Symbols and symbolism in Christian demonology

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Christian demonology has associated demons and symbols, attributing a variety of them to these entities.

In general, the most important demons are said to have a signature or seal, which is personal and generally used by them to sign the acts of the diabolical pacts. But those seals can also be used as a protection against them by a conjurer when summoning demons. Some grimoires like The Great Book of Saint Cyprian, Le Dragon Rouge and The Lesser Key of Solomon provide these seals.

To the Devil in particular, the serpent, the goat and the dragon have been attributed as his symbols.

Inspired by the Book of Revelation 13:18 the number 666 (the Number of the Beast) was attributed to the Antichrist and to the Devil. In early Christian times, there were also used three letters instead of three numbers: FFF; F is the sixth letter of the Latin alphabet, and early Christians named the weekdays with the seven first letters of the alphabet to avoid calling them by the name of Pagan deities (although this criterion soon prevailed); Friday is the sixth day of the week; so the F became a good substitute of the 6, but this form of writing the 666 soon was forgotten and the numbers remained in their original sense.

A non-Christian symbol, the pentacle, has been considered a diabolical sign when inverted (pointing downward). There are several forms of drawing a diabolical pentacle: just the star, an encircled star, or the star with the head of a male goat inside, being the horns into the upper points of the star, the ears into the side points, the beard into the inferior one, and the face into the pentagon inside the star; it can be encircled or not. If this last description includes five Hebrew letters inside the circle it is not a diabolical symbol, because those letters act as a protection against the demon. It has to be noted that the diabolical pentacle does not derive from the Pythagorean one but from the Babylonian and Celtic. Ancient Babylonians used to represent some deities with the right hand upward and the left downward, meaning respectively life and death, creation and destruction, good and evil, et cetera; this practice is still upheld by many modern Hindus. Thus, the pentacle with a point downward was associated with the Devil (remember that for Christian theology all Pagan deities are demons and hence their symbols diabolical). The Celts had a representation of a pentacle (without the surrounding circle) that was said was the footstep of a ghost or a witch with one leg of a goat instead of human; the belief in the "witch's foot" lasted for centuries in Christian folklore.

An inverted (upside-down) cross or crucifix was also attributed as a symbol of both the Devil and the Antichrist. This is a late symbol, and was probably derived from the same origins as the inverted pentacle.

The trident or pitchfork is also a symbol of the Devil, and sometimes it is drawn combining a crossed line in the inferior part to form a cross looking downward, combining both symbols into a new one. This symbol may derive from Hinduism, in which it is the symbol of Shiva; his trident is sometimes depicted with a crossed stabiliser that forms the same figure.

Demons and colors

Christian demonology has assigned colours to Satan: red and black.

According to this, the diabolical pact had to be written with blood (human or animal) or red ink, and it was believed that books on black magic were written with a red ink which colour was so intense that blinded any person that was not familiar to that art.

Satan and other demons were often depicted as black men, and/or riding a black horse, and dressed in black or red. It was said that black animals were sacrificed to them. When demons appeared in the shape of animals, generally they were black.

Nonetheless, sometimes demons were depicted riding pale horses, perhaps due to a folkloric tradition that associated the pale horse with the Dead (as a character). Despite all this, some demons were depicted riding other animals and dressed in different ways.

The association with red and black possibly derives from the idea of the red fire of Hell, a place of darkness. The association with red might be due to an exegesis of the Book of Revelation 12:3-9, referring to a red dragon compared with Satan. Black, the colour of darkness, might also be due to many allusions to Hell in Matthew's Gospel.

Many representations of the Devil depict him with red skin.

Nicholas Remy cited that Pythagoras mentioned black as the colour of evil, and thus the animals or other things sacrificed or offered to the Devil had to be black.

Demons and food

Although demons, being spiritual beings, do not need food, according to Christian demonology demons, and especially the Devil hate salt, and thus no food is served with salt during the Sabbaths. Bread, if not made with rye, and oil, are prohibited. This is what the Christian church believed.

This can have an explanation in the fact that in some Christian rituals of baptism, especially in Catholicism, salt is put on the lips of the child during the ceremony of the baptism as a symbol of wisdom. Demons do not reject knowledge but perhaps dislike the religious symbol of it. The dislike for bread can be explained due to the fact that it represents the body of Jesus for Christians and is transubstantiated into his flesh during the mass.

Nevertheless, wine is the Christian symbol that during the mass is transubstantiated into the flesh and blood of Jesus and demons do not show dislike for wine. Some demons are said to be able to turn blood into wine and vice versa (some of them are mentioned in the Ars Goetia of the Lemegeton and in Pseudomonarchia Daemonum). During some time it was believed that offering bread and wine to a demon was an invitation to him to stay in that house and to possess that person; of course this could be without knowing that the incomer was a demon, so it was not convenient to offer those common thing to any foreigner.

It was believed that during the Sabbath the Devil could extract wine from certain plants, especially by making a cut in the trunk of a tree, and mixed it with his blood (maybe the like of demons for wine is due to this belief). This was probably due to the fact that Christian demonologists believed that during the Sabbath was celebrated a Black Mass with a parody of the communion.

Oil is another Christian symbol, being the substance with which Jesus was consecrated as Christ (from Greek 'Christos', anointed), and there are also demons that can turn blood into oil and so on, named in the same grimoires above-mentioned.

It was believed that during the Sabbath Satan's attendants, or at least the most important ones, ate human flesh, which shared with the Devil, present in the meeting and presiding it.

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