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Deliver Us From Evil: How Ancient People Protected Their Houses from Bad Spirits and Bad Luck?

Deliver Us From Evil: How Ancient People Protected Their Houses from Bad Spirits and Bad Luck?


Some people say it is not real, but try to tell them that bad spirits just entered their houses. They will feel insane and try to ignore it, but the unpleasant feeling will stay. In this case people haven't changed for centuries or even millennia.

Safety is one of the main needs of humanity. There is no person, who doesn't need to feel safe and well, protected of all the dangers, enemies and tragedies. Therefore, as long as humanity exists, people will try to find the spiritual way to find the state of keeping safe and well. They asked deities, created rituals and connections with the spirits. Many of the traditional, folklore and ancient ways stayed alive until now.

Protective Deities and Other Spirits

One of the most popular way of searching for protection had always been asking spirits and deities for help. The most natural to all of us way of connecting with the spiritual part of life had always been a conversation with our ancestors. There are evidences in ancient texts, that people searched for ways of honoring and connecting with their deceased relatives and authorities. However, some of these spiritual adventures started to be seen as another source of danger. The first legends about sorcery and unwanted spirits, which answered to the request of advice, seem to be as old as Sumerian civilization.

The pantheons of many different civilizations contained multiple deities, which were responsible for protection. In fact, the followers of the specific deities asked them to support their homes, families, etc. The idea of protection those times was exactly the same as in the modern religion, however, currently worshiped deities have lesser meanings now than it was in the ancient times. For example, goddess like Demeter or Hestia were recognized as the ones who took care of families and households. However, it didn't mean that the deities related to the war couldn't be protective. One of the examples of asking for support and protection was a use of helmets. The warriors, after the won battle, revisited the temples, where they were asking for support before. As Miltiades after the battle of Marathon came to the famous Temple of Zeus at Olympia and left his helmet as offering to the powerful god.

Demeter. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC.

Demeter. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC. (Public Domain)

Angels of All Religions

Another way to get protected of bad spirit is asking the angels for help. Angels seem to be known in every existed civilization. While taking a look at ancient reliefs from Summer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, but also Maya and many other places on Earth, it seems that there is no religious system without the winged protectors of innocent people.

Also, Plutarch and Meander believed in angels, the no-platonists followed it. Plutarch calls them good demons, and according to Hans Dieter Betz they seem to be ''guardians of the sacred rites of the gods and of oracles and prophetic shrines, prompters in the mysteries, and avengers of arrogant and grievous cases of injustice. The evil demons are cruel and vengeful brings who bring about pestilences and failures of crops, stir up wars and civil discords. In Early Christian Literature both Christ and the angels, like the good demons of Plutarch, have a meditating role. Christ's role as mediator surpasses any assigned to the demons in Plutarch, while the role of the angels is less important, that of being messengers from God to men.''

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, created by Gustave Doré in 1855.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, created by Gustave Doré in 1855. (Public Domain)

Anyway, due to their role of ''post men'' between the Earth and deities, they became very important part of beliefs. The conception of Guardian Angel, the protector, is known from the Christian theology since the 5th century.

Herbal and Symbolic Protection

Since the ancient times people used many different gifts of the planet to protection. Some of the best-known methods are based on the herbs, stones, trees and symbols. For example, prehistoric cultures in northern and western Europe used circular symbols, rings and spirals nearby the settlements, what suggests that they were used to protect the site. The same symbolism was used next to the entrances in case of important tumulus. The puzzle of the ancient symbolism are difficult to read, but the remnants, which survived until now suggest that they were very important to the tribes, which used these signs.

It is unknown who started to burn sage as first, but in the European folklore the most popular way to protect the house in Europe was using the sage. It seems that cleansing ritually the house and the person with sage was a method of removing all what was bad from the hearth. In fact, according to the paleobotanical tests made around the world, every society used this what was available around them. Most of the religious celebrations worldwide were based on the natural resources of the neighborhood of the human settlements.

String of garlic, used to protect against vampires.

String of garlic, used to protect against vampires. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The same happened in the case of protective stones, however, it seems that this discipline has got a deeper meaning. Ancient Romans also believed in the protective and supportive role of stones. Ancient Roman soldiers believed that carnelian stops bleeding of wounds. In ancient Egypt, precious turquoises are interpreted sometimes as protective stones. However, ancient people didn't leave us too many information about the use of specific stones. Due to its special meaning and energy, which is currently a subject of scientific researches, they were used to protect of bad luck, a bad spirit and to empower humans when needed.

Don't Believe in Bad Spirits?

Self-esteem is the thing, which is also mentioned as a natural protection of all what is bad. Ancient Greek heroes believe in themselves so strong, that they become unbreakable. The legend of the power of the human will had been cultivated in the religions lesser dominated by the economy. However, in strongly organized religions related to ancient Greece, Rome or later Christianity and Islam, the spirit of the human had been presented as weaker than the will of deity.

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781)

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781) (Public Domain)

Calling for the protection stayed a custom also in modern times. People still follow ancient and folklore methods, tattoo the symbols, wear amulets, pray for protection to deities they believe in. Humans are part of the nature, as nature is a part of all of us.

Top image: Angel statue (Public Domain), Pustaha, Protection against Evil (Public Domain), Illustration of a nightmare. (Public Domain)

By Natalia Klimczak


Hans Dieter Betz, Plutarch's Theological Writings and Early Christian Literature, 1975.

Margaret Picton, The book of magical herbs: Herbal History, Mystery and Folklore, 2000.

Louis Zaidman, Paulie Pantel, Religion in the Ancient Greek City, 2000.

Pierre Grimal, The dictionary of classical mythology, 1995.



Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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