What is a Demon?
A spirit whose actions are hurtful to humans. Demons don’t have a problem with killing people. They may be entities left over from the universe before our current reality or they may be from another reality. Demons can take many forms: They could appear as other humans, dogs, boars, serpents, or something quite evil-looking, like old hags.
Demons have been around for a very long time and they appeared in writing before Christianity. Unfortunately, their folklore and our theologies differ, so it’s hard to figure out their true origin. In most folk traditions, demons are the ghosts of evil people. If we use theology, then demons generally fall under the same group as fairies, ghosts and spirits.
The ancient world gave us demons and they spread to the West over the last millenia. The first written mention of demons came from Mesopotamia. (Note: Personally, we believe India and China had used them in oral history, but we’re using the written word for this post.) Clay tablets gave priests details on each demon and how to banish them. In ancient Egypt, demons were a common part of their religion and many people were well-versed in warding them off. During the Roman Empire, demonology really took off and these entities found themselves written into the literature of the day.
Demons and Christianity
Christianity absorbed much of its demon lore from Ancient Rome. It was common for priests to study demonology as part of angelology. They thought demons were fallen angels. These priests wrote vivid descriptions of Hell and the demons who inhabited it. During the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, priests used demons as the cause for each sides’ actions.
The Scientific Revolution brought an end to the demonology period in the late Renaissance period. After so much suffering from wars and witch hunts, science provided a framework for people to understand the world. It hasn’t worked out as well as thought, but it stills provides an alternative to the zealots’ worldview.
We could go on and on about this period, but we want to explore more about demons in other posts. The next in the series will focus on demon lore and information about demonic hauntings, assaults and possession. We’ll end the series with some magical remedies…if you believe in it.