Old Ones (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
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- Old One is also a term used in numerous fantasy and horror series.
|First appearance||"The Harvest"|
|Created by||Joss Whedon|
In the Buffyverse, the Old Ones are the extremely powerful, pure-breed demons that once dominated Earth before humankind appeared. Illyria is one of these demons (though its real form was revealed only in an illustration) while it's more than likely that Jasmine and her kind (The Powers That Be) ascended to their higher plane because of the growing malevolence of these warring demons. It's also possible that the Powers that Be were part of the same race but shared a different philosophy than the other Old Ones.
"This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their...their Hell. But in time, they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for man. All that remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures..."
Anya Jenkins explains to the Scooby Gang in "Graduation Day, Part One" the nature of "pure demons." As Giles had stated, Earth was originally ruled by these huge, powerful, pure-breed demons, and the demon races that exist on Earth today are hybridized with humans and other species. Anya, although far too young to have seen an original Old One, had previously witnessed an Ascension.
The Old Ones possess many different shapes and powers, but all of them are gigantic. They were worshipped as gods (according to Illyria, she was a "god to a god"), ruled over vast territories, commanded fearsome armies, and constantly made war against each other. They also did not seem to live and die the way mortals do. Illyria claimed she lived seven lives at once, and even after her death, releasing her essence from the sarcophagus was enough to resurrect her into the nearest host. In short, under the Old Ones' rule, the world was a living hell.
At some point, the Old Ones lost their claim over this reality; some were killed while others were driven from this dimension. The corpses of the greater fallen Old Ones were placed in stone sarcophagi, while their powers were drained and embedded in jewels affixed to the surface of their coffins. All of the sarcophagi were placed in a mystical graveyard known as the Deeper Well, a hole in the world which could be accessed in the Cotswolds in England, and its supposedly antipodal point in New Zealand. A keeper or guardian, with a small detachment of demon warriors, was placed in the Deeper Well to prevent anyone from extracting a sarcophagus. They failed, however, to prevent Illyria's sarcophagus from disappearing from the Well, thus allowing it to be shipped to Knox at Wolfram and Hart. It should be noted, though, that this act was said to be preordained.
It was originally stated by Giles that "the books tell" that the last of the Old Ones to leave this reality fed off of a human, mixing their blood, and that formed the first vampire. However, Illyria disputes this, claiming that vampires were around when she was. In "End of Days," the Guardian claims that the last pure-demon in this world was defeated by a Slayer using the Scythe, on the spot that would one day become Sunnydale, California. It is also said that the Slayer chosen in the Primordium Age, killing the last remaining Old One on Earth, was Sineya the First Vampire Slayer.
In the centuries that followed, the Old Ones continued to be objects of worship among the lesser half-breed demons. One of these cults was the Order of Aurelius, a cult of vampires worshipping the Old Ones and awaiting their return, a cult founded by the Master who wasn't a king of vampires but instead may only have been revered for his religious teachings, like a priest.
When the higher being known as Jasmine was brought to Earth she mentioned that "The Powers that Be" were those Old Ones who sought to do good, but were driven out by the more powerful and vicious demons like Illyria. In fact had she known Illyria was arriving, she would have either fled the dimension of Earth or killed themselves rather than risk even existing on the same plane as an actual Old One.
Halfrek refers to the First Evil when she says, "Something's rising. Something older than the Old Ones, and everybody's tail is twitching," therefore, The First Evil is a powerful force that predates even the Old Ones.
The Ascension was the process of a human transforming into a pure demon. In the late 12th century, a sorcerer in the Koskov Valley above the Urals became the embodiment of the demon Lohesh (described as a "four-winged soul killer") and decimated the village within hours. Buffy's enemy Mayor Richard Wilkins III became the embodiment of the demon Olvikan (a huge, snake-like creature) through a series of rituals, offerings, and sacrifices done over the course of a hundred years.
The Scourge, though far different, smaller, and weaker than the Old Ones, consider themselves to be pure-breed demons. Their claim of purity is supported by the fact that they were immune to the effects of the Beacon, a machine that incinerated those with human DNA, including vampires.
Old Ones and other ancient beings
- Illyria's seat of power was located in what would later be California, and she was one of the most revered and feared of all the Old Ones. She was killed by rivals and entombed in the Deeper Well before being released into spectral form, which then took over the body of Winifred "Fred" Burkle.
- In the Angel episode "Shiny Happy People", Jasmine states that she was a being who existed before the time of man and left the world when the age of demons began. Since Jasmine was formerly one of The Powers That Be, it is suggested the other Powers are equally old.
- A group of demons known as the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart, who were weak by demon standards, left this dimension when the Old Ones were expelled. Unlike other demons, the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart, now under the moniker of the "Senior Partners", became major players by establishing the law firm Wolfram & Hart and its many incarnations and branches throughout many dimensions.
- The Season 5 Big Bad of Buffy, Glory, is an incredibly ancient hell goddess from another dimension, whether Hell God's are more powerful and older than Old Ones or not is still debated among fans
- Other Old Ones have also appeared in the Buffyverse comics, such as Ky-laag.
- In the comics, certain invocations to the Old Ones can change reality and cause severe mutations in people.
- In Monster Island, an Old One appears to have settled and resigned from influence amongst humanity, living on Questral – the 'Monster Island' of the title – and declines to participate in combat, having forsaken the violent ways of his people, until Wesley encourages him that he must fight now if he does not wish the world to return to what it once was.
- In Night of the Living Rerun, the Book of Eibon appears. This book is a key tome in the mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, who is credited for the creation of the Old Ones in fiction.