Demonology is as old as religion, itself, and so are their demon names. The names and types of demons from mythology trace all the way back to the most ancient theologies on the planet. And the historical lore around each demon is as rich and detailed as their angel counterparts.
The depiction of demons in horror movies presents a wide range of interpretations. But these creatures of myth have gone through many iterations and interpretations over the millennia.
Demonology is a deep, vast area of theological study, so start small.
This article provides a complete introduction to the most relevant types of demons and demon names that you’ve heard of in movies.
A Horror Fan’s Introduction to Demonology
Demonology is the study or practical belief in demons. Those who practice demonology endeavor to summon demons and benefit from interaction with them. But it might surprise you to learn that the concept of demons was not always that of malevolence and evil.
In the time when Homers Odyssee is written, the modern concept of evil demons does not exist. Instead, the modern invention of demons is founded in the Ancient Greek Daemons.
From "Daemons" to "Demons"
Daemons were considered benevolent guiding spirits that held form as, both natural and deified beings. They are akin to a modern depiction of ghosts or spirit guides. Citizens of Ancient Greece constructed shrines to daemons to keep them from wandering off and becoming lost on the earth.
Daemons come into their malevolent role in the early second century A.D. As with many ancient texts, translation often changes the meaning of a text.
The Hebrews Old Testament references evil spirits in the books of Judges and Kings. The new testaments original text is Greek, so all references to spirits in the new testament are lumped into the old testaments context.
This sort of translation error is the only reason that malevolent Judeo-Christian demons exist today. But theologians and atheists certainly never fail to fill in the details of a lacking story.
The "demonization" of daemons served the Christian churches aim to instill a monotheistic standard. Monotheism, unlike Ancient Greece’s polytheistic religion, did not have space for daemons.
Demonology holds no standard hierarchical structure or classification. Every time a theological scholar writes a new book on a demonic hierarchy, a new type of demonology is born.
Today, practitioners of Satanism or Satin Worship adhere to the demonic hierarchy outlined in the Satanic Bible.
Demonology in the Satanic Bible
The Church of Satan is founded in 1966 in San Fransisco by Anton Szandor LaVey. LaVeyan Satanism is the most commonly practiced form of demon worship that still exists. The LaVeyan Satanic Bible contains four chapters, so named for the four princes of Hell:
Modern Satanic deities parallel the four positions of the compass. Three Princes of Hell originate from Hebrew texts, and one from that of Rome.
The Satanic Bible includes four books. Satan: The Infernal Diatribe; Lucifer: The Enlightenment; Belial: Mastery of the Earth; and Leviathan: The Raging Sea. Satan, Lord of the Inferno, represents the opposition, fire, and the south-most direction. Lucifer, The Morning Star is the bringer of light and represents pride, the air element, and the eastward direction.
Belial, is the one without a master. Belial represents baseness, independence, the earth element, and the Northernmost direction.
Leviathan is the serpent of the abyss, a great dragon that stands for secrecy, water, and the direction west.
Though modern Satanism simplifies the roster, older demonology has more types of demons and demon names for the princes of hell.
Types of Demons and Demon Names
The way in which demons are classified varies by the authoritative source. Before the early 11th century, theologians and demonologists have constructed hierarchies of demons.
Of the nine authoritative classifications of demons, the most recent version, by Francis Barrett is from 1801.
A common thread across the ages of demonology is how monotheism adopts demon names from polytheistic deity names.
In Judeo-Christian demonology, Beelzebub represents false gods and idolaters. The name derives from the God Beezebul in Ekron, Philistine. The Philistines adopted the name, Beezebul, from the Canaanites god, Baal.
After the Israelites conquered the Philistines, Abrahamic religions transformed Beelzebub into a demon. The winner gets to choose their god, which left no room for the Philistines gods in heaven.
Hence, the Israelites brand the Philistines deities as false gods and the Philistines as idolaters. Those who worship false gods are punished by the Israelites, and forever more, Beelzebub retains a demonic connotation.
The forced cultural shift, from polytheistic to monotheistic accounts for how names of gods become demon names. The demon Pythius represents the spirit of lying and that of those who lie. But Pythius was not always a demon.
In Ancient Greece, at Delphi, the name of the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo was Pythia. Today, the Pythia is better known as the Oracle of Delphi. And before the name of the place was Delphi, it was Pytho.
Pytho is an ancient sanctuary where leaders and officials of the state would journey to seek counsel and advice from the Oracle-or Pythia. Ancient mythology describes Pytho as the navel of the earth and birthplace of Python, guardian of the Oracle.
Python, translates to mean "the rotting one" or "of Pytho". Python is born from the rot, salt-marshes, and slime in the aftermath of the great deluge.
The Oracle at Delphi was said to gain her prophetic abilities from the dragons smoke that seeps up from the ground. For this reason, Python is also equated with the she-dragon, Echidna.
Judeo-Christian lore disseminated the belief in the oracle’s powers. The church declares Pythius to be the spirit of lying and thus demonizing the Oracles divinations.
Forevermore, Pythius represents the delusion of man by spurring men to commit false prophecy.
Satan is often referred to as the leader of hell in Judeo-Christian theology. Satan represents the imitation of miracles by evil witches and warlocks. Satan is a seducer who lures humans down a path of falseness and sin.
But, like most demons, Satan was not always evil.
In the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible containing the canonical books of the old testament, there is the reference to "The Satan" as one of the sons of God. After the Kingdom of Judah is conquered by the neo-Babylonians in the 8th century BC, the Satan prosecutes the Judah Nation in the heavenly court.
The Satan is not malevolent but works on behalf of Yahweh, the Hebrew God. Under God’s instruction, Satan brings suffering upon followers of Yahweh to test their loyalty.
In the Book of Jubilees, from the biblical Apocrypha, Yahweh and Satan work together. Yahweh gives the Satan (Mastema) authority over fallen angels to help test Yahweh’s followers. They are charged with tempting humans toward sin and to punish those that succumb.
The term, Satan, is translated from the Hebrew, "Yetzer hara," which means "evil inclination." The satan is a Judean metaphor for temptation, yet always under direction from God. Indeed, Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, described in the Synoptic Gospels.
But it is not until the Book of Revelation that Satan is depicted as the antithesis or enemy of God. The Book of Revelation shows Satan as the literal ruler of Rome - a City conquering the Israelites and destroying their culture.
As the imperialist Roman Empire grows in power and prestige, Satan is depicted as the ultimate supernatural emperor of Rome. A civilization that, but for its beauty and seemingly miraculous invention was against the will of Yahweh.
Where do demons come from and why does religion require their presence? You can spend the rest of your life studying demonology, and you will still be left with the same fundamental questions. But you have to start somewhere.
Are you obsessed with all things demonic? Find out more about the types of demons and their names in this brief outline of demonology.
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