On the Nature of Demons and Gods

“First things first, not all demons are what you would call Christianized demons. Demons existed before the rise of Christianity. The Church just lumped all of the existing types in with the Fallen and mucked up the works in the process. Think of demons more like, like alien races. Only instead of living on other planets, they live on other planes of existence.”

Nancy Werlock explaining the nature of demons to her apprentice.

Despite thousands of years of research on the subject, the exact nature of the multiverse is still a mystery to witches. The physical realm, or the “real world,” is the realm of mortals. In includes Earth, the larger Milky Way galaxy, and everything beyond that could theoretically be accessed by mundane means (if those mundane means included spaceships that could move at the speed of light, of course). But the real world is the world we all know.

But there are realms beyond the physical realm. The Aether (sometimes called the Dreamscape or the Umbra or the Shadowlands or any number of terms depending on the culture), is the buffer world of fae and spirits that surrounds all of the other realms. If individual realms are continents, the Aether would be the oceans and seas that connect them. Beyond the Aether are the Elemental Planes, inhospitable realms that are home to creatures made of pure elemental energy. Beyond that are the “Upper” and “Lower” Planes, though the words have more to do with mortal perception of the entities that reside there than actual location in the multiverse.

The Upper Planes, collectively referred to as the Astral Plane, are home to those entities that mortals refer to as the Divines; gods, angels, and the assorted creatures that serve them. The Lower Planes, sometimes collectively referred to as The Void, are home to those entities referred to as demons.

Most mortals align the Upper Planes with “good” entities and the Lower Planes with “evil” entities. But the truth is far more complicated and nuanced. Not all gods want to help humanity. And not all demons mean any harm. The problem is that both groups tend to see mortals as merely a means to an end, and as such interact with mortals in whatever way is needed to get what they want.

And what they want is refined spirit energy, something mortals produce. Spirit energy is the fuel of the Upper and Lower Planes; used by the entities that live there to sustain themselves and gain more power. But though these planes are made of raw spiritual energy, the gods and demons themselves cannot process this raw power. They need mortals to refine the energy for consumption.

The entities of the Upper Planes have complex and refined spiritual needs, whereas demons are more primal in their natures. It is sort of the difference between diesel and gasoline. They both need fuel, but their unique physiologies require that fuel be processed differently to work. For the entities of the Upper Planes, that means cultivating refined human emotions through Faith. For Demons, this means cultivating humanity’s instincts through their vices.

“No, it is not for us to interfere with the will of the divines. We only sought to understand and catalog the knowledge.”

“And this is where our Colleges part ways, Theomancer. We don’t just catalog soul-sucking entities. We take action to stop them.”

“And this is where our Colleges part ways, Warlock. We do not possess the hubris to command entities that existed before the dawn of mortal time.”



Nancy and Theomancer Mortellaro discussing the nature of planar creatures.

Overt worship is the preferred form of Faith for the Divines, but it is rare in the modern world. Thus, the Divines settle for something less direct. Divine entities imbue selected mortals as vessels of their virtue, and through the cultivation of followers by that mortal, they siphon off the faith they need. The Cult of Celebrity Worship isn’t just a byproduct of the modern era. It is a deliberate activity perpetuated by Divine entities to encourage “faith” in something…anything.  Even if it is a rock star or movie actor. This has also extended into “fandoms,” where certain individuals are “blessed” by Divine entities to create and sustain certain cultural fan bases.

What this means is, the next time you are wondering why so many people adore some pop singer or reality TV celebrity, don’t blame a deal with the devil. It was more likely Loki or Eris or Set.

Demons, on the other hand, prefer the much more immediate sustenance of primal emotions. They prefer the immediate gratification of raw wrath unleashed or carnal lust fulfilled over the time and effort involved in cultivating cults. Demons have their preferred vices, and many of their attributes and abilities are designed to trigger the human instinct to purse those vices.

“We don’t really think about them in terms of negative or positive emotions. Primal emotions are based on the needs of the individual. We call them vices because, when they become the primary focus of an individual, the individual becomes a threat to society. Putting the needs of the self ahead of the needs of the whole. There is nothing inherently wrong with lust so long as all parties involved are willing and nobody is being hurt. But when that lust is so all-consuming that you don’t care who is hurt, then it becomes a problem.”

Nancy Werlock explaining the nature of vices to her apprentice.

The ancient Egyptians taught that the soul was actually comprised of multiple parts. They weren’t wrong. The spirit and the consciousness are two different things. The spirit, the spark of life, is what generates the spiritual energy gods and demons need. The consciousness defines who a person is. But a spirit without consciousness cannot generate energy and eventually fades away, and a consciousness without a spirit eventually collapses in on itself unless it finds another source of energy. Following a specific deity or “selling” one’s soul to a demon are methods of making sure that the soul can survive relatively intact after bodily death. When the person dies, their consciousness passes through to the realm that is home to the deity in question. The consciousness gains access to the latent spiritual energies of the realm, where it can feed off the raw energy and sustain itself. And the god or demon gains a bound source of refined energy that it can tap when needed.

Most folks when they die go to one of the divine domains that fill the astral plane. The how and why of who ends up where is a matter for debate for those who study such things. Mom always said that people end up where they are supposed to end up based on who they were as people. Not really Heaven or Hell per se, because for the most part there isn’t any real punishment or reward involved. Just more that like things attract like. So peaceful people end up in peaceful realms while violent people end up on violent ones.

The College of Divinities has star charts that allegedly even pinpoint the exact locations of various divine domains. I guess if one wanted to, and possessed the right abilities, you could plot a course for Olympus or Asgard or the Two Fields and so on.

Nancy Werlock explains the nature of the Astral Plane.

Mundane individuals that die without some strong bond to an entity find their consciousnesses drawn to those planes that most closely match the essence of the consciousness. The consciousness in such cases is often stripped down to its root identity, forgetting the details of its life on the physical realm and slowly developing a new persona in its new home. Some may be “sent back” by the gods of the realm to be reincarnated for a specific purpose. But most simply go about their new existences, serving the entities of their realm. For the most part, the entities of the Astral Plane are content to just let these consciousnesses co-exist and provide them with some small level of refined spiritual energy. But there are even those on the Astral Plane where, in times of crisis, may decide to completely consume lesser consciousnesses to harness their spiritual energy. When such an event happens, the consciousness is destroyed completely.

Mundane individuals that die and end up in the Lower Planes don’t survive long without a patron, as even imps and lemures will jump at the opportunity to feast on a defenseless energy source. Even those pledged to a patron might become a meal. After all, they did “sell” their soul for the demon’s use.

Because of their innate connection to the flow of magic, witches have a unique advantage after death. Even without being pledged to an entity, powerful witches can continue to exist indefinitely in the Aether or even travel to the various Upper and Lower Planes. The consciousness of a witch is such that, once the freed from the physical body and able to “tap” directly into the power of the planes, a witch can wield an incredible amount of magical power.

This ability is the reason for the Theory of Ascension, the idea that a powerful enough witch could eventually achieve godhood or transform into a full demon. To date, however, there is no evidence of a witch actually doing such.

Many types of demons have what we call personamorphication, the ability to take over a persona and make it real. Essentially, so long as the summoner believes the demon is the entity he thinks he is calling, and the demon agrees to act as the entity in question, the demon can use the identity to bargain with the summoner. The ability has its limits. A demon can’t claim a name that already belongs to another demon, for example. But so long as the name is not already in use, and the summoner thinks the name is real, the demon can assume the persona.

The higher rank the demon, the more different personas it can claim. And once it claims a persona, it can choose to use it in the future. When a demon reaches its persona limit, however, it has to shed a previously used persona before it can take a new one. Of course, when it does this, the persona becomes available for another demon to use if it wants to.

This all makes things rather complicated for Demonologists, because you never know for sure if the Ashtoreth you are talking to today is the same Ashtoreth that was being discussed in that three-hundred-year-old grimoire, or the same Ashtoreth mentioned in a thousand-year-old scroll.

Nancy Werlock explains the changing nature of demonic entities.

A benefit of the demon’s primitive nature is its ability to routinely change itself through personamorphication. It is said that a demon’s “true” nature is that of a formless mass, and that demons only have form when the form is conjured by mortals.

The entities of the Upper Planes, in contrast, have fixed forms. Though a god may have multiple forms at its disposal, those forms are fixed for eternity. A deity with a wolf form can’t just one day decide to shed that form in favor of an eagle. In fact, so fixed to form are these entities that the thought would never even occur to them that they might want to do such a thing. Note that this is not the same thing as using illusionary or polymorph magic to temporarily change their appearance for a specific purpose. This is regarding the entity’s true self.

What this means is that, while the Ashtoreth you are talking to today might be a completely different entity from the one mentioned in the ancient scroll, Zeus is always going to be Zeus.

The Fallen are entities from the Upper Planes that were banished for various crimes against the more powerful gods of those realms. The Fallen are themselves still considered “divine” entities, but mundanes often confuse them with demons as many of the Fallen end up in the Lower Planes, where they form alliances with powerful demons for various plots of revenge or just plain survival. Some of the Fallen ever use the term “demon” to describe themselves, though most prefer to use the term devil. Which doesn’t clarify anything since most mundanes believe the term refers to a specific Fallen and not all of them.

Creative Commons License
On the Nature of Gods and Demons by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This license does not apply to content that appears as “quotes” in the article.

The Fae

Fae is a term used as a catch-all for various races that exist simultaneously in the Aether and the material plane. It includes elves, pixies, brownies, changelings, and other races. The primary difference between fae and other supernatural creatures is that fae are considered mortal and can be killed on the physical plane (whereas Demons, Elementals, and other creatures destroyed on the physical plane are merely banished back to their home planes). Fae are also capable of shape-changing into a human form at will in order to pass as human. In most cases, this is a “fixed” form (i.e. the fae has its real form and a single human form it can switch back and forth between).

The Worker Fae

The “worker class” of fae include those fae races that have lived alongside humans in a strangely symbiotic relationship. Each type of worker fae has a unique compulsion that drives it to interact with humans.

Brownies: Brownies thrive in household environments, cleaning and fixing things in the home. Brownies generally hate being watched while they work, however. In the past, they would perform their work late at night while the family slept. A household blessed with the presence of a brownie would leave out honey or sweet cream as “payment” to encourage the brownie to remain. A brownie that feels it has been slighted or abused, however, will cause all of the food in the house to spoil and then abandon the family.

Gremlins: Gremlins began to appear during the industrial revolution and are believed to be a natural evolution of the worker fae races. Gremlins love machines of all types, and spend their time oiling or repairing machinery. Like all of the worker fae, they can be temperamental when they are insulted or mistreated, leading them to break or sabotage the machines they love.

Hobs: Hobs enjoy working on farms, where they tend to plants and farm animals. Like Brownies, they hate being watched so they tend to perform their tasks late at night. Mischievous hobs that have been slighted may leave barn doors open, allowing animals to escape or cause crops to wither.

Leprechauns: Of all the worker fae, the leprechauns are the most industrious and businesslike. They love to tinker and repair items, particularly shoes and watches. Unlike other worker fae, however, they expect real coin as compensation. The fabled “pot of gold” leprechauns possess is the result of the payments they receive for services rendered.

The Children of the Woods

The Children of the Woods are those fae that live on the material realm but stay apart from humans. Though collectively referred to as Children of the Woods”, these fae appear in a variety of natural settings. There are dozens of varieties of the Children. The most common are explained below.

Pixies: Pixies are invisible in their natural state, but can will themselves to be seen if they wish. Pixies tend to congregate in wetlands and marshes, and when visible are often mistaken for dragonflies at a distance. Pixies are generally considered harmless but mischievous, and may play silly pranks on humans that get too close to their territories. They will rush to action, however, if a child is in danger, as their own innate innocence makes them protective or children.

Sylphs: Sylphs are fae found in mountains, canyons, and similar remote environments. Sylphs dislike humans “invading” their homes and have some limited control over the wind, which they can use to push people off ledges. Their wrath can be calmed, however, by whistling or melodic singing. In which case, they may follow the human in order to enjoy the music, and then leave them alone as “payment” for their service.

Sprites: Sprites live in freshwater lakes and rivers and generally try to avoid interaction with humans. Sprites will ignore humans so long as the human is not polluting its home and have even been known to save drowning victims. However, they can grow violent if their lake or river home is threatened. Like pixies, sprites are invisible in their natural state. When they chose to allow themselves to be seen, they normally take the form of a young girl.

The Noble Fae

The Noble Fae are those that reside in the Aether and avoid coming to the physical realm as much as possible. The true number of Noble Fae races is unknown, as the majority of them avoid mortals. Those that are known to mortals fall into the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, as these two groups have the most interaction with the physical realm.

Both maintain “embassies” on the physical realm in order to manage those affairs that require interaction with mortal races. Both “Courts” are known to interact with the various colleges of magic and tend to be most comfortable dealing with witches. The Seelie will occasionally deal with werewolves, but refuse to associate with vampires. The Unseelie consider werewolves too feral and no better than semi-intelligent hounds. While they dislike the smell of vampires, they will work with them on mutually beneficial issues.

The division between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts is a matter of politics that go back thousands of years and would take another thousand years to unravel. While mortals tend to think of the Seelie Court as the “good” fae and Unseelie as “evil,” the truth is more complex. Neither group is fond of humans (whom they blame for driving them from the material plane and generally making a mess of everything). Neither would lose any sleep if humans spontaneously vanished from the universe. The Seelie are simply less inclined to “force” that to happen.

While the Noble Fae are considered “mortal” insofar as they can be killed, their natural life span can exceed a thousand years. Noble Fae aren’t even considered “adults” until around the age of two hundred.

Cats

Cats and fae have a hostile relationship. Cats are the only creatures that can see fae even when they are in their natural invisible state. While other creatures like dogs may be able to “sense” their presence, only cats can see and pinpoint the location of nearby fae. Cats treat any fae smaller than themselves as prey and will attack accordingly, and are considered one of the few “natural” predators that fae have.

Fae, for their part, seem to suffer allergic reactions to most cats (even so-called non-allergenic breeds). This can cause sneezing fits, hives, and other reactions depending on the type of fae.

Fae in the Modern Era

The rapid change of the two centuries has changed the dynamic of the worker fae/human relationship. Most fae looking for placements work with agencies, much like the employment agencies used by humans to find jobs. Agencies screen fae and prospective placements to make sure that both the employer and employee will be safe. One of the largest such placement agencies is The Flugalmorph Agency, which has long-term contracts with all of the Colleges of Magic to provide services to member witches.

Fae Appearances in the Nancy Werlock Universe

A brownie representative of The Flugalmorph Agency appears in the story A Clean Sweep in Episode Seven to discuss contract services for Nancy.

A brownie named Harlan appears in the stories Like a Kick in the Head in Episode Eight and Animation in Episode Nine as the brownie assigned to clean Nancy’s house.

A leprechaun that attempted to destroy some construction equipment appears in the story Magically Delicious in Episode Seventeen.

Creative Commons License
The Fae by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Witches Versus Wizards

Throughout history, these two terms have been used in a variety of ways in regards to spellcasters. Among those actually involved in The Craft, the two terms have distinct meanings.

Witches

Witches are individuals who acquire their magic either through Hereditary Magic or Imprinting.

Hereditary Magic: Magic runs in some families, with the magical power passed down to children from their same-gender parent.  Hereditary magic still requires training to use effectively, and if a witch refuses to train and never develop his or her powers, over a few generations the magical energy can die out.

It is rare for hereditary magic to “skip” a generation. This usually happens when the parent is untrained or has not used magic for several years. The gift may appear again in a later generation, however. It is almost unheard of for hereditary magic to skip one child but not the other. All children that are the same gender as the witch parent will have magical aptitude, though the power levels can fluctuate greatly based on raw talent and training.

Imprinting: Some supernatural entities have the ability to grant magical power to Mundanes. In some cases, an imprinted witch can pass on the magical power to offspring as hereditary witchcraft. A shaman that gains access to abilities through communing with spirits, a Seer than gains abilities through prayer to divine entities, or a warlock that gains abilities through a bargain with a demon are examples of Imprinting.

Wizards

Wizards are individuals who acquire their magic through research and study. Theoretically, any mundane who was willing to put in the time to research and study the occult could become a wizard. In reality, the ability to become a wizard is no different than the ability to become a physicist. Sure, people can and do succeed at it, but the amount of work involved is such that most people simply can’t.

Prodigy

A person who spontaneously develops innate magical ability without the benefit of imprinting or study. Most prodigies are psions who develop their abilities after a traumatic experience involving a supernatural entity. But a mundane could also gain magical talents from a sudden exposure to magical energies or even from living in close proximity to a cairn.

Creative Commons License
Witches Versus Wizards by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Hot Zones

One might think it impossible to keep all of these supernatural creatures and races a secret from the Mundanes. In reality, by virtue of the internal controls found in each community, the Mundane population has been safely left in the dark. The biggest threats to the Balance, however, are the creation of Hot Zones.

A Hot Zone is a location in which the Veil has been damaged to such a degree that magical energy from the Aether pours into the physical world. Hot Zones can form accidentally due to excessive use of vulgar magic. They can also form through deliberately damaging the Veil. The identification and sealing of Hot Zones generally falls to the College of Evocation to handle.

If a Hot Zone is allowed to exist for too long, it can lead to the creation of Cryptids (magically mutated animals) and Thought-Beasts. The list of Cryptids include things like Chupacabras and jackalopes. Cryptids are normal creatures that, due to exposure to uncontrolled magical energies, become mutated and take on strange qualities.

Thought-Beasts are the greater threat, however, as they spontaneously manifest from the collective belief of a local community. In essence, any idea in which people believe strongly enough can manifest in physical form. The nature of the belief does not require that the community thinks the thing actually exists. Rather, the nature of the belief is that of cultural acceptance of the idea. Examples of “traditional” Thought-Beasts include Bigfoot, Grey aliens, Mothman, Owlman, and others.

Modern popular culture and the internet have allowed ideas to spread over large and diverse populations, allowing for the formation of just about any sort of Thought-Beast. Even “Hollywood” monsters can manifest in this nature. A recent zombie outbreak in a remote part of South America, where the zombies emulated the infectious nature of modern cinema’s version of the zombie, has put Cryptologists on high alert.

Thought-Beast References in the Nancy Werlock series:

The story The Gremlin from Episode Four focuses on a thought-beast resembling the gremlins from the movie Gremlins that is trying to sabotage a July 4th fireworks show.

Also in Episode Four, Nancy references an incident in Newark, NJ where some weak Cenobites manifested after some goth kids accidentally tore a hole in the Veil.

The story The Walking Dead from Episode Eight focuses on a “zombie” outbreak in the Pine Barrens during a Zombie Walk for charity, featuring several different types of zombies manifesting in the area.

Creative Commons License
Hot Zones by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.