“Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no such thing as real, true, eternal love? Cut out his lying tongue!”
As an opening, these first lines of Chapter Nineteen rank with the greats. The attentive reader will have begun to wonder, even to worry, that this book is called The Master and Margarita
, and yet here we are half way through, and these supposed principals have barely featured. Let us hope this deficiency in the passionate love interest is more than remedied in the second half.
Margarita, it must be said, is something of a witch. Her eyes glow with a strange fire, she has a very slight squint in one eye, and, most intriguingly, she decks herself out with mimosa every spring, whatever that means. In this chapter she makes a pact with the devil.
In the Old Mother Russia for which Bulgakov pines, the witch is an ambiguous figure. Baba Yaga may be described as having iron teeth, bony legs, a hut that walks around on chicken legs, a particularly mean and nasty temper, ability to travel by mortar, pestle and besom, and a penchant for eating wicked children, but this negative description in the children’s stories may well conceal a different reality, a teaching wisdom.
One version of Baba Yaga is at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/oprt/oprt08.htm
Here is an actual photograph of her real hut. https://huki6019.files.wordpress.com/20 ... =300&h=232
Margarita has looks, money, brains, a successful caring husband, no children, a maid and a big flat in the middle of Moscow. What more could she want? Love. I must confess I am rather disturbed by Bulgakov’s sympathetic portrayal of this adulteress, who has no reason not to be happy with her situation, and who dreams like a gypsy about her mad missing novelist lover, and his burnt offerings about Pontius Pilate.
In the first part of this chapter, Margarita’s maid tells her of the story of Satan’s Black Magic performance. Of course, being sensible and normal, Margarita does not believe a word of it, despite the abundant corroborating evidence the maid supplies. Here again, Bulgakov is satirising the impossibility that sensible normal people experienced in believing the stories of impudent audacity, cruelty and madness that regularly emitted from reports about the Bolsheviks.
The Master is missing, and Margarita finds herself in the desperate situation shared by millions of Russians under Stalin, fearing that if she enquired about him she would go missing too. The anguish and heartbreak caused by this mass infliction of secret penal purging continues to traumatise Russia even today.
Margarita finds herself on a bench by the Kremlin, watching the funeral procession of the late lamented Berlioz, whose head, it transpires, has been stolen, by ‘devil knows who’. After despatching a sleazy pickup art with ‘such a grim look that he went away’, she finds herself thinking to herself ‘I’d sell my soul to the devil to know if he’s alive or dead’.
And presto, who should miraculously appear but Woland’s nasty sidekick Azazello.
As you do, I was recently reading a book by Carl Jung on the prophet Enoch, and what should I discover there but that Satan’s sidekick was Azazel! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azazel
explains the detailed myths – the scapegoat in Leviticus goes in the wilderness to Azazel. But the original Azazel did not have a prominent protruding fang, fiery orange hair, a bowler hat, a bright tie, a starched shirt, patent-leather shoes or a stripy suit, like the Azazello who confronts Margarita.
The Russian purgative trauma continues when Margarita assumes Azazello is speaking with her only to arrest her, or that he wants to procure her for prostitution. He only rescues the conversation by magic, proving that he can read Margarita’s mind, about the master’s novel and her passion to see him again.
The chapter ends with Azazello supplying Margarita with bewitching ointment, in a heavy gold box. It seems her secret wish that conjured up this demon may be coming true.
Margarita might wish to beware of what the Book of Enoch has to say about Azazello, “The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.” And in the Dead Sea Scrolls, he features in The Book of Giants, a part of the Enochic literature found at Qumran.
“According to the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located on Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons of old, Azazel is one of the leaders of the rebellious Watchers in the time preceding the Flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, shields, and coats of mail, and women the art of deception by ornamenting the body, dyeing the hair, and painting the face and the eyebrows, and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity until at last he was, at Yahweh's command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael and chained to the rough and jagged rocks of Beth Ḥadudo, where he is to abide in utter darkness until the great Day of Judgment, when he will be cast into the fire to be consumed forever.”
Abraham says that the wicked will "putrefy in the belly of the crafty worm Azazel, and be burned by the fire of Azazel's tongue" (Apocalypse of Abraham 31:5).