Deriv; Statue of the Fallen Angel and The Hell, Inferno Canto 34, circa 1301

Devils or Angels? Defining the Dark Entities of Christianity’s Past

(Read the article on one page)

Devil or angel? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. The concept of demons is an old one, harking back to the confiscation of pagan nature deities by the Roman Empire, which turned them into something more sinister and evil than may have originally been intended. Angels are as old as religion itself, appearing in the earliest of writings of Abrahamic traditions, including fallen angels who mated with human women and defied the will of God, and thus were kicked out of the heavenly realm to roam the wastelands of Hell. Many people believe demons and fallen angels are the same. Many do not, citing that fallen angels specifically began as good angels who fell from grace, whereas demons were, as we might say, born to be bad.

Statue of the Fallen Angel by Ricardo Bellver, 1877, Spain.

Statue of the Fallen Angel by Ricardo Bellver, 1877, Spain. ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

The Root of Demons

In our quest to define what a demon is, or isn’t, it usually helps to look at the root of the word itself. The word dates back to the Latin “daemon” from the Greek “daimon,” which meant “deity, divine power, lesser God, guiding spirit and tutelary spirit.” Later Christian use associated it with “daimonion,” or “unclean spirit, God of the heathens,” which explains the negative connotation placed on the word by the Church. A lesser God is a much different entity from an unclean spirit or heathen spirit, which is not only looked upon as inferior, but almost primitive and certainly pagan. The original connotation of demons as divine was cast out during the rise of the Roman Empire in order to set Christianity as the state religion. Pagan statues were then “demonized” and the divine status stripped of the deities they represented. What was once beautiful and worthy of worship to the pagan world was now unclean and evil to the rising Christian mind view.

Pagan fertility deities often got the worst of the demon treatment, including Pan, a nature God that is still mistaken for a horned demon because of his association with fecundity, fornication and nature.

Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pipes, 2nd century AD Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BC

Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pipes, 2nd century AD Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BC ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Many scholars assume the idea of Satan and the devil as a horned being came from Pan himself, who was more concerned with lustful living and engaging in the temptations of the natural world out in the woods and glades than doing evil. Thus, the “horny old goat” became the Devil himself and the hooved son of Hermes was never to live down the bad rap.

Illustration of Pan

Illustration of Pan ( Public Domain )

Unclean Demons and Exorcism

Demons are usually described as malevolent beings, and are found in religion, folklore, myth and literature. Sometimes they are considered the devil’s minions, as in Satan’s underlings, but demons don’t have to by nature have any association with the Overlord of Hell himself. They can, and do, operate on their own.

Ancient Near Eastern religions traditions share with the Abrahamic traditions the perception of demons as unclean spirits that can possess humans or even objects such as dolls and personal items. Demons may be conjured by humans using spells, talismans and incantations, which is one of the many features that differentiate them from fallen angels.

READ MORE…

This is a free preview of an exclusive article from Ancient Origins PREMIUM.

To enjoy the rest of this article please join us there . When you subscribe, you get immediate and full access to all Premium articles , free eBooks, webinars by expert guests, discounts for online stores, and much more!

Top Image: Deriv; Statue of the Fallen Angel, ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) and The Hell, Inferno Canto 34, circa 1301 ( Public Domain )

By Marie D. Jones

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

DNA molecule representation
By sequencing the ancient genomes of 15 individuals from different parts of Africa, researchers reporting in the journal Cell on September 21 have reconstructed the prehistory of humans on the continent, going back thousands of years. The findings shed light on which human populations lived in eastern and southern Africa between 8,000 and 1,000 years ago, the researchers say.

Myths & Legends

Illustration of a sea serpent. Credit: Tina Leyk / deviantart
More humans have walked on the moon than have been to the deepest parts of planet Earth and although the oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface, we only know around 1% of the seafloor. Many a mystery surrounds the deep blue and this is the remarkable story of a cryptozoological enigma which washed up on Scotland's northern shores in the 19th century.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article