All over the world, people of different cultures fear demons.
All over the world, people of different cultures fear demons.

Most spiritual traditions recognize some form of demon or evil spirit. The Japanese have “oni,” who attend the gods of their underworld. The Jains have hell creatures called “narakas.” The Zoroastrians paid homage both to gods of light and darkness, each surrounded by seven spirits or seven archdemons, respectively. These Zoroastrian archdemons may overlap with those of Christianity. Some scholars have designated a particular deadly sin for each archdemon.

Demons

For Judeo/Christians, demons are Satan’s gang of fallen angels who rebelled against God. Vanquished by the angels, led by Archangel Michael, the demons were cast from heaven and doomed to roam. Demons, like the angels who remain in good standing, are noncorporeal beings, not damned souls of wicked people. According to demonologist Adam Blai, who runs the website Religious Demonology, demons’ main sin is pride, as they failed to remain humble and serve God. Demons aim to deceive and corrupt humans, Blai claims, turning them away from good so they eventually die in a damned state.

Hierarchy

While all demons are bad, some are worse than others. Some relgious scholars have subdivided demons into different species, such as fates, who have the power to change destiny, and succubi, who inspire perversion and lust. Christianity places Lucifer at the top of the hierarchy of evil. The other leading archdemons are Mammon, Asmodeus, Beelzebub, Leviathan and Belphegor. While most Christians consider Lucifer and Satan the same entity, with Satan the name used after his fall from grace, some demonologists consider them two different entities, which would make Satan the seventh archdemon.

Seven Deadly Sins

Many cultures, including the early Christian church, have attributed a special mystique to the number seven. Pope Gregory composed the list of seven deadly sins sometime before he died in 605 AD, and Saint Thomas Aquinas popularized this idea in his writing. In Christian theology, if you commit a deadly sin you are cut off from God, which leads to damnation. Many consider the attitude of superiority known as pride to be the worst of the seven sins. Anger, lust, covetousness -- also known as avarice or greed -- gluttony, envy and sloth round out the list. Sloth encompasses spiritual apathy in addition to laziness.

Archdemons Corresponding to Sins

Some medieval demonologists ascribed a correlation between the seven archdemons and the seven deadly sins. Lucifer, who sought to defy God, is paired with pride. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that Leviathan was the archdemon of envy, though he would be first to punish the envious. Leviathan predates Christianity, making demonic appearances in earlier spiritual traditions. Other pairings between archdemons and deadly sins include Mammon and avarice, Asmodesus and lechery, Satan and anger, Beelzebub and gluttony and Belphegor and sloth.