Yesterday I was in excruciating pain. The strained muscle in my back was causing pain any time I moved or sat down — huge spasms of my whole lower back. I’ve never had muscle spasms like that. Not as bad a pain as a kidney stone, but I’d say it rates just below. Now that ice and heat and rest have brought it back down to the level of discomfort, I can reflect philosophically on the pain. First of all, it is interesting that I have still a vivid memory of this pain. Usually, pain memories fade as soon as the pain is gone. Perhaps because it isn’t entirely gone — the muscle is still damaged — I can conjure a slight memory of the pain. Not the pain itself, but a memory. Second, while afflicted this way, I thought it a good time to shave off all my facial hair and be clean-shaven. I have these odd fits of shaving from time to time, but this is the first time since I was about 19 that I have not had a moustache.
It is very funny. I look completely different. My smile is not hidden, but the tiny thin lips are now revealed, which may be good or bad, depending on your preference for lips. But hiding them was not really much of an improvement. Of course, I may grow it all back again. Stubbly is fashionable right now. However, while it looks sexy on young men, on a chap as grizzled as moi, it just makes me look like a wino.
On the other hand, my Taoist name is Wine Tzu…
While in this state of pain, I could still read and I thought it good, right, and salutary that I continue my reading of the Lemegeton, a medieval grimoire that has quite a catalog of daemons. Now, in the Christian middle ages, these were thought of as demons serving Lucifer, or the Devil — the supreme Rebel angel against Jehovah. You have to get a sense of The Lord’s sense of fairness in the whole story. He created Man and then ordered the angels to worship (respect) Adam and all Mankind as his children. Now, some of the angels thought this idea kind of demeaning. Lucifer, the number one archangel at the time, disagreed with the Creator. This tells us a couple of things –first, that angels weren’t considered God’s children; and second that The Lord was a bit insensitive to the feelings of the angels; and third, that angels have free will. This means that the angels were being treated like servants or feudal vassals, not The Lord’s children. We can take from this that the creation of Adam was a matter of sexual reproduction. The Supreme Being having divided himself into so many created things, joined his magnificence to Mother Earth to create a mud person (“adam” means mud) and so entered into the material world he had created in a new way.
Why He didn’t think of the animals as His children is another question. But for the purposes of this article, it is enough to say that angels were not created in this way. In fact, the Book does not tell us how or why angels were created. In every ancient culture, angels and demons were simply taken as a fact of life. And it also seems to have been assumed that they were older than humans and immortal. I have the impression that the medieval Qabalists and Jewish scholars even earlier were the ones who received the revelations of the celestial hierarchy and its demonic reflection. One was Light and the other Darkness. They were as different as day and night.
Of course, as a druid, I don’t consider darkness to be evil. It is only our inability to see in the dark that makes us feel scared and fearful of it. Cats are not afraid of the dark and, I suspect, do not consider it “evil.” It is the mice who consider darkness and night evil because big things jump out of it and eat them. So, you can see why demons and cats have a rather close association in the human mind. Cats were bigger in days of yore, and humans smaller. Our shorter ancestors had just the same fear of going out at night as the mice. The big cats. Wolves, at least would warn you of their presence before hunting you down and tearing you into tiny bits. Cats, no. They just jumped out of the darkness. So, too with demons.
Only demons (an idea that came from the Greek word daemon, which just meant spirit) jumped out of a darkness of another sort. It was darkness figuratively because we could not see where they came from. The astral world was invisible most of the time to ordinary folk tilling the soil and hunting the forests. Only the shamans — those zany medicine men and women who had visions — could see into the astral world of the demons. And this world was considered to be underground. That was the best way to explain why ordinary people couldn’t see into it. And it also explained why there were huge systems of caverns, too deep for our ancestors to penetrate.
So, here’s Lucifer, the Morning Star (the name “Lucifer” was not applied to “the Devil” or “Satan” until rather late, but if it was good enough for John Milton, it is good enough for me). Here’s Lucifer, I say, at the very right hand of the Old Man. Angels, we are led to believe can see “the Face of God.” So, they have the Beatific Vision that the old Qabalists were seeking and which modern mages seek still today in the ceremonies of High Magick. We are led to believe that angels are far more powerful and wise than humans. Yet, Mr. Big, Joe Heavy, was so chuffed about his mud guy that he told all his old pals that Mud Guy was His Child.
If you look at the Book of Genesis, you will find that the first three verses use the name Elohim for the Creator. Elohim is not a singular name. Indeed, it is a feminine word root with the masculine plural ending. “El” was the Babylonians name for Mr. Big. In those days it was good enough to think of him as the Sky Father. But the angelic hosts new this fellow far more intimately and went way way back with him. The Elohim were with the angels back in grade school. But angels might not have been there for the Big Bang. (That’s the part where the Elohim say “Let There Be Light!”) Some students of the the Jewish Holy Scriptures have speculated that the Elohim were the angels. That is, that the angels were themselves “gods” or lieutenant gods to El. That would explain why so many of their names end in -el. It’s a suffix that means “divine.”
So, here’s Lucifer, working at his desk one day and in comes this memorandum from Upstairs saying that the angels are all required to respect Mud Guy just as if he is the Son of God (meaning El, or Whoever). Mr. Heavy. Anyway, Lucifer can’t believe what he’s reading. Who is this new Favorite? And why on earth make such a fuss about him? Lucifer was on good terms with old Logos, the original Son of God. He was a good fellow and had been there for the Big Bang. In fact, Lucifer liked Mr. Logos better at times that Mr. Big, who was just a bit arbitrary and full of himself at times
Well, long story short. Lucifer filed a complaint. Mr. Heavy said, “I asked for worship, not complaints.” Lucifer got together a party of angels who agreed with him and rebelled. This resulted in a war in Heaven and when the Archangel Michael defeated Archangel Lucifer, the late head of Heaven was banished. Since Heaven encompassed everything, Mr. Big had to create a new place for Lucifer and his followers to be banished to. And this is the realm that was later called “Hell” and, for some reason, became the place where the dead go — or at any rate, the dead Men who rebelled against Mr. Big. Lucifer, still pretty sore about the war, went to Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden and told them that apples were actually good for you and mr Big was holding out on them. They would be like gods if only they ate of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Which is a way of saying the Tree of Light and Darkness, or even more simply, the Tree of Duality.
Eve, being the smartest girl who had ever lived on Earth, thought this made perfect sense. She had heard about the war in Heaven and didn’t really like their teacher Raphael, who God sent to teach them. School was a bore. If you could eat an apple and have Universal Knowledge — well, it was sort of a no brainer. Any other teenage girl would have done the same thing. And Adam, like any teenage boy, would do anything Eve asked him to do because he was so afraid she would stop sleeping with him. Adam, in short, was ga-ga. Eve was the only girl in the world for him. Well, she was. If he got her angry, there was no place else to go for sex; and since Adam didn’t have a job, sex occupied a lot of his time and energy. (This may have had something to do with why the androgynous sexless Lucifer was so disgusted by the idea of lower himself to bow down to Mr. Mud.
They say Lucifer was disguised as a serpent. I suspect this was because if he appeared to Eve as an angel she would have asked him what side he had been on in the war. And his picture had been in all the newspapers. Besides that, serpents were not, at that time, snakes. If the artists of the Middle Ages had read the Book, they would have read that one of the punishements inflicted on the serpent was that he would have to go on his belly. In other words, before then, serpents had legs. That is, they were dragons. Wise old Dragon. This was one of Lucifers favorite physical forms. In fact, if the renaissance artists are believed, Archangel Michael defeated Old Nick when he was in the form of a Dragon. On the astral plane, of course. But now that there was a material plane, angels could take form there as well. There seems to have been some policy debate about this. We read, later in Genesis that the Nephelim (some call them giants, but it seems pretty obvious the –el suffix means they were angels) came to Earth and had sex with human girls, and this is where the race of giants came from. Presumably the Titans of Greek Myth.
Anyway, Lucifer gradually earned himself the name Satan, which means The Adversary, or The Enemy. Not that he cared. He was Joe Heavy’s adversary. Having lost the war in Heaven, Lucifer was no longer a subordinate to the Sky Father. He was a king in his own right. Oh, yes, Mr. Supreme Being could always make an argument that Everything was subordinate to His Greatness simply because Everything was part of Him. But, once there were billions and billions of things in the universe, and once the angels had free will and could think for themselves (which they manifestly could, if you believe in the rebellion), then Lucifer began to question this whole claim on the part of Mr. Big. After all, there weren’t really any witnesses to confirm His story that Everything was a part of Him, created out of his own vast Nothingness.
We would be hypocrites if we considered Lucifer – the best mind every created – to be foolish in Questioning Authority. Even Logos couldn’t fault his logic. He was questioning the number one premise of Number One. How do we know that you are really the Great Big Nothing? Because, obviously, now you are a Great Big Something. Lucifer was a Qabalist, of course.
All of this story is meant to lead up to the matter of the Goetic spirits, as they are called. Goetia is a Greek word and it seems to have meant “sorcery.” But because sorcery has always been a little scary to people who do not practice it, goetia took on a negative connotation. If you were a goes (pronounce GO-ease), then you could dedicate your skill to do good or to make mischief, and it was the mischief-makers who gave goetia a bad name. The Greeks made another word for the activity of sorcerers “mageia” which, means simply “what magi do.” And the magi were the priestly advisers of the Persian kings. The Greeks went to war with the Persians and so, developed a bad attitude toward magi. Anyone who lent aid to the King of Persia was simply the Enemy.
By the time Judaism had mixed with Greek philosophy and the mainstream of polytheistic theology, the idea of Mr. Big as “The One” became itself mainstream. Whatever you called him, He was Mr. Big, and Mr. Other Big was, of course, His Enemy. Lord Lucifer, now Lucifer, King of Pandemonium, quite naturally got blamed for every little bit of mischief made by humans. No wonder he hates the Mud People. Not only are they disgustingly gross, but they lie and try to pin the blame on him for their own shenanigans. Worse, Mr. Big Upstairs believes his priests on Earth and so sends every rebellious riff-raff soul to Pandaemonium. They are like dirty, out-of-work immigrants. And stupid? You wouldn’t believe how uneducated and unenlightened they are. We can hardly blame King Lucifer and his angelic vassals for their bigotry against humans. They don’t really hate humans as much as they hate the policy of Heaven that sends all the rejects to Hell. It isn’t fair. And that lack of fairness, that edge of pure vindictiveness in Mr. Big, just supports Lucifer’s theory that he isn’t really The Big Kahuna, but is just pretending to be.
So, anyway, the Goetia. The first part of the book called Lemegeton, the Goetia is famous as one of the few books that survived the book-burning frenzy of the medieval Catholic church and its barbarian followers. They burned the Library at Alexandria and then carried on burning books as one of the major tenets of their religion. It made a good spectacle. When the novelty of the bonfires wore off, they started burning heretics. This included sorcerers of all kinds, no matter how well-intentioned. One of the popes even got himself executed for sorcery. Which just goes to show you.
In English a Goes (GO-ease) was called a magician (somebody who practiced magick, which was a word based on the Greek mageia. The term “witch” was another term for an evil sorcerer. It was borrowed from the Old English word wicca (pronounced WITCH-ah) (like the double c’s in “cappuccino”). Witches were both men and women and had nothing to do with feminism at the time. It was a practical magick. In fact probably English witches were practicing Herbalism and medicine, surgery, and midwifery. As an herbalist, you can whip up a sachet for love as well as for a fever, but this sort of magick is a far cry from Goetia of the medieval sort. It doesn’t require you to conjure demons.
Now, the book, Goetia, which became part of the Lemegeton collection, instructs the reader exactly how to conjure demons and induce them to work for you. The method isn’t too complicated and only requires some memorization, a wand, a ring, and some sigils written on parchment or engraved on metal plates. Not too hard, but still obviously the stuff of the educated man. Women were, almost never given a higher education. Even most men never learned to read and write. They didn’t need to, so why should they? Who wants to gossip and argue in writing? (They didn’t’ have the Internet then.) So, the folks who were writing and reading the Goetia and the other medieval grimoires so delightful to modern wizards, were undoubtedly either noblemen or clerics, and likely mostly the latter. When books all had to be hand-copied one at a time, it was the monks who had the market cornered. They had the books, so we may presume it was highly educated monks who wrote and studied (and presumably practiced) Goetic magick.
With that in mind, then, let us consider the daemons. I call them “daemons” rather than “demons’ because the former is the original Greek word and it didn’t have quite such negative connotations. In fact it pretty much meant the same thing as what we mean by a person’s “spirit.” A daemon was the astral, higher part of a person. The magical philosophy’s first lesson was that human beings had a higher, invisible part – a spirit that could continue existing after the body had died. But the daemon was also sort of a guardian angel while you were alive in the flesh.
We find that, in fact, the demonic hosts described in the Goetia are, for the most part, no worse morally than the typical medieval nobleman. Indeed, they are all given noble titles, and envisioned as organized into a military hierarchy of fiefs, vassals, and legions of knights. The legion idea is actually a pretty Roman idea, for in the Middle Ages, even kings had a hard time getting up whole legions of knights. They weren’t that well organized until the 18th century wars when regiments essentially took the place of the old Roman legions.
Anyway, if you study the Goetia, you quickly realize that there are very few of these fellows who are completely nasty. One or two, you definitely want to avoid, and some are not wholly trustworthy. All of them need to be dealt with firmly. As the magister Lon Milo Duquette has pointed out, daemons will test you and try to weasel out of your request for favors if they can. Wouldn’t you do the same, if you were an Earl and some smelly peasant came to you demanding a favor? Think about it.
The smelly aspect was dealt with by long preparation involving ritual baths with flowery bath salts, and purifications that would make the soul look at least less disgusting than otherwise. Remember, these fellows are angels. Or perhaps we need a different name for what they are. After all “angel” means “messenger.” So, the only chaps who were “angels” were the ones who ran errands for Mr. Big Sky Father. We use the generic term “spirits” when discussing them, and so did the medieval experts. Presumably that is what they call themselves. But whether we call them “daemon” or “spirit,” the point is that they are highly intelligent astral beings – spiritual beings – and they need a bit of convincing before they are going to interact with a Mud Man. Think of the contempt and bigotry of the followers of Voldemort for “Muggles,” in the Harry Potter novels.
An ethereal Earl or King would not give one of us even the time of day, except for that memorandum. Having lost the war in Heaven, Lucifer and his vassals were bound by the peace treaty, to abide by that Memorandum that had started the whole mess. They had to respect and revere humans as if they were Mr. Big’s sons and daughters.
By this time (I mean the Middle Ages), it was apparent to all the inhabitants of Pandaemonium that humans did have spirits and could be taken to Heaven after their bodies wore out. Even thought the bodies seemed to be wearing out at a much faster rate than the Old Days when Adam and Methusalah and Noah were alive, these Children of God were given supremacy over the angels by virtue of their being born into the material world and not the astral and mental higher planes of existence.
So, the method of the monk mages was to make themselves presentable in every way. This was not intended to awe the spirits into servitude, as some seem to think. It was to pay respect to them, so that they would be inclined to help and assist. If you read the descriptions of what these spirits do, you can see immediately who the mages were and what sorts of things they wanted help with. Perhaps the most common request was for help in learning the trivium and quadrivium – that is the liberal arts which formed the education of a cleric. The medieval universities taught the seven liberal arts as a prelude to the higher doctoral studies of philosophy and theology. So, help with learning was big.
Another was help getting girls. Not surprising, if you imagine your smarter-than-average French university student in an all-male university. Another big one was invisibility. Useful for sneaking out after curfew once you had got the girl to love you. Also perhaps useful for stealing money and the answers to the next Logic exam. It is interesting that the spirits who can bestow invisibility are often said to bestow “wit” as well.
Another big request from the spirits was to “give a good familiar” which presumably meant that the spirit would send one of its subordinate spirits to serve you, often taking the innocuous form of a cat, which in the Paris Latin Quarter could blend in easily and operate by night, which is a big feature when you are sending a message to your girlfriend that you can’t come after all because you have to study for the Logic exam.
There are a few spirits who can conjure up armies for you (suggesting that noblemen were practicing this art too). Almost all of them could answer any question put to them about past, present, or future. And this was, I think, the number one reason to conjure one of the residents of Pandaemonium. They would talk. More than one, it is said, would gladly tell you all about Creation itself and the War in Heaven. If you wanted to find out God’s business, just ask his disgruntled former employees. And this too may be one of the reasons the spirits were so happy to talk to God’s sons and daughters. They could abide by the Memorandum and still undermine the Authority and absolute sniveling obedience to Big Daddy.
Now, it is probable that few women performed such rites. Few would have had the education to read them. However, if human nature hasn’t changed since the Middle Ages, I bet there were plenty of girlfriends who were let in on the deal, or found out about it. Men weren’t any better at keeping secrets then than now. And besides, as Eve proved, women are more cunning than men, and can easily manipulate them with their beauty and sexual favors. So, it is possible, maybe even probable, that this lore did get disseminated among the girl friends of the mage-monks.
Did people in the Middle Ages think the Goetia was scary? Well, the spirits almost all appear in some crazy, scary form at first. That is the first test of your mettle. If you immediately drop your wand and run screaming from your room, that’s a deal-breaker. No self-respecting angel is going to do favors for anyone who can’t take a joke.
So, who exactly are the noble daemons of Pandaemonium? Well, we are told by the theologians that when Lucifer lost the War, among his punishments he was put in charge of running the material realm – i.e., Earth. Presumably all inhabited planets. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the natural world. He is charged with testing and teaching human beings and the measure of his effectiveness is how many idiots he can keep from immigrating to his own kingdom.
Thus, the spirits of the Goetia are not only our “inner demons” as Magister DuQuette says. They are also the fundamental forces of the physical universe. That is why Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. John Dee (celebrated scientists) were so eager to meet the angels and learn about them. And they were probably getting a lot of information. I suspect the King Lucifer and his staff, all the way down to Screwtape and Wormwood, felt they needed to take action and managed to steer the natural philosophers away from Goetia and toward modern science. And so, the study of nature was turned away from the study of the intelligences running the world to the study of the effects and laws of that government. The government itself became invisible to modern Mudmen. I have it on good authority that around the water cooler, the spirits call us Muddles.