Christian demonology is the study of demons from a Christian point of
view. It is primarily based on the
Bible (Old and New Testaments), the
exegesis of these scriptures, the scriptures of early Christian
philosophers, hermits and the associated traditions and legends
incorporated from other beliefs.
4 Diabolical symbols
5 Other views
6 See also
See also: Demonology
In some Christian traditions, the deities of other religions are
interpreted or created as demons. The evolution of the Christian
Devil and pentagram are examples of early rituals and images that
showcase evil qualities, as seen by the Christian churches.
Since Early Christianity, demonology has developed from a simple
acceptance of demons to a complex study that has grown from the
original ideas taken from
Jewish demonology and Christian scriptures.
Christian demonology is studied in depth within the Roman Catholic
Church, although many other Christian churches affirm and discuss
the existence of demons.
Albertus Magnus said of demonology, "A daemonibus docetur, de
daemonibus docet, et ad daemones ducit" ("It is taught by the demons,
it teaches about the demons, and it leads to the demons").
Fallen angel and Nephilim
According to the
Book of Enoch
Book of Enoch (which is currently only canonical in
the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches but was referred to by
the early Church fathers), the disembodied spirits of the
demons. Enoch explains:
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits (Angels) and
flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth
shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their
bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is
their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on
earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. [As for the spirits of
heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of
the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their
dwelling.] And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy,
attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause
trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and
cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children
of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.
From the days of the slaughter and destruction and death of the
giants, from the souls of whose flesh the spirits, having gone forth,
shall destroy without incurring judgement.
—I Enoch 15:8–12, 16:1 R.H. Charles
There are many demons in Christian demonology, many of which were
added because some Christian theologians[who?] concluded that all
pagan deities were demons.
Alfonso de Spina asserted that the number of demons was
133,316,666. This idea that one third of the angels turned into demons
seems to be due to an exegesis of the
Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation 12:3–9.
Johann Weyer, in his
Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (1583), after a
complicated system of hierarchies and calculations, estimated the
number of demons as 4,439,622, divided into 666 legions, each legion
composed by 6,666 demons, and all of them ruled by 66 hellish dukes,
princes, kings, etc.
The Lesser Key of Solomon
The Lesser Key of Solomon (17th century) copied
the division in legions from
Pseudomonarchia Daemonum but added more
demons, and so more legions. It is suggestive that both Spina and
Weyer used 666 and other numbers composed by more than one 6 to
calculate the number of demons (133,316,666 demons, 666 legions, 6,666
demons in each legion, 66 rulers).
Gregory of Nyssa, in the 4th century, believed in the existence of
male and female demons and supported the idea that demons procreated
with other demons and with human women. Other scholars supported the
idea that they could not procreate and that the number of demons was
In Christian tradition, demons are evil angels (Revelation 12:7-9),
and have the same characteristics as their good angel counterparts:
spiritual, immutable and immortal. Demons are not omniscient, but each
one has a specific knowledge (sometimes on more than one subject).
Their power is limited to that which
God allows, so they are not
omnipotent. No reference has been made about omnipresence, so it is as
yet unclear if they can be in different places at the same time, but
according to the tradition of the medieval witches' Sabbath, two
conclusions can be reached: either the
Devil can be in different
places at the same time, or he sends an emissary in his name.
Christian demonology states that the mission of the demons is to
induce humans to sin, often by testing their faith in God.
Christian tradition holds that temptations come from three sources:
the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It is also believed that demons torment people during their life or
through possession (Matthew 17:15-16), or simply by showing themselves
before persons to frighten them, or by provoking visions that could
induce people to sin or to be afraid.
Demons are also believed to try to tempt people into abandoning the
faith, commit heresy or apostasy, remain or turn themselves Pagan or
venerate "idols" (the Christian term for cult images), and gain the
highest number of "Satans" or adversaries of God. (
In the Gospel of Luke, it is stated that demons walk "arid places",
and finding no rest return to their previous home.
24 "When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid
places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will
return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house
swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other
spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And
the final condition of that person is worse than the first." (Luke
Demons can take any desired appearance, even that of an "angel of
2 Corinthians 11:14).
13. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading
as apostles of Christ. 14. And no wonder, for
masquerades as an angel of light. 15. It is not surprising, then, if
his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will
be what their actions deserve.
2 Corinthians 11:13–15
Nevertheless, they were generally described as ugly and monstrous
beings by Christian demonologists. Many of these descriptions have
inspired famous painters like Luca Signorelli, Hieronymus Bosch, Goya,
the artist that made the drawings for the Dictionnaire Infernal, and
Devil in particular has been popularly symbolized as various
animals, including the serpent, the goat and the dragon.
Incubi and succubi are described as looking attractive in order to
accomplish their mission of seduction.
The idea that demons have horns seems to have been taken from the Book
of Revelation chapter 13. The book of Revelation seems to have
inspired many depictions of demons.[original research?] This idea has
also been associated with the depiction of certain ancient gods like
Moloch and the shedu, etc., which were portrayed as bulls, as men with
the head of a bull, or wearing bull horns as a crown.
Concerning the weight of the demons, since the 17th century, people
have affirmed that they were heavier than common humans.[not in
Poets such as
Geoffrey Chaucer associated the color green with the
Devil, although in modern times the color is red.
Henry Boguet and some English demonologists of the same epoch asserted
that witches and warlocks confessed (under torture) that demons'
bodies were icy. During the 17th century, this belief prevailed.
The incarnation of the demons has been a problem to Christian
demonology and theology since early times. A very early form of
incarnation of demons was the idea of demonic possession, trying to
explain that a demon entered the body of a person with some purpose or
simply to punish that one for some allegedly committed sin. But this
soon acquired greater proportions, trying to explain how demons could
seduce people to have sexual relationships with them or induce them to
commit other sins. To Christian scholars, demons didn't always have to
manifest themselves in a visible and possible tangible form. Sometimes
it was through possession.
New Testament via possession (analogous to invocation)
There are some Biblical mentions of the incarnation of demons, similar
in result to possession as in invocation, in the New Testament,
according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as they could be
seen and heard, as well as banished.
Matthew 8:16 – When the evening had come, they brought unto him many
that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with
[his] word, and healed all that were sick:
Mark 1:23–27 – And there was in their synagogue a man with an
unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let [us] alone; what have we
to do with thee, thou
Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us?
I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And
Jesus rebuked him,
saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean
spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among
themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine [is] this?
for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do
Matthew 8:28–33 – And when he
Jesus was come to the other side
into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with
demons, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man
might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have
we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to
torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them a
herd of many swine feeding. So the demons besought him, saying, If
thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he
said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the
herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down
a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that
kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every
thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
Other sources via incarnation (analogous to evocation)
Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea also who wrote on this subject. He believed that
demons, to materialize, had to condense vapors and with them form the
body of a person or animal, then entering that body as if it were a
puppet to which they gave life.
Henry More supported this idea, saying
that their bodies were cold due to the solidification of water vapor
to form them (see below). Many authors believed that demons could
assume the shape of an animal.
Raoul Glaber, a monk of Saint-Léger, Belgium, seems to have been the
first in writing about the visit of a demon of horrible aspect in his
Historiarum sui temporis, Libri quinque (History of his Time in Five
Augustine thought that demons often were imaginary, but sometimes
could enter human bodies, but later accepted the idea of the
materialization of demons.
Thomas Aquinas followed Augustine's idea,
but added that demonic materialization had sexual connotations because
demons tried to seduce people to commit sexual sins.
Ambrogio de Vignati, disagreeing with other authors, asserted that
demons, besides of not to have a material body could not create it,
and all what they seemed to do was a mere hallucination provoked by
them in the mind of those who had made a diabolical pact or were
"victims" of a succubus or incubus, including the sexual act.
Further information: Sexuality in Christian demonology
Demons are generally considered sexless as they have no physical
bodies, but different kinds are generally associated with one gender
or another. Many theologians agreed that demons acted first as succubi
to collect sperm from men and then as incubi to put it into a woman's
vagina. But as many of them agreed also that demons' bodies were
icy, they reached the conclusion that the frozen
sperm taken first from a man could not have generative
Albertus Magnus and
Thomas Aquinas wrote
that demons acted in this way but could fecundate women. Ulrich
Nicholas Remy disagreed that women could be impregnated;
besides, Remy thought that a woman could never be fecundated by
another being than a man.
Heinrich Kramer (author of the Malleus
Maleficarum) adopted again an intermediate position; he wrote that
demons acted first as succubi and then as incubi, but added the
possibility that incubi could receive semen from succubi, but he
considered that this sperm could not fecundate women.
Peter of Paluda and
Martin of Arles among others supported the idea
that demons could take sperm from dead men and impregnate women. Some
demonologists thought that demons could take semen from dying or
recently deceased men, and thus dead men should be buried as soon as
possible to avoid it.
Inspired by the
Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation 13:18 the number 666 (the Number of
the second Beast) was attributed to the
Antichrist and to the Devil.
According to medieval grimoires, demons each have a diabolical
signature or seal with which they sign diabolical pacts. These seals
can also be used by a conjurer to summon and control the demons. The
seals of a variety of demons are given in grimoires such as The Great
Book of Saint Cyprian, Le Dragon Rouge and The Lesser Key of Solomon.
The pentagram, which has been used with various meanings in many
cultures (including Christianity, in which it denoted the five wounds
of Christ), is usually considered a diabolical sign when inverted (one
point downwards, two points up). Such a symbol may appear with or
without a surrounding circle, and sometimes contains the head of a
male goat, with the horns fitting into the upper points of the star,
the ears into the side points, the beard into the lowest one, and the
face into the central pentagon.
An inverted (upside-down) cross (particularly the crucifix) has also
been considered a symbol of both the
Devil and the Antichrist,
although in Catholic tradition a plain inverted cross (without the
corpus or figure of Christ) is a symbol of Saint Peter. See:
Not all Christians believe that demons exist in the literal sense.
There is the view that the
New Testament language of exorcism is an
example of the language of the day being employed to describe the
healings of what today would be classified as epilepsy, mental illness
Classification of demons
Demons and animals
Fall of man
Seven princes of Hell
Demonologies from Christian and Occultist perspectives
Summa Theologica (1274)
Nicholas Magni, Tractatus de superstitionibus (1405)
The Sworn Book of Honorius (13th century)
Johannes Hartlieb, Buch aller verpoten kunst (1456)
Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger,
Malleus Maleficarum (1486)
Martin of Arles, Tractatus de superstitionibus (1515)
Daemonolatreiae libri tres (1595)
King James VI and I.
Key of Solomon
Key of Solomon (16th century)
Ludovico Maria Sinistrari - De Daemonialitate et Incubis et Succubis
The Book of Abramelin
The Book of Abramelin (Evidence points to the 18th century, although
some claim it to be from the 1450s)
Augustin Calmet, Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on
Vampires or Revenants (1749)
De la démonomanie des sorciers, Jean Bodin
Malleus Maleficarum, Lyon, 1669
Matthew Hopkins the Witchfinder General
^ van der Toorn, Becking, van der Horst (1999), Dictionary of Deities
and Demons in The Bible, Second Extensively Revised Edition, Entry:
Demon, pp. 235-240, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
^ Exorcism, Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum, 1962, at sanctamissa.org,
Copyright © 2007. Canons Regular of St. John Cantius
^ Hansen, Chadwick (1970), Witchcraft at Salem, p. 132, Signet
Classics, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 69-15825
^ Modica, Terry Ann (1996), Overcoming The Power of The Occult, p. 31,
Faith Publishing Company, ISBN 1-880033-24-0
^ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Demonology
Malleus Maleficarum Part 2, Chapter II, "Now the method of
profession is twofold. One is a solemn ceremony, like a solemn vow.
The other is private, and can be made to the devil at any hour alone",
hosted on the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
Witch Persecutions, ed. George L. Burr, p. 3, hosted on the
Internet Sacred Text Archive.
Malleus Maleficarum Part 1, Question V, "certain men who are called
Lunatics are molested by devils more at one time than at another"; "a
man begins to be influenced towards and wills to commit sin, there
must also be some extrinsic cause of this. And this can be no other
than the devil"
^ J. Hampton Keathley, The Beast and the False Prophet (Rev 13:1-18)
^ Malleus Maleficarum, Part 2, Chapter VIII, "But all three kinds have
this in common, that though they are very heavy," hosted on the
Internet Sacred Text Archive
^ Pigments throughout the Ages
^ Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy, Sisung Kelle S. (Editor)
(1996), Angels A to Z, Entry: "Incubi and Succubi", pp. 218, 219,
Visible Ink Press, ISBN 0-7876-0652-9
^ Kramer, Heinrich and Sprenger, James (1486), Summers, Montague
(translator; 1928), The Malleus Maleficarum, Part 2, Chapter VIII,
"Certain Remedies prescribed against those Dark and Horrid Harms with
which Devils may Afflict Men", at sacred-texts.com
^ The Devil