According to certain religious doctrines, demons are evil spirits led by the devil (also known as Satan). The devil and his demons supposedly visit the world of the living, often in the form of an animal, to tempt humans to do evil deeds. The devil is said to most commonly appear as a black dog, while demons are said to prefer taking the form of cats, mice, toads, or other small household or field animals. In the Middle Ages, both the devil and his demons were believed to take these forms in order to work with witches, in which case the “animals” were known as familiars. Witches supposedly sent their familiars to torment their enemies, perhaps even by taking over their victims’ bodies as part of a phenomenon called demonic possession. Today, some people continue to believe in demonic possession, though such people typically think that Satan, rather than a witch, is responsible for sending the demon into someone’s body.
- Demonic Possession
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning