From Demons to Germs Cover Image

From Demons to Germs
From Demons to Germs

Author(s): Judit Blair
Subject(s): Christian Theology and Religion
Published by: Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai
Keywords: demonology; disease; Lilith; Lamaštu; healing; exorcism; incantation.

Summary/Abstract: The people of the Ancient Near East believed that demons and evil spirits swarmed everywhere; they could enter food and drink, and even the human body. Demons caused disease, illness and physical annoyances and even personified some of the diseases. The ancients used amulets and incantations to prevent the demons from causing harm, and exorcism as a means of healing. It is only in the past hundred years or so that the knowledge of pathogenicity – the existence of germs and their role in the transmission of disease has transformed our understanding of the cause of some of the diseases. Our “germs” were demons to the ancients; our “being hygienic” meant the warding off of harmful spirits; our therapeutics replaced the exorcising of demons. A particularly feared demon was the child-killing demoness, known as Lamaštu in Mesopotamia, Lilith in Hebrew belief, and Lamia, Gello and others to the Greeks. Pregnancy-loss, the death of newborn babies and infants were attributed to this demoness. There are scholars who argue that the place of the child-killing demons in the realm of the demonic reflected the standard opinion of the time of what the proper role of a woman was in society. In other words these demons represented the antithesis of a proper woman. However, we have to go deeper in our analysis of the child-killing demoness to understand the role she played in popular belief.

  • Issue Year: 2005
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 111-121
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: English