folk devil

The “Folkloric Devil” is a term applied to the figure who appears in folk-tales and legends and who is often called “the devil”, but it’s obvious that he emerges from a different source than the theological background of Christianity.

Old divinities or diminished Gods that maintained a presence in the minds or cultures of European peoples are suggested (often enough, and for good reasons) as a source of this figure; but beyond that, the pre-Christian societies had spiritual forces and persons that they related to in the sense of “outsider” powers that could be shady or tricky or dangerous at times, but who often had kinds of relationships nonetheless with human beings. These are the main source of the “folkloric” Devil/Devils.

The Folkloric devil isn’t concerned with damning souls, primarily, but he always wants to make deals or pacts to help humans who need things, but so that he can gain, too- a sign of his origin in the older world of spirit-relationship and spiritual ecology. In Christian gloss, he begins more and more to want “souls” for his help, but he is always able to be tricked, himself- and this is very important. Human heroes or protagonists can outwit him. This is something that would be impossible to do to the Theological Devil, who is far beyond humans in power, and second only to God himself in power.

Modern Pop Culture produces surprising emergences of the old Folkloric Devil- Charlie Daniel’s song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is an appearance of a Folkloric Devil, who can be out-played by the intrepid and arrogant local boy, on the fiddle. There is the Christian conceit of the Devil seeking souls in that song, but that’s just a minor detail, more suited to a Christian audience and born from the imagination of a low Protestant folk singer.

The Folkloric Devil is a being- and a representative of a whole class of beings- who can be engaged with by humans, for gains. They can be harmful, they can be helpful, and they can be outwitted or outdone at times. Sometimes, they become protagonists themselves.

Theological Elites in the Pre-Modern period of Europe saw no distinction between their Theological Devil and the various emergences of the Folkloric Devil. The “Devil” of witch cults and covenants and of individual sorcerers or witches was of the Folkloric variety, though in their own personal understandings, even they may have believed that he was the same as the theological devil, such was the nature of their times. It’s not like there was a neat chart that spelled all this stuff out to earlier people, and folk in Pre-Modern times heard Christian ministers ranting alongside fire-side bards telling folktales, and so the Folkloric Devil/Devils could take on Christian gloss and attributes at times, and the Theological devil could appear in decidedly “folkish” ways.

What’s important to remember is that the Theological Devil doesn’t exist except as the shadow of Christian psychology. He is born from the idealistic Christian imagination, as the necessary counter-ideal or counter-force to their idealistic notion of good, the warped good, the fallen good, born in their continuation of earlier dualistic religious tropes that posited a cosmic war between good and evil cosmological forces.

The Folkloric Devil, on the other hand, very much exists, both in the form of a powerful former divinity worshiped by practically every human culture known previous to Christianity, and as a folk-memory of certain spirit-entities (very much tied to this world) that people have always engaged in relationships with, though they are a group of entities who are, in ways, challenging, dangerous at points, and ambiguous.

The Theological Devil is a remnant of idealism and the diseased imagination of absolutists and idealists. The Folkloric Devil is a remnant of ancient spiritual ecology and human relationships to the wilder, stranger Otherworld.

- Robin Artisson

For those wronged.

I strike a nail into a toad for those whose hearts have been broken.

I stroke a black cat with a hand of salt for those who have been betrayed.

I cast a stone into a storm-crazed sea for those left unable to feel anymore.

I stomp on a bundle of twigs bound with horse hair for those who can no longer trust another.

I inflict pins into a waxen image for those left maimed physically or emotionally.

I take you all with me to the sabbath in hopes you can heal.

The Lithuanian devil is never evil. The Lithuanian devil, as portrayed in thousands of folk tales, is rather mischievous, faun-like, an elf who likes fun, helps people out, then gets into trouble for it. Simply put: he has a weakness for people. In Lithuanian homes, it means luck and happiness to have many sculpted little devils around the place.

Jonas Mekas, I Had Nowhere To Go

@this-isnt-your-captain-speaking <3 X

Appalachian Witch Initiation

An excerpt taken from Hubert J. Davis’ The Silver Bullet, and Other American Witch Stories

“Liz then said, "This is whut the Devil wants the most: promise you won’t never preach no more, nor go to a ‘ligious meetin. Then effen you git to be a witch, promise to do ennything you can to keep your pappy frum preachin’ agin witches. Now, hit ain’t a goin’ to be easy, and I 'low you mought have to try more'n onct afore you git in. Whatever happens, you have to foller 'structions zactly.”

Jonas promised, “Yep, Liz. I’ll do zactly whut I’m told to do.”

So, following instructions, at midnight he sneaked into his father’s field and stole one of the black rams. He killed it and cut off its left horn, hiding the rest of the carcass in the woods.

The next day being Sunday, he got a boy to steal a silver coin out of the collection plate of his father’s church. He melted down the coin and made it into a silver bullet, which he put to soak in toad’s blood. He also went to Gladeville where he bought a pewter plate. Next, he scoured the hills until he found a spring whose stream flowed directly east.

He then waited until Friday the thirteenth and returned to the spring as the morning turned gray over the ridge. He dipped some water from the spring with his ram’s horn and poured it over the pewter plate. He did this seven times and repeated the verses Liz had taught him:

As I dip the water with a ram’s horn,
Cast me cruel with a heart of thorn,
As I now the Devil do my soul lease.

I renounce Christ as my Savior,
And promise the Devil my behavior
'Til my life on earth will cease.

May my black and evil soul be
Of Christian love and grace free
As this plate is of grease.

And effen I become an evil crone
From my outer skin to inner bone,
I’ll never given any Christian peace.

Rain and shine, for eight mornings, Jonas came to the spring and repeated this ritual. On the ninth morning, he was supposed to become a witch and he took his gun and the silver bullet with him. He shot the bullet toward the sun as it came up over the ridge. They had told him that if the sun looked as if it were dripping blood as it came up, then he would be a witch. Jonas thought it did, and started home.

He had also been told that if he had become a witch, he would find a toad waiting for him when he got home which would be his familiar spirit or “imp.” But, there was no toad near the door, look as he might. This meant he hadn’t passed, and he’d have to do this all over again the next Friday the thirteenth.

The second time, there was till no familiar waiting, either. But Jonas was stubborn, and he tried a third time before he became a conjure man. This took him two full years, but he said it was worth the time and trouble. Liz told him that it took so long because of the preachers in his family.“

Collected by James Taylor Adams, Big Laurel, Wise County, Virginia, May 17, 1939. Told to him by his grandfather, Spencer Adams. It was Spencer Adam’s son, James Taylor’s uncle, who became the witch. Spencer Adams, his father, and his grandfather were all hardshell Baptist Preachers.

anonymous asked:

Why're folks giving the little devil such a hard time for having a decent appetite? He could be eating souls instead! If it saves my soul from getting put on the menu, I say let the little guy have all the desserts he wants. Have a pie on me, chief. *slips a tenner down the bar counter*

“Thanks for the tenner.”- Bendy

Fic Prompts: Folklore Friday

They appear at your door in the middle of the night: two bedraggled children who claim their parents intentionally lost them in the woods. You take them in, feed them, give them a place to stay.
But you never said it was freely given.
Favors for favors. Always read the fine print.
It’s how you ended up trapped in this cottage, and now it’s how you’re going to escape.

The girl looks like she could learn magic in a pinch. Let her guard this hellish house a while.