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Aspects of Ancient Near Eastern Demonology

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

The belief in the existence of evil spirits is attested from the earliest times of history. For the ancients demons provided an explanation for misfortune and also a means of dealing with it.  This course is an introduction to ancient near eastern demonology, examining the origins of the belief in evil spirits and focusing on some of the best known demons whose names still resurface in contemporary art and literature.

Course Details

Content of Course

1. Monsters, Demons and Evil Spirits

Definitions. The origin of the belief in evil spirits. From demons to germs.

2. Mesopotamian Demonology

Sumerian demonology. Babylonian demons. Lamashtu and Lilith.

3. Egypt and Greece

Demons and monsters in the Underworld of Egypt (Ammit). Evil gods (Sekhmet, Seth). Greek child killing demons: Lamia, Gorgon, Mormo.

4. Jewish and Christian demonology

Lucifer / Satan / the Devil. Azazel / Asael. Lilith.

5. De-demonising the Old Testament

Azazel. Deber, Qeteb, Reshef. Lilith. Aluqah.

Teaching method(s)

Teaching will be based on lectures, combined with illustrated examples and short DVD clips of relevant materials. This will be followed by a group discussion of issues raised in the lecture and hand-outs. Opportunity will also be given to conduct short research on topics and present findings to the group (research material will be provided).

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Identify, name and compare key figures of ANE demonology.

  • Demonstrate an appropriate understanding of the development of key themes and the development of the character of the main demons.

  • Discuss and critically evaluate previous and recent scholarly research on these issues.

  • Explain the impact ancient near eastern demonology on contemporary culture.


Core Readings


  • Black, J. and Green, A., 1992. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. London: British Museum Press

  • Blair, J.M., 2009. De-Demonising the Old Testament. An Investigation of Azazel, Lilith, Deber, Qeteb and Reshef in the Hebrew Bible. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck.

  • Lange, A., Lichtenberger, H. and Römheld, K. F. D., eds., 2003. Die Dämonen: Demons. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck.

  • Langton, E., 1949. Essentials of Demonology: A Study of Jewish and Christian Doctrine Its Origin and Development. London: The Epworth Press.

  • Toorn, K. Van der, Becking, B. and Horst, P. W. Van der, 1999. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill.


  • Blair, J. M., ‘From Demons to Germs’. In Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai- Theologia Latina. Vol.5 (Romania: Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, 2005), pp. 111-121.

  • Burkert, W., 1992. ‘Lamashtu, Lamia and Gorgo’ in The Orientalizing revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, transl. by M.E. Pinder and W. Burkert. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press.

  • Langdon,S. H., 1931. The Mythology of all Races: Semitic. Archaeological Institute of America. Boston: Marshall Jones Company. Vol. V.

  • Meyer, M. Mirecki, P. eds, 2001. Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. Leiden: Brill.

  • Russell, J. B., 1981. Satan: the Early Christian Traditions. Ithacar: Cornell University Press.

  • Stephens, W., ‘Demons: An Overview’, Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd edn., IV, pp. 2275 – 2282. Detroit: Thomson Gale.

  • Stol, M., 2000. Birth in Babylonia and the Bible: Its Mediterranean Setting. Groningen: Styx.

  • Te Velde, H., 1997. Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of his Role in Egyptian Myhtology and Religion. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers

  • Thompson,R. C., 1903-4. Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia: Being Babylonian and Assyrian Incantations against the Demons, Ghouls, Vampires, Hobgoblins, Ghosts and Kindred Evil Spirits, which Attack Mankind. London: Luzac and Co.

  • Witton Davies, T., 1898. Magic, Divination and Demonology Among the Hebrews and their Neighbours: Including an Examination of Biblical References and of the Biblical Terms. London: James Clarke & Co.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.