Demons in ghost lore

A Demon is a type of spirit, also called a fallen Angel, that has the capability of interfering in the affairs of people. The term “Demon” means “replete with wisdom” and is derived from the Greek term Daimon. The daimones were both good and evil to the Greeks. In most cultures, Demons are troublesome rather than helpful; some are evil. In Christianity, all Demons are evil and serve Satan for the purpose of tempting people and damning souls. Demons can cause unpleasant Hauntings that can lead to the Possession of one or more people.

Historical Overview

Demons are sometimes seen as the cause of all humankind’s problems—disease, misfortune, poor health, bad luck, ruined relationships. They can have sex with humans, though this is not desirable. They are summoned and supposedly controlled by magic. Not always appearing evil, they can be put to productive uses as well. For example, in ancient Egypt, a magician who exorcized a possessing Demon might turn around and command the same Demon to perform useful tasks.

The lore of the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, and other Middle Eastern cultures teemed with Demons. The greatest Demonic problem was illness, and Demons had to be cast out of a person for healing.

The early Hebrews, in their captivity in Babylonia, absorbed some of the Mesopotamian Demon lore into their own lore. According to one story, Demons were spawned by Lilith, the spurned first wife of Adam. According to the Testament of Solomon, King Solomon used magic to summon and control an army of Demons, called the Djinn, to work for him.

The Hebrews developed complex systems of Demons, based on fallen versions of the hierarchies of angels. Like angels, Demons were seen as having jurisdiction over everything in creation. In the development of the Kabbalah, hierarchies of Demons were associated with the ten sephirot, or centers, of the Tree of Life.

In Christianity, Jesus healed by casting out Demons in a new way, by his word. By the end of the New Testament period, Demons were synonymous with fallen angels cast out of heaven along with Lucifer. As Christianity spread, all pagan gods, goddesses, and spirits were assumed to simply be the fallen angels in various disguises tricking humankind into worshiping them.

During the trials of the Inquisition, the importance of Demons increased. Demons were believed to play a key role, causing possessions, leading people into sin, helping people perpetrate evil deeds, and serving witches as their familiar spirits in all acts of malevolence. Christianity rejected the idea of sexual intercourse with Demons until the 12th century; by the 14th century, it was accepted in theology. Sex with Demons became a focus of the Inquisition— witches and those under Demonic control were said to copulate wildly with Demons and even with Satan himself. The incubi Demons had a male form and molested women and the succubi Demons had a female form and molested men. Both kinds of Demons were said to masquerade as humans in order to seduce their prey. The actual sexual act, however, was held to be painful and vile. Women impregnated by Demons were supposed to give birth to monsters.

In modern cases, Demons are believed to seize opportunities created by human free will or curses to enter a space or a person. Sometimes they are able to take hold as the result of a curse cast by someone working for evil in their life, or because a horrific event took place at a site. Remedies include blessings, prayer, and changes in the spiritual life. Deliverance prayers are used in more serious cases involving infestation—the presence of Demons— and oppression—the early stages of Demonic influence. If complete possession occurs, formal rites of Exorcism are performed.

Characteristics of Demons

In hauntings and possessions, Demons create unpleasant Poltergeist phenomena and chaos and attack the living in a increasingly intense progression as a means to wear down their physical, mental, and spiritual resistance to possession. They are perceived by psychics and Mediums as having grotesque forms. They are often associated with revolting Smells. In some cases, Demons shape-shift into deceitful, desirable forms with charming personalities. Once they have tricked a person and have them under their control, they revert to their original nature. Low-level Demonic entities are associated with problems involving TALKING BOARD use; they pose as helpful spirits or angels.

In possessions, Demons will completely take over a victim’s body and speak through the possessed persons, sometimes altering the voice. Some Demons—usually low-level ones—have a fondness for profanity and verbal abuse. They cause physical phenomena, such as spitting, vomiting,Levitation, unnatural twisting of limbs, supernormal strength, foaming at the mouth, and so on. In rites of exorcism, it is important to elicit the Demon’s name, if possible, in order to assert control over it.

Demons are exorcized, or expelled, by a variety of methods, from ordering the Demon to leave, to magical ritual, to religious ritual, such as the well-popularized Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism.



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  • Martin, Malachi. Hostage to the Devil. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
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  • Warren, Ed, and Lorraine Warren, with Robert David Chase. Ghost Hunters. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1989.
  • Zaffis, John, and Brian McIntyre. Shadows of the Dark. New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2004.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

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