Eligos. Paimon. Stolas. Pazuzu The Ungrateful.
Demons. Let’s talk about ‘em.
It is my honest opinion that demons as a race get a really bad rap. Like most bad raps you hear about groups, this tends to be based on misinformation. Well, if there’s anything that annoys me to absolutely no end, it’s misinformation. I’m Beetle, and as we draw closer and closer to spooky season… it might be time to talk about Satan’s Little Helpers. By the way, fun fact: I listen to music while writing and researching these. My album for this one is Bloody Kisses, by Type O Negative. Listen to “Christian Woman” while reading this blog… and promptly forget about the blog because goddammit Type O rules.
The first thing that we should get out of the way is a formality. If I was to ask you what a demon is, what would you say? Maybe you’d say an underpaid employee of Satan. Maybe you’d say an evil spirit. Maybe you’d tell me about Satan’s war on Heaven, where the angels that fought with Satan were cast down with him to Hell to be glorified administrators to damned souls. None of these would be wrong, strictly speaking. Webster defines it as thus:
noun: demon; plural noun: demons
- An evil spirit or devil, especially one thought to possess a person or act as a tormentor in hell.
Now, that is wicked unspecific. Heh.
Allow me to submit my own definition:
noun: demon; plural noun: demons
- Bad mothafuckas.
The thing that might shock you is that demons originally weren’t considered evil. Socrates originally credited them for his genius in many ways. In some cultures they were… tricky spirits. Like Genie in Aladdin. Not bad, not directly good either. Limited in their ways. These days, mainstream spirituality doesn’t have a good term to describe it, in my humble opinion. Mostly because everything has been reduced to “Good” or “Bad”. You don’t hear of too many entities that walk straight down the middle, although I’d argue that Satan counts for those that know his history.
In addition, demons in some ancient cultures (Greek and Egyptian, specifically) were almost demigods. I can’t stress enough that they weren’t particularly malevolent – any more so, at least, than the gods that would destroy your crops or send a plague if you pissed them off. Looking at you, Bast. Side note – a really great game that goes into the Egyptian relationship with gods is called Pharoah, by Sierra Entertainment. You can get it on GOG and it’s great.
There are many resources on the subject of ancient demons and I’ll link some of them in the sources. It really is a fascinating subject. But, alas, I want to delve more into the evolution of them into the creatures we know today.
As with the demonization of anything (get it?), you really have to look no further than Christianity. When the Christian takeover of the world started in earnest, there was a checklist of things that they had to do in order to establish themselves. Firstly, they had to convert or put competing religions to the sword. Then, they had to establish to their followers that the previous gods (in this specific case, the Greek pantheon of gods) were evil and Satanic entities. So it was. Zeus, Athena, all of them… demons. The worship of these Pagan gods was deemed heretical, and the newly minted Christian god was placed above them in terms of power.
It’s interesting to me that they didn’t just flat out deny their existence. Doesn’t that make a little more sense? Just say that the polytheistic gods are all branches from the same atheistic tree, to be cut off and pruned.
I guess that wouldn’t work, though, because it’s hard to declare it heretical to worship something that you deny exists. Assuming that Christian mythology is correct (for argument), I guess you’d have to take the demon tact, although that still gives them some power over people, and some influence on the world. Isn’t it weird? Wouldn’t you want to strip competing gods of power and existence? I’m literally working through this while typing. Because the implication is that the Greek and Egyptian gods did and still do exist. Today they are generally seen as mythological and non-existent (I’ll get into demigod worship a little later, hold all negative comments until you get to the end of the blog, please).
Which leads, slightly bumpily, into my next point, which is there are different types of demons. It’s helpful to know, so when one appears at the end of your bed, you can address them correctly. But… it’s a little complicated.
So, anyone play Pokémon? Jigglypuff, back in the day, started as a Normal Pokémon, as did Clefairy. over time, these two were re-examined, and moved over to being Fairy Types in future generations.*
Demons are a lot like this. They start out as one thing, and by the modern day they become something else entirely. This also applies to their powers and attributes, much like the aforementioned Pokémon. I guess I could bore you to death with a bunch of dead people attempting to classify (probably) fictional creatures, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to put forth my own classification system. Feel free to use as you see fit.
BEETLE’S MODERN DEMON CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM
- Classical/Historical: Greek Gods, Egyptian Gods, Pagan entities. Not evil.
- Succubi/Incubi: Sexual demons. Charged with sexually assaulting humans. Reasons vary, from use of sexual energy to turning them away from God.
- Catholic possession demons: Malevolent beings that, when invited (willingly or unwillingly), take over a human’s body and must be removed via exorcism.
- Canonical demons: Some of you might disagree with me on this, but I consider named demons from the Lesser Key of Solomon and Infernal Dictionary to be demonical canon. Many of these demons are ranked, with levels ranging from Duke to Earl.
- Popular Culture Demons: Baphomet.
Now the fun starts, because I want to tackle a subject I find eternally interesting. Namely, demon worship and whether they exist or not.
Something that actually surprised me when I started working with occult subject matter is the fact that there are people who actively worship, and in some cases claim they converse, with demonic entities. Many of these interactions are stated to be similar in nature to Faust, in that they make a deal with the demon for some type of benefit. I’m not here to weigh in on whether these interactions are real or not – many people claim to speak to all sorts of ethereal beings, from God to ghosts, to demons, and many of their accounts are exceedingly convincing. But I’d like to run with the thesis that these interactions are real for a while, because if they are it opens up a very interesting can of worms.
Since demonic interpretations vary wildly throughout history, one aspect of demonology that is incredibly difficult to nail down is whether they can physically interfere with human life and affairs. The Malleus Maleficarum, for example, maintains that they cannot, because Earth is God’s domain and demons cannot interfere with God’s will. To me, this is logical, until you realize that a great portion of that book is about how witches use demons to interfere with gods will. King James, who edited one of the most popular versions of the Bible, believed fully that Witches, with the help of demons, were capable of manipulating matter and causing certain effects on the physical world. Anybody that believes in succubi believe that they can physically interact with the world.
Pretty clear cut, but it causes a problem. If demons can interact with physical matter, then why would they need humans? Often, humans are the vessel by which demons exert their will on the physical realms. I don’t feel that there are any good and definitive answers on this, and even people that I know personally that practice demon worship say that it’s indirect – through signs and signals. Browse Reddit, however, and there is no shortage of people that claim they have spoken and interacted with demons personally. As I have not attempted this myself, I don’t feel qualified to speak on it, and won’t take it much further than that. Because of my job, people assume that I summon demons and work with them, but I am stating definitively here that I don’t personally work with any ethereal beings and don’t see the benefit. If you do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Which leads me to my final topic of conversation.
Do demons exist?
The obvious answer is that I cannot definitely answer that either way. I have no great proof, or obvious flaws to account for this universal belief being in error. But I do have a theory on what exactly a demon is, despite the millennia of attempted descriptions.
To start, you have to understand that my personal beliefs on the supernatural are a little weird. I don’t believe in God or angels or demons. But I do believe in energy. Energy exists, and we do not fully understand the capabilities of it when it is manipulated. If you study Hermetics or esoteric Buddhism ( A topic I will tackle in this blog), a key belief is that you can, using your life energy, survive death in a conscious manner. Being a ghost, or maybe pure energy. This, to me, makes sense on a fundamental level, although there are problems, such as memories being data and having nowhere to store it as a being made of energy.
I posit that since humans have existed, we have been dying.
Just kidding. We’ve been dying and some people have met the energy requirements to survive death. These beings, over time, have learned how to temporarily reach into the physical realm, possess physical beings, and manipulate matter. They cannot do it permanently, however, and are for the most part constrained to being ethereal.
Another theory is that we created them by believing in them. That is a scary thought, because that would mean God exists and we created them, not the other way around. Once again, energy is not something we understand fully, and I do not place these ideas outside of the realm of possibility.
Thank you for reading!
The Malleus Maleficarum
The Demonology of King James
The Exorcist’s Handbook
The Dictionary Infernal
* Thanks to Tatiana for the Pokémon info.