In the Company of Demons: Unnatural Beings, Love, and Identity in the Italian Renaissance by Armando Maggi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the Company of Demons
During the Renaissance era even such politically astute individuals like Machiavelli were aware or believed in the presence of spirits that lived in the air. Machiavelli believed that these spirits tried to contact people and help them. It was believed that these spirits had our welfare in mind. The Church took a dimmer view. Throughout the Renaissance several different authors took to writing about these spirits.
In the introduction, we read about an author named Menghli who knew of a young man that was visited by a spirit familiar. The spirit familiar would often run errands for him and help him out. This spirit took many forms sometimes that of a teacher, a noble man etc. These spirits since they had no corporeal body could assume any form they wished and usually they chose a form that the person they were trying to communicate with could comprehend or find familiar. These bodies were formed by compressing air or forming their fantasm like bodies.
Who exactly were these spirits? Giovan Francesco Pico dela Mirandola felt that they were demons who seduced people in the name of the Devil. His focus was on the strix or the screech owl. The strix was half owl and half woman. The condition was brought about as punishment for aligning with the devil. In one of his works he talks about a witch being put on trial and falling in love with a demon who maybe a ghost of a dead Roman general who betrayed Ceasar.
Strozzie Cigogna wrote treatises on Demonology. His works talk about God, his angels , demons and finally about people and how Demons try to interact with people. Demons were fallen being or angels who have no chance at salvation so they try to sabotage Gods plan and corrupt humanity. They seek our perdition. Demons or devils can mate with people or copulate but they have no feeling.
Pompeo Della Barba wrote treatises on love. How this connected with the rest of the book was a bit shaky. Basically the image of the beloved is perceived by the lover and it’s image awaken in his soul vial perception from the spirit. Body and soul give off spirit. These spirits sometimes hang around their graves if they were violently murdered or they stay earthbound if they feel the need to look after someone. This kind of spirit if angry and perverse enough could transform into a demon. Such a spirit which haunts others is a larvae. A lares is a household spirit that does beneficial things for the family or household. Genius loci is sometimes the spirit of an area.
Sinistari wrote books about Demoniality where in human –spirit sexual relations are frowned upon. The author of this treatise does discuss fallen angels an angels that were sent to guard people yet they fell in love and made giants. These giants were morally debased yet had great strength. Since spirits come from Fire, air, water and Earth. Fire being the strongest Those giants that came before Noah’s flood were in fact fire spirits. Now most giants are descended from water spirits and are not as strong. Yet they stay hidden.
The book offered discussion on not only angels and demon but also on Incubi and Succubi which could experience salvation. Elemental spirits were discussed and nature spirits yet they were classified as demons. The author did do a fairly nice job of comparing too the classical litaerature.
Yet I must add that demon is used as a blanket term for all types of spirits including jinn. Elves and faeries. Remember that demon came off the term Daimon. Daimon was a personal guardian that every human was born with.
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