Storytellers tell stories of ancient demons that have ravaged humanity since time immemorial. In the Middle Ages, people were so fascinated and frightened by these supernatural entities that entire books were devoted to the list of demonic creatures, the areas of life they influenced and how to protect themselves from them.
Lilith: ancient demon, black deity or sexual goddess?
Lilith, satanic angel. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Lilith is one of the oldest known female spirits in the world. Its roots come from the epic of Gilgamesh and it has also been described in the Bible and the Talmud. Lilith’s name comes from the Sumerian word “lilitu”, which meant a wind spirit or a female demon.
From the beginning of its textual existence, it was linked to Sumerian witchcraft. In the Babylonian Talmud, Lilith was described as a dark spirit with an uncontrollable and dangerous sexuality. She would have fertilized with male sperm to create hundreds of demons.
In Jewish tradition, she is a notorious demon, but in some other sources, she appears as the first woman created on Earth. According to legend, God formed Lilith in the same way as he created Adam, except that instead of pure dust, he also used dirt and residue.
Lilith was also known in the culture of the Hittites, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Israelis and the Romans. Later, she migrated to northern Europe. It represented chaos, sexuality and would have cast spells on people. Its legend is also linked to the first vampire stories .
Detail from a modern illustration of Yuki-onna. ( CC BY SA)
The legend of Yuki-onna (the snow woman) comes from Japanese legends. She is part of the long list of so-called “yokai” – supernatural creatures known as monsters, demons, spirits or other mythical beings.
Yuki-onna is believed to live in places with snow-capped mountains where she feeds on the energy of human life and regular food. It feeds on travelers lost in heavy snowstorms. It draws human life force from the mouths of its victims in its own, freezing them solidly.
With ageless white skin that is as cold as ice herself, Yuki-onna would have incredibly deep eyes and beautiful long black or white hair. Although Yuki-onna may fall in love, marry and live among humans, she will never age and her identity will eventually be revealed, therefore most legends say that Yuki-onna chooses to stay near mountain roads and to attack travelers.
Spring Heeled Jack, the uncatchable demon of Victorian England
Spring Heeled Jack as represented by an anonymous artist. ( Public domain )
It is not certain that Spring Heeled Jack was a man or a beast. Witnesses report that he has long, pointed nails that almost looked like claws. His eyes had a crazy look at them that some said was glowing when he was about to strike. Whenever city dwellers attempted to catch him, he easily escaped, running quickly through crowded alleys, jumping over fences and disappearing into the night as if he were a ghost.
The Spring Heeled Jack was first seen in 1837 and has continued for decades. In particular, he looked for young women, but the damage he caused affected all kinds of ordinary people. As the story of this creature of darkness spread, its attributes became more demonic. Reports have indicated that he has horns and a pointed goat, that he can jump over roofs and that he can breathe fire.
Despite all the terror he caused, Jack did little harm other than reports of ragged clothes, hysteria and heart attacks. In the 1880s, Spring Heeled Jack was overshadowed by a much more lethal villain, Jack the Ripper. The legacy of the jumping devil lives on in popular imagination to this day, most notably in the playful little toy known as Jack-in-the-Box.
Uncovering the true identity of the Jersey Devil
Jersey Devil. (pyro-helfier / Deviant Art )
Jersey Devil’s history places it at the height of puzzling crypto-zoological mysteries. It has confused and fascinated audiences for hundreds of years. The creature is often described as a flying bipedal cryptid with hooves, but there are many conflicting opinions as to its actual appearance.
The common description of eyewitnesses is that it looks like a creature resembling a kangaroo, but with the head of a horse, leathery bat wings and long bird legs, claws, hooves, a face hideous and a tail fork. Several people have even said that his body looked like an alligator.
It has been reported to move quickly and has often been described as uttering a “blood-chilling cry”. Eyewitnesses say he hops around like a bird. It has been called a variety of different nicknames such as flying death, kangaroo horse, flying horse, cowherd and a prehistoric lizard.
From January 16 to 23, 1909, the state of New Jersey experienced a major paranormal event, it was seen in person by thousands of people, schools were closed and factories closed temporarily for fear. He is said to have lived in the Barrens of Pines in southern New Jersey and was named official demon of the state in New Jersey in 1939.
Krampus, son of Hel: Punishment of the devil and the Christmas child
Krampus, the Christmas devil. ( CC BY SA 2.0 )
The Krampus tradition is popular in countries like Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The name derives from the German word krampen , which means claw. He has a “mutilated, disturbed face with bloodshot eyes atop a hairy black body. Giant horns wrap around his head, showing his half goat, half demon line. “(Billock, 2015)
According to legend, Krampus is the son of the Norse goddess Hel, ruler of Helheim (the Nordic kingdom of the dead). Krampus is a counterpart to other Christmas demons such as the Frenchman Hans Trapp and the Dutchman Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Along with other pagan traditions, Krampus mingled at Christmas as Christianity spread across Eastern Europe.
About 1,500 years ago, Krampus became the counterpart of Saint Nicholas. On the night of December 5 to 6, Saint Nicholas walks around, leaving small gifts in the shoes and boots of children who have behaved well. Just behind, Krampus, which leaves a rod in the skin of naughty children. Krampus carries a bundle of birch sticks with which he strikes especially bad kids. The worst offenders he stuffs in a bag and drags them to his lair where they are likely to be eaten.
In the 12th century, the Catholic Church began its work to eradicate this pagan devil. Christians were fairly successful in banishing the Krampus until it reappeared in a consumer crisis of the 19th century.
Incubi and Succubi: overwhelming nightmares and sex-hungry demons
The nightmare ‘(1781) by Johann Heinrich Füssli. ( Public domain)
Known by many names around the world and over time, various cultures have spoken of vampire-like demons that feed on human energy and attack their victims at night. Two of the popular names in English for these entities are Incubus and Succubus (plural Incubi and Succubi) – demons who attack their victims by pressing them, often while sexually assaulting them.
Incubus is the male form of the demon. The name of this demon comes from the late Latin “Incubo” which means “nightmare” which originates from the Latin word “incubare”, to “lie”. This description is well suited to what the Incubus does to its victims – it lies (or “crushes”) them.
They are said to be very difficult to remove once they have chosen a victim. These demons supposedly can change shape, so their appearance differs, although they are often said to resemble humans. It has been said that the Incubi may be particularly physically attractive to their victims.
The succubus (“spiritual wife” or “lying under”) is the feminine form of an Incubian demon. The accounts of these demons appear in the ancient Akkadian, Sumerian and Greek texts. The princess of demons is called Nahemah.
Succubi have often been described as women of exceptional beauty, but sometimes with bats or other wings of flying animals on their backs. As with the Incubi, the Succubi attack their victims at night and would also prefer victims with a religious spirit. The Succubi are looking for sleeping men and are said to be draining their blood, breathing, vital energy and sperm – until the victim can die.
Baphomet? Was the evil demon truly worshiped by the Templars
Tarot card representing Baphomet, detail. ( wimage72 / Fotolia)
The first known reference to Baphomet dates back to a letter written by a French crusader in 1098. According to the crusader, the Muslims of the Holy Land called on a certain “Baphometh” before the battle. It is commonly accepted today that this name is a corruption of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. European Christians at the time viewed Islam as the worship of Muhammad, which they viewed as idolatry.
The evolution of Baphomet continued in 1307, when the powerful Templars were suppressed in France. Some of the Templars admitted to worshiping an idol, it seems that their accounts were inconsistent. For example, some claimed that the idol was the severed head of St. John the Baptist, while others claimed that it was the statue of a three-faced cat.
It was not until 1854 that Baphomet became the goat-headed character we know today. It was Eliphas Levi, a French ceremonial magician, who reinvented Baphomet as a figure he called the “sabbatical goat”.
Levi’s Baphomet was adopted by the famous occultist, Aleister Crowley. It was Crowley who linked Baphomet to Satan and linked this icon to the idea of suppressed knowledge and secret worship. Thus, in opposition to traditional Christian thought, Crowley argued that Satan was not the enemy of mankind, but his ally.
Were the worshipers of the Egyptian god following a god or a demon?
Seth (Set) Left, and Horus. (Niedlich, S / CC BY SA 2.0 )
Set (Seth) is an ancient Egyptian god depicted with the head of an unknown animal designated by Egyptologists as an “animal Set”. The ancient Egyptians believed that Set was the god of chaos, the wilderness, storms and darkness.
He was venerated mainly in Upper Egypt from the pre-dynastic period. Originally, he was believed to be a benevolent god who lived in the underworld and was responsible for helping the dead to reach heaven, although he was later considered to be an evil god during the conflict with Horus. The disciples of Horus triumphed over those of Set, thereby demonizing Set.
Another theory suggests that Set became associated with the Hyksos invaders who conquered the Nile Delta and, by the time of the second intermediate period, Set had become regarded as a malicious deity. As the god of the desert, Set was also considered the antithesis of everything that represented life.
However, it was not entirely bad, in some myths the gods used Set’s force and power for good. The best known of these is Set’s role as the defender of Ra’s solar boat. Each night, as the solar boat made its journey through the Underworld, Set fought Apep, the serpent of chaos. Set is often depicted as standing on the prow of the sun boat, and spearing Apep.
The shocking demon who brings the plague and devours babies
Manananggal, mythical creature from the Philippines. ( Public domain )
Rangda embodies power – she is electrifying, dangerous and from another world. She has protruding eyes, large hanging breasts and a long red tongue hanging down her body. Her mouth is full of big teeth and curved fangs; her nails are extended to long pointed claws, and her shaggy mop of gray hair hangs down her back.
Rangda’s legends include his taste for eating children as well as for causing illness and plague. Although she may have been an ancient goddess, Rangda is now identified as a wicked demonic queen. However, Rangda is also considered a protective force in certain parts of Bali.
In the Barong dance, part of the ritual drama that focuses on the ongoing battle between good and evil, Barong represents good and Rangda represents evil. The Barong protects the villages from the plague and malicious magic, while Rangda is the one who inflicts these plagues and these difficulties.
Top image: Ancient Demons: Manananggal, mythical creature from the Philippines. ( Public domain ) Krampus, the Christmas devil. ( CC BY SA 2.0 ) Detail from a modern illustration of Yuki-onna. ( CC BY SA) Spring Heeled Jack as represented by an anonymous artist. ( Public domain ) Lilith, satanic angel. (CC BY-NC 2.0) The Jersey Devil. (pyro-helfier / Deviant Art )