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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2014

Introduction

Summary

This collection of papers has its genesis in a 2006 conference on demonology organized by the Research Centre for Religion and Popular Culture (University of Chester and St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, North Wales). While we were very much aware of the interest such a perennially fascinating topic would provoke, we were delighted by the response. Although a further couple of chapters were commissioned following the conference, the volume indicates the breadth of scholarly interest in the topic and, more broadly, in popular culture per se. From testimonies of encounters with demons in early modern Scotland to contemporary Satanism and Norwegian black metal, and from the manifestation of evil in Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter to the demonic in Harry Potter, this collection provides a tour de force of the demonic in Western popular culture. For those angelic souls unfamiliar with “the dark side,” the following introductory essay provides a brief history of Satan and Western demonology.

In the Classical Greek daimon (meaning “spirit”)—from which “demon” is derived through late Medieval Latin—was used of any malevolent or benevolent spirit (agathos daimon), deified hero, demigod, or ancestor spirit that mediated between the transcendent and temporal realms. Over time, however, such demons gradually came to be understood as malevolent. Hence, by the late Greco-Roman period, the term daimonia was specifically applied to evil spirits, the main work of which was to frustrate, to harm, and particularly to tempt humans into sin (see Russell, 1977: 34, 142; Forsyth, 1987: 293).