The words daemon, dæmon, are Latinized spellings of the Greek δαίμων (daimon),[1] used purposely today to distinguish the daemons of Ancient Greek religion, good or malevolent "supernatural beings between mortals and gods, such as inferior divinities and ghosts of dead heroes" (see Plato's Symposium), from the Judeo-Christian usage demon, a malignant spirit that can seduce, afflict, or possess humans. This notion of the daemon as a spiritual being of a lowly order that is largely evil and certainly dangerous has its origin in Plato and his pupil Xenocrates;[2] when the later connotation is read back anachronistically into Homer, the result is distorting:[3] "To emancipate oneself from Plato's manner of speech is no easy matter", Walter Burkert remarked.[4] Daemons scarcely figure in Greek mythology or Greek art: like keres their felt but unseen presence was assumed. There was one exception: the "Good Daemon" Agathos Daemon, who was honored first with a libation in ceremonial wine-drinking, and especially in the sanctuary of Dionysus, and whose numinous presence was signaled in iconography by a chthonic serpent.

In Hesiod Phaethon becomes a daimon, de-materialized,[5] but the ills of mankind released by Pandora are keres not daimones. Hesiod connects the daimones of the deceased great and good in relating how the men of the Golden Age were transmuted into daimones by the will of Zeus, to serve as ineffable guardians of mortals, whom they might serve by their benevolence.[6] In similar ways, the daimon of a venerated hero or a founder figure, located in one place by the construction of a shrine rather than left unburied to wander, would confer good fortune and protection on those who stopped to offer respect.

Thus daemones ("replete with knowledge", "divine power", "fate" or "god") were not necessarily evil. Plato in Cratylus (398 b) gives the etymology of δαίμονες (daimones) from δαήμονες (daēmones) (=knowing or wise). In Plato's Symposium, the priestess Diotima teaches Socrates that love is not a god, but rather a good daemon. In Plato's Trial of Socrates, Socrates claimed to have a daimonion, a small daemon, that warned him against mistakes but never told him what to do or coerced him into following it. He claimed that his daemon exhibited greater accuracy than any of the forms of divination practised at the time. The Hellenistic Greeks divided daemons into good and evil categories: Eudaemons (also called Kalodaemons) and Kakodaemons, respectively. Eudaemons resembled the Abrahamic idea of the guardian angel; they watched over mortals to help keep them out of trouble. (Thus eudaemonia, originally the state of having a eudaemon, came to mean "well-being" or "happiness".) A comparable Roman genius accompanied a person or protected and haunted a place (genius loci).

After the time of Plato, in the Hellenistic ruler-cult that began with Alexander himself, it was not the ruler but his guiding daemon that was venerated, for in Hellenistic times, the daimon was external to the man whom it inspired and guided, who was "possessed" by this motivating spirit.[7] Similarly, the first-century Romans began by venerating the genius of Augustus, a distinction that blurred in time.

The Greek translation of the Septuagint, made for the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, and the usage of daimon in the New Testament's original Greek text, caused the Greek word to be applied to a Judeo-Christian spirit by the early 2nd century AD. Then in late antiquity, pagan conceptions and exorcisms, part of the cultural atmosphere, became Christian beliefs and exorcism rituals. The transposition has recently been documented in detail, in North Africa, by Maureen Tilley.[8]

In Neo-Platonic philosophy
Daemons were important in Neo-Platonic philosophy. In Neoplatonism, a daemon was more like a demigod rather than an evil spirit, as Eros was described as in-between the gods and humankind. In the Christian reception of Platonism, the eudaemons were identified with the angels.

Cyprian was debunking the gods of the pagans as a euhemerist falsehood in his essay On the Vanity of Idols, but he had this to say of daemons:

“ They are impure and wandering spirits, who, after having been steeped in earthly vices, have departed from their celestial vigour by the contagion of earth, and do not cease, when ruined themselves, to seek the ruin of others; and when degraded themselves, to infuse into others the error of their own degradation. These demons the poets also acknowledge, and Socrates declared that he was instructed and ruled at the will of a demon; and thence the Magi have a power either for mischief or for mockery, of whom, however, the chief Hostanes both says that the form of the true God cannot be seen, and declares that true angels stand round about His throne.
These spirits, therefore, are lurking under the statues and consecrated images: these inspire the breasts of their prophets with their afflatus, animate the fibres of the entrails, direct the flights of birds, rule the lots, give efficiency to oracles, are always mixing up falsehood with truth, for they are both deceived and they deceive; they disturb their life, they disquiet their slumbers; their spirits creeping also into their bodies, secretly terrify their minds, distort their limbs, break their health, excite diseases to force them to worship of themselves, so that when glutted with the steam of the altars and the piles of cattle, they may unloose what they had bound, and so appear to have effected a cure. The only remedy from them is when their own mischief ceases.

The dæmons are real enough — "the principle is the same, which misleads and deceives, and with tricks which darken the truth, leads away a credulous and foolish rabble" — it is relying upon them that is deceptive. In this way the dæmons passed easily into Christian "demons."

[edit] In Early Christianity
The specific motivation for the rush of inspired destruction of Greek and Roman sculpture unleashed at the end of the 4th century, as soon as Christianity was in secure control was that it was believed that the images were inhabited by demons. As in all such destruction, the faces were especially attacked: "defaced."[citation needed]

In the process of Christianizing Roman populations in the official Christianity from the late 4th century, theologians, hermits and monks, and the bishops and presbyters who influenced individuals, had their own repertoire of ideas, which were derived from Scripture and from the ambient culture of Late Antiquity. Within the Christian tradition, ideas of "demons" derived as much from the literature that came to be regarded as apocryphal and even heretical as it did from the literature accepted as canonical.[citation needed]

[edit] In North Africa
The North African Apuleius summed up their character in the Golden Ass (2nd century AD): "The dæmones have an animal nature, a rational mind, a soul subject to passions, an aetherial body and they are immortal." The Hellenic and Roman gods were increasingly seen as immovable, untouched by human sorrows and suffering, existing in a perfect heavenly sphere (compare Epicurus, Lucretius). The dæmones were earthbound, passion-tormented, and in Late Antiquity, loremasters were separating them into the noble kinds and troublemaking kinds. The gnostic followers of Valentinus multiplied the circles of dæmons and gave them oversight in various areas of concern to people: oracles, animals, and, interestingly, as "patron dæmons" of nations or occupations (compare Principalities and Patron saint).

[edit] In Hermeticism
The lore of Hermes Trismegistus is a source both for pagan and Christian conceptions of dæmons, for in the Corpus Hermeticum, they functioned as the gatekeepers of the spheres through which souls passed on their way to the highest heaven, the Empyrean. The Early Medieval St. Gall sacramentary testifies to the continuity of this belief of dæmones in the oldest extant prayer for anointing the dying:

"I anoint you with sanctified oil that in the manner of a warrior prepared through anointing for battle you will be able to prevail over the aery hordes."

[edit] In modern literature
Dæmons are a key element in Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (Northern Lights (also known as "The Golden Compass"), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). In the books, the dæmons are the shape-shifting (mostly in animal forms) souls of humans that accompany them from childhood, and which finally settle into their true form when the humans reach puberty. The form which the dæmon settles upon is representative of the human's personality — servants typically have a dog or domestic animal dæmon, signifying their servility and humility, while powerful characters have more exotic dæmons such as leopards or snakes, signifying that they are powerful or cunning.

Universal Demonology
Daemons also have two other refferences in modern spirituality. The first is that of a race of demon-like creatures that inhabit the realm of the Abyss. Stronger and faster than their "demonic cousins", it is believed they pre-exist even the Deities. Their skin is a reddish brown, and their eyes are purple to light blue. Little else is know.
The second is that of the Father of all Daemons. He for whom the race is named, "Daemon". Even less is known of him or his sister/lover Daemonica.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License