Demons and Their Exciting Evolution

demons

When you are settling down to watch a ghost hunting show, you might notice how many of the investigations deal with demons. It isn’t too far off from what our ancestors used to believe, but there is more out there. Ghosts are human beings that have died and not moved on just yet, but some other creatures also lurk about their realm.

You cannot assume that it is a demon, much like you cannot assume it is a ghost. That is what you will be determining in this article. Because demons are a part of so much in different cultures, it would be easy to understand why they would be the next assumption in line. Of course, there are other creatures that do dwell in the midst of the ghostly realm.

Demons in modern setting
Demon in modern setting, by Amber Kipp on Unsplash

Additionally, it could just be an angry ghost that doesn’t want you there. With the history of humanity, you and I both know well that there are some evil people out there. That doesn’t make them demons, but just not nice people. By the assumption that ghosts are still with us for unfinished business, it wouldn’t be farfetched that an evil one pretends to be something else.

Demons and their history

Now, before you get into why demons are the target of so much, you must know their history. Demons are paranormal creatures of a sort, just like fairies or ghosts. They have been around much longer than their religious counterparts. The word itself originates in Greece, like much other paranormal words seem to be.

It comes from the word daimon, which can mean from a creature spreading disease to just a spirit. To see how old this creature type really is, though, you must venture to the oldest of the old: Mesopotamia. Now, I speak way too much about Mesopotamia, but it is for a good reason. The civilization has a phenomenal record of paranormal.

Mesopotamian demon, Pazuzu

You’ve probably read about Pazuzu before or seen a version of the demon in media. Although Mesopotamia didn’t really dive into demons like religions tend to do, they do exist, possibly known as a tool for Gods of that time to use. It is a little bit different than what you are used to seeing with them. Demons were seen as the “rod” to punish those with their version of sins.

Pazuzu, Mesopotamian demons
Pazuzu, PHGCOM, remade with F Lamiot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pazuzu was considered a king of the underworld at the time and was one with making sure the weather wasn’t on your side. You could even pray to him if you wanted to have some luck with harvest, according to World History. This demon god isn’t that old compared to other paranormal creatures, becoming popular only 3,000 years ago.

This shows that demons, while pretty old, were not the cross-roads monsters that we see today. Of course, there are older demon-like creatures out there, but they changed their names somewhere along the way.

Vampires and witches were once demons

I will say it time and time again, many modern creatures derived from a selected few from the past. This brings in the next part of demonic history: amalgamation. Or better yet, reverse amalgamation. The seed that was the demon turned to sub-beings that create the monsters we know and love today.

How you see a demon
How you see a demon, by Devoka from Pixabay

The best example of this is Lilith. Lilith, formally known in Mesopotamia and other places as Lilitu, was a popular demon. She has been referenced to being a vampire, a witch, and a demon. She began her rule around 3,000 B.C., about 5,000 years ago, and ran with what was given to her. In Mesopotamia, she was a demon that preyed on women and children.

For the Greeks, she was similar to Lamia, who was either the child of Hecate or cursed by Hera. Either one is believable. For Jewish mythology, she was an ancient demon and the first wife of Adam. In more recent times, she is depicted as a demon and a witch. Lilith wore many hats and stays the perfect example of a creature who evolved with culture.

Modern culture and demons

Modern culture took the word and ran with it, but there are significant events that aided in what we now think of as what a demon is. You know the first one because it is a big one in how history is shaped: religion. Yes, religion rules all in how we see demons and if that is a surprise to you, well I have nothing else to say.

But yes, religion is the deciding factor with demons.

Demons in older religions

You might assume that Judaism, being 4,000 years old, would have been the first religion to have demons, but you would be wrong. Thanks to some recent studies, there is an older one. Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheistic religion that we currently know of, and it started at a minimum of 4,000 years ago. We honestly don’t know how far it goes back. We will return to Judaism in a bit as it coincides with Christianity.

The idea of demons
The idea of a demon.

Zoroastrianism had their fair share of demons. This religion completely dominated Persia for a time and had its fair share of demons. They were called the Ahriman and the Daevas. The former was more of a Lucifer type while the latter is more of what you would see as a typical religion-based demon. They were much like the original demons, bringing the rod down to any not living a good and whole life.

Hinduism even has a stake in the demon category. Being in the 4,000-year-old club, its demons are called rakshasa, along with a male and female equivalent. Like the others, they were not with the current practices and despised prayer and sacrifice. Like vampires, they were not fans of the sun.

The younger religions – Christianity

You might not say that Christianity is a newer religion, but based on time, it is young compared to its monotheistic cousins. Being only 2,000 years old, Christianity has the demons that we see today. While they aren’t exactly portrayed as they should, they became the branch of modern demons. Like how you would think an angel exists, demons are different in their stories.

We go back to the Greek translation of the word demon. The Greeks did have a hand in translating what a demon is as they weren’t always called that. They were gifts to the Morningstar, so to speak, and were all about testing the faith of Christians. They would tempt the morality of followers of Christianity.

He just looks so happy to be involved.
He just looks so happy to be involved. Image by Carabo Spain from Pixabay

In Psalm 96:5 (in most translations), demons were considered any other god that wasn’t of the Christian/Jewish God [1]. Although, this is a different translation of sorts, as in the modern versions it is “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.” Demons were molded into a more unique fashion thanks to Christianity.

The younger religions – Islam

The Islam religion is roughly 1,400 years old and contains demons in scripture, but not as often as the other monotheistic religions. There sadly isn’t much information on the demons of Islam. There is plenty of information, though, on the djinn. Even Pazuzu was considered a djinn at some point.

There are djinn that were much like Jewish and Christian demons, ones who followed the opposite of their God. These demons were called shaitan. They do have a questionable background, as they could be familiars, giving inspiration. In the Qur’an, though, they act as the devil.

The modern religions

When you read modern, you think of revitalized religion, and you are correct on this one. Religion nowadays is turning with technology. NPR spoke of a Gallup survey in March of last year about how many people in the United States follow a religion. Now, this number does not depict how many follow in lesser known religions, but in how many attend 3 types of service. This number stands at 47% of the adult population.

prayer
Prayer, by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Obviously, the belief in demons themselves must have fallen as well. This number is seen with YouGovAmerica, who conducted a survey of their own. They stated in 2019 that only 22% of people fully believe in demons. Another 24% were on the fence about it. It is stated as 4 out of 10 Americans, but with so many being unsure, the data is slightly skewed. This was the only survey that I could find.

Revitalized religions

This one is difficult to look into because revitalized religions are just that: old religions for the modern era. We see that with many pagan religions, including practices such as witchcraft. But demons aren’t exactly prominent in these religions. Some are worshipped like Lilith, from viewing the search results on Pinterest and sales from Etsy. It is a very niche practice and may not even fully be considered paganism.

goddess statue
Goddess statue, by H. Newberry from Pixabay

Oddly enough, though, the demons you expect to see did not show up. Demons from the past are just as prevalent, but not as you would think. They are of other creatures, not what you would assume as the modern demon. This would definitely be because most of these religions are older than the idea of a modern demon. There is no devil in these religions, thus the idea of the demon isn’t really there.

Modern demons depicted in media

Demons nowadays are the ones of deal making, soul crushing, and possession. The frightening idea is captivated many times over in movies, shows, books, you name it. They are to be seen as the one creature standing between you and temptation. Their modern look is honestly scarier than their previous versions.

Sorry, not sorry, Pazuzu.

In ghost hunting shows, though, you seem them more than anything else, almost as much as ghosts. This may be because of the fear element, but it makes for entertaining media, so you just accept it. But there are other creatures that go bump in the otherworld. Realms and realms of different creatures exist and could possibly be one that we aren’t sure of yet.

The other creatures

Oh yes, there are others. Besides demons and ghosts, you can expect more to be in another realm. Not just a Marvel movie, elementals are theorized to exist in the ghost realm. These are creatures of the 4 elements: earth, wind, fire, and air. It is apparent that physics and those psychic sensitive can see them, and they can have different forms like a shapeshifter.

David Halpin, a guest author for Ancient Origins, speaks about dimensions that are overlapping and can contain a plethora of creatures and beings. I say “beings” for a reason as he talks about Kevin Turner, the author of Sky Shamans of Mongolia. Turner speaks of deities, ghosts, ancestors, and others staying in multiple dimensions. Even fairies have shown up a time or two.

idea of a fairy
The idea of a fairy.

Sadly, these other elements of being aren’t acknowledged enough in modern media. You have no idea who or what could be lurking in your investigating area nor if they would even tell you. It could very well be a demon of a sort, but you wouldn’t truly know unless you asked. Even then, the demon you think you know might not even be the demon type you assume it to be.

What to take from this discussion of demons?

Well, first of all, demons were not always what you think they were. They changed within each culture, they evolved within the means they were given, and they are not all evil since you can pray to one. Mind you, nearly every religion in existence has prayer. It’s not at all a monotheistic idea.

When you work a ghost hunt, you should not assume demon if it starts growling at you. Not everything terrifying thing that goes bump in the night is a demon. That might make your anxiety skyrocket, but it is something you should know and be aware of. Granted, most of these things can’t even touch you, so you’ll be okay.

Theoretically, anyways.

References

Wiebe, G.  demons in Christian thought. Oxford Classical Dictionary. Retrieved from https://oxfordre.com/classics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.001.0001/acrefore-9780199381135-e-8290.

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