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.

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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.