Classification of demons
There have been various demonologies (classifications of demons) in Christian demonology and classical occultism and Renaissance magic. Classification systems are based on the nature of the demon, the sin with which they tempt people, the month in which their power was strongest, the saints that were their adversaries, or other characteristics.
- 1 Classification by domain
- 1.1 The Testament of Solomon
- 1.2 Psellus' classification of demons
- 1.3 The Lanterne of Light's classification of demons
- 1.4 Spina's classification of demons
- 1.5 Binsfeld's classification of demons
- 1.6 Michaelis' classification of demons
- 1.7 Barrett's classification of demons
- 2 Classification by month
- 3 Classification by office
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Classification by domain
It can be noted that according to each author listed below, the domain of each demon is very different (with the exception of Francesco Maria Guazzo, who seem to have copied Michael Psellus with little difference). It can also be seen that each author chooses and classifies demons differently.
The Testament of Solomon
The Testament of Solomon is an Old Testament pseudepigraphical work, purportedly written by King Solomon, in which Solomon mostly describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity. The date is very dubious, though is considered the oldest work surviving particularly concerned with individual demons.
Psellus' classification of demons
Michael Psellus prepared a classification of demons in the 11th century, which was an inspiration for the classification Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared later. Psellus divided demons into Empyreal (Fiery), Aerial, Subterranean, Lucifugi (Bound), Aqueous, and Terrene (Terrestrial).
The Lanterne of Light's classification of demons
In 1409-1410 The Lanterne of Light (an anonymous English Lollard tract often erroneously attributed to Wycliffe) provided a classification system based on the Seven Deadly Sins, establishing that each one of the mentioned demons tempted people by means of one of those sins:
- Lucifer: pride
- Belzebub: envy (envious)
- Sathanus: wrath (wraþþe)
- Abaddon: sloth (slowȝ)
- Mammon: greed - avarice (avarouse) & covetousness (covetise)
- Belphegor: gluttony (glotouns)
- Asmodeus: lust (leccherouse)
Spina's classification of demons
Alphonso de Spina, in 1467, prepared a classification of demons based on several criteria:
- Demons of fate
- Incubi and succubi
- Wandering groups or armies of demons
- Cambions and other demons that are born from the union of a demon with a human being.
- Liar and mischievous demons
- Demons that attack the saints
- Demons that try to induce old women to attend Witches' Sabbaths
This classification is somewhat capricious and it is difficult to find a criterion for it. It seems that Spina was inspired by several legends and stories. The drudes belong to German folklore. Familiars, goblins, and other mischievous demons belong to the folklore of most European countries.
The belief in incubi and succubae (and their ability to procreate) seem to have inspired the seventh category, but it could also have been inspired in the Talmudic legend of demons having sexual intercourse with mortal women (see also Mastema).
The visions of tempting demons that some early (and not so early) saints had, perhaps inspired the ninth category (e.g. the visions of Anthony the Great).
Binsfeld's classification of demons
Peter Binsfeld prepared a classification of demons in 1589. His demon classification was, like the earlier English Lanterne of Light, based on the seven deadly sins, though it differed slightly from the English text.
- Lucifer: pride
- Mammon: greed
- Asmodeus: lust
- Leviathan: envy
- Beelzebub: gluttony
- Satan: wrath
- Belphegor: sloth
Michaelis' classification of demons
In 1613 Sebastien Michaelis wrote a book, Marvelous History, which included a classification of demons as it was told to him by the demon Berith when he was exorcising a nun, according to the author. This classification is based on the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies, according to the sins the devil tempts one to commit, and includes the demons' adversaries (who suffered that temptation without falling).
Note that many demons' names are exclusively French or unknown in other catalogs. St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the two St. Johns to whom Michaelis refers. The other saints are cited only by their name without making clear, i.e., which Francis is (of Assisi?).
- Beelzebub was a prince of the Seraphim, just below Lucifer. Beelzebub, along with Lucifer and Leviathan, were the first three angels to fall. He tempts men with pride and is opposed by St. Francis of Assisi.
- Leviathan was also a prince of the Seraphim who tempts people to give into heresy, and is opposed by St. Peter.
- Asmodeus was also a prince of the Seraphim, burning with desire to tempt men into wantonness. He is opposed by St. John the Baptist.
- Berith was a prince of the Cherubim. He tempts men to commit homicide, and to be quarrelsome, contentious, and blasphemous. He is opposed by St. Barnabas.
- Astaroth was a prince of Thrones, who tempts men to be lazy and is opposed by St. Bartholomew.
- Verrine was also prince of Thrones, just below Astaroth. He tempts men with impatience and is opposed by St. Dominic.
- Gressil was the third prince of Thrones, who tempts men with impurity and is opposed by St. Bernard.
- Sonneillon was the fourth prince of Thrones, who tempts men to hate and is opposed by St. Stephen.
The second hierarchy includes Powers, Dominions, and Virtues.
- Carreau was a prince of Powers. He tempts men with hardness of heart and is opposed by SS. Vincent and Vincent Ferrer
- Carnivale was also a prince of Powers. He tempts men to obscenity and shamelessness, and is opposed by John the Evangelist.
- Oeillet was a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin.
- Rosier was the second in the order of Dominions. He tempts men against sexual purity and is opposed by St. Basil.
- Belias was the prince of Virtues. He tempts men with arrogance and women to be vain, raise their children as wantons, and gossip during mass. He is opposed by St. Francis de Paul.
The third hierarchy includes Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
- Olivier was the prince of the Archangels. He tempts men with cruelty and mercilessness toward the poor and is opposed by St. Lawrence.
- Luvart was prince of Angels. At the time of Michaelis's writing, Luvart was believed to be in the body of a Sister Madeleine.
- Verrier was the prince of Principalities. He tempts men against the vow of obedience and is opposed by St. Bernard.
Barrett's classification of demons
- Beelzebub: idolators
- Pythius: liars and liar spirits
- Belial: vessels of iniquity and inventors of evil things
- Asmodeus: vile revenges
- Satan: witches and warlocks
- Merihem: pestilences and spirits that cause pestilences
- Abaddon: powers of war and devastation
- Astaroth: inquisitors and accusers
- Mammon: tempters and ensnarers
Classification by month
During the 16th century, it was believed that each demon had more strength to accomplish his mission during a special month of the year. In this way, he and his assistants' powers would work better during that month.
- Belial in January
- Leviathan in February
- Aamon in March
- Belphegor in April
- Lucifer in May
- Berith in June
- Beelzebub in July
- Astaroth in August
- Thammuz in September
- Baal in October
- Asmodai in November
- Moloch in December
The classification of demons by month seems to have astrological implications more than religious ones.
Classification by office
There were also classifications by office, like those written in several grimoires.
Le Dragon Rouge (or Grand Grimoire)
Like many works of mystical nature, Le Dragon Rouge (or the Red Dragon) claims to come from Solomon and his priests and is said to be published in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian. However, it was most likely written in France in the 18th century.
The grimoire details the different hosts of hell and their powers, describing how to enter a pact with them to attain the magicians' goals. The demons of hell are classified by three different tiers from Generals to Officers.
Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, is a grimoire that contains a list of demons and the appropriate hours and rituals to conjure them in the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (simpler than those cited by The Lesser Key of Solomon below).
This book was written around 1583, and lists sixty-eight demons. The demons Vassago, Seir, Dantalion and Andromalius are not listed in this book. Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does not attribute seals to the demons.
The Lesser Key of Solomon
The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis is an anonymous 17th century grimoire, and one of the most popular books of demonology. The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the "exorcist"). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.
The author of The Lesser Key of Solomon copied Pseudomonarchia Daemonum almost completely, but added demons' descriptions, their seals and details.
The Ars Goetia
Ars Goetia is the title of the first section of The Lesser Key of Solomon, containing descriptions of the seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed by magic symbols, and that he obliged to work for him.
The Ars Goetia assigns a rank and a title of nobility to each member of the infernal hierarchy, and gives the demons "signs they have to pay allegiance to", or seals.
The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organised in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings which depict the descriptions of the appearance of a number of demons. Many of these images were later used in S. L. MacGregor Mathers's edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon though some of the images were removed.
The book was first published in 1818 and then divided into two volumes, with six reprints and many changes between 1818 and 1863. This book attempts to provide an account of all the knowledge concerning superstitions and demonology.
- "The Testament of Solomon", trans. F. C. Conybeare, Jewish Quarterly Review, October, 1898]
- Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (October ,1898)
- De operatione daemonum. Tr. Marcus Collisson. Sydney 1843. Full online text, p.42-43
- Milford, Humphrey. Introduction, The Lanterne of Liȝt. Oxford University Press, 1917
- Morton W. Bloomfield, The Seven Deadly Sins, Michigan State College Press, 1952, pp.214-215.
- Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology, By Rosemary Guiley, p. 28-29, Facts on File, 2009.
- Dictionary of Demons, by Fred Gettings, Guild Publishing, 1998, p.55-56
- The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, by Rossell Robbins, Crown Publishers, 1959, p.127
- « les demons estans interrogez respondirent qu'ils estoient trois au corps de Louyse, y estans par le moyen d'vn malefice, & que le premier d'eux se nommoit Verrine, l'autre Gresil, & le dernier Sonneillon, & que tous estoient du troisiesme ordre, sçauoir au rang des Throsnes. » (Histoire admirable de la possession et conversion d'vne penitente  exorcisee  soubs l'authorité du R.P. F. SEBASTIEN MICHAELIS  Edition troisiesme & derniere. Paris, Chastellain, 1614, page 3. From Michaelis's work, available on BNF: online text from Gallica Histoire admirable
- "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology." Rossell Hope Robbins (1912). Bonanza Books. New York. ©1959. 1981 Edition.
- "Barrett's The Magus at". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- A.E. Waite's "Book of Ceremonial Magic," p.97 and p.109
- "Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum at Twilit Grotto". Esotericarchives.com. Retrieved 2011-06-22.