The word "devil" is, in European languages, a corruption of the Greek diabolos, meaning "adversary, prosecutor", which is in turn a translation of the Hebrew Satan. In the plural is was also used in medieval theology to denote Satan's attending spirits.
Fragments from the Complete Book of Devils & Demons - Index
The Devil in Disguise
When The Devil and his cohorts appeared among humankind, it was said, they most often wore disguises. In the iconography of the Middle Ages and on the stage of the Renaissance, for instance, devils appeared with horns, hooves, and a tail (sometimes with a sort of arrowhead on the end), suggesting that they were being confused with pagan deities such as Pan, with his goat hooves or satyrs, half man and half beast.
In Christopher Marlowe's great tragedy Dr. Faustus, Mephistophelis, "servant to Great Lucifer," first appears in horrible, hairy, animal guise and is told by anti-Catholic Marlowe (if not by Catholic theology professor Johann Faust) to assume a more apt disguise, such as that of a Catholic monk or friar.
Lucifer is often shown in medieval art as a human form to which are added the wings of a bat. As an archangel originally, he ought to be extremely handsome but, as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray found out, evil can ruin one's appearance.
The devils and demons are shown most often as imps, grinning ferociously as they go about their nefarious business, horrible as the gargoyles (left from earlier religions) that still lurk on the outside (for the most part) of Christian churches.
Familiar spirits, devils in disguise, are most often thought of as taking animal shape. The Blessed Albertus Magnus was widely believed to be a magician and the large black dog that accompanied him wherever he went was popularly believed to be a devil in his service.
There was a belief that though The Devil could create animals he could never do anything perfectly, so one looked for a deformed animal, a cat without a tail, a dog with some defect, even for a deformed person. Any of them might be devils in disguise.
At the Sabbat the demon Leonard appeared as a large black goat with three horns instead of two. The Devil himself at a Sabbat was supposed to appear in the same shape. Human beings who took his place at these rites sometimes dressed as a black goat. Most often they wore some sort of disguise and may often have made the ignorant peasants believe they were The Devil in person. The Devil was said to appear to poor people in the guise of a large black man who offered them promises of wealth.
Various witches testified under oath that they had seen The Devil in various animal guises: bull, calf, cat, dog, foal, donkey, wolf, goat, etc. Some said he appeared as a handsome youth to seduce them. His phallus, however, was always ice cold, even painfully barbed.
From the goat disguise (tying The Devil in with lustful personages of the older mythology) came the conviction that The Devil had cloven hooves. The Basque for Sabbat was Akhelarre (Goat Pasture).
Goya depicts The Devil (or Leonard? or a human in disguise?) as a huge goat at the Sabbat. In the 18th century some participants at the Sabbat came in goat masks and cloaks. The usefulness of attending proscribed rites with face concealed is obvious. Even in some few covens, small (13) and regular groups of participants, members use first or even fake names only and keep their identities secret from all but the leader.
Father Martin Antoine de Rio, S. J., who wrote an encyclopedia of magic (1509), reports with confidence that:
The Sabbat is presided over by a demon, the Lord of the Sabbat, who appears in some monstrous form, most often as a goat or some hound of hell, seated upon a high throne. The witches who resort to the Sabbat approach the throne with their backs turned (all ceremonies involving The Devil are the reverse of common practice) and worship him... as a sign of their homage they kiss his rear end.
This last detail, the osculum infame, I suppose to be generated by the Jewish horror of homosexuality and the reputation of the Knights Templar as following this practice of the worship of Baphomet.
After the submission came the wild dancing and an orgy, the music giving way to confused noise.
Supposed experts from Salamanca report that food at these parties occasionally consisted of pies made of dead babies. In both Britain and Boston witches testified that a parody of Holy Communion took place at the Sabbat.
What the Sabbat seems to have lacked most notably is the panoply of the Mass, with its incense and holy water and vestments and transubstantiation so that the faithful can literally eat their god.
Also, the god of the witches appears in person on occasion at the Sabbat while the bread and wine, though believed to be the body and blood of Christ, does not constitute the presence of Christ in exactly the same sort of way.
- return to index 'the Complete Book of Devils & Demons' -
from: 'The Complete Book of Devils and Demons' - a great book, I think you really should read for yourself!
Leonard R.N. Ashley - Barricade Books - ISBN 1-56980-077-4(TP)
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Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Holy Bible, Matthew 5:5