Classification Of Demons
There have been various attempts throughout history by theologian scholars the classification of demons for the purpose of understanding the biblical and mythological context of adversarial spirits. Theologians have written dissertations in Christian demonology, classical occultism, classical mythology, and Renaissance magic to clarify the connections between these spirits and their influence in various cultures. The study of demonology was historically used to understand morality and behavioral tendencies and has even been used as symbolism to relay anecdotal tales in folklore.
Classification systems are based on the supposed nature of the demon, the alleged sin with which they lure people into temptation, and may also include the angels or saints that were believed to have been their adversaries; an idea which derived from the Biblical battle between the Archangel Michael and Satan in The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describing a war in heaven which resulted in Satan and his angels being expelled from Heaven. The classifications of these fallen angels are based on many other characteristics as well, such as behaviors that caused their fall from heaven, physical appearances, or the methods that were used to torment people, cause maladies, or elicit dreams, emotions, etc. Most authors who wrote theological dissertations on the subject either truly believed in the existence of infernal spirits or wrote as a philosophical guide to understanding an ancient perspective of behavior and morality in folklore and religious themes.
Classification by domain
The Testament of Solomon
Main article: Testament of Solomon
The Testament of Solomon is a pseudepigraphical work, purportedly written by King Solomon, in which the author mostly describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity. The date is very dubious, though it is considered the oldest surviving work particularly concerned with individual demons.
Psellus’ classification of demons
Michael Psellus prepared the influential De operatione dæmonum (On the Operation of Demons) in the 11th century, with a taxonomy dividing demons into six types: Leliurium (Igneous), Aërial, Marine (Aqueous), Terrestrial (Earthly), Subterranean, and Lucifugous (Heliophobic). The work of Psellus would inspire many other later demonic classifications, from various occult authors to the witch hunting manual by Francesco Maria Guazzo.
Lanterne of Light classification of demons
In 1409-1410 The Lanterne of Light (an anonymous English Lollard tract often attributed to John Wycliffe) provided a classification system based on the seven deadly sins, with each demon tempting people by means of those sins. This list was later used in the works of John Taylor, the Water Poet.
- Lucifer: pride
- Beelzebub: envy
- Sathanas: wrath
- Abadon: sloth
- Mammon: greed
- Belphegor: gluttony
- Asmodeus: lust
Spina’s classification of demons
Alphonso de Spina, in 1467, prepared a classification of demons based on several criteria:
- Demons of fate
- Incubi and succubi
- Wandering groups or armies of demons can include multiple regions in hell
- Cambions and other demons that are born from the union of a demon with a human being.
- Liar and mischievous demons
- Demons that attack the saints
- Demons that try to induce old women to attend Witches’ Sabbaths
This classification is somewhat capricious and it is difficult to find a criterion for it. It seems that several legends and stories inspired Spina. The drudes belong to German folklore. Familiars, goblins, and other mischievous demons belong to the folklore of most European countries.
The belief in incubi and succubi (and their ability to procreate) seem to have inspired the sixth category, but it could also have been inspired in the Talmudic legend of demons having sexual intercourse with mortal women an men (see also Mastema).
The visions of tempting demons that some early (and not so early) saints had, perhaps inspired the eighth category (e.g. the visions of Anthony the Great).
The idea of old women attending Sabbaths was common during the European Middle Age and Renaissance, and Spina mentioned it before the Malleus Maleficarum.
Agrippa’s classification of demons
In De occulta philosophia (1509-1510), Cornelius Agrippa proposed several classifications for demons, based on numeric scales, like his whole Cosmology. Francis Barrett, in his book The Magus (1801), adopted this classification of demons.
- Scale of Unity
One prince of rebellion, of angels, and darkness:
- Scale of binary
Two chiefs of the devils:
- Scale of ternary
Three infernal judges:
- Scale of quaternary
Four Princes of devils in the elements:
- Samael: Fire
- Azazel: Air
- Azrael: Water
- Mahazael: Earth
Four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world
- Oriens: East
- Paymon: West
- Egyn: North
- Amaymon: South
Despite listed separately, Agrippa mentions that these groups are identical, making the first as the Hebrew equivalent of the names of the latter. The same four demons appear in the Semiphoras and Schemhamforas.
- Scale of Six
Six authors of all calamities:
- Scale of novenary
Nine princes ruling over nine orders of devils (with biblical references):
- Beelzebub: False Gods (Matthew 4:1–11)
- Python: Spirits of Lying (1 Kings 22:21–22)
- Belial: Instruments of iniquity and wrath (Genesis 49:5, Psalms 7:13, Isaiah 13:5, Jeremiah 50:25, Ezekiel 9:2)
- Asmodeus: Revengers of Wickedness
- Satan: Deluders or Imitators of miracles (Genesis 3:1–5)
- Merihem (the Meridian Devil): Aerial Powers (Revelation 7:1–2)
- Abaddon: Furies – sowing mischief
- Astaroth: Calumniators – inquisitors and accusers
- Mammon: Maligenii – tempters and ensnarers
Binsfeld’s classification of demons
As part of his 1589 Treatise on Confessions by Evildoers and Witches, German theologian Peter Binsfeld prepared a classification of demons known as the Princes of Hell. Like the Lanterne of Light, Binsfeld used the seven deadly sins as a basis, though the two schemes differ in various ways.
- Lucifer: pride
- Mammon: greed
- Asmodeus: lust
- Leviathan: envy
- Beelzebub: gluttony
- Satan: wrath
- Belphegor: sloth
King James’s classification of demons
Main article: Daemonologie
King James wrote a dissertation titled “Daemonologie” that was first published in 1597, several years prior to the first publication of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible. Within 3 short books James wrote a dissertation in the form of a philosophical play, making arguments and comparisons between magic, sorcery, and witchcraft but wrote also his classifications of demons into 4 sections. His classification were not based on separate demonic entities with their names, ranks, or titles but rather categorized them based on 4 methods used by any given devil to cause mischief or torment on a living individual or a corpse. The purpose was to relay the belief that spirits caused maladies and that magic was possible only through demonic influence. He further quotes previous authors who state that each devil has the ability to appear in diverse shapes or forms for varying arrays of purposes as well. In his description of them, he relates that demons are under the direct supervision of God and are unable to act without permission, further illustrating how demonic forces are used as a “Rod of Correction” when men stray from the will of God and may be commissioned by witches, or magicians to conduct acts of ill will against others but will ultimately only conduct works that will end in the further glorification of God despite their attempts to do otherwise.
- Spectra: Used to describe spirits that trouble houses or solitary places
- Obsession: Used to describe spirits that follow upon certain people to outwardly trouble them at various times of the day
- Possession: Used to describe spirits that enter inwardly into a person to trouble them.
- Fairies: Used to describe spirits that prophesy, consort, and transport.
Michaelis’s classification of demons
In 1613 Sebastien Michaelis wrote a book, Admirable History, which included a classification of demons as it was told to him by the demon Berith when he was exorcising a nun, according to the author. This classification is based on the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies, according to the sins the devil tempts one to commit, and includes the demons’ adversaries (who suffered that temptation without falling).
Note that many demons’ names are exclusively French or unknown in other catalogs. St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the two St. Johns to whom Michaelis refers. The other saints are cited only by their name without making clear, i.e., which Francis is mentioned (of Assisi?).
The first hierarchy includes angels that were Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones.
- Beelzebub was a prince of the Seraphim, just below Lucifer. Beelzebub, along with Lucifer and Leviathan, were the first three angels to fall. He tempts men with pride and is opposed by St. Francis of Assisi.
- Leviathan was also a prince of the Seraphim who tempts people to give into heresy, and is opposed by St. Peter.
- Asmodeus was also a prince of the Seraphim, burning with desire to tempt men into wantonness. He is opposed by St. John the Baptist.
- Berith was a prince of the Cherubim. He tempts men to commit homicide, and to be quarrelsome, contentious, and blasphemous. He is opposed by St. Barnabas.
- Astaroth was a prince of Thrones, who tempts men to be lazy and is opposed by St. Bartholomew.
- Verrine was also a prince of Thrones, just below Astaroth. He tempts men with impatience and is opposed by St. Dominic.
- Gressil was the third prince of Thrones, who tempts men with impurity and is opposed by St. Bernard.
- Soneillon was the fourth prince of Thrones, who tempts men to hate and is opposed by St. Stephen.
The second hierarchy includes Powers, Dominions, and Virtues.
- Carreau was a prince of Powers. He tempts men with hardness of heart and is opposed by St. Vincent and Vincent Ferrer.
- Carnivale was also a prince of Powers. He tempts men to obscenity and shamelessness, and is opposed by John the Evangelist.
- Oeillet was a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin.
- Rosier was the second in the order of Dominions. He tempts men against sexual purity and is opposed by St. Basil.
- Belias was the prince of Virtues. He tempts men with arrogance and women to be vain, raise wanton children, and gossip during mass. He is opposed by St. Francis de Paul.
The third hierarchy Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
- Verrier was the prince of Principalities. He tempts men against the vow of obedience and is opposed by St. Bernard.
- Olivier was the prince of the Archangels. He tempts men with cruelty and mercilessness toward the poor and is opposed by St. Lawrence.
- Luvart was the prince of Angels. At the time of Michaelis’s writing, Luvart was believed to be in the body of a Sister Madeleine.
Many of the names and ranks of these demons appear in the Sabbath litanies of witches, according to Jules Garinet’s Histoire de la magie en France, and Collin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal.
Classification by office
In the study of demonology, many spirits are classified by office, rank, or titles which theologians believe were once held in heaven before the fall, or which they currently hold in their infernal dwelling. These offices are usually elaborated in several grimoires which determines their authority in hell or abilities. Demons categorized by office are often depicted in a militant hierarchy, in which a general may hold command over some designated legion for a specialized function which they may trouble men. Other theologians have determined the classification of a spirit’s office depending on the times or locations which they roam the Earth.
The Book of Abramelin
The Book of Abramelin, possibly written in the 14th or 15th century, lists four princes of the demons: Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan, and Belial. There are also eight sub-princes: Astaroth, Maggot, Asmodee, Beelzebub, Oriens, Paimon, Ariton (Egin) and Amaymon. Under the rule of these there are many lesser demons.
Le Livre des Esperitz
Main article: Livre des Esperitz
Written in the 15th or 16th century, this grimoire was a likely source for Wierus hierarchy of demons, but while Wierus mentions 69 demons, Le Livre des Esperitz has only 46. Wierus omitted, however, the four demons of the cardinal points: Orient, Ponymon, Amaymon and Equi (see Agrippa’s classification) and the three great governors of all the other demons: Lucifer, Beelzebub and Satan.
The Munich Manual of Demonic Magic
Main article: Munich Manual of Demonic Magic
Written in the 15th century, this manual includes a list of eleven demons.
Fasciculus Rerum Germanicarum
Written in 1494, this grimoire contains a list of 37 demons.
Le Dragon Rouge (or Grand Grimoire)
Like many works of mystical nature, Le Dragon Rouge (or the Red Dragon) claims to come from Solomon and his priests and is said to be published in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian. However, it was most likely written in France in the 18th century.
The grimoire details the different hosts of hell and their powers, describing how to enter a pact with them to attain the magicians’ goals. The demons of hell are classified by three different tiers from Generals to Officers.
Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, is a grimoire that contains a list of demons and the appropriate hours and rituals to conjure them in the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (simpler than those cited by The Lesser Key of Solomon below).
This book was written around 1583, and lists sixty-eight demons. The demons Vassago, Seir, Dantalion and Andromalius are not listed in this book. Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does not attribute seals to demons.
The Lesser Key of Solomon
The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis is an anonymous 17th century grimoire, and one of the most popular books of demonology. The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the “exorcist”). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.
The author of The Lesser Key of Solomon copied Pseudomonarchia Daemonum almost completely, but added demons’ descriptions, their seals and details.
The Ars Goetia
Ars Goetia is the first section of The Lesser Key of Solomon, containing descriptions of the seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed by magic symbols, and that he obliged to work for him.
The Ars Goetia assigns a rank and a title of nobility to each member of the infernal hierarchy, and gives the demons “signs they have to pay allegiance to”, or seals.
The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organised in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings that depict the descriptions of the appearance of a number of demons. Many of these images were later used in S. L. MacGregor Mathers’s edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon though some of the images were removed.
The book was first published in 1818 and then divided into two volumes, with six reprints and many changes between 1818 and 1863. This book attempts to provide an account of all the knowledge concerning superstitions and demonology.
De Plancy presented a hierarchy of demons based in modern European courts:
- Princes and dignitaries: Beelzebub, supreme chief of the empire of hell, founder of the order of the Fly. Satan, prince dethroned and chief of the opposition party. Eurynome, prince of death, Grand Cross of the order of the Fly. Moloch, prince of the country of tears, Grand Cross of the order. Pluton, Prince of Fire, also Grand Cross of the order and governor of the regions in flames. Pan, prince of incubi and Lilith, princess of succubi. Leonard, the great lord of the Sabbath, Knight of the Fly. Balberith, great pontiff, lord of alliances. Proserpina, archdiablesse, princess of evil spirits.
- Ministers of the Office: Adrammelech, Grand Chancellor and Grand Cross of the Order of the Fly. Ashtaroth, general treasurer, Knight of the Fly. Nergal, chief of the secret police. Baal, commander in chief of the armies of Hell, Grand Cross of the Order of the Fly. Leviathan, Grand Admiral, Knight of the Fly.
- Ambassadors: Belfegor, Ambassador of France. Mammon, of England. Belial, of Italy. Rimmon, of Russia. Tammuz, of Spain. Hutgin, of Turkey. Martinet, of Switzerland.
- Justice: Lucifer, chief of (in)justice, Knight of the Fly. Alastor, executor of his sentences.
- House of the princes: Verdelet, master of ceremonies. Succorbenoth, chief of the eunuchs of the seraglio. Chamos, Grand Chambelain, Knight of the Fly. Melchom, payer treasurer. Nisroch, chief of the kitchen. Behemoth, chief cupbearer. Dagon, grand pantler. Mullin, first valet.
- Secret expenses: Kobal, director of theaters. Asmodeus, superintendent of the gambling houses. Nybbas, grand buffoon. Antichrist, charlatan, and necromancer.
Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier used some of these names and ranks for the demons who tormented him, in his autobiographical work Les farfadets ou Tous les démons ne sont pas de l’autre monde (1821).
The Satanic Bible
Main article: The infernal names
LaVey utilized the symbolism of the Four Crown Princes of Hell in The Satanic Bible, with each chapter of the book named after each Prince. The Book of Satan: The Infernal Diatribe, The Book of Lucifer: The Enlightenment, The Book of Belial: Mastery of the Earth, and The Book of Leviathan: The Raging Sea. This association was inspired by the demonic hierarchy from The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage.
- Satan (Hebrew) “Lord of the Inferno”:
The adversary, representing opposition, the element of fire, the direction of the south, and the Sigil of Baphomet during ritual.
- Lucifer (Latin) “The Morning Star”:
The bringer of light, representing pride and enlightenment, the element of air, the direction of the east, and candles during ritual.
- Belial (Hebrew) “Without a Master”:
The baseness of the earth, independence and self-sufficiency, the element of earth, the direction of the north, and the sword during ritual.
- Leviathan (Hebrew) “Serpent of the Abyss”:
The great dragon, representing primal secrecy, the element of water, the direction of the west, and the chalice during ritual.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia