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Demonology is the study of demons or beliefs about demons,[1] especially the methods used to summon and control them. The original sense of "demon", from the time of Homer onward, was a benevolent being,[2] but in English the name now holds connotations of malevolence. (In order to keep the distinction, when referring to the word in its original Greek meaning English may use the spelling "Daemon" or "Daimon".)

Demons, when regarded as spirits, may belong to either of the classes of spirits recognized by primitive animism.[3] That is to say, they may be human, or non-human, separable souls, or discarnate spirits which have never inhabited a body. A sharp distinction is often drawn between these two classes, notably by the Melanesians, several African groups, and others. The Arab jinn, for example, are not reducible to modified human souls. At the same time these classes are frequently conceived as producing identical results, e.g. diseases.[4][2]

The word demonology is from Greek , daim?n, "divinity, divine power, god";[5] and -, -logia.

Prevalence of demons

According to some societies, all the affairs of life are supposed to be under the control of spirits, each ruling a certain "element" or even object, and themselves in subjection to a greater spirit.[6] For example, the Inuit are said to believe in spirits of the sea, earth and sky, the winds, the clouds and everything in nature. Every cove of the seashore, every point, every island and prominent rock has its guardian spirit. All are potentially of the malignant type, to be propitiated by an appeal to knowledge of the supernatural.[7] Traditional Korean belief posits countless demons inhabit the natural world; they fill household objects and are present in all locations. By the thousands they accompany travelers, seeking them out from their places in the elements.[8]

In ancient Babylon, demonology had an influence on even the most mundane elements of life, from petty annoyances to the emotions of love and hatred. The numerous demonic spirits were given charge over various parts of the human body, one for the head, one for the neck, and so on.

Greek philosophers such as Porphyry, who claimed influence from Platonism,[9] and the fathers of the Christian Church, held that the world was pervaded with spirits,[8] the latter of whom advanced the belief that demons received the worship directed at pagan gods.[10]

Many religions and cultures believe, or once believed, that what is now known as soothsaying, was, or is, a form of physical contact with demons.[]

Character of the spiritual world

The ascription of malevolence to the world of spirits is by no means universal. In Central Africa, the Mpongwe believe in local spirits, just as do the Inuit; but they are regarded as inoffensive in the main. Passers-by must make some trifling offering as they near the spirits' place of abode; but it is only occasionally mischievous acts, such as the throwing down of a tree on a passer-by, are, in the view of the natives, perpetuated by the class of spirits known as Ombuiri.[11]

So too, many of the spirits especially concerned with the operations of nature are conceived as neutral or even benevolent; the European peasant fears the corn-spirit only when he irritates him by trenching on his domain and taking his property by cutting the corn;[12] similarly, there is no reason why the more insignificant personages of the pantheon should be conceived as malevolent, and we find that the Petara of the Dyaks are far from indiscriminate and malignant, being viewed as invisible guardians of mankind.[13]


Demons are generally classified as spirits which are believed to enter into relations with the human race. As such the term includes:

  1. angels in the Judeo-Christian tradition that fell from grace,[2]
  2. malevolent genii or familiars,[14]
  3. such as receive a cult (e.g., ancestor worship),[2]
  4. ghosts or other malevolent revenants.[15]

Excluded are souls conceived as inhabiting another world. Yet just as gods are not necessarily spiritual, demons may also be regarded as corporeal; vampires for example are sometimes described as human heads with appended entrails, which issue from the tomb to attack the living during the night watches. The so-called Spectre Huntsman of the Malay Peninsula is said to be a man who scours the firmament with his dogs, vainly seeking for what he could not find on Earth -a buck mouse-deer pregnant with male offspring; but he seems to be a living man; there is no statement that he ever died, nor yet that he is a spirit. The incubi and Succubi of the Middle Ages are sometimes regarded as spiritual beings; but they were held to give proof of their bodily existence, such as offspring (though often deformed).[16] Belief in demons goes back many millennia. The Zoroastrian faith teaches that there are 3,333 Demons, some with specific dark responsibilities such as war, starvation, sickness, etc.

Ancient Near East

In Babylonian mythology, the seven evil deities were known as shedu, or "storm-demons". They were represented in winged bull form, derived from the colossal bulls used as protective genii of royal palaces, the name "shed" assumed also the meaning of a propitious genius in Babylonian magic literature.[17] It was from Chaldea that the name "shedu" came to the Israelites, and so the writers of the Tanach applied the word Shedim to certain Canaanite deities. They also spoke of "the destroyer" (Exodus xii. 23) as a Lord who will "strike down the Egyptians." In II Samuel xxiv; 16 and II Chronicles xxi. 15 the pestilence-dealing angel, that is spirit, called "the destroying angel" (compare "the angel of the Lord" in II Kings xix. 35; Isaiah xxxvii. 36).


Traditionally, Buddhism affirms the existence of hells[18] peopled by demons who torment sinners and tempt mortals to sin, or who seek to thwart their enlightenment, with a demon named Mara as chief tempter, "prince of darkness," or "Evil One" in Sanskrit sources.[19][20]

The followers of Mara were also called mara, the devils, and are frequently cited as a cause of disease or representations of mental obstructions.[20] The mara became fully assimilated into the Chinese worldview, and were called mo.

The idea of the imminent decline and collapse of the Buddhist religion amid a "great cacophony of demonic influences" was already a significant component of Buddhism when it reached China in the first century A.D., according to Michel Strickmann.[20] Demonic forces had attained enormous power in the world. For some writers of the time this state of affairs had been ordained to serve the higher purpose of effecting a "preliminary cleansing" that would purge and purify humanity in preparation for an ultimate, messianic renewal.[20]

Medieval Chinese Buddhist demonology was heavily influenced by Indian Buddhism. Indian demonology is also fully and systematically described in written sources, though during Buddhism's millennium of direct influence in China, "Chinese demonology was whipped into respectable shape," with a number of Indian demons finding permanent niches even in Taoist ritual texts.[20]

Also, ra?gama S?tra, a major Mahayana Buddhism text, describes fifty demonic states: the so-called fifty skandha maras, which are "negative" mirror-like reflections of or deviations from correct sam?dhi (meditative absorption) states. In this context demons are considered by Buddhists to be beings possessing some supernatural powers, who, in the past, might have practiced Dharma, Buddha's teaching, but due to practicing it incorrectly failed to develop Prajñ? (Buddhism), true wisdom and Karu, true compassion, which are inseparable attributes of an enlightened being such as a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. In his autobiography, The Blazing Splendor, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist master of the 20th century describes encounters with such beings. Therefore, depending on the context, in Buddhism demons may refer to both disturbed mind states and actual beings.


Christian demonology is the study of demons from a Christian point of view. It is primarily based on the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament), the exegesis of these scriptures, the writings of early Christian philosophers and hermits, tradition, and legends incorporated from other beliefs.

A number of authors throughout Christian history have written about demons for a variety of purposes. Theologians like Thomas Aquinas wrote concerning the behaviors of which Christians should be aware,[21] while witchhunters like Heinrich Kramer wrote about how to find and what to do with people they believed were involved with demons.[22] Some texts such as the Lesser Key of Solomon[23] or The Grimoire of Pope Honorius (although these, the earliest manuscripts, were from well after these individuals had died) are written with instructions on how to summon demons in the name of God and often were claimed to have been written by individuals respected within the Church.[24] These latter texts were usually more detailed, giving names, ranks, and descriptions of demons individually and categorically.[25] Most Christians commonly reject these texts as either diabolical or fictitious.[25]

In modern times, some demonological texts have been written by Christians, usually in a similar vein of Thomas Aquinas, explaining their effects in the world and how faith may lessen or eliminate damage by them.[26] A few Christian authors, such as Jack Chick and John Todd, write with intentions similar to Kramer, proclaiming that demons and their human agents are active in the world.[27] These claims can stray from mainstream ideology, and may include such beliefs as that Christian rock is a means through which demons influence people.

Not all Christians believe that demons exist in the literal sense. There is the view that the language of exorcism in the New Testament is an example of what was once employed to describe the healings of what would be classified in modern days as epilepsy, mental illness etc.[28]


Vedic Scriptures include a range of spirits (Vetalas, Rakshasas, Bhutas and Pishachas) that might be classified as demons. These spirits are souls of beings that have committed certain specific sins. As a purging punishment, they are condemned to roam without a physical form for a length of time, until a rebirth. Beings that died with unfulfilled desires or anger are also said to "linger" until such issues are resolved. Hindu text Atharvaveda gives an account of nature and habitats of such spirits including how to persuade/control them. There are occult traditions in Hinduism that seeks to control such spirits to do their bidding. Hindu text Garuda Purana details other kinds of punishments and judgments given out in Hell; this also given an account of how the spirit travels to neither worlds.


Demonology as a subject studying evil and occult beings, its Islamic equivalent would deal with Shayateen, but instead usually focus on the Jinn,[29] although their attitude towards humans can differ and they can be good and evil. Accordingly, Demonology in Islam does not focus on evil spirits contrasting an Angelology of good spirits,[30] rather deals with all sorts of invisible beings, including devils, Jinn, angels and several supernatural creatures appearing in Islamic folklore with no meaning in Islamic theology.


Islam integrated the concept of Jinn from pre-Islamic animism,[31] but reduced the status of the former divine Jinn to mortals and created entities, who share the earth along with humans and will be judged on judgement Day by the only one God. Accordingly, the society of Jinn resembles that of humans, and are believed to procreate, eat, sleep, die and practise religion. Due to their similarities with humans, several narrations hold, that humans and Jinn may have sexual interactions and some legal book even deal with conditions of a marriage between these different beings.[32] Nevertheless, Islam forbids interaction with Jinn.[33] The Jinn may also cause possession and harm humans, but Jinn attacks are considered as an result of their own intention instead of evil nature, although an individual Jinni maybe evil, but then because of its own decision. The Jinn live either in an intermediary realm, between the divine world and the physical plane, like the Greek Daemon and ancient Rome Genii[31] or roaming earth invisible to humans eye.


The concept of Shayataun (devils/satans) in Islam parallels the Christian concept of demons and was probably introduced together with angels to Arabian lore by Islam. They are hold to be the servants of Iblis, who was, like in Christian thought, banished from heaven. If Iblis himself was originally an Angel or a Jinni is controversial in Islamic belief,[34] yet after his fall, he turned into a Shaitan and then fathered the Shayateen.[35] The Shayateen do not die until the last day and can not become believers, therefore they are always evil, seeking for leading humans astray from God, by whispering to the hearts. Furthermore, the term Shaitan and Jinn may overlap, since an evil Jinni is also called Shaitan, like evil humans may also be called Shaitan if they are considered to be purely evil.


Angels in Islam are heavenly beings, who fulfill specific tasks received by God. They have no desires predicted by nature world, therefore they do not eat, drink or procreate, but they may take on human shape, during their visits on earth. The most elected angels inhabit Jabarut [36] lower angels dwell in realms below, there they can be encountered by humans in visions and dreams, other even may govern hell. A relationship between God and heavenly beings, like made in pre-Islamic Arabia, is refused. In Islam, God is not comparable to any spiritual, incorporeal or corporeal entity.


Some scholars[who?] suggest the origins of early Jewish demonology can be traced to two distinctive and often competing mythologies of evil - Adamic and Enochic, one of which was tied to the fall of man caused by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the other to the fall of angels in the antediluvian period.[37] Thus, the Adamic story traces the source of evil to Satan's transgression and the fall of man, a trend reflected in the Books of Adam and Eve which explains the reason for Satan's demotion by his refusal to obey God's command to venerate newly created Adam.

In contrast, the early Enochic tradition bases its understanding of the origin of demons on the story of the fallen Watchers led by Azazel. Scholars[who?] believe these two enigmatic figures - Azazel and Satan exercised formative influence on early Jewish demonology. While in the beginning of their conceptual journeys Azazel and Satan are posited as representatives of two distinctive and often rival trends tied to the distinctive etiologies of corruption, in later Jewish and Christian demonological lore both antagonists are able to enter each other's respective stories in new conceptual capacities. In these later traditions Satanael is often depicted as the leader of the fallen angels while his conceptual rival Azazel is portrayed as a seducer of Adam and Eve.[38] While historical Judaism never "officially" recognized a rigid set of doctrines about demons,[39] many scholars[who?] believe its post-exilic concepts of eschatology, angelology, and demonology were influenced by Zoroastrianism.[40][41] Some, however, believe these concepts were received as part of the Kabbalistic tradition.[42]

While many people believe today Lucifer and Satan are different names for the same being, not all scholars subscribe to this view.[43] Use of the name "Lucifer" for the devil stems from a particular interpretation of Isaiah 14:3-20, a passage which does not speak of any fallen angel but of the defeat of a particular Babylonian King, to whom it gives a title which refers to what in English is called the Day Star or Morning Star (in Latin, lucifer, meaning "light-bearer", from the words lucem ferre). In 2 Peter 1:19 and elsewhere, the same Latin word lucifer is used to refer to the Morning Star, with no relation to the devil. It is only in post-New Testament times when the Latin word Lucifer was used as a name for the devil, both in religious writing and in fiction, especially when referring to him prior to his fall from Heaven.

There is more than one instance where demons are said to have come to be, as seen by the sins of the Watchers and the Grigori angels, of Lilith leaving Adam, of demons such as vampires, impure spirits in Jewish folklore such as the dybbuk, and of wicked humans that have become demons as well.[44][45]


Satanism is a name for a diverse group of religions which regard demons in general and Satan in particular as positive entities, either as real entities to be worshiped (Theistic Satanism), or using Satan and other demons as symbols (LaVeyan Satanism).


In the Zoroastrian tradition, Ahura Mazda, as the force of good Spenta Mainyu, will eventually be victorious in a cosmic battle with an evil force known as Angra Mainyu or Ahriman.[46]

See also


  1. ^ "Demonology" at Unabridged, (v 1.1) Random House, Inc.. Retrieved January 29, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d van der Toorn, Becking, van der Horst (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in The Bible, Second Extensively Revised Edition, Entry: Demon, pp. 235-240, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8028-2491-9
  3. ^ Animism at The Catholic Encyclopedia
  4. ^ "Demon" from Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, © 2006 World Almanac Education Group, retrieved from
  5. ^ Autenrieth, A Homeric Lexicon
  6. ^ Ludwig, Theodore M., The Sacred Paths: Understanding the Religions of the World, Second Edition, pp. 48-51, © 1989 Prentice-Hall, Inc., ISBN 0-02-372175-8
  7. ^ Rink, Henry (1875), "Chapter IV: Religion" of Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, London, 1875, at
  8. ^ a b Demonology at the Online Encyclopedia, Originally appearing in Volume V08, Page 10 of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. ^ Cumont, Franz (1911), The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, Chapter VI: Persia, p. 267 at
  10. ^ Augustine, The City of God, Book 8, Chapter 24, at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  11. ^ Hamill Nassau, Robert (Rev.) M.D., S.T.D., (1904), Fetichism in West Africa, Chapter V: Spiritual Beings in Africa - Their Classes and Functions, Charles Scribners Son
  12. ^ Frazer, Sir James George (1922), The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion, Chapter 46, "The Corn-Mother in Many Lands," at The University of Adelaide Library Archived September 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Greem, Eda (c. 1909), Borneo: The Land of River and Palm at the Project Canterbury website
  14. ^ Demon, entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper, hosted at
  15. ^ Ghost, entry in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2000, Houghton Mifflin Company, hosted at
  16. ^ Masello, Robert, Fallen Angels and Spirits of The Dark, pp. 64-68, © 2004, The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10016, ISBN 0-399-51889-4
  17. ^ See Delitzsch, Assyrisches Handwörterbuch. pp. 60, 253, 261, 646; Jensen, Assyr.-Babyl. Mythen und Epen, 1900, p. 453; Archibald Sayce, l.c. pp. 441, 450, 463; Lenormant, l.c. pp. 48-51.
  18. ^ Boeree, Dr. C. George (2000), Chapter: "Buddhist Cosmology", An Introduction to Buddhism, Shippensburg University
  19. ^ "Demon" and "Mara" in the Glossary of Buddhist Terms at
  20. ^ a b c d e Strickmann, Michel. Chinese Magical Medicine,(2002) Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3449-6
  21. ^ Thomas Acquinas's Summa Theologica, Question 114, hosted on New Advent
  22. ^ Malleus Maleficarum, hosted on the Internet Sacred Text Archive
  23. ^ Lesser Key of Solomon, The Conjuration To Call Forth Any of the Aforesaid Spirits, hosted on Internet Sacred Text Archive
  24. ^ Arthur Edward Waite, Book of Ceremonial Magic, page 64 and page 106
  25. ^ a b "Waite, page 64". Retrieved . 
  26. ^ Jessie Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints on Google Books, introductory chapter
  27. ^ "The Broken Cross - by Jack T. Chick". Retrieved . 
  28. ^ "The Devil, Satan And Demons". Retrieved . 
  29. ^ Benjamin W. McCraw, Robert Arp Philosophical Approaches to DemonologyRoutledge 2017 ISBN 978-1-315-46675-0 page 20
  30. ^ Tobias Nünlist Dämonenglaube im Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015 ISBN 978-3-110-33168-4 page 60 (German)
  31. ^ a b F. E. Peters The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II: The Words and Will of God, Band 2 Princeton University Press 2009 ISBN 978-1-400-82571-4 page 132
  32. ^ Sahaja Carimokam Muhammad and the People of the Book Muhammad and the People of the Book 2010 ISBN 978-1-453-53785-5 page 105
  33. ^ John Andrew Morrow Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism McFarland, 2013 ISBN 978-0-786-45848-6 page 69
  34. ^ Scott B. Noegel, Brannon M. Wheeler The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism Scarecrow Press 2010 ISBN 978-1-461-71895-6 page 132
  35. ^ name="Robert Lebling ">Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3
  36. ^ N. Hanif Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East Sarup & Sons 2002 ISBN 978-8-176-25266-9 page 307
  37. ^ A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (Albany, SUNY, 2011) 6.
  38. ^ A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (Albany, SUNY, 2011) 7.
  39. ^ Mack, Carol K., Mack, Dinah (1998), A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits, p. XXXIII, New York: Henry Holt and Co., ISBN 0-8050-6270-X
  40. ^ Zoroastrianism, NET Bible Study Dictionary
  41. ^ Jahanian, Daryoush, M.D., "The Zoroastrian-Biblical Connections," at
  42. ^ Franck, Adolphe (1843), translated by Sossnitz, I. (1926), The Kabbalah, or, The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews, Part Two, Chapter IV, "Continuation of The Analysis of The Zohar: The Kabbalists' View of The World," p. 184 at
  43. ^ Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Free Press, p. 176, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 66-19757, ISBN 9780029070505
  44. ^ Demonology at
  45. ^ Josephus, Flavius, Wars of The Jews, Book VII, Chapter VI.
  46. ^ "Who are the Zoroastrians," at


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Demonology". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links

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