A guide to evil supernatural beings and some (bizarre) tips for guarding yourself from them.
Some call it Samhain, others All Hallow’s Eve. You may know it as Halloween, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year (and not just because my birthday is on The Day of the Dead). But whatever you call it, October 31 is believed by some to be a sacred day when the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead is at its thinnest. Witches and mediums claim this is the perfect night for communicating with lost loved ones and interacting with the spirits of the other world. It’s also believed to be an evening where ghosts and demons reach the heights of their supernatural powers. So, for the sake of some Halloween fun, let’s see what those powers are and how you can protect yourself should you get a little too tipsy on apple cider.
Demons: The Fallen Angels
As I understand it, demons are the counterparts of angels. While angels are good and benevolent, demons are evil and malicious. These are fallen angels or, at the bare minimum, extremely evil incarnations on earth. They can appear to mankind in human, half-human, or animal form. Supposedly they’re likely to appear as goats, cats, owls or dragons. Then again, when was the last time anyone saw a dragon?
So what is it that demons do exactly? Well, they’re believed to be God-haters who can attack your body or mind, cause nightmares or general unpleasantness, play mean-spirited pranks on people, possess human beings and, on rare occasion, be somewhat helpful, depending on what you’re hoping they will do for you. According to the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, there are over 4.6 million demons in the world. That’s roughly the population of Ireland, or the state of Louisiana. So if you’ve been to Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day or to New Orleans on Mardi Gras, perhaps you’ve crossed paths with one. And, according to a few publications supporting the Catholic Church, exorcisms are on the rise. So what should you do if you find yourself possessed by a demon?
Back in the Middle Ages, demonic possession was often used as a blanket term for epilepsy, schizophrenia and hysteria; but let’s assume demonic possession is real and break it down with the help of the Little Giant Encyclopedia for Spells & Magic (which I personally found to be hilarious):
Signs that You’re Possessed:
- Your face and body are contorted.
- You have a fiendish expression that even close friends won’t tolerate.
- Your voice becomes gruff and gravelly, just like in the movies.
- You scream profanities against God and his angels.
- You begin to speak in tongues, or general gibberish, and not just for attention.
You may also:
- Foam at the mouth
- Make animal noises
- Experience superhuman strength
(NOTE: These are also the symptoms of rabies, which has no cure, so I’d encourage you to seek out medical help as soon as possible.)
Ways to Avoid Demonic Possession:
- Cover your mouth while yawning.
- Avoid eating moldy bread, which can cause hallucinations (just ask Saint Anthony).
- Hang green branches over the doorway.
- Scatter flowers of a bean plant around your house.
- Wear a peach pit necklace (yes, you can eat the peach).
- Hold a branch of tamarisk and scatter the leaves.
(Only one of these will certainly work.)
If you are possessed, what can you do?
If a Catholic bishop, or Lorraine Warren, is unavailable, try drinking holy water out of a church bell, then eat a pinch of dead-saint dust with a bucket nearby for when you begin to puke up dung, coal, spiders, reptiles and bats. If that doesn’t work, consult your physician.
Incubi & Succubi: The Sexy Demons (Barry White not included)
An incubus sleeps with women, while a succubus sleeps with men. That’s really the only difference here, and a single demon can supposedly transform into either one, depending on the desires of their victim. Usually, they proposition you for sex while you’re sleeping, so that trippy dream on Lunesta or Tylenol PM could be a demonic trap. (Gasp!)
Of course, in the Middle Ages it was believed that these sexual demons targeted the innocent, and especially those leading celibate lives. If found guilty of having sex with a succubus or incubus, you could be charged with committing the sin of bestiality and be condemned to hell. Then again, which is more likely: a “celibate” nun gets pregnant from an affair and lies to protect her lover or herself, or a fallen angel sneaks into her room, lures her into a false sense of security, then romances her with his half-animal form? It’s a toss-up.
But to understand the history of the succubus — the female demon form — we’ve got to look back to Jewish mysticism for that answer. That’s right: we’re going way back to the first female on earth, who wasn’t formed out of Adam’s rib but was created from the dirt at the same time as her sexual counterpart. Yes, we’re talking about Lilith, queen of the demons (not to be confused with Frasier’s second wife).
Not only was Lilith believed to be the first woman, but she also inspired the first divorce. Apparently, Adam sucked in bed and wanted to keep everything missionary style, so Lilith rebelled, reminding her God-given husband that they had been cut from the same cloth and that she was his equal in every way (meaning that she got to be on top from time to time). Adam wasn’t happy with this arrangement, so God gave him Eve, the submissive to his Christian Grey.
As the story goes, Lilith could not be tamed. She refused to be subordinate and was soon cast out of Paradise to dance the night away with demons, recognized by her red dresses and wild, unruly black hair. Legend has it that Lilith presented herself to Eve as the serpent in the tree. But was she trying to enact revenge on Adam, or merely sharing a bit of knowledge with her earthly sister? Hard to say. What we do know is that she is considered to be the first succubus, and that she seduces innocent men in their sleep. The product of these midnight rendezvous are her own demon spawn.
So, how do you protect yourself from these sexual demons? Well, according to our handy-dandy Little Giant Encyclopedia for Spells & Magic, you can protect yourself from these supernatural beings by doing the following:
- Wear a tortoiseshell bracelet or a wolf’s tooth.
- Place pine needles all over the floor and twigs of papaya over the door.
- Keep a pet chameleon, for whatever reason.
- Carry a carved-out pumpkin around with you on Halloween. (Maybe one of those mini ones if you’re taking public transit.)
- Burn mistletoe.
- Plant blackthorn thickets.
- Tie a knot in your handkerchief.
- And say the following very quickly, three times in row: “Three blew beans in a blew bladder, rattle, bladder, rattle.”
If that doesn’t work, who knows what will happen…if anything.
Ghosts: The Friendly Otherworldly Problem
Outside the demon hierarchy, there are ghosts. These aren’t fallen angels, or spawn of the devil. Instead these are regular human beings who separated from their vegetable in death, and now their essence / intellect / ego remains due to some sort of unfinished business or desire. But like all human beings, dead or alive, a ghost is believed to exist because it wants something…mostly to move on to the afterlife, or so they say.
For instance, a ghost may have had unfinished goals or aspirations. They may be heartbroken, worried about their children, angry at their unexpected demise, or want their death to simply be acknowledged. Or at least, that’s what the movies tell us (see Heart & Souls).
But as far as hurting people, that’s not really what ghosts are all about. Of course, seeing a ghost is extremely rare (if at all possible), and being injured or maliciously attacked by one, even more so. Growing up in South Louisiana, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a house that’s supposedly haunted, I never heard of anyone being injured or attacked by their ghost. (Then again, their ghosts probably didn’t exist.) And after touring plenty of haunted homes, the worst thing that’s ever happened to me is that my right foot fell asleep at the Myrtles. Was it a ghost? Possibly. Is there any way to prove that? Not at all. But if you see a ghost in your home, you have three potential solutions: leave and never return, see if you can help the ghost out, or ignore it. (If you’re into hallucinogens or booze, maybe go with ignore and detox.)
To protect against ghosts, you can:
- Keep dung in your house.
- Eat wolf meat.
- Plant lilies in the garden.
- Carry a cross made of rowan wood, fastened with red thread, in the lining of your coat.
- Plant bay trees.
(Again, this is all according to the Little Giant Encyclopedia for Spells & Magic, which at this point was well worth the $20.)
So where does that leave us?
Do any of these evil supernatural beings actually exist? We’ll never know. There are lots of things about this world, and even the human experience, that I still don’t understand. There are probably even more things that I will never be able to comprehend. I’ll give you that. But Halloween isn’t supposed to be about proof, or even science. It’s supposed to be about fun, games and a celebration of life and death.
We don’t need to communicate with our dead to acknowledge the mark they’ve made on us; nor do we need to believe in demons to understand that evil exists in this world — true evil — and that it can’t be banished by any Book of Shadows. So I guess all we can do is dress up in costume, share good food and wine with our friends, and pretend, for just a second, that it’s all real. Why not? It’s Halloween. Enjoy it!