Demonology (occultism)

Demonology (occultism)
The Temptation of St. Anthony by Martin Schöngauer

There have been various demonologies (classifications of demons) in Christian demonology and classical occultism and Renaissance magic. Classification systems are based on the nature of the demon, the sin with which they tempt people, the month in which their power was strongest, the saints that were their adversaries, or other characteristics.


Classification by domain

It can be noted that according to each author listed below, the domain of each demon is very different (with the exception of Francesco Maria Guazzo, who seem to have copied Michael Psellus with little difference). It can also be seen that each author chooses and classifies demons differently.

The Testament of Solomon

The Testament of Solomon is an Old Testament pseudepigraphical work, purportedly written by King Solomon, in which Solomon mostly describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity.The date is very dubious, though is considered the oldest work surviving particularly concerned with individual demons.[1][2]

Psellus' classification of demons

This is a classification of demons prepared by Michael Psellus in the 11th century and was an inspiration for the one Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared later. They are divided into Empyreal, Aerial, Subterranean, Lucifugi, Aqueous, Terrene[3]

Spina's classification of demons

Alfonso de Spina, in 1467, prepared a classification of demons based on several criteria:

  • Demons of fate
  • Goblins
  • Incubi and succubi
  • Wandering groups or armies of demons
  • Familiars
  • Drudes
  • Demons that are born from the union of a demon with a human being.
  • Liar and mischievous demons
  • Demons that attack the saints
  • Demons that try to induce old women to attend Witches' Sabbaths

This classification is somewhat capricious and it is difficult to find a criterion for it. It seems that Spina was inspired by several legends and stories. The drudes belong to German folklore. Familiars, goblins, and other mischievous demons belong to the folklore of most European countries.

The belief in incubi and succubae (and their ability to procreate) seem to have inspired the seventh category, but it could also have been inspired in the Talmudic legend of demons having sexual intercourse with mortal women (see also Mastema).

The visions of tempting demons that some early (and not too early) saints had, perhaps inspired the ninth category (e.g. the visions of Anthony the Great).

The idea of old women attending Sabbaths was common during the European Middle Age and Renaissance, and Spina mentioned it before the Malleus Maleficarum.

Binsfeld's classification of demons

Peter Binsfeld prepared a classification of demons in 1589. His demon classification was based on the seven deadly sins, establishing that each one of the mentioned demons tempted people by means of one of those sins.

Guazzo's classification of demons

Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared this classification of demons based on a previous work by Michael Psellus. It was published in his book Compendium Maleficarum in 1608.

  • Demons of the superior layers of the air, which never establish a relationship with people.
  • Demons of the inferior layers of the air, which are responsible for storms.
  • Demons of Earth, which dwell in fields, caves and forests.
  • Demons of water, which are female demons, and destroy aquatic animals.
  • Demons of the underground part of the Earth, responsible of keeping hidden treasures, causing earthquakes, and causing the crumbling of houses.
  • Demons of the night, which are black and evil. These demons avoid daylight.

Michaelis' classification of demons

In 1613 Sebastien Michaelis wrote a book, Admirable History, which included a classification of demons as it was told to him by the demon Berith when he was exorcising a nun, according to the author. This classification is based on the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies, according to the sins the devil tempts one to commit, and includes the demons' adversaries (who suffered that temptation without falling).

Note that many demons' names are exclusively French or unknown in other catalogs. St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the two St. Johns to whom Michaelis refers. The other saints are cited only by their name without making clear, i.e., which Francis is (of Assisi?).

First hierarchy

The first hierarchy includes angels that were or are Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

  • Beelzebub was a prince of the Seraphim, just below Lucifer. Beelzebub, along with Lucifer and Leviathan, were the first three angels to fall. He tempts men with pride and is opposed by St. Francis of Assissi.
  • Leviathan was also a prince of the Seraphim who tempts people to give into heresy, and is opposed by Saint Peter.
  • Asmodeus was also a prince of the Seraphim and reportedly continues to be one, burning with desire to tempt men into wantonness. He is opposed by St. John the Baptist.
  • Berith was a prince of the Cherubim. He tempts men to commit homicide, and to be quarrelsome, contentious, and blasphemous. He is opposed by St. Barnabas.
  • Astaroth was a prince of Thrones, who tempts men to be lazy and is opposed by St. Bartholomew.
  • Verrine was also prince of Thrones, just below Astaroth. He tempts men with impatience and is opposed by St. Dominic.
  • Gressil was the third prince of Thrones, who tempts men with impurity and is opposed by St. Bernard.
  • Sonneillon was the fourth prince of Thrones, who tempts men to hate and is opposed by St. Stephen.[5]

Second hierarchy

The second hierarchy includes Powers, Dominions, and Virtues.

  • Carreau was a prince of Powers. He tempts men with hardness of heart and is opposed by St.s Vincent and Vincent Ferrer
  • Carnivean was also a prince of Powers. He tempts men to obscenity and shamelessness, and is opposed by John the Evangelist.
  • Oeillet was a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin.
  • Rosier was the second in the order of Dominions. He tempts men against sexual purity and is opposed by St. Basil.
  • Belias was the prince of Virtues. He tempts men with arrogance and women to be vain, raise their children as wantons, and gossip during mass. He is opposed by St. Francis de Paul.

Third hierarchy

The third hierarchy includes Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.

  • Olivier was the prince of the Archangels. He tempts men with cruelty and mercilessness toward the poor and is opposed by St. Lawrence.
  • Iuvart was prince of Angels. At the time of Michaelis's writing, Iuvart was believed to be in the body of a Sister Madeleine.[6]

Barrett's classification of demons

Francis Barrett, in his book The magus (1801), offered this classification of demons, making them princes of some evil attitude, person or thing:

Classification by month

During the 16th century, it was believed that each demon had more strength to accomplish his mission during a special month of the year. In this way, he and his assistants' powers would work better during that month.

The classification of demons by month seems to have astrological implications more than religious ones.

Classification by office

There were also classifications by office, like those written in several grimoires.

Le Dragon Rouge (or Grand Grimoire)

Like many works of mystical nature, Le Dragon Rouge (or the Red Dragon) claims to come from Solomon and his priests and is said to be published in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian. However, it was most likely written in France in the 18th century.

The grimoire details the different hosts of hell and their powers, describing how to enter a pact with them to attain the magicians' goals. The demons of hell are classified by three different tiers from Generals to Officers.[8]

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, is a grimoire that contains a list of demons and the appropriate hours and rituals to conjure them in the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (simpler than those cited by The Lesser Key of Solomon below).

This book was written around 1583, and lists sixty-eight demons. The demons Vassago, Seir, Dantalion and Andromalius are not listed in this book. Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does not attribute seals to the demons.[9]

The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis is an anonymous 17th century grimoire, and one of the most popular books of demonology. The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the "exorcist"). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.

The author of The Lesser Key of Solomon copied Pseudomonarchia Daemonum almost completely, but added demons' descriptions, their seals and details.

The Ars Goetia

See List of demons in the Ars Goetia

Ars Geotia is the title of the first section of The Lesser Key of Solomon, containing descriptions of the seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed by magic symbols, and that he obliged to work for him.

The Ars Goetia assigns a rank and a title of nobility to each member of the infernal hierarchy, and gives the demons "signs they have to pay allegiance to", or seals.

Dictionnaire Infernal

The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organised in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings which depict the descriptions of the appearance of a number of demons. Many of these images were later used in S. L. MacGregor Mathers's edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon though some of the images were removed.

The book was first published in 1818 and then divided into two volumes, with six reprints and many changes between 1818 and 1863. This book attempts to provide an account of all the knowledge concerning superstitions and demonology.


  1. ^ "The Testament of Solomon", trans. F. C. Conybeare, Jewish Quarterly Review, October, 1898]
  2. ^ Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)
  3. ^ De operatione daemonum. Tr. Marcus Collisson. Sydney 1843. Full online text, p.42-43
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology, By Rosemary Guiley, p. 28-29, Facts on File, 2009.
  5. ^ « les demons estans interrogez respondirent qu'ils estoient trois au corps de Louyse, y estans par le moyen d'vn malefice, & que le premier d'eux se nommoit Verrine, l'autre Gresil, & le dernier Sonneillon, & que tous estoient du troisiesme ordre, sçauoir au rang des Throsnes. » (Histoire admirable de la possession et conversion d'vne penitente [] exorcisee [] soubs l'authorité du R.P. F. SEBASTIEN MICHAELIS [] Edition troisiesme & derniere. Paris, Chastellain, 1614, page 3. From Michaelis's work, available on BNF: online text from Gallica Histoire admirable
  6. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology." Rossell Hope Robbins (1912). Bonanza Books. New York. ©1959. 1981 Edition.
  7. ^ "Barrett's The Magus at". Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  8. ^ A.E. Waite's "Book of Ceremonial Magic," p.97 and p.109
  9. ^ "Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum at Twilit Grotto". Retrieved 2011-06-22. 

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