Monday, May 30, 2016
Lilith and Demonology by James Grant 1880
Lilith and Demonology by James Grant 1880
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To the Chaldeans we are indebted for the first ideas of demonology. From Chaldea the notions of demonology spread to Persia, Egypt, and Greece; but, as stated in another part of these pages, a belief in spirits or genii and of witchcraft prevailed at an early period of man's existence. There is an ancient Rabbinical tradition, no doubt very absurd, but illustrative of early notions of superstition, that Adam was first married to a sorceress named Lilith, or the mother of devils. She refused submission to Adam, and disregarded commandments conveyed to her by angels. She persisted in her disobedience; and having one day, in a more than ordinary state of impiety, invoked the name of Jehovah, according to the rules of the Cabala, she ascended into the air and disappeared. Lilith was feared by divers nations. When children died of diseases not properly understood, their deaths were attributed to Lilith, who was supposed to carry out her wicked purposes as an aërial spectre. Newly married pairs were accustomed to inscribe the names of angels on the inside partitions of their houses, and the names of Adam and Eve and the words "Begone, Lilith," on the outside walls. The name Lilith was given to women suspected of holding intercourse with demons. The legends of Lilith were transmitted from people to people until they came down to the Jews, who believed them. This people were wont to inscribe on their bed-posts the words, "Et zelo Chuizlilith," that the sleepers might be delivered by Lilith from dreams.
Demon was a term applied by the Greeks and Romans to certain genii or spirits who made themselves visible to men, with the intention of doing them either good or harm. The Jews and early Christians ascribed a malignant nature to demons, the former endeavouring to trace their origin to intercourse between man and supernatural beings, and the latter maintaining that they were the souls of departed human beings, permitted to visit the earth to assist those they favoured, and punish persons against whom they or their favourites had a grudge. Certain spirits were supposed to be celestial, others watery, some airy, and not a few of them fiery. Tertullian said: "Spirits flew through the air faster than any winged fowl. Unless commissioned to act, they remained passive, neither doing good nor evil; but the evil spirits went and came at the devil's command, and both classes of spirits were at man's service if he only knew how to summon them into his presence."
The ancient Egyptians had a tradition, that at a far past period men rebelled against the gods, and drove them away. Upon this taking place, the gods fled into Egypt, where they concealed themselves under the form of different animals; and this was the first reason assigned for the worship of inferior creatures. A leading principle in the religion of the ancient Arabians was their belief in fairies or genii. They thought that these genii attended people through life; that every man had two of these waiting on him, the one good and the other evil; that all evil actions were committed at the instigation of the evil spirit in the absence of the good genii, who sometimes went with messages to the celestial regions. The Arabians further believed these genii were continually at war with each other, which, the people considered, accounted for the contending passions in their minds. Their principal genius was Hafedhah, to whom the people, on setting out on a plundering expedition, prayed he would send them a strong genius to assist them.
In the middle ages conjuration was regularly practised in Europe, and devils were supposed to appear under decided forms. A devil would appear either as an angel of light, or as a monster in hideous shape. An anonymous writer, discussing the subject, says: "A devil would appear either like an angel seated in a fiery chariot, or riding on an infernal dragon, and carrying in his right hand a viper, or assuming a lion's head, a goose's feet, and a hare's tail, or putting on a raven's head, and mounted on a strong wolf. Other forms made use of by demons were those of fierce warriors, or old men riding upon crocodiles, with hooks in hand. A human figure would arise, having the wings of a griffin; or sporting three heads, one of them being like that of a toad, the other resembling that of a cat; or defended with huge teeth and horns, and adorned with a sword; or displaying a dog's teeth, and a large raven's head; or mounted upon a pale horse, and exhibiting a serpent's tail; or gloriously crowned, and riding upon a dromedary; or presenting the face of a lion; or bestriding a bear, and grasping a viper. There were also such shapes as those of archers or bowmen. A demoniacal king would ride on a pale horse, assume a leopard's face and griffin's wings; or put on three heads, one of a bull, another of a man, and a third of a ram, with a serpent's tail and the feet of a goose; and in this appearance sit on a dragon, and bear in his hand a lance and flag; or, instead of being thus employed, goad the flanks of a furious bear, and carry on his fist a hawk. Other forms were those of a goodly knight; or of one who bore lance, ensign, and even sceptre; or of a soldier, either riding on a black horse, and surrounded with a flame of fire; or wearing on his head a duke's crown, and mounted on a crocodile; or assuming a lion's face, and, with fiery eyes, spurring on a gigantic charger, or, with the same frightful aspect, appearing in all the pomp of family distinction, on a pale horse; or clad from head to foot in crimson raiment, wearing on his bold front a crown, and sallying forth on a red steed."
To inferior demons was assigned the duty of carrying away condemned souls, and superior benign spirits had the pleasing task of conveying from earth the souls of the blessed.
Toledo, Seville, and Salamanca were great schools of magic. The teachers taught that all knowledge might be obtained by the assistance of fallen angels. These teachers were skilled in the abstract sciences, in alchemy, in the various languages of mankind, and of the lower animals, divinity, magic, and prophecy. They professed to possess the power of controlling the winds and waters, and of influencing the stars. They also pretended to be able to cause earthquakes, spread diseases or cure them, release souls out of purgatory, to influence the passions of the mind, procure the reconciliation of friends or foes, engender discord, and induce mania and melancholy.
The Circassians sprinkled holy water over their friends' graves, and the priests tolled bells near them to keep evil spirits from the bodies. Affectionate relations visited the burying grounds from time to time, to repeat prayers for the repose of the dead, who, they thought, continued to be acquainted with the affairs of the world.
When an Indian became ill, the Brahmin prayed over him; for it was believed that two spirits, one good and the other bad, attended the dying at the hour of death. If the expiring person lived a commendable life, he was conveyed in a flying chariot to a place of happiness; but if he was wicked, the evil spirit carried him before a dread tribunal, to be judged according to his works. Deceased was then sent back to wander on the earth ten days, in the shape of a magpie. For this reason the people always fed a magpie for ten days after the death of a relation, imagining that the bird might possess their friend's soul.
Indians believed in former times, whatever they may do now, that hell was situated at a great distance below the world, and that there was a president in it called Yhamadar. Under him, a secretary named Xitragupten wrote down a man's good and bad actions, and presented his record to the president the instant the deceased's soul came before him. This infernal president was reported to have been very equitable, distributing rewards and punishments according to justice. Some souls were supposed to be sent back to inhabit inferior bodies in this world, while others were tormented in the most cruel manner in the infernal regions. If a dying person laid hold of a cow by the tail, and a Brahmin poured water over his hand, and put a sum of money into it (the hand), the soul would be protected from the power of demons.
In Pegu, copper vessels or bells were used to frighten demons that wanted to disturb the repose of the dead. There the priests pretended to know what was most agreeable and acceptable to evil spirits, and professed to be able to appease their anger. A grand entertainment was sometimes made for the devil, at which the friends of a sick man danced to the sound of vocal and instrumental music. These heathens believed devils had bodies as well as souls, and that, although immortal, they had the same passions as men. They believed, also, that the devils or demons had power to foretell future events, and that all dreams happened in consequence of their promptings. They therefore consulted such devils nearly after the manner the witches of Great Britain were accustomed to do.
When a person in Cochin-China was at the point of death, his male relations surrounded his bed, brandishing their sabres and other warlike weapons, to drive away the demons, which they supposed were hovering around him to seize his soul the instant it was liberated from the body. When a prince died, the priests held a consultation, in order to discover what demon it was that caused the sad event; and when they made the discovery, which they invariably did, they in a solemn manner condemned the evil spirit to everlasting punishment. The inhabitants of the Molucca Islands were under the impression, like other heathens and Christians too, that two angels attended on every person on earth, the one seeking his good, and the other his eternal hurt. The good angel prompted the individual to holy actions, while the malignant one was constantly instigating him to shun the right path. The people worshipped the air under the name of Lanitho, which was subject to another being or spirit named Lanthila, but they had many gods they consulted on all occasions of importance. If it was considered necessary to consult a Nito or god, the people assembled under cloud of night, with tapers burning, and, after pronouncing mysterious words, called on their god to appear. As soon as the prescribed forms were gone through, Nito entered with one of the people, who, while under the demoniacal influence, foretold future events. A few families in that island claimed to have the power of witchcraft vested in them from generation to generation.
Being often afflicted with small-pox, the people conjectured the disease was propagated by an evil genius; and, to frighten the demon from their homes, images were placed on the house-tops. If one accidentally met a funeral or saw a corpse on the road, he returned home in haste. If the unlucky person was a woman carrying a child in her arms, her consternation was great, for it was imagined the soul of the deceased hovered in the air near the corpse, and endeavoured to injure the living, particularly young children. To protect their children from demons, parents tied charmed beads round the infants' necks. Indeed the people lived in constant dread of evil spirits; and, to frustrate their evil intentions, they, in addition to the preventatives already mentioned, always kept consecrated articles under their pillows.
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