Sunday, September 20, 2020

Halloween Monsters: Demons & Devils

I decorated for Halloween this weekend. Maybe a tad early, but 2020 has sucked, so I get to enjoy one of my favorite holidays early, darn it. While putting up my fun d├ęcor, it made me think of my blog posts on different kinds of Halloween Monsters.

I bring you the 2020 edition - Demons & Devils!

You've seen the pitch forks and the devil horns in costumes and depictions of demons in popular culture and mythology. Dressing up as a devil or demon for Halloween is one of the more common costumes.

But where did this Halloween monster originate from?

By today's generally accepted definition, a demon is a supernatural being, typically associated with evil. Demons tend to be associated with hell and sometimes with possessions and exorcisms.

Based on my admittedly brief research, there does not appear to be a specific origin for demons. Possibly, because humanity has always seemed to believe in evil in some form.

There are cultures that didn't necessarily have demons or the equivalent. Some ancient cultures had legends of specific monsters (like the wendigo in Algonquian lore), or tales of supernatural beings, some of which were tricksters or had malevolent personalities or powers. But the idea of a general group of evil spirits didn't necessarily exist, and the underworld, or where the dead went, was about the punishment or reward for humans.

In many religions and cultures demons exist as the counterpoint to gods. Sort of the yin to the gods yang. Or demons are evil spirits sent to keep humans from whatever version of heaven might exist for that culture. In addition, the concept of evil spirts or demons shows up in multiple cultures that deal with the "occult" or "magical" elements. Many "witches" were killed due to a belief of a tie between witchcraft and the devil. Then, of course, there are those religions or cultures which directly worship, celebrate, or pray to/conjure demons or demonic entities.

As far as I can tell, the modern depiction of demons and the devil comes from Judeo-Christian origins. Most Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, & Islam) acknowledge and deal with demons in some form. In ancient Mesopotamia, the underworld was populated with demons who could periodically come to the mortal realm to terrorize humans. Of course, in modern Christianity we have the belief that Jesus cast out demons. In addition, depending on the denomination, specific demons have been named or classified, much like angels.

Most of today's iconography (at least for Halloween) related to demons comes from medieval Europe primarily, which is no huge surprise, as that's where the holiday generally originates as well.

Roman Catholic images of Satan often depict him as a horned, muscular, bat-winged man. This may come from earlier "pagan" beliefs. In many ancient religious traditions, horns were associated with the crescent moon and thus with fertility, night, darkness, death, and the underworld. Most ancient cultures seem to depict demons with some kind of animalistic quality. However, many trace the current image of Satan to Dante who portrayed the Devil as a grotesque, winged creature with three faces—each chewing on a devious sinner—whose wings blew freezing cold winds throughout Hell’s domain.

It makes sense that this would be one of the costumes in the traditional line up for Halloween. The wearing of costumes at Halloween may come from the belief that supernatural beings, or the souls of the dead, roamed the earth on that night, and traditional costumes represent the dead (ghosts and ghouls) as well as frightening supernatural or folkloric beings (which has changed over time). The earliest known reference to the practice of costumes dates to the 1500s in Scotland, but probably predates that in practice. 

So will you be donning some devil horns for Halloween this year? Maybe a red tail? Wings? Or will you go with something else?

P.S. My upcoming novella, Try As I Smite, coming 10.26.2020 might, just might, feature this Halloween monster (in a Christmas Carol twist!). Preorder isn't up yet, but feel free to add to your Goodreads wishlist!

Halloween Monster Posts:



    Nightingale said...

    An interesting post indeed. I will probably go as an angel or a unicorn or as an elf. I used to have Spock ears for the elf costume, but they have long since gone an interesting shade reminiscent of nothing Vulcan or elvish.

    Maureen said...

    Great post! I usually dress up but not sure what I'll be this year.

    Diane Burton said...

    Really great post. Considering the way 2020 has gone, I don't blame you for having some fun putting up decorations early. I don't dress up for Halloween. I did once about 40 years ago for a party. LOL Since I've been watching Lucifer (Netflix), I've gotten aa different perspective on angels and demons.