Myths & Legends Of Demons
Demons were once benevolent beings, but now, may be human, or nonhuman, separable souls, or discarnate spirits. The English term "Demon" typically denotes harmful or malevolent spiritual beings found in Judeo-Christian religious traditions. The term can also be used to describe the Jinn from Islamic traditions, or more broadly any harmful, malevolent or frightening spiritual beings from non-Abrahamic traditions the world over.
Demons are generally classified as spirits which are believed to enter into relations with the human race. As such the term includes:
- angels in the Christian tradition that fell from grace,
- malevolent genii or familiars,
- such as receive a cult (e.g., ancestor worship),
- ghosts or other malevolent revenants.
The ancient Mesopotamians believed that the underworld (Kur) was home to many demons, which are sometimes referred to as "offspring of arali". These demons could sometimes leave the underworld and terrorize mortals on earth. One class of demons that were believed to reside in the underworld were known as galla; their primary purpose appears to have been to drag unfortunate mortals back to Kur. They are frequently referenced in magical texts, and some texts describe them as being seven in number. Several extant poems describe the galla dragging the god Dumuzid into the underworld. Like other demons, however, galla could also be benevolent and, in a hymn from King Gudea of Lagash, a minor god named Ig-alima is described as "the great galla of Girsu". Demons had no cult in Mesopotamian religious practice since demons "know no food, know no drink, eat no flour offering and drink no libation."
Demons in Christianity are almost universally considered to be fallen angels that rebelled against Yahweh. Typically Christians consider all deities other than Yahweh to be either empty idols, or demons posing as gods. Because of this, Christian lists of formal demonologies will often include gods, goddesses, and mythological creatures from other religions around the world that have been "demonised."
Though fallen angels can sometimes be seen as demons in Islam, more commonly demons are considered a separate species from Angels, called Jinn. Jinn are thought of to be made of fire, can eat, drink, sleep, and reproduce, and have free will. Angels in Islam are often thought to be made of light, and do not need to eat, drink or sleep, cannot reproduce, and lack free will.
In Hinduism the Asuras are beings who oppose the Devas (the gods). Both the Devas and the Asuras fought over the amrita, the elixer of mortality. The Devas and the Asuras are in a never ending conflict. In Buddhism, demons are seen as forces that prevent humans from reaching Nirvana. The most notable of which is Mara, the tempter.
In Japanese Shinto, Yōkai (a class of strange supernatural beings) can sometimes be translated to English as "Demons," but can also be translated to monster, spirit, or goblin. The most notable creature from Japanese culture that's considered to be a demon is the Oni, though the term is also often translated to ogre. The oni are large, monstrous, violent, and cruel.
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