Sexuality in Christian demonology  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

This article deals with the concept of sexuality in Christian demonology.


The sexuality of demons

To Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Jews there were male and female demons (Jewish demons were mostly male, although female examples such as Lillith exist). In Christian demonology and theology, although the belief in incubi and succubi is accepted, the matter of the sexuality of the demons is not so easy.

Gregory of Nyssa (4th century), as well as Ludovico Maria Sinistrari (17th century), believed in male and female demons.

Authors who believed in demons of opposite sex assigned them a heterosexual tendency, even adult men seducing adolescent boys by means of pederasty; the only demon with a bisexual tendency, and solely for some demonologists, was Asmodai.

But most demonologists did not recognise that there were female demons. They usually referred to demons as "he" (or equivalent) in all Indo-European languages it may be assumed that there were exclusively (or largely) male demons. This patriarchal mentality that banished completely the idea of female supernatural beings in Heaven and Hell led to another conclusion. As incubi and succubi existed for Christian authorities, demons, including The Devil, could take the shape of a man or a woman to act as an incubus or a succubus. Thus, they were attributing to all demons what today is known as a Hermaphrodite tendency.

It is licit to think which conception should be more appropriate: demons of both sexes with a heterosexual tendency or male demons with a bisexual tendency. Perhaps, as Christianity attributes the agency of some temptation to sins to demons, and all non-heterosexual tendencies are considered sinful, it is possible that demons should be of both sexes and their tendency bisexual, and perhapes there should be even homosexual demons of both sexes, but as a rule it this was not given thought,

Other conceptions posit that beings of spiritual substance are gender-transcendent or otherwise non-gendered; the experience of a demon as having gender and directional sexual tendencies would be the result of the purposes of the demon in tempting, deceiving, or otherwise harming human targets. It is of note that although God is predominantly experienced and self-revealed as male in the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian New Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures and their Greek translation - the Septuagint - contain feminine allusions to God (e.g., "El Shaddia" referring to breast, hence a nuturing image; "Lady Wisdom," often paralleled to the Word of John 1, whose incarnated form is Jesus; the Holy Spirit has feminine references, etc.). The notion that God is then gender-transcendent but self-revealed as male for puproses of revelation could also carry over to angels and demons.

By supporting the idea that demons could rape women and sexual relationships with them were painful, Nicholas Remy assigned a sadistic tendency to their sexuality, meanwhile most demonologists considered sexual relationships with demons pleasing.

Lust in demons

Lust in demons is a controversial theme for Christian demonology. As usual, scholars disagree on the subject.

On one hand, it is considered that demons can feel sexual desire, experience pleasure, fall in love, be jealous and passionate, hate, and lust is an inherent quality of their nature. On the other hand, other demonologists consider that demons cannot feel desire or love, less jealousy or passion, and use lust as a means to induce people to sin.

Early advocates of demon lust theory

Augustine of Hippo (5th century), Hincmar (early French theologian, archbishop of Rheims, 9th century), Michael Psellus (11th century), William of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris (13th century), Johannes Tauler (14th century), and Ludovico Maria Sinistrari (17th century), among others, supported the idea that demons were lustful and lascivious beings.

Early opponents of demon lust theory

Plutarch (1st and 2nd centuries), Thomas Aquinas (13th century), Nicholas Remy (16th century), and Henri Boguet (16th and 17th centuries), among others, disagreed, saying that demons did not know lust or desire and cannot have good feelings like love; as jealousy would be a consequence of love, they could not be jealous. Ambrogio de Vignati agreed with them.

Intermediate views

Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger (15th century), authors of the Malleus Maleficarum, adopted an intermediate position. According to their book, demons did not feel love for warlocks or witches. This is because sexual relationships with them were a part of the compromise these men and women made together with the diabolical pact to honour them by humiliating themselves conceding what demons could sexually ask from them. Demons acting as incubi and succubae with common people were passionate lovers that felt the desire of being with their beloved person and have sexual intercourse with him/her.

Augustine, Hincmar and Psellos thought that lust was what led demons to have sexual relationships with humans. William of Auvergne, conceived the idea that demons felt a particular and morbid attraction by long and beautiful female hair, and thus women had to follow the Christian use of covering it to avoid exciting desire in them. Tauler had the opinion that demons were lascivious and thus they wanted to have sexual intercourse with humans to satisfy their lewdness. Sinistrari supported the idea that demons felt sexual desire, but satisfaction and pleasure were not the only motivation to have sexual relationships with humans, being another reason that of fecundating women.

Plutarch wrote that demons could not feel sexual desire because they did not need to procreate, his work inspiring later Remy's opinion. Thomas Aquinas asserted that demons could not experience voluptuousness or desire, and they only wanted to seduce humans with the purpose of inducing them to commit "terrible" sexual sins. Remy wrote that demons do not feel sexual desire inspired by beauty, because they do not need it to procreate, having been created since the beginning in a predetermined number. Boguet said that demons did not know lust or voluptuousness because they are immortal and do not need to have descendants, and so they also do not need to have sexual organs, so demons could make people imagine that they were having sexual relationships, but that actually did not occur. Vignati agreed with Boguet saying that sexual relationships with demons were imaginary, a mere hallucination provoked by them, and Johann Meyfarth agreed too.

Plutarch, Remy and Boguet do not seem to have explained what they wanted to but the need of demons for procreation, what seems to be a different subject. Christian theologians associated the coitus with procreation and not pleasure, but this does not seem to be valid for demons, who might be supposed to want all pleasures that Christian religion denied to humans. Christianity considers sexual pleasure outside of the bonds of marriage to be inappropriate and sinful, so it should be appropriate for demons, especially if it is contrary to what allegedly is "God's will".

Pierre de Rostegny supported the idea that Satan preferred to have sexual intercourse with married women to add adultery to other sins like lust, but told nothing about his lust or that of his companions.

Demon lust in fiction works

Supporting the idea that demons had feelings of love and hate, and were voluptuous, there are several stories about their jealousy.

The first story of this type is narrated in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit. This story tells that the demon Asmodai either fell in love with Sarah and/or felt sexual desire for her, and jealous for she got married killed seven of her husbands before the first coitus could be consummated. Asmodai never had sexual intercourse with Sarah, but he also intended to kill Tobias, her eighth husband, but was foiled by the angel Raphael.

Another of these stories about demonic lewdness and passionate love is told in The Life of Saint Bernard, written by a monk, and said that during the 11th century a demon fell in love with a woman, and when her husband was asleep he visited her, awoke the woman and began to do with her as if he were her husband, committing every type of voluptuous acts during several years, and inflaming her passion.

And a story referring to demonic jealousy was told by Erasmus (16th century), who blamed a demon for the fire that destroyed a village in Germany in 1533, saying that a demon loved deeply a young woman, but discovered that she had also sexual relationships with a man. Full of wrath, the demon started the fire.

If we consider that demons are angels for Christian theology, never mind if fallen, it can be supposed that the feeling of love is possible in them, and taking into account that Christianity partially blames demons for temptations, lust being one of the seven deadly sins, it would be appropriate that they were lustful, and their love passionate and full of sensuality and voluptuousness.

Demons and sexual relations

Christian demonologists agree in the fact that sexual relationships between demons and humans happen, but they disagree in why and how. A common point of view is that demons induce men and women to the sin of lust, and adultery is often considered as an associated sin. Pierre de Rostegny supported the idea that Satan preferred to have sexual intercourse with married women to add adultery to her sins.

Gregory of Nyssa said that demons had children with women, which added to the children they had between them, contributed to increase the number of demons.

It was considered that demons always had sexual relationships with witches and warlocks in the form of incubi and succubae, and some witches had sexual intercourse with a male goat, as it was supported by Pierre de Rostegny. But common people, as it was believed, also were seduced by incubi and succubae, especially while they were asleep, and sometimes when they were awake, in the form of a beautiful man or woman that excited their desire to the point of not being able to resist the temptation, although the possibility of resistance always existed as asserted by Christian theologians, but the tendency to sin was stronger than their faith. Francesco Maria Guazzo offered detailed descriptions of sexual relationships between demons and humans.

Nicholas Remy, disagreeing with many theologians and demonologists, supported the idea that even if a woman opposed resistance to the demon he could rape her, and wrote about a case of a young teenager that was raped twice by a demon and who nearly died from the injuries. Catharina Latomia confessed this case to him in 1587. If that confession was an excuse to avoid giving the name of the rapist or the girl actually thought that a demon had raped her, will remain unknown. Sylvester Prieras agreed with Remy, supporting the idea that demons could not only rape common women but also nuns.

The Malleus Maleficarum established that sexual relationships between demons and humans were an essential belief for Christians. But its authors considered also the possibility that demons provoked a false pregnancy in some women, filling their belly with air due to certain herbs they made them drink in beverages during the Sabbaths; at the time of giving birth to the child, a big quantity of air escaped from the woman's vagina. The false pregnancy was later explained by medicine.

Many Christian theologians (Martin Luther and Jean Bodin among others) believed that demons could impregnate women but their children would have a short life and be good for nothing; other theologians (Francisco Valesio, aka Valesius, Tomaso Malvenda and Johann Cochlaeus among others) thought that these children could be important characters, like Attila, Martin Luther, Melusine or the Antichrist.

Augustine of Hippo, Pope Innocent VIII, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Peter of Paluda, Martin of Arles and Ludovico Maria Sinistrari believed that demons could fecundate women, but Ulrich Molitor, Heinrich Kramer, Jacob Sprenger and Nicholas Remy disagreed.

According to Remy, sexual relationships with demons were painful, meanwhile many persons that confessed to have had those relationships told that they were satisfying.

Henri Boguet and Johann Meyfarth supported the idea that demons provoked an imaginary coitus because they did not have sexual organs, such as a penis or a vagina.


Some speculate that the Hebrew and Christian bibles show belief in the mating of angels or demons to humans. In Genesis chapter 6 the "sons of God", presumed by this theory to be fallen angels, mate with human women, creating a race of super-beings called the Nephilim.

This interpretation is disputed by some, who claim that "sons of God" in that text refers only to believers in the "Promised Seed" (Genesis 3:15) and that "daughters of men" refers to pagan women, particularly implying that descendants of Seth were marrying descendants of Cain.

Under this interpretation, the Nephilim were not physical giants, but just men without conscience who were extremely evil and aggressive. This interpretation limits the direct roles of demons on the early human race to merely a role as being influential to human affairs, without actually engaging in sexual relations with humans themselves. Under this, the Nephilim were not part-man and part-demon, but were full-blooded men that were particularly susceptible to demonic influence over their actions.

The key argument defending this interpretation is that demons had no need to mate with humans and turn them against God, but only a need to stop the entire human race all at once from having faith that it would be promised a savior from sin, which would guarantee the damnation of all humanity at once, thereby allowing Satan to fulfill his revenge against God for expelling him from Heaven.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexuality in Christian demonology" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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