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Demons

christian angels evil otherwise

The word demon derives from the Greek daimon (spirit). In Jewish and Christian usage, demons are specifically malevolent spirits, capable of possessing humans or otherwise causing evil in the world. When pictured in art, demons have the general attributes of the *Devil: they are often shown with horns, wings, fangs, or claws, are dark or black, and have a grotesque, hybrid, humanoid, or otherwise contorted appearance.


Expelling demons is known as *exorcism. The Bible contains several accounts of exorcism, and Jesus’ power over demons and his ability to drive them away with succinct words and gestures (versus elaborate rituals or incantations) is described in the Gospels and illustrated in art from the early Christian period onward Small winged demons are shown issuing from the mouths of possessed people or hovering above them (e.g., in sixth-century ivories illustrating Jesus’ *miracles and many later examples). Demons appear inciting or tempting people to do evil (e.g., *Pontius Pilate) or coming to take away the *soul of a sinner to *hell (e.g., *Judas). Demons thus may feature in scenes of the *Apocalypse and *Last Judgment, tormenting and torturing the damned, or contesting with *angels over the souls of the deceased


The origin of demons was an issue of frequent discussion and varied interpretation among both Jewish and Christian writers through the Middle Ages. The theory that demons were originally disobedient angels who, led by *Satan, rebelled against *God at the time of *Creation, is illustrated in the image of the *Fall of the Rebel Angels. Particular *saints were especially provoked or tested by demons (e.g., Saint *Anthony), and demons often feature in hagiographic pictorial narratives attacking saints or being exorcised by them.

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