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Demonology

Osiris And Seth, Ahura Mazda And Angra Mainyu, Satanism, Non-western Demonology, She-devils And Female Demons

Some years ago, Richard Cavendish, an eminent demonologist and student of the so-called black arts, observed that "[b]elief in the existence of evil supernatural beings" is so widespread that it "seems to be instinctive" (p. 8). Whether, as Cavendish suggests, these beliefs are in fact instinctive is still very much an open question. However, human beings do indeed appear to have a deep-seated penchant for explaining misfortune by attributing it to evil and malicious spirits and deities—that is, to demons. Such beliefs can be documented in virtually every known human society for which adequate information exists. This essay explores some of the more salient manifestations, modern as well as ancient, of this well-nigh universal component of several belief systems.

In the great majority of cases, demonic figures occur in conjunction with their opposites, that is, beneficent deities to whom worshipers turn for succor when misfortune strikes or when in need of assurance that crops will grow, illness will be avoided, and prosperity will continue. One of the earliest documented examples of such a pair can be found in ancient Egypt in Osiris and his demonic brother Seth.

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