1902 Encyclopedia > Demonology


DEMONOLOGY. The word demon (or daemon) is the Greek daimon, the etymology of which is too doubtful to explain its original signification (see Pott, Etym. Forsch., ii. 1, 947).

Setting aside the use of the word in the general sense of deity (as in Iliad, i. 222), we find it employed in classic Greek literature with the more specific meaning under which it becomes an important term in the science of religion. Among the most instructive passages are those in which Hesiod tells how the men of the golden race became after death demons, guardians or watchers over mortals (Hesiod, Op. et Dies, 109, &c; see Welcker, Griech. Götterlehre, vol. i. p. 731), and where the doctrines of Empedocles, Plato, and other philosophers are set forth, showing how the demons came to be defined as good and evil beings intermediate between gods and men (Plutarch, De Defect. Orac., De Isid. Et Osir., De Vitand. Aer. Alien., &c.; Plato, Symposion, 28; Diog. Laert., Vit. Pythag.; see Grote, History of Greece, vol. i.chaps. 2,17).

The religions of the world usually recognize and order of spiritual beings, below the rank of governing deities, and distinguished from nature-spirits such as elves and nymphs by being especially concerned with living men and their affairs; these beings, very often themselves considered to be ghosts of dead men, are the demons.

The earlier and wider notion may be friendly or hostile, good or evil, persecuting and tormenting man or acting as his protecting and informing patron-spirits; while, when they are mediators or ministers of some higher deity, they will be, like the god himself, kindly or ill-disposed. A narrower definition was introduced in Christian theology where the ideas of a good demon and guardian genius were merged in the general conception of good "angels", while the term demon was appropriated to evil spirits, or "devil". For scientific purposes, it is desirable to use the term in the wider sense.

Demonology, the branch of the science of religion which relates to demons, is much obscured in the treatises of old writers by their taking the evidence too exclusively from among civilized nations, and neglecting what is to be learnt from barbarous tribes, whose ideas of demon, being nearer their primitive state, are comparatively clear and comprehensible.

When savage notions of the nature and functions of these spirits are taken as the starting-point, the demon appears as only a more or less modified human soul – whether it is still actually considered to be a human ghost, or whether part of the human quality has fallen away, so that only traces are left to show that man’s soul furnished the original model. But when such early and natural animistic conceptions were carried on into higher stages of culture, their original use as explaining natural phenomena was gradually superseded by the growth of knowledge, and they came to be maintained as broken-down and confused superstitions, only to be understood by comparison with their earlier forms. Such comparison, however, is facilitated by the primitive demon-ideas cropping up anew even in civilized life, as in the so-called "spirit-manifestations" of the present day.

The following details will show the main purposes which the doctrine of demons served in the philosophy of the primitive and savage world, as well as its large contribution to civilized superstition. The authorities, when not mentioned will mostly be found referred to in Tylor, Primitive Culture, chaps, xvi. xv. Other cases are given in Spencer, Principles of Sociology, vol. i., and every reader may supplement them with similar instances from the works of travellers and missionaries. Prof. Adolf Bastian’s Der Mensch in der Geschichte and Beiträge zur Vergleichenden Psychologie are of great value to students.

Among races of low culture, the conception of a ghost-soul being made to account for the phenomena of life (see article ANIMISM) readily leads to a corresponding theory of morbid states of body and mind. As the man’s proper soul causes the functions of normal life by its presence, while its more or less continued absence induces sleep, trance, and at last death, so the abnormal phenomena of disease have a sufficient explanation at hand in the idea that some other soul or soul-like spirit is acting on or has entered into the patient.

Among the cases which strongly suggest this are – first, such derangements as hysteria, epilepsy, and madness, where the raving and convulsions seem to bystanders like the acts of some other being in possession of the patient’s body, and even the patient is apt to think so when he "comes to himself", and, second, internal diseases where severe pain or wasting away may be ascribed to some unseen being wounding or gnawing within.

The applicability of demoniacal possession as a theory to explain disease in general is best proved by the fact that it is so often thus applied by savage races. Especially, reasoning out the matter in similar ways, rude tribes in different countries have repeatedly arrived at the conclusion that disease are caused by the surviving souls or ghost of the dead, who appear to the living in dreams and visions, thus proving at once their existence after death, and their continued concern with mankind.

This notion being once set on foot, it becomes easy to the savage mind to identify the particular spirit, as when the Tasmanian ascribed a gnawing disease to his having unwittingly pronounces the name of a dead man, who thus summoned has crept into his body, and is consuming his liver; or when the sick Zulu believes that some dead ancestor he sees in a dream has caused his ailment, wanting to be propitiated with the sacrifice of an ox; or when the Samoan persuades himself that the ancestral souls, who on occasion reveal themselves by talking through the voices of living members of the family, are the same beings who will take up their abode in the heads or stomachs of living men and cause their illness and death.

Here, then, the demon appears in what seems its original character of a human ghost.

We may notice in the last example the frequent case of the man’s mind being so thoroughly under the belief in a spirit possessing him that he speaks in the person of that spirit, and gives its name; the bearing of this on oracular possession will appear presently.

In many, perhaps in most cases, however, the disease-demon is nor specially described as a human ghost; for instance, some Malay tribes in their simple theory of diseases are content to say that one kind of demon causes small-pox, another brings on swellings, and so on.

The question is whether in such cases the human character has merely dropped away, and this seems likely from the very human fashion in which the demons are communicated with offerings of food, or driven away with noises and blows, just as though they were human souls accessible to the same motives as when they were in the body.

Thus the savage theory of demoniacal possession has for its natural result the practice of exorcism or banishment of the spirit as the regular means of cure, as where, to select these from hundreds of instances, the Antilles Indians in Columbus’s time went through the pretence of pulling the disease off the patient and blowing it away, bidding it begone to the mountain or the sea or where the Patagonians till lately, believing every sick person to be possessed by an evil demon, drove it away by beating at the bed’s head a drum painted with figures of devils.

That such modern savage notions fairly represent the doctrine of disease-possession in the ancient world is proved by the records of the earliest civilized nations. The very charms still exist by which the ancient Egyptians resisted the attacks of the wicked souls who, become demons, entered the bodies of men to torment them with diseases and drive them to furious madness. The doctrine of disease among the ancient Babylonians was that the swarming spirits of the air entered man’s body, and it was the exorcist’s, "the burning spirit of the entrails which devours the man", and to make the piercing pains in the head fly away "like grasshoppers" into the sky. (See records of the past, vols. i., iii., &c.; Birch’s trans. of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, see below; Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l’Orient, p. 41; Lenormant, La Magie chez les Chaldeens, &c.)

The transition-stage of the ancient belief in the classical period of Greece and Rome is particularly interesting. The scientific doctrine of medicine was beginning to encroach upon it, but it was still current opinion that a fit was an attack by a demon (epilepsis = "seizure", hence English epilepsy), that fury or madness was demoniacal possession (daimonao = to be possessed by an evil spirit, hence English daemoniac, &c.), that madmen were "larvati", i.e., inhabited by ghosts, &c.

No record shows the ancient theory more clearly than the New Testament, from the explicit way in which the symptoms of the various affections are described, culminating in the patient declaring the name of his possessing demon, and answering in his person when addressed. The similarity of the symptoms with those which in barbarous countries are still accounted for in the ancient way may be seen form such statements as the following, by a well-known missionary (Rev. J. L. Wilson, Western Africa, p. 217):-- "Demonical possessions are common, and the feats performed by those who are supposed to be under such influence are certainly not unlike those described in the New Testament. Frantic gestures, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, feats of supernatural strength, furious ravings, bodily lacerations, gnashing of teeth, and other things of a similar character, may be witnesses in most of the cases."

Among the early Christians the demoniacs or energumens (energumenoi) formed a special class under the control of a clerical order of exorcists, and a mass of evidence drawn from such writers as Cyril, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Minutius Felix, shows that the symptoms of those possessed were such as modern physicians would class under hysteria, epilepsy, lunacy, &c. (See their works, and refs. In Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church; Maury,
La Magie et l’Astrologie, part ii, ch. 2, &c.) Some theologians, while in deference to advanced medical knowledge they abandon the primitive theory of demons causing such diseases in our own time, place themselves in an embarrassing position by maintaining, on the supposed sanction of Scripture, that the same symptoms were really caused by demonical possession in the 1st century.

A full statement of the arguments on both sides of this once important controversy will be found in earlier editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, but for our times it seems too like a discussion whether the earth was really flat in the ages when it was believed to be so, but became round since astronomers provided a different explanation of the same phenomena.

It is more profitable to notice how gradual the change of opinion has been from the doctrine of demon-possession to the scientific theory of disease, and how largely the older view still survives in the world. Not only in savage districts, but in counties whose native civilization is below the European level, such as India and China, the curious observer may still see the exorcist expel the malignant ghost or demon from the patient afflicted with fever, dizziness, frenzy, or any unaccountable ailment. (See Ward, History of the Hindoos, vol. i. p. 155, vol. ii. p. 183; Roberts, Oriental illustrations of the Scriptures, p. 529; Doolittle , Social Life of the Chinese.)

The unbroken continuance of the belief in mediaeval Europe may be gathered from such works as the excellent treatise by Maury, La Magie et l’Astrologie dans l’Antiquité et au Moyen Age, already referred to, Even in the 18th century was published with ecclesiastical approval a regular exorcist’s manual, the Fustis et Flagellum Daemonum, Auctore R.P.F. Hiernimo Mengo (1727), which among its curious contents gives instructions how to get the better of those cunning demons who hide in the bodies of men and vex them with diseases, and which are apt when expelled to take refuge in the patient’s hair.

The gradual shifting of opinion is marked by the attempt to reconcile the older demonology with the newer medicine. This argument, which appears among the early Christian fathers, is worked out most elaborately in that curious museum of demonology, the Disquisitiones Magicae of Martin Delrio, published as the late as 1720. While inveighing against those physicians who maintain that all diseases have natural causes, this learned Jesuit admits that men may be dumb, epileptic, or lunatic without being obsessed; but what the demons do is that, finding the deposition of epileptics suitable, they insinuate themselves into them; also they attack lunatics, especially at full moon, when their brains are full of humours, or they introduce disease by stirring up the black bile, sending blacks into the brain ears and eyes to cause deafness and blindness.

Looking at the date of this celebrated work, we cannot wonder that in benighted districts of Europe the old diabolical possession and its accompanying exorcism may still now and then be met with, as in 1861 at Morzine in Savoy. [Footnote 60-1] (See A. Constans, Relation sur une Epidémie d’Hystero-Démonopathie, Paris, 1863.)

One of the last notable cases of this kind in England was that of George Lukins of Yatton, a knavish epileptic out of whom seven devils were exorcised by seven clergymen, at the Temple Church at Bristol, on June 13, 1788. (See Encyclopaedia Britannica 3rd to 6th editions, art. "Possession".)

The derivation of the ideas of demons from the phantoms seen in dreams has already been instanced where the apparition is that of a dead man, but there are peculiar kinds of demons which are to be considered specially from this point of view. In savage animism, as among the Australians, what we call a nightmare is of course recognized as a demon; and though we have long learnt to interpret it subjectively as arising from some action of the sleeper’s brain, it is interesting to remember that its name remains proof of the same idea among our ancestors (Anglo Saxon maer = spirit, elf, &c., compare old German mar = elf, demon, nahtmar = nightmare, -- see Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, p. 433).

The vampires, or drinkers (Old Russian upir), well known in Slavonic regions, are a variety of the nightmare, being witch-souls or ghosts who suck the blood of living victims, thus accounting for their becoming pale and bloodless, and falling into decline. (See Grohmann, Aberlauben aus Böhmen, p. 24; Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p.410.)

From dreams are avowedly formed the notions of incubi and succubi, those nocturnal demons who consort with women and men in their sleep. From the apparent distinctness of their evidence, these being are of course well known in savage demonology, and in connection with them there already arises among uncultured races the idea that children may be engendered between spirits and human mothers. (See Martin, Mariner’s Tonga Islands, vol. ii. p. 119).

For an ancient example of the general belief in this class of demons, no better could be chosen than that of the early Assyrians, whose name for a succubus, Lilit, evidently gave rise to the Rabbinical tale of Adam’s demon-wife Lilith. (See Lenormant, op. cit. p. 36.)

The literature of mediaeval sorcery abounds in mentions of this belief, of which the absurd pseudo-philosophical side comes well into view in the chapter of Delrio (lib. ii. quaest. 15), "An sint unquam daemons incubi et succubae , et an ex tali congressu proles nasci queat?" [Have there ever been demons, incubi and succubae, and from such a union can offspring be born?].

But its serious side is shown by the accusation of consorting with such demons being one of the main charges in the infamous bull of Innocent VIII., which brought judicial torture and death upon so many thousands of wretched so-called witches. (See Roskoff, Geschichte des Teufels, vol. ii. p. 222)

It further throws light on demonology that the frightful spectres seen in such affections as delirium tremens have of course been interpreted as real demons.

It is needless to give instances from among savage tribes, for the connection between such phantoms and the doctrine of demoniacal possession is shown in its most primitive state in modern Europe. In the Fustis Daemonum, p. 42, it is mentioned that demons before entering human bodies are apt to appear in some terrible form or deformity, human or bestial, and while they seem to the patients suddenly to vanish, then they enter into their bodies. By this supposition the disappearance of the phantom and the accompanying illness of the delirious patient are ingeniously accounted for at one stroke.

Though the functions ascribed to demons in savage philosophy are especially connected with disease, they are by no means exclusively so, but the swarming host of spirits pervading the world is called to account for any events which seem to happen by some unseen but controlling influence. Some cause must lead the wild man to find game one day and come back empty another, to stumble and hurt himself in the dusk, to lose his way and become bewildered in the dark forest, where the cries of animals and other sounds seem to him spirit-voices misleading or mocking him. For all such events requiring explanation savages find personal causes in intervening demons, who are sometimes ghosts, as when an American Indian falling into the fire will say that an angry ancestral spirit pushed him in; or they may be simply spirits of undefined origin, like those whom the Australians regard as lurking everywhere, ready to do harm to the poor balk-fellow.

To compare this state of thought with that of the classic world, we have but to remember the remark of Hippocrates about the superstitious who believed themselves infested day and night by malicious demons, or the Roman’s fear of those harmful ghost-demons, the lemurs, whom they got rid of by the quaint ceremonies of the annual Lemuralia.

How permanent these demon-ideas have been from the infancy of culture, may be well shown by the permanence of the practice of holding at intervals, such special ceremonies to expel them. In Siam the people first hunt the demons out of the houses, and then drive them with cannon-shots through the streets till they get them outside the walls into the forest. In Old Calabar they put puppets along the streets leading to the sea, to entice the demons into, and then at dead of night a sudden rush is made by the Negroes with whips and torches to drive the spirits down into the sea. Not only do other barbaric regions, such as the South Sea Islands and Peru, furnish similar examples of the expulsion of demons, but it may still be seen among European peasantry. In Sweden, Easter-tide is the season for the general purging of the land from the evil spirits and trolls of the old heathendom; and in many parts of Germany unseen witches are to this day driven out on Walpurgis-night with crack of whip and blast of horn. (See a collection of cases in Bastian and Hartman, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1869, p. 189; also Hylten-Cavallius, Wärend och Wirdarne, part i. p. 1780).

In these cases it is generally unfavourable influence which are considered as due to the demons. But favourable events are even by savages often recognized as due to the guardian or patron demon, whose help accounts for what among ourselves is often not much more rationally considered to be "luck". It is often recognized ancestral soul which from natural affection undertakes this duty, as when a Tasmanian has been known to account for escape from danger by the idea that his father’s soul was still watching over him.

But it need not be so; and among the American Indians or West Africans, where each man lives in constant imaginary intercourse with his patron-spirit, talking with it, making it offerings, and trusting to its guidance in difficulty and protection from danger, this spirit may be revealed in a dream or vision, and is often connected with some object known as a "medicine" or "fetish", but is seldom identified with any particular ghost. In Greek literature this idea is best exemplified by the lines of Menander on the good demon whom every man has from birth as his guide through the mysteries of life (ap. Clem. Alex., Stromat. V.); the most popularly known example is the so-called "demon" of Socrates, but he himself did not give such personal definiteness to the divine or daemonic influence (daimonion) which warned him by what he described as a voice or sign (see Zeller, Socrates, ch. 4).

The primitive idea of the patron spirit is carried on in the Roman genius, whose name (even without the addition of "natalis") indicates that it is born with the person whom it accompanies through life.

Its place very closely corresponds to that occupied in modern folklore by the guardian angel. There are districts in France where a peasant meeting another, salutes not only the man, but this "companion", the guardian angel who is supposed to be invisibly at his side.

Among attendant and patron demons, as recognized in the general belief of mankind, a specially important class is formed by the familiar spirits who accompany sorcerers, giving them mysterious knowledge, uttering oracular responses through their voices, enabling them to perform wonderful feats, bringing them treasures or injuring their enemies, and doing other spiritual services for them.

From the descriptions of sorcerers among the lower nations, it is at once evident that their supposed intercourse with demons is closely connected with the symptoms of disease possession. Thus among the Zulus, "the disease which precedes the power of divine" is distinctly hysterical, the patient’s morbid sensitiveness and intensely vivid imagination of sights and voices fitting well with his persuassion that he is under the control of some ancestral ghost. So well is this connection recognized among races like the Patagonians and rude tribes of Siberia, that children with an hereditary tendency to epilepsy are brought up to the profession of magicians.

Where the sorcerer has not naturally such symptoms of possession by a controlling demon, he is apt to ring them on by violent dancing and beating drums, or by drug, or to stimulate them by mere knavery; which latter is really the most convincing proof that the original notion of the demon of the magician did not arise for imposture, but from actual belief that the morbid excitement, hallucination, and raving consequent on mental disease were caused by spirits other than the man’s own soul, in possession of his body.

The primitive and savage theory of inspiration by another spirit getting inside the body is most materialistic, and cheating sorcerers accordingly use ventriloquism of the original kind, which (as its name implies) is supposed to be caused by the voice of a demon inside the body of the speaker, who really himself talks in a feigned human voice, or in squeaking or whistling tones thought suitable to the thin-bodies spirit-visitor.

The familiar spirit may be a human ghost or some other demon and may either be supposed to enter the man’s body or only to come into his presence, which is somewhat the same difference as whether in disease the demon "possesses" or "obsesses" a patient, i.e., controls him from inside or outside. Thus the Greenland angekok, or sorcerer, is described as following his profession by the aid of a torngak, or familiar spirit (who may be an ancestral ghost), whom he summons by drumming, and with whom he is heard by the bystanders to carry on a conversation within the hut, obtaining information which enables him to advise as to the treatment of the sick, the prospect of good and bad weather, and the other topics of the business of a soothsayer.

Passing over the intermediate space which divides the condition of savages from that of mediaeval or modern Europeans, we shall find, so far as the doctrine of familiar demons has survived, that it has changed but little in principle. In the witch trials a favourite accusation was that of having a familiar demon. Sir Walter Scott’s Demonology and Witchcraft contains among others the case of Bessie Dunlop, whose familiar was the ghost of one Thome Reid, killed at the battle of Pinkie (1547), who enabled her to give answers to such as consulted her about the ailments of human beings or cattle, or recovery of things lost or stolen. This miserable woman, chiefly on her own confession, was as usual "convict and burnt". Here the imagined demon was a human soul, but other spirits called Hudhart, who enabled a certain Highland woman to prosphesy as to the conspiracy to murder James I. of Scotland.

Dissertations on the art of raising demons for the sorcerers’ service, and even the actual charms and ceremonies to be used, form a large part of the precepts of magical books. (See Ennemoser, History of Magic; Horst, Zauberbibliothek, and other works already cited.) Among the latest English books treating seriously of this "black art" is Sibly’s Illustration of the Occult Sciences, of which a 10th edition, in 4to, bears the date London, 1807. The statute of James I. of England enacts that all persons invoking any evil spirit, or consulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding any evil spirit, should be guilty of felony, and suffer death. This was not repealed till the reign of George II.

Educated public opinion has now risen above this level but popular credulity is still to be worked upon by much the same means as those employed by savage sorcerers professing intercourse with familiar spirits. At "spiritualistic séances" the convulsive and hysterical symptoms (pretended or real) of the "medium" under the "control of his guiding spirit" are much the same as those which may be seen among the Fijians or the hill-tribes of Burmah [Burma], while the feigned voice, supposed to indicate that it is some Negro or Irish spirit speaking through the medium’s organs, is often a clumsier performance than that of the New Zealand sorcerers, producing in thin squeaking tones the voice of a family ghost. Many of the special "manifestations", such as thumping and drumming in the dark, are those usual in the performances of the Siberian shamans, who also, in common with the Greenland angekoks, impose on the bystanders by the miraculous performance of the "rope-trick"; the "planchette-writing" by the guiding hand of a familiar spirit, has long been done by an inferior class of magicians in China. The crowning incident in the English proceedings is the "materialization" of the familiar spirit in a dimly-seen figure which, when a rush is made to seize it, proves to be a dull or the medium himself in drapery.

Returning to the general theory of demonology, two important principles have to be brought together under notice. As the religions of the world become more complexly organized, the various kinds of spirits divide into orders or ranks of a hierarchy; while with the growth of dualism the class of demons further arrange themselves as it were in two opposite camps, under the presiding good and evil deities.

The way in which such views may be developed is well seen in Bishop Callaway’s Religion of the Amazulu, among whom the ancestral ghosts (amatongo) carry on after death their friendly or hostile character, so that is general the ghosts of a man’s own family or tribe are friendly demons helping him and fighting on his side, while the ghosts of enemies remain hostile demons. In the religion of Congo, according to Magyar (Reisen in Süd-Afrika, 1849-57), the highest deity, Suku-Vakange, takes little interest in mankind, and the real government of the world belongs to the good and bad kilulu, -- spirits or demons. When a man dies, according to hisw circumstances in life he become a friend or enemy of the living, and thus passes among the good or bad kilulu. But as there are more bad spirits who torment than good who favour, man’s misery would be unbearable did not Suku-Vakange from time to time, enraged at the wickedness of the evil spirits, terrify them with thunder and smite the more obstinate with his bolts; then he returns ro rest and leaves the demons to rule again.

In the religion of the ancient Egyptians the dualistic system is worked out in the antagonism between the gods of light and the evil powers under the serpent Apap, whose long undulating form may be seen in those portions of the pictorial ritual of the dead which are painted on the mummy-cases. (See Birch’s translation of the Book of the Dead, in vol. c. of Bunsen, Egypt’s Place in Universal History) In the ancient Babylonian system the demons were classified in orders, and the minuteness with which their functions as personal causes of evil are assigned to them is well shown by the following passage from a cuneiform inscription" – "They assail country after country; they make the slave set himself up above his place; they make the son of the house leave his father; they make the young bird fly out of its nest; they make the ox and the lamb run away – the evil demons who set snares" (Lenormant, p. 29)

In Brahmanism and Buddhism which sprang from it, as well as in the ancient Persian religion, the various orders of spirits who come under the general definition of demons have large place. The latter faith, as represented in the Zend-Avesta, worked out to its extreme development the doctrines of the good and evil deities, Ahuramazda and Aura-mainyu (Ormuzd and Ahriman), each with his innumerable armies of spirits or demons, those of light, purity, and goodness being met in endless contention by the legions of darkness who seek to undo all good and spread foulness and sin around them. This remarkable system exercised strong influence on religions of later civilization. The later Jewish or Talmudic ideas are strongly leavened by it and it is in great measure due the rise of the Manichaean doctrine. The demonology of these systems may best be studied as part of their general doctrine, while their relation to the angelology and demonology of Christianity belongs to Christian theology.

Though in this short notice only a few illustrative cases are given as to the belief in demons, the great mass of details of the kind in the various religions of the world will be found to conform with them both as to the notion of demons being derived form the idea of the human soul, and as to their function in primitive philosophy being to serve as personal causes of events.

The principles of demonology thus form an interesting branch of intellectual history. But beside this, its names and formulas transmitted as they have been by the blind reverence of generations of magicians, preserve for the historical student some curious relics of antiquity. As a pendant to the already-mentioned Talmudic Lilith, the female nocturnal demon of ancient Assyria, may be noticed Asmodeus, famous on Le Sage’s novel Le Diable Boiteux, who is not only to be found in the book of Tobit and the Talmudic legend of King Solomon (see Eisenmenger, Enthdecktes Judenthum), but may be traced back still farther to his real origin in Aeshma daeva, one of the ancient Persian religions.

The conjurations and formulas for raising demons in the curious old book of magic which bears the name of Doctor Faustus (see reprint in Horst) are a wonderful medley of scraps from several religions. Their principal source, beside Christian invocations and fragments of ritual, is Hebrew, whether biblical or from the later Rabbinical books; Aziel, Faust’s own familiar, chosen because he can do his errands swift as thought, is apparently the fallen angel Azael of the Talmud, to whom Solomon goes every day for wisdom; Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Gabriel guard the four quarters of a mystic demon-circle; while the names of Satan and Pluto, Ariel, and Hesper, Petrus and Adonis, figure among incantations in dog-Latin and good high Dutch, and a mass of words reduced to gibberish beyond comprehension.

The study of demonology also brings into view the tendency of hostile religions to degrade into evil demons the deities of a rival faith. The ancient schism between two branches of the Aryan race, which separated the Zarathustrian religion from the Vedic religion, now represented by Brahmanism, is nowhere better marked than in the fact that the devas, the bright gods of the Hindoo [Hindu], have become the devs or evil demons of the Persian. So the evil being recognized in the folk-lore of Christendom are many of them the nature-spirits, lares, and other deities of the earlier heathendom, not discarded as imaginary, but lowered from their high estate and good repute to swell the crowd of hateful demons. (E. B. T.)

60-1 The Times, in November 1876, contains an account in the casting out of devils by a priest in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Barcelona, during the preceding month. On one occasion the patient, a young woman of seventeen or eighteen, lay on the floor before the altar, writhing in convulsions with distorted features and foaming at the month, while the priest carried on a dialogue wit the devil, whom he addressed by the name of Rusbel, the fiend’s answer being of course spoken by the voice of the frantic girl herself. At last a number of demons were supposed to come out of the patient’s body, and such scenes were repeated for days in the presence of many spectators till a riot, arose, and the civil authorities intervening put a stop to the whole affair.

The above article was written by Edward Burnett Tylor, LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., Professor of Anthropology, Oxford University; Keeper of the University Museum since 1883; author of Anahuac, Mexico and the Mexicans; Researches into the Early History of Mankind; Primitive Culture; Anthropology; and The Natural History of Religion.

Related articles: AnimismDivinationLycanthropyMagicVampireWitchcraft

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