I plan to have version 004 of the inventory around the middle of 2022. In turn, the consolidation of the biblical inventory will open the possibilities for subsequent modules: one I have been thinking of recently would involve the parallel translations (Greek, Latin, Aramaic) often deploying the SE from different religious and cultural circles.