I was reading up on Satanism when I suddenly remembered that, more than a year ago, I ran a blog series deconstructing a list of demons posted by the fundamentalist whacko Jon Watkins (see the first, second and third parts). Then my mind wandered before I made it all the way through the list. I hate to leave a job unfinished, so allow me to pick up where I left off…
For those just arriving, the list in question originates in Leonard R. N. Ashley’s Complete Book of Devils and Demons before being “adapted” by Jon Watkins for his site ExposingSatanism, Ashley’s scholarship was a bit on the loose side to start with; but once Watkins got his hands on the list, cultural accuracy went out the window and bizarre paranoia crept in (Watkins seems to believe that each demon on this list has literal existence and is influencing world affairs).
One thing I noticed when researching this series is that a lot of these demons — including the lesser-known ones who seem to have had little or no place in Western demonology until Ashley decided to include them in his book — have been turning up in modern fiction. It seems that a number of authors are using this list (presumably the original Ashley version rather than Watkins’ corruption) as a source text, so I’d say it’s worth my time tracing the origins of the figures who have found themselves tied together in this curious piece of writing.
Naburus – Known as a demon guardian of the gates of Hell.
The spelling here is unorthodox, but Naberus or Naberius is one of the beings listed in Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, which describes him as appearing in the form of a crow. Curiously, Weyer also gives Cerberus as an alternate name for this demon, even though the description has nothing in common with the three-headed dog of Greek myth. Watkins’ claim that Naberius guards the gates of hell is obviously lifted from the mythological Cerberus, who guarded Hades. Watkins’ list includes two more of Weyer’s demons after this — namely Paymon and Raum — but the descriptions in those cases are reasonably accurate.
Nergal – A demon who represents a certain phase of the sun & a contributor to pagan celebration.
Nergal is a Mesopotamian deity mentioned in the Old Testament as a false god. He was associated with the sunset, so this entry is broadly accurate (if we get past the god/demon conflation).
Nybras – He is a demon who makes evil appear “good” by making things seem harmless & fun.
Leonard Ashley’s book describes Nybras as “Grand Publicist of the Pleasures of Hell, an inferior demon” but I’m unclear as to where this figure originates; I have to wonder if he’s a corruption of Naberus, mentioned above. Watkins’ claim that he makes evil appear fun seems rooted in the Satanic Panic and concerns over rock music and roleplaying.
Olisha – A demon goddess who is worshiped in Haiti who is favored for voodoo, spell casting & black magic. She is similar to a shaman.
This appears to be a corruption of orisha, a class of spirit in Yoruba belief.
Oroan – A demon known as the “eclipse” who is worshiped in Pagan belief systems.
Oroan is a figure who, in the mythology of multiple South American peoples, causes eclipses. Another garbled description divorced from its original cultural context.
Orthon – A demon that is well known for possessing bodies of the living causing them to speak & act as he pleases.
The story of the spirit Orthon can be found in Jean Froissart’s Chronicles. But Froissant doesn’t describe Orthon possessing people: according to his account, the spirit manifested first as a disembodied voice accompanied by poltergeist-like physical phenomena; then as a pair of straws on the floor; then as an emaciated sow.
Orusula – A giant pig-like demon who spreads disease.
Orusula is a figure in Talamancan mythology. The only pre-Ashley citation i can find is this academic document from 1962, which states that “Another bad spirit is Orusula, an enormous pig whose head Sibu cut off and kept his blood to teach men to beware of him ”
Pitkis – Considered a feared Baltic god, this demon is associated with the night and the evil of the night
This demon is mentioned by Ashley, but I haven’t found an earlier citation.
Proserpine – She is known as the princess of Hell & sometimes refereed [sic] to as Baal’s mother.
This is an alternative name for Persephone, wife of Hades in Greek mythology. Needless to say, the Greeks didn’t consider her the mother of Baal, a Semitic deity who belonged to a completely different pantheon.
Pyro – He is the male counterpart of falsehoods spreading deceptions through anger & frustration.
Ashley lists Pyro as the “prince of falsehoods” in his book. I have no idea what demonological tradition, if any, this figure comes from.
Ravana – He is a Hindu king of demons in Hell.
In Hinduism, Ravana is a complex figure with both positive and negative qualities; the above description is a Christianised oversimplification.
Rimmon – Also known as Damas, is a fallen angel who became a demon. Also known as the god of storms, He likes idolizing of objects and people.
Rimmon is a mythological figure briefly alluded to in 2 Kings, which mentions “the temple of Rimmon”. Zechariah, meanwhile, mentions “Hadad-Rimmon”, suggesting that Rimmon is an alternative name for the god Hadad, who was indeed associated with storms. I know of no mythological figure named “Damas”; this appears to be a garbled reference to Damascus, where Rimmon’s temple was supposedly located.
The list goes on, but I’d say that’s enough for now. One final post should finish the job…