AskDefine | Define demonolatry

Dictionary Definition

demonolatry n : worship of devils [syn: diabolatry, devil-worship]

Extensive Definition

Demonology is the systematic study of demons or beliefs about demons. Insofar as it involves exegesis, demonology is an orthodox branch of theology.


Demonology is the branch of theology relating to superhuman beings who are not gods. It deals both with benevolent beings that have no circle of worshippers or so limited a circle as to be below the rank of gods, and with malevolent beings of all kinds. It may be noted that the original sense of "demon," from the time of Homer onward, was a benevolent being; but in English the name now holds connotations of malevolence. Demons, when they are regarded as spirits, may belong to either of the classes of spirits recognized by primitive animism; 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, the West Africans and others; the Arab djinn, 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. Demonology, though often referred to with negative connotation, was not always seen as evil or devilish as the term would have one believe.


See also: Classification of demons
Under the head of demons are classified only such spirits as are believed to enter into relations with the human race; the term therefore includes:
  1. angels in the Judeo-Christian tradition that fell from grace,
  2. human souls regarded as genii or familiars,
  3. such as receive a cult (e.g., ancestor worship),
  4. ghosts or other malevolent revenants.
Excluded are souls conceived as inhabiting another world. But 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). 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.

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. 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. In Korea, 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.
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. In present-day Egypt, the ubiquitous jinn are believed to be so densely distributed that acts such as pouring water unto the ground are accompanied by seeking the permission of a potentially dampened spirit.
Greek philosophers such as Porphyry, who claimed influence from Platonism, and the fathers of the Christian Church, held that the world was pervaded with spirits, the latter of whom advanced the belief that demons received the worship directed at pagan gods.

Character of the spiritual world

The ascription of malevolence to the world of spirits is by no means universal. In West 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 that 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. 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; 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 indiscriminating and malignant, being viewed as invisible guardians of mankind.

Zoroastrian demonology

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.

Jewish demonology

While historical Judaism never "officially" recognized a rigid set of doctrines about demons, many scholars believe that its post-exilic concepts of eschatology, angelology, and demonology were influenced by Zoroastrianism. Some, however, believe that these concepts were received as part of the Kabbalistic tradition passed down from Adam, Noah, and the Hebrew patriarchs. See Sefer Yetzirah.
The Talmud declares that there are 7,405,926 demons, divided in 72 companies. Indeed, some commentators hold that Satan was a prosecutor for God in early Judaism, and a somewhat minor angel at that. While most people believe that Lucifer and Satan are different names for the same being, not all scholars subscribe to this view.
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, of Lilith leaving Adam, of demons such as vampires, the demon-locusts from the Book of Revelation, impure spirits in Jewish folklore such as the dybbuk and of wicked humans that have become demons as well.

Christian demonology

In Christian tradition, it is believed that a demon is an evil spirit, and can be either a fallen angel or the spirit of a condemned human, and its intention is to mislead mankind into sin using every guile imaginable.
The traditions state that the most damaging ways in which demons (or malicious spirits) can work are when they are given "ground" for their workings, i.e. when they are accepted, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously, by the human. Acceptance often means committing sin; eg. demons gradually gain control of the eyes when the eyes sin by looking at things vile, gain control of the tongue when it is used for slander or blaspheme, and can make it slip, etc, and this can spread to other parts of the body, regardless of whether the sinner calls himself Christian or no. This is called possession. In more extreme cases of possession, the demon gains an actual entrance into the bodily frame, leading to disastrous results, often hideous and agonestic, powerful examples of which are given in the Gospels.
Some Christians believe that symptoms of demon possession include voices in one's mind or a horror of mind, especially when there are no signs of insanity or mental damage/unhealthiness, a stubbornness of mind- holding fast to a particular belief and refusing to listen to reason, a split personality as if two separate personalities share the same body. A fierce and unreasoning hatred of God is a sure sign of possession.
Another way they can be "accepted" is by believing their lies whispered into the human mind, or accepting their suggestions, subtly disguised as one's own thoughts or otherwise (typically this can be recognized when the voices heard in the head seem to come from *outside* the bodily frame, especially if there are no signs of insanity in the person).
Forbidden rituals, the study of magic (black magic worse than white magic, though both ultimately come from demons and lead to ruin) bowing down to false gods (the more evil the god, the more damage done) accepting visions received from evil spirits, (mediums and diviners) and having faith that these visions will come to pass i.e. faith in evil spirits are among the worst things one can do to allow them possession, which can lead to unimaginable pain.
Some traditions say that perhaps the worst thing of all, however, that gives ground for demonic possession, is the disbelief in spirits of evil, or the disbelief that one can (whether Christian or not) be possessed by them, some Christians believe.
These traditions also state that for protection against demon possession, faith in God is needed, an alert watchfulness, a guarding of one's own mind (i.e. analysing one's thoughts and actions often) and an aggressive, often spoken refusal of all evil spirits and all things of evil spirits over every aspect of one's being, or over specific aspects of one's being (where possession is suspected or known to be manifest) in the Name of Jesus, and done in co-operation with God. Prayer against the evil spirit or spirits, prayer to shed light on what action(s) was done or word(s) said that allowed them ground for possession so that this too can be refused are also often necessary.
There are numerous accounts of evil spirits told by different witnesses; James Gall, Dr J.L. Nevius, Sir Robert Anderson, Pastor Ernst Lohmann.
Christians also believe the same evil spirits existed in the time of Christ Jesus that exist today in everyday society.
These traditions are generally not common in the current Roman Catholic Church, nor in most other Christians denominations. Belief in these concepts is generally considered to be a Medieval belief.

Occult demonology

Practitioners of Ceremonial magic sometimes attempt to constrain and command demons to do their bidding, using methods such as the Goetia and The Book of Abramelin. The demons are often those mentioned in Christian demonology. These practitioners do not necessarily worship demons, but seek to deploy them to obtain their goals.
Other followers of the occult do worship demons, and some refer to their religion as "demonolatry.". Demonolators consider methods such as the Goetia very disrespectful towards the demons, and possibly dangerous for the operator. They instead use forms of prayer, magick and ritual which petition the demons, asking for their aid rather than commanding them.
Demonolators are not identical to practitioners of Theistic Satanism. They worship other demons (such as Belial and Leviathan) either alongside, or instead of Satan. Some demonolators say that their form of demonolatry is a tradition, often familial, that is not related to the modern religious and philosophical movements collectively referred to as Satanism.
Not all of the occultists who worship demons use the word "demonolator" to describe themselves, nor do all belong to the specific group mentioned above.

Islamic demonology

In Islam, the devil Iblis (Satan and/or Lucifer in Christianity) was not an angel, but of a different kind, the jinn. (Humans are created from earth, Angels from light, and jinn from fire). The jinn though, are not necessarily evil; they could be good doers or sinners just like humans. Since the jinn and humans are the only kinds of creation who have the will to choose, the followers of Iblis could be jinn or human. The angels, on the other hand, are sinless and only obey the will of God.
In the Qur'an, when God ordered those witnessing the creation of Adam to kneel before him (before Adam), Iblis refused to do so and was therefore damned for refusal to obey God's will.

Demonology in Buddhism and Hinduism

Some branches of Buddhism affirm the existence of Hells 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. Most of these "demons" are considered to be representations of mental obstructions. Hinduism contains traditions of combats between its gods and various adversaries, such as the combat of Indra and the asura Vritra.


External links

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demonolatry in Catalan: Demonologia
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