European demons

Cacus

In Roman mythology, Cacus, the son of Vulcan, was a giant who lived in a cave on Mount Aventine.

Hercules' tenth labor was to steal the cattle of Geryon, the king of Tartessus in Spain. On his way home, he stopped to rest at King Evander's home. That night, Cacus stole two of the finest bulls and four heifers, dragging the cattle backwards by their tails in order to cover up their tracks and make it seem as if they had gone in the opposite direction.

When Hercules awoke, he searched in vain for the missing cattle. However, as he was driving the remainder of the herd past the cave where Cacus had hidden them, one of the heifers lowed loudly enough so that Hercules heard it. He followed the sound, retrieved the missing cattle, and killed Cacus.

Cerberus

Cerberus was the three-headed watchdog with a serpent body that guarded the entrance to Hades in Greek/Roman mythology. He was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Hesiod describes him as

"Cerberus who eats raw meat, the hound of Hades with the voice of brass, fifty-headed, shameless and powerful" - Theogony 301-302

 

According to Homer, Hercules final task was to bring Cerberus up from the lower realms. Hercules descended into Hades accompanied by Mercury and Minerva. Pluto (Hades) granted him permission to take Cerberus provided he could do so without using weapons. Hercules encountered Cerberus near the gates of Acheron, one of the five rivers of the Underworld. Using only his strength, he wrestled Cerberus & was able to take him up to Eurystheus. As he struggled, his saliva dripped to the ground producing a poisonous plant called aconite (also known as 'hecateis,' because Hecate (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/hecate.asp) was the first to use it). It was also what Medea used to try to poison Theseus.

Besides Hercules, Orpheus was the only other person to attempt to go up against Cerberus. During his descent into Hades to bring his wife, Eurydice, back from the dead. In his journey, he soothed Cerberus to sleep with his lyre.

Virgil writes another account of Cerberus in the Aeneid when Aeneas accompanied by the Sibyl, the prophetess of Apollo, descended to the underworld to visit his father Anchises

"Huge Cerberus makes these realms resound with the barking of his three throats as he lies sprawled out full length in the cavern opposite. The prophetess threw him a honey cake drugged with sleep. Opening up his three mouths hungrily, he seized the cake, and then relaxing, he stretched out at full length on the floor of the cavern. Aeneas grasped the chance to enter, as soon as the guard fell asleep, and quickly passed beyond the bank of the river that can not be crossed again." - Aeneid VI, 2-899

 

Dante wrote in the Inferno (1307-1308 CE) that Cerberus tormented the souls of the Third Circle of Hell, where the gluttonous reside.

"Over the souls of those submerged beneath
That mess, is an outlandish, vicious beast,
His three throats barking, doglike: Cerberus.
His eyes are bloodred; greasy, black, his beard;
His belly bulges, and his hands are claws;
His talons tear and flay and render the shades."
- Dante's Inferno VI 13-18

Erinyes

The Erinyes ("the Angry Ones"), also known as the Furies and the Eumenides ("the Kindly Ones"), were three women sent to avenge the souls of the dead, and bring about justice. The three were named Alecto, ("the never ending") Megaira ("envious anger") and Tisiphone ("voice of revenge"). They appeared as hideous women with with serpents entwined in their hair, and they often carried whips and torches.

Aeschylus presents them as personifications of those curses which a murdered man, himself, directs against his murderer. It was also believed that Erinyes avenged the injured or dead whose blood had been shed by a blood relative, especially patricides and matricides.

There are many versions of their origin, the most common is that they were the daughters of Acheron and Nox (Night). Another popular origin of the Furies was that they were born of the blood of mutilated Ouranos in Gaia's womb.

One myth tells how they pursued Orestes because he had commited killed his mother, despite the fact that Orestes had acted in compliance with the direct command of Apollo. However, according to Aeschylus, the Furies were finally persuaded to abandon their persecution of Orestes after the acquittal of Orestes by the Areopagus. This verdict calmed the anger of the Furies, and they were henceforth knowned as the Eumenides. (See The Eumenides (http://classics.mit.edu/Aeschylus/eumendides.body.html) by Aeschylus)

 

"Thou, child of the high God Zeus, Apollo, hast robbed us and wronged; Thou, a youth, hast down-trodden the right that to godship more ancient belonged; Thou hast cherished thy suppliant man; the slayer, the God- forsaken, The bane of a parent, by craft from out of our grasp thou hast taken; A god, thou hast stolen from us the avengers a matricide son- And who shall consider thy deed and say, It is rightfully done?"

 

Gorgons

Considered demons of the underworld or of the sea, the Gorgons, whose name means 'savage/ horrible,' were the daughters of Phorcys & Ceto. They had feminine bodies covered with scales & hair of vipers, & whoever that looked at them would be instantly turned to stone. The Gorgons consisted of Medusa ("ruler"), the most infamous of the three and the only mortal one.. Her sisters, who were both immortal, were named Sthenno ("forceful") and Euryale ("far-roaming").

 

"And they are three, the Gorgons, each with wings
And snaky hair, most horrible to mortals
Whom no man shall behold and draw again
The breath of life"

According to legend, Polydectes told Perseus that he would rather have the head of a Gorgon more than anything in the world. When he announced he was getting married, Perseus declared he would bring back one of their heads as a present. Hermes met Perseus during his journey & gave him a sword that wouldn't be bent or broken by Medusa's scales. Pallas Athena also aided Perseus by giving him her shield of polished bronze & told him to use the shield as a mirror so he could see Medusa. Perseus found the Gorgons asleep, & after Hermes & Athena had told him which one was Medusa, he cut off her head.

Harpies

The Harpies, called 'the hounds of Zeus,' were a group of feminine creatures with beaks & claws. The Legend of Jason & the Argonauts tells of how Phineus was tormented by the Harpies, who would defile his food so that he could no longer eat it. Phineus asked the Argonauts for help, specifically the sons of Boreas, the great North Wind. They took pity on him, and set a trap to catch the Harpies. The Argonauts set food before Phineus, & after the Harpies had defiled it, the sons of Boreas went after them & attacked with their swords. However, before the sons of Boreas could kill them, the rainbow messenger of the gods, Iris, stopped them. She however gave her word that they would never again torment Phineus again.

Homer also mentions them in his Odyssey.

 

'Winged Harpies snatch the unguarded charge away, and to the furies bore a grateful prey.' - Odyssey xx.77

The Iliad mentions a Harpy as being the mother of the horses of Achilles.

 

Automedon therefore yoked the fleet horses Xanthus and Balius, steeds that could fly like the wind: these were they whom the harpy Podarge bore to the west wind, as she was grazing in a meadow by the waters of the river Oceanus. (xvi 181)

Stories usually mention 3 Harpy sisters, & give them various names (Aello, Celaeno, Ocypete, Podarge)

 

Hecate

Hecate, also called Agriope ('savage face'), was the daughter of the Titan Perses and of Asteria, although sometimes it is said that Zeus himself fathered her, and she is the mother of Scylla. It is thought that she was also known as the dark side of the goddesses, Artemis, Selene, or Diana. She was said to have three faces, symbolizing her power over the underworld, earth, & air, thus she is sometimes depicted with a three heads, that of a dog, a horse, and a lion. Sometimes she is also portrayed with a torch or with a back of hounds. She was only worshipped at night by torchlight and dogs and black lambs were sacrificed to her.

Hecate is goddess of the underworld, of chthonic rites, and of black magic as well as goddess of night and darkness. She may also have been a moon goddess representing its terror and darkness just as Diana represented the moonlight splendor. Medea was her priestess to whom she taught the art of magic.

According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hades abducted Persephone, the daughter of Zeus & Demeter, & forced her to live with him in the underworld. During Demeter's search for her daugher, she met Hecate, who admitted she too had heard Persephone's cries for help but didn't know who abducted her. Helios told Demeter that Hades was Persephone's abductor, & that Zeus had given him permission to do that. Demeter grew angry at this & protested by preventing all grain from growing until her daughter was given back to her. Hades propositoned Persephone to stay with him, & before she left, secretly gave her some pomegranate seed, so that she could never permanently stay in the light. Demeter was horrified at this action, and entrusted Persephone to Hecate:

 

'Then bright-coiffed Hecate came near to them, and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone.' (439-441)

Hel

Hel was the daughter of Loki (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/loki.asp) and the giantess, Angrboda. She had 2 older siblings, the wolf, Fenrir (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/fenrir.asp), who was the eldest, and the serpent Jormungand (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/jormungand.asp). From the waist up, Hel's color was pink, but from her hips down, her skin was greenish-black & looked decayed.

Alarmed that Loki had fathered these children, Odin sent a group of gods to kidnap them. Once captured, Odin hurled Hel out of Asgard into the mist & darkness of Niflheim. Odin also decreed that she was now to look after those who died of illness or old age in the nine worlds, & that she should give food to anyone who came to her.

Hel build an estate beyond the sheer rock, Drop to Destruction. Her hall was called Eljudnir, & became the home of the dead. She had a manservant, Ganglati, and a maidservant, Ganglot, both who moved so slowly that it was difficult to tell if they were moving at all.

In the tale of the Death of Balder, Hermod visited Hel to ask for Balder's life. Hel told him that if everything in the nine worlds, both dead and alive, weeps for Baldur, she would return him to Asgard, but if even one thing will not mourn, Balder must stay in Niflheim.

Hiisi

Hiisi (pl. hiiet) is the Finnish word for demon mentioned in the Kalevala. They are personifications of evil associated with woods, streams, & hills. There is a chief Hiisi who is aided by a number of lesser demons called hiiet within the Kalevala.

Poems 13-14 tells of Lemminkaeinen's attempt at pursuing Hiisi's elk. The elk escapes capture & curses Lemminkaeinen. Lemminkaeinen finally is able to capture the elk after a struggle & drive him to the North Farm.

Jormungand

The serpent, Jormungand was the middle child of Loki (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/loki.asp) and the giantess, Angrboda. He had 2 siblings, Hel (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/hel.asp), and the wolf, Fenrir (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/fenrir.asp).

Alarmed that Loki had fathered these children, Odin sent a group of gods to kidnap them. Once captured, Odin threw Jormungand into the ocean surrounding Midgard, where he lived from then on. The serpent grew so much that he encircled the whole world & bit his own tail.

At Ragnarok, Jormungand will escape to dry land & spew venom over all the earth & sky. He will then fight Thor, Son of Earth, who will kill the serpent at Vigrid, not before he is poisoned by Jormungand's venom. Thor will only be able to take 9 steps after killing the serpent before he also falls dead.

Lamia

Lamia were harmful spirits who killed infants & seduced sleeping men. One myth tells that the original Lamia was a beautiful queen of Libya who won Zeus' heart. Hera became jealous of this union & retaliated by transforming Lamia's beauty into ugliness & also killing all her children. She was able to briefly regain her beauty to seduce men, & is said to have drunk their blood.

The word lamia appears to have many connotations in folklore. She is sometimes associated with Adam's first wife, Lilith, in Jewish folklore. In Isaiah 34, "lamia" is translated as a screeching owl in the Authorized Version. Most demonologists considered the lamia to be minor spirits who disturbed sleep in some way.

 

Loki

Loki, the son of 2 giants, was the trickster god in Norse mythology who was always doing his best to cause trouble. His wife was Sigyn, who bore him 2 sons, Vali & Nari (or Narvi), though he had an affair with the giantess, Angrboda, who bore him Fenrir (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/fenrir.asp), Hel (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/hel.asp), & Jormungand (http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/mythology/jormungand.asp).

The Theft of Idun's Apples
In one story, Loki aids in the theft of Idun's Apples, which insure that the gods don't age. One day, Odin, Loki, & Honir crossed into Midgard for the day but had not brought any food with them. Loki decided to hunt & kill an ox, but when they tried to cook the meat, it remained raw. An eagle from above told them if they let him eat his fill, the meat would cook & they would be able to eat it. They agreed, but Loki was very hungry & soon grew impatient. He rammed his staff into the bird's body, so that the bird dropped the meat, but Loki was unable to let go of his staff. The eagle took off & flew just close enough to the ground to drag Loki across Midgard's floor, & only stopped when Loki agreed to bring Idun & her apples out of Asgard. Loki realized that the eagle was a giant in disguise, & agreed to the task.

Loki found Idun & convinced her that he had found a tree that grew apples similar to hers just outside of Bifrost. She followed him out of Asgard, only to find the giant Thiazi in the form of an eagle, who promptly carried her & her apples away. When Idun didn't arrive to give the gods her apples, they became anxious & began to grow old. They, however, did realize that Loki was missing from their company, & suspected that he was somehow responsible for this fate. Odin summoned Loki, who explained how the eagle would not let him go unless he agreed to bring Idun out of Asgard. Odin then threatened that if Loki did not help return Idun, they would kill him.

Loki agreed to Odin's request if Freyja would lend him her falcon skin. She gave it to him, & he flew to Thiazi's home in Thrymheim, where he discovered Idun. He then changed Idun into a nut & carried her off. Meanwhile, Thiazi, who had been on a fishing trip with his daughter, Skadi, came home to find Idun missing. He knew someone must have helped her escape, so he began flying & soon caught up with Loki as he drew closer to Asgard. Odin was watching all of this & told the gods to take all the fire wood shavings they could fire out of Asgard & pile it as high as they could. After Loki had successfully past over Asgard's wall, they lit the shavings. Thiazi could not stop himself, flew into the fire, & dropped to the ground in torment, where the gods quickly killed him. Loki then changed Idun back & she offered the gods her apples.

 

The Treasures of the Gods
Another of Loki's pranks was to cut off Thor's wife, Sif's hair while she was sleeping & left it in a pile on her bedroom floor. When she awoke & realized what had happened, she immediately knew only Loki could have done it. To make up for it, Loki promised to replace her hair with help from the dwarfs. Thor threatened that he had better or he would smash every bone in Loki's body.

Loki made his way to the land of the dark elves & sought out the sons of Ivaldi. He explained that he needed them to spin gold as fine as Sif's hair & imbue it with magic so that it would grow on her head. In return, he promised them the thanks of Sif & Thor, & all the friendship of the gods. The dwarfs agreed to the bargain, & created the hair. They then decided that it would be foolish to waste the fire, so they created a ship for Freyr called Skidbladnir that could be dismantled until they were no larger than a piece of cloth, & a spear for Odin called Gungnir that would never miss its mark. Loki thanked them & made his way back.

On his way, he had an idea to visit the dwarf brothers Brokk & Eitri. He showed them his treasures & challenged them to make something of finer craftsmanship. He told them he would stake his head on it. The dwarf brothers were eager to take up the challenge. They created a boar with bristles of gold for Freyr called Gullinbursti that could outrun any horse & was always surrounded by a brilliant light, an arm-ring of solid gold for Odin called Draupnir that would drop 8 rings of its own weight on every 9th night, & an iron hammer for Thor called Mjollnir that could never be broken & would always return when thrown.

Brokk then accompanied Loki to Asgard to have the gifts judged by the gods. Odin, Thor, & Freyr were quick to agree that Mjollnir was the most valuable because it alone could guard the gods against the giants. Brokk then attempted to claim Loki's head. Loki retorted that he had promised his head, but not any part of his neck. Brokk replied that in that case, he could at least sew Loki's lips together to stop his 'sweet talk.'

Brokk ended up using his brothers awl because his own knife was not sharp enough to pierce Loki's lips. Once completed, Loki ran out of Gladsheim & ripped the leather thong out of his lips.

 

The Death of Balder & Binding of Loki
The most famous story concerning Loki is his role in the death of Odin & Frigg's son, Balder. Balder began to have dreams of terrible things happening to him. Odin disguised himself as Vegtam, son of Valtam, & entered Hel to seek out a seeress to interpret the meaning of the dreams. The seeress explained that the dreams meant someone would soon kill Balder.

Alarmed at the prophecy, Frigg traveled throughout the 9 worlds to get each & every substance to swear an oath that it would not harm Balder. Everything she asked agreed, & the gods tested this by casting a pebble at Balder, who admitted that he couldn't even feel it.

Soon, the gods tried other tests such as throwing darts or stones at him, hitting him with axes & slashing him with swords. Nothing harmed him. This soon became a game among the gods, who rejoiced that nothing could harm him.

Loki, however, watched in disgust. He grew envious of Balder, & refused to take part in the games. Then, one afternoon, an idea occurred to him. When he was sure that no one was watching, he changed himself into an old woman & went to seek information from Frigg. Once there, the old woman began to question why they were stoning a man outside. Frigg explained that it was a game, & that nothing could hurt Balder. After awhile, she grew irritated with the old woman's inquiries, & finally mentioned that only one thing did not swear an oath not to harm Balder, the mistletoe.

Thrilled that he had finally found something that could harm Balder, Loki quickly made his way west of Valhalla & grabbed some mistletoe. He then sharpened one end of it & carried it back to Gladsheim, where the gods were so caught up in their game that they did not notice Loki come back in. Loki looked around & noticed Balder's brother, Hod, who was blind, standing aside. He went up to him and asked why he wasn't participating in the game. Hod replied because he couldn't see where Balder was, nor did he have a weapon to throw at him.

Loki then gave Hod the mistletoe & guided his arm. It struck Balder, pierced him, & passed right threw him. Balder fell on his face, dead. The gods looked around & knew only Loki could be responsible.

After much weeping, Frigg asked if anyone would be willing to travel to Hel & beg for Balder's life. Odin's son, Hermod stepped forward, & was soon off. For 9 nights he rode until he reached the underworld & met with Hel. He told her of the grief of the gods & asked Hel to let Balder return with him. Hel told him that if everything in the nine worlds, both dead and alive, would weep for Balder, she would return him to Asgard, but if even one thing would not mourn, Balder must stay in Niflheim. Hermod then left the underworld & told everyone at Gladsheim what had been said to him.

The Aesir sent messengers to everything throughout the 9 worlds asking them to weep for Balder. Everything they asked wept. As they were making their way back to Asgard, they came across the giantess, Thokk, sitting in a cave. They asked her to weep, but she refused. The messengers left mournfully, knowing that Thokk was actually Loki.

After some time went by after Balder's death, Loki realized that his days in Asgard had come to an end. He fled to a deserted part of Midgard near Franang's Falls & built himself a house with 4 doors, one in every direction so that he could keep watch in every direction. One evening, he heard voices coming, so he quickly put out his fire, turned himself into a salmon, & slid into Franang's Falls. Unfortunately for Loki, when Odin sat in Hlidskjalf, nothing escaped his sight. Odin quickly sent a party of gods from Asgard to capture him.

Thor & the others dropped a net into the Falls & weighted it down with stones so that nothing could swim under it. Loki attempted to jump over the net, but Thor caught the salmon & would not let go.

As punishment, Thor & one group of gods led Loki to a cave while another party went in pursuit of his two sons, Vali & Narvi. They changed Vali into a wolf & watched as he ripped Narvi's body apart before running away towards Jotunheim. They then took Narvi's entrails & made their way to the cave. Loki was promptly bound to a rock using Narvi's entrails, which became as hard as iron. Then Skadi positioned a snake above Loki so that its venom would drip into his face. There the gods left him.

Loki's wife, Sigyn, stayed behind holding a bowl over Loki's face to catch the venom. Whenever it is full, she carries it away & empties it into a rock basin. Loki is then left unguarded & the poison splashes into his face.

It is here Loki will remain until Ragnarok when Loki will be freed. He will then meet Heimdall, & each will kill the other.