Zhulong (also known as Zhuyin or Chu-yin) is a peculiar figure within Chinese mythology. Other names for him include Zhoulong and Chuolong. He is recorded as a dragon who was also worshipped by the Chinese as a god. This deity stretches back to very early periods of Chinese myth and history, and is considered to be a god of the weather, light and the sun. He is typically described as a dragon or serpent with a human head, but he could also be thought of as a pig dragon, as pig dragon is one of the many meanings of his name. Like many creatures found in Chinese myth, he also found his way to Japan, where he was recgonized as a yokai (a kind of monster or demon).
There are many myths centering around Zhulong that can be found in the ancient Chinese Classics, a series of texts whose composition predates the Qin dynasty, the first imperial dynasty of China, and which collectively form the canonical basis of ancient Chinese literature, particularly Confucian scholarship. The Classic of Mountains and Seas (or Shanhaijing) describes Zhulong as a deity residing at the top of a place called Zhōngshān (or Mount Bell), which seems to refer to a geographical location now known as Zijinshan (or Purple Mountain). Older myths place his abode in a different location, specifically a place called Mount Zhangwei. A huge creature, described as a thousand leagues long, Zhulong appears to have control over the transition of night and day as well as the weather. It is written that when his eyes are open or looking out there is daylight, and when they are closed it is night, and that he commands the seasons by blowing and/or calling out – when he blows it is winter and when he calls out it is summer. He is described as not needing to eat, drink or even breathe, but also that when he does breathe it creates gales of wind.
This myth is sometimes considered to be an antecedent to a similar myth concerning Pangu (or Pan-ku), another Chinese creation deity, on the grounds that both Pangu and Zhulong were believed to have built up the foundations of heaven and earth, thereby responsible for the creation of the universe. The fact that the composition of the Shanhaijing seems to predate the myths of Pangu appears to support the hypothesis that the Zhulong myth is the ancestor of the Pangu myth, as well as the origin of Pangu during the Han dynasty, thus suggesting Pangu to be the Han dynasty successor to Zhulong. And speaking of chaos, the myth of Zhulong has also been compared to another mythical creature known as Hundun, a beast representing the primordial chaos that existed before creation. The comparison stems from Zhulong not needing to eat, drink or breathe, which theoretically matches up Hundun’s lack of orifices. However, most depictions of Zhulong do have orifices, and the myths state that, although Zhulong doesn’t need to breathe, he sometimes does. There is one depiction of Zhulong that sometimes looks “faceless” at first, or at least lacking eyes, but upon close inspection it is just that he has only one eye, not unlike the Cyclopes of Greek mythology.
In the Classic of the Great Wilderness, Zhulong is mentioned as a god-man with a serpent body and describes the same characteristics as before, while adding that the wind and the rain are under his command and that he shines over “the ninefold darkness”. In the Chu Ci (or Songs of Chu), Zhulong is described as a being capable of bringing light into places that the sun cannot reach, which is implied to be the underworld, based on how the Shanhaijing in some translations refers to him as being able to “light the dark world of the dead”. The Huainanzi describes him as a creature that hides in the mountains and never sees the sun. In The Records of Penetration into the Mysteries (or Dongmingji), Zhulong is referred to, though not by name, as a blue or azure dragon that carries a torch in its jaws and illuminates a mountain reached by neither the sun nor the moon and is populated by peculiar plants and trees that can be used as torches.
In Japan, Zhulong is known as Shokuin, or Shokuryu, and is generally considered to be a yokai. The term yokai is a complicated a loaded term, but it can be translated as “strange apparition” and the categorization seems to comprise of ghosts, demons and various supernatural creatures, and is treated separately from the god category, or kami. This would mean that Zhulong has effectively been downgraded in Japanese myth from a god to a monster. Beyond that, however, many of the details of Shokuin are essentially the same as the details of Zhulong but with some differences. Whereas Zhulong resides at either Mount Zhangwei or Mount Bell, Shokuin resides at the top of Mount Shō. Shō is the name of one of the Yōrō Mountains which sit between the Mie and Gifu prefectures, however it’s possible that this is not the mountain referred to in the myth, as Toriyama Sekien, the author of the Senagikyo (which incidentally is a Japanese transliteration of the name Shanhaijing) in which he is featured, describes it as a mountain located near the Arctic Ocean. It seems that Shokuin was one of many yokai that were originally lifted from Chinese mythology, with many of their myths borrowed from their Chinese counterparts and names translated from Chinese to Japanese.
Shokuin also appears in the first volume of a text called the Konjaku Hyakki Shui (or “Supplement to The Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past”, also authored by Toriyama Sekien), in which he is described as the god of a mountain called Shōzan (likely a variant of Mount Shō), which is located in “the regions beyond the seas”.
Serpent of the morning star?
Zhulong’s many names are of interest here. Guo Pu’s commentary on the Classic of Mountains and Seas refers to him as “Enlightener”. The name Zhulong means “torch dragon”, though the name Zhu can also mean “illuminating”, “bright”, or “shining”. The name Zhuyin similar means “torch shadow”, but as Zhu can also mean “bright” and yin can mean “darkness”, we find that Zhuyin can mean “bright darkness”. This meaning is retained in the Japanese names Shokuin and Shokuryu. The reason I chose Zhulong for my return to writing Mythological Spotlights is because of an interesting coincidence that this presents.
Now, when you consider this in relation to the fact that Zhulong is described as having ligthed up the underworld, it strikes me that there is a similarity between this figure and the way that Lucifer, or his predecessor Athtar, are described. Lucifer, you may recall, is the bringer of light, and either fell or descended to the underworld. His Canaanite predecessor, the god Athtar, stepped down throne the throne of Mount Sapon in order to rule the underworld, and it just so happens that a torch is one of the items associated with this god. In a sense, Athtar much like Zhulong brought light to the underworld. Both also tend to contain both light and darkness within them, with Ahthar freely travelling between the heavenly Mount Sapon and the underworld, and Zhulong’s very name denoting him as being associated with both light and darkness. It is tempting, then, to consider Zhulong a rough Chinese counterpart to Lucifer. The image of a red-coloured serpent who resides in a darksome abode bringing light with a torch also certainly hits the right notes.
However, the general consensus regarding the myth is that Zhulong does not represent the morning star, and certainly lacks the connection to the planet Venus that Lucifer would have, and that instead Zhulong represents the phenomenon of auroras, specifically the Aurora Borealis. However, there are other scholars that suggest that it was a metaphor for an active volcano. The Japanese myth gives us some indication that the aurora borealis or the northern polar lights might be the main inspiration, given his immense size, his bright red colouration and the location of his home near the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the myth of Zhulong was very obviously developed in isolation from the Levant, and so it cannot have a clear relation with the myth of Athtar.
His connection to Pangu, a god whose body becomes the whole universe, might render him loosely comparable with beings like Tiamat, whose destruction begets the creation of the cosmos and mankind, as does a tradition within Chinese mythology that mortal beings inherit the powers of dragons, but in a rather distant sense.
Although Zhulong doesn’t have any intrinsic connection to Lucifer, he can be posited as expressing similar principles to the Lucifer archetype, on the grounds that he, like Lucifer, is an illuminating figure. In any case, though he seems to have been overshadowed by other deities in Chinese mythology, he serves as a fascinating link between early Chinese myth and later Chinese myth, specifically in the context of Pangu and Hundun, and is an interesting representation of the unity of the yin and the yang in the form of an enlightening serpent. He deserves quite a bit more respect than he gets.
Lugh is a rather well-known Irish deity and heroic figure. He’s hailed a leader of the Tuatha De Dannan, the divine father of a heroic figure named Cú Chulainn, he himself is generally associated with heroism, skill and crafts, and he has a Celtic pagan festival named after him (that being the festival of Lughnasadh, which is held on August 1st). He is a complex deity, which perhaps leads many people to misunderstand him. Today he is erroneously recognized as a solar deity, a god of light, and even the Irish incarnation of Lucifer, without any solid basis in the original mythology, and the people who identify Lugh as such don’t really explain why they do.
This post was originally going to be just me debunking the idea that Lugh is connected to Lucifer in any meaningful way but then I started reading into Lugh and Lugus and decided, fuck it, let’s make this the first Mythological Spotlight I’ve done since last year.
The Irish deity Lugh seems to be a reflection of an older Celtic deity named Lugus, who was worshiped in parts of England and Western Europe. Lugus is known to be a three-headed deity with knowledge of all crafts, though sometimes he is said to have been particularly evoked by shoemakers. He was also held to be a deity who could move between many realms, was considered to have warrior attributes (including a spear), and was considered the divine guarantor of sovereignty. His wife was Rosmerta, a goddess of plenty. Lugus may also have been very associated with ravens, particularly ravens with white feathers, as a sign of his connection to the otherworld. It has been suggested that Lugus may even have appeared as multiple deities, and that his triune appearance is the result of a fusion of the deities Esus, Toutatis and Taranis. Some depictions of Lugus are said to have four heads instead of three, perhaps indicating that he was meant to be an all-seeing deity.
The Romans considered Lugus to be identical with their deity Mercury, possibly because of the identification of Lugus with Mercury by Julius Caesar via interpretatio romana (essentially the practice of interpreting foreign deities through the lens of Roman mythology) during his conquest of the Gaulish tribes. Caesar specifically referred to Lugus as the master of all arts and crafts, the guide of travelers, patron of commerce and the most popular deity of the Gauls. It is uncertain whether Lugus actually embodied all of the traits associated with Mercury, though there are likely some superficial similarities between Lugus and the Roman Mercury. In a way it’s like when the Greeks saw Ba’al Hadad, and the many other deities named Ba’al, and decided that they were all foreign avatars of Zeus (the name Ba’al Zaphon, for instance, was translated into Zeus Kasios by the Greeks).
As “Gaulish Mercury”, Lugus was linked strongly with high places in the tribal territories where he was worshipped, such as Montmartre, the Puy de Dôme and the Mont de Sène. These locations were referred to by the Romans as Merucrii Montes, literally the mountains of Mercury, and would contain shrines and statues dedicated to the “Mercury” deity. After the arrival of Christianity, Lugus became assimilated into Christian folklore as the Mercurii Montes were turned into St. Michael’s Mounts, thus assimiliated Lugus and the “Gaulish Mercury” into the archangel Michael. According to some, French legends claim that Michael is said to have fought Satan atop Mont Dol.
Lugh, the Irish deity, is perhaps more well-known. In particular he is best known for the myth in which he fights Balor, the leader of the Fomorians who was also his grandfather, and kills him. In Irish myth, Balor becomes aware of a prophecy which says that one of his grandsons will kill him. Thus, to stop this prophecy from coming true, he locks his daughter Eithne up in a sequestered tower, away from any potential suitors, so that she couldn’t get pregnant. With the help of a druidess named Birog (or Biorog), Lugh’s father-to-be Cian manages to infiltrate the tower and seduce Eithne, resulting in her pregnancy and Lugh’s eventual birth. When Lugh grows up, he kills Balor with his slingshot (or a spear, in some versions of the myth), securing the harvest and its powers of fertility on behalf of the Tuatha De Dannan. After this he prepares to fight and kill Bres, a half-Fomorian king of the Tuatha De Dannan who ends up appeasing the Fomorians at the expense of the Tuatha De Dannan. However, when Bres promises to teach the Tuatha De Dannan the secrets of agriculture, Lugh spares his life.
Lugh is noteworthy in that, through his lineage from both the Tuatha De Dannan (through his father Cian) and the Fomorians (through his mother Eithne), he is linked to both sides of the mythological conflict, though he ultimately sides with the Tuatha De Dannan. The relation between the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fomorians is comparable to the Olympians and the Titans, or the Devas and the Asura: they are opposing clans, tribes or mythological races representing different aspects of nature, civilization or the psyche. In this case, the theme seems to be the relation between man and nature. The Tuatha De Dannan represent human society and civilizational control over the forces of nature, while the Fomorians represent the primordial power of the land and forces of nature in their raw form – which can be either beneficent or cruel, but either way blind to the concerns of humans and apathetic to Man’s will. Though locked in combat, neither the Tuatha De Dannan nor the Fomorians can truly destroy one another, being linked to each other by ties of blood. Through his conception by Cian and Eithne, the powers of the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fomorian unite in Lugh’s being, perhaps suggesting the interpenetration of opposites.
Later medieval Irish folklore would cast Lugh in a slightly different light. Instead of being the offspring of a Tuatha De Danann and a Fomorian through seduction with the aid of a druidess, the medieval Lugh’s birth is the product of a simple political marriage, removing his more complicated origins and his link between opposites.
The Celtic Lugh was also known as the master of all crafts, and the inventor of an Irish board game called fidchell, and the institutor of fairs and games, such as the Assembly of Talti. Thus it is not just Tuatha De Dannan and Fomorian that unite in him, but king and craftsman/artisan. Indeed, one of Lugh’s epithets is Samildanach, meaning “many-gifted” or “skilled in many arts”, suggesting that he was indeed the master of crafts and skills. This, in a way, echoes the assessment of the Gaulish deity Lugus as the master of all crafts and his association with the Roman deity Mercury. It is possible some of the attributes of Lugh may have been reflections of the mercurial persona of the “Gaulish Mercury”.
Lugh’s festival, of course, is the August festival Lughnasadh. The main theme associated with the festival is that of the opening of the Harvest, the beginning of the descent of the Sun, and gathering for a feast in the name of Lugh. It also ties into the myth of Lugh’s conflict with Balor, as Lugh’s faction clashes with Balor’s over control over the powers of the harvest. This clash is said to be marked by lightning and thunder storms, with Lugh’s storms blotting out the harsh summer sun represented by Balor’s all-consuming eye. Thus Lughnasadh represented an escape from the harshness of summer through the arrival of rain. The festival is said to be centered around hills and high places, particularly hills that contain a source of water near to the top. Lughnasadh was also said to be an occasion where major assemblies would take place in which legal matters would be settled, political issues were discussed, artists, craftsmen and entertainers would have a chance to show their talents, and athletes would get to compete in sporting events that brought the community together for a time. According to the Sanas Cormaic, even the name Lughnasadh implies the assembly of Lugh, as in an assembly of the community under the auspices of the deity Lugh.
There is also a similar figure to Lugh in Welsh mythology known as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who is not considered a deity but rather a mythological hero, whose name derived from Lugh or Lugus and is seen as sort of an equivalent. In Welsh myth, Lleu was one of the sons of the goddess Arianrhod, who magically conceives Lleu and a boy named Dylan despite being a virgin after being struck with the magic wand of Math, king of Gwynedd (north or northwest Wales). While Dylan was born as a human, Lleu is initially born as a mysterious unformed thing, which is wrapped up by his uncle Gwydion and placed in a chest until it changes into a healthy baby boy. After this Arianhrod curses the young Lleu three times at once: the first curse denies him from having a name unless she names him herself, the second curse denies him from having weapons and she arms him herself, and the third curse denies him from having a wife from any race currently living on this earth. Gwydion breaks the first curse by disguising himself and Lleu as shoemakers, tricking Arianhrod into naming him Lleu Law Gyffes (meaning “the little one has done it with a sure hand”), he breaks the second curse by summoning an imaginary army to attack Arianhrod, forcing her to arm Lleu to defend her, and he breaks the third curse by creating a wife for Lleu out of flowers. This would appear to confer upon Lleu the master of all three social functions attributed to the analysis of Georges Dumezil: the first being ritual identity, the second being strength and status as a warrior, and the third being fertility and reproductive capability through a consort. The motif of the number three evoked in the curses may also be a subtle echo of Lugus’ three heads.
There is another Welsh myth featuring two characters named Lludd and Llefelys, who are both cognates or variations of different Celtic deities, and this myth repeats the theme of the three functions and their respective trials. Lludd is based on either the Irish deity Nuada or the Welsh hero Lludd Llaw Eraint, and is depicted as ruling Britain from his seat in London, while Llefelys is a likely a cognate of Lleu and Lugus and is depicted as ruling France. Lludd comes to Llefelys concerned about three oppressions haunting his country: the first is a supernatural race known as the Coraniaid that can hear everything that is said in the land, the second is a scream that echoes every May Eve which robs men of their courage which is caused by two dragons fighting each other, and the third is the unexplained disappearance of royal provisions caused by a powerful magician casting a sleep spell over the royal court and then taking the provisions. To conquer them, Llefelys tells Lludd to (1) sprinkle certain insects crushed with water over the supernatural voyeurs, (2) trick the two combatant dragons into getting trapped within a chest and then bury the chest beneath the ground (or Snowdon), and (3) defeat the magician who steals the royal provisions. After doing such things, Lludd regains his sovereignty as ruler thanks Llefelys, who in turn is shown to possess the knowledge of sovereignty and the tricks to preserving it.
Both the Irish and Welsh myths contain aspects that, while they don’t explicitly link back to Mercury, they do share echoes of some of Mercury’s traits: namely the boundary-crossing aspect of Mercury/Hermes and his cunning. Not to mention that Lugh inherits from Mannanan a bag filled with treasures, perhaps an echo of Mercury’s bag of riches.
Since the Victorian era, Lugh has come to be identified as explicitly a sun god in the same vein as deities like Apollo in Greek Mythology, despite Lugh not really being much of a solar deity in the actual lore. This is a perception that carries over into the modern day from contemporary neopagan circles to pop black magician E. A. Koetting. However, to my knowledge (and we’ll get into this in more detail in a minute), Lugh doesn’t seem to have any real connections with the Sun, nor is he necessarily a god of light. He is most clearly a deity of craftmanship, a possessor of kingship, likely oaths as well, but not necessarily a solar deity. But for some reason, the idea of him being a deity of the sun and light persists, leading into other connections attached to Lugh that aren’t really present in any of the mythology associated with him.
Lugh’s Supposed Relation to Lucifer
In modern times, there are many people on the Internet who try to say that Lugh is either closely connected or outright the same thing as both Lucifer and the Norse deity Loki, based mainly on the claim that Lugh, Lucifer, and Loki all share the same etymology – supposedly, all three of their names mean light, through the Indo-European word “luek” (meaning light), and therefore they are all deities of light in their respective pantheons, ergo they are all light bringers and hence Loki and Lugh are Luciferian deities.
First, let’s immediately address the issue of etymology. Lugh’s name most likely derives from the Gaulish deity Lugus, and Lugus’ etymology doesn’t have anything to do with light. His name actually comes from the old Celtic word “lugi”, which means “to swear”, in the context of swearing an oath. This etymology implies Lugus was conceptually tied to oaths and contracts, not unlike the Indian deity Mitra (who was a deity of friendship, the morning light, oaths and contracts) or the Roman deity Orcus (a chthonic deity who punished those who broke oaths and contracts). Furthermore, the clash between Lugh and his enemy Balor is said to be symbolized as thunderstorms, and it is said of such clashes “The wind of Lúgh Long-arm is flying in the air tonight. Yes, and the sparks of his father [sic]. Balor Béimeann is the father”. This is a clear reference not to the attributes of a solar deity, but to the elements of wind, lightning and thunder storms. By this metric, Lugh has much less in common with sun deities like Apollo, let alone Lucfier, and more in common deities like Thor or Marduk, at least where natural elements are concerned. Of course, even if Lugh were a solar deity, this probably doesn’t equate to direct correspondence with Lucifer. Perhaps he would correspond with Apollo, but that is another matter. If anything, it could be argued that Lugh has more in common with the archangel Michael than he does Lucifer, considering that Michael does battle with the enemies of his divine faction with the aid of a spear.
As for Loki, there are several possible sources for his name. The Old Norse word “logi” (meaning flame, suggesting association with fire), another Old Norse word “loka” (meaning lock), “luka” (meaning close or shut), or that the word “loki” itself might be a reference to tangled knots or cobwebs. Much of the likely sources of his name don’t really have anything to do with light but instead signify either his role in bringing about Ragnarok or his role as the inventor of the fishing net. Hardly signifying of a god of light if you ask me. Thus, attempting to connect Lugh, Loki and Lucifer by name is essentially the same kind of etymological fallacy as saying Amen is actually a reference to Amun/Amun-Ra or that Satan and Set are basically the same deity based on the idea that Set=Sat=Saton=Satan (sadly an idea that I suspect permeates the doctrine of the Temple of Set).
There is also the idea that Lugh is connected to Lucifer through Odin (or Woden) that I’ve seen, on the basis of the vague or general idea that Odin is an antinomian deity of some sort and so is Lucifer, oh and also Lugh and Loki have the same etymological connection even though we’ve debunked that already but now somehow we’re going to throw Odin into this because god damn it this guy wants to be a Viking so damn badly! Seriously though, the name of this blog alone should tell you it’s not a trustworthy source. But back to the actual point, there is no real etymological connection between Lugus or Lugh and Odin, either, nor is there any solid correspondence between the two, despite the Stephen Flowers quote. There are superficial similarities between the two deities, such as the shared identification with Mercury by the Romans and the shared association with ravens and spears, but I can’t seem to find many of the major traits of Odin that line up with Lugus or Lugh.
It doesn’t help that Lugus is less pronounced a deity than his Irish counterpart, which is probably due to the Romans spreading the idea that Lugus and Mercury are basically the same deity. But, for instance, a key difference between Lugh and Odin is their roles regarding battle. Odin is often mistaken as a god of war par excellence, but as a god of magic and wisdom his role was not as the badass manly god charging into battle (that would probably be Thor) but rather as the chief magician who directs the battles in question, and of course selects the slain for Valhalla, whereas Lugh is known for directly stepping up to battle in order to kill Balor. In many respect the two couldn’t be more different: one was a hero god, the other a supreme magician god who directs things behind the scenes. You could make the argument that Lugh was kind of a tricky character, though it’s hard for me to find any actual myths of trickery attached to Lugh himself as opposed to either versions of Lugh or companions of his.
And of course, Odin doesn’t have direct correspondence with Lucifer either, having different myths, direct origins, but are faintly similar in minor respects (such as the theme of knowledge or enlightenment, or something about darkness and various Left Hand Path cred that doesn’t actually connect the two). So, in summation: Lugh, Loki, Lucifer and Odin, are all separate mythological entities, with different heritages, backgrounds and attributes, with minor similarities that relate them between each other but otherwise don’t equate to any meaningful correspondence. With Lugus, Lugh, and Lleu, however, there is some actual correspondence in terms of etymology and some shared themes and characteristics, though they are likely separate entities as well.
Finally, let’s return to the theme of Lughnasadh for a moment, because nothing about it seems to suggest any associations between Lugh and the sun. If anything, the fact that Lughnasadh was associated with storms in the myths connected to the festival, like with that line about the wind of Lugh the long arm, suggests association with wind or storms rather than the sun. Not to mention, if you’re going to have a sun deity, why have his dedicated festival be at a time when the sun is supposed to start receding and the days begin to get shorter in the month before the autumnal equinox? If he were a solar deity, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold his festival on the summer solstice, when the sun is at its most dominant and the days are brightest in the year, or in the spring solstice where we see the beginning of the sun’s rise in the annual cycle?
Lugh is far from the simple deity of sun and light he’s been pigeonholed as in the modern day – in fact, as we’ve established, he doesn’t really have anything to do with those things at all. Moreover, I’d say the idea of Lugh as a sun deity paves over his complexities in a way that suggests a perennial tendency of modern paganism to airbrush the old gods in their intricacies in order to make way for deities that are easier to understand, often friendlier too in the case of deities that are much darker but still integral to their respective pantheons (such as Odin). The actual Lugh is to be seen as a heroic deity, bringer of the harvest, master of trades and skills, a bridge between the forces of nature and the will of man, and a deity who presides over the community through the annual assembly of Lugh, with many other associations stemming from his ancestor Lugus. In my view, this makes for a much more nuanced deity than just “the Irish sun god” or “the Irish Odin”.
The light bringer, the representation of the morning star. In popular imagination he is typically seen as synonymous with Satan, due to his identification with the myth of the fall from Heaven. Over the years the character of Lucifer has acquired traits associated with adversarial figures because of the role of the light bringer’s concordance with other traditions and stories, and the way they interpreted the bringing of light and the ascension of the morning star. Depending on who you ask, he is either a benevolent figure, a trickster, an evil king of demons or somewhat more ambivalent; an angel, a demon or a man.
The name Lucifer means “light-bringer” or “morning star”, and seems to be a personification or deification of the morning star.
The earliest appearance of a morning star deity is generally found in the ancient Canaanite deity Attar (also known as Athtar or Ashtar). Attar is mainly known for a Canaanite myth wherein he attempts to take over the throne Baal (aka Hadad), the deity of storms and fertility, with the support of Asherah while he is killed by his rival Mot, the deity of death, but proves to be unworthy of the throne. He is identified with the planet Venus, much like the goddesses Ishtar and Aphrodite. In fact, it is believed by some scholars that Attar may have been a male equivalent of the goddess Athtart or Astarte, or even started out as a male form of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. The Arabians also worshiped Attar not just as a male deity of the planet Venus, but as a weather deity responsible for rain and thunderstorms, as well as a fertility deity whose fertility is dispensed through rain thus symbolizing the power of the sky as a generative force. The Arabians may also have recognized him as a war deity. These characteristics mark him as a similar deity to Baal, and it is even suggested that Attar may have been overtaken in Ugarit and Canaan as the warrior deity of fertility and bringer of rain.
Attar may also have been associated with another deity: Chemosh; known to the Hebrew Bible as the Abomination of Moab. Chemosh may have been an important rival of the Jewish deity Yahweh (later YHWH), and at one point the two deities were pretty similar to each other. Both Yahweh and Chemosh were war deities and the deities of a specific tribe or nation (Chemosh for the Moabites, Yahweh for the Israelites), but Yahweh eventually became angrier. Chemosh was also worshiped alongside Ashtar as a syncretic deity called Ashtar-Chemosh. It is important to note that Chemosh might have been identified with the morning star through his syncretism with Attar/Ashtar, but there is little that suggests Chemosh himself is intrinsically linked with the morning star.
The morning star appears in the Bible, specifically the Book of Isaiah, where refers to someone who has supposedly fallen from the grace of God.
“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” – Isaiah 14:12
The term “morning star”, or Helel ben Shahar, is often substituted for the name Lucifer, and the Isaiah verse is used to link Satan with Lucifer in Biblical tradition. The problem: who is the morning star in this instance? Morning star, and by extension Lucifer, is used as an epithet in the Bible, rather than a name proper, similar to how Satan is used as a title in Judaism. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus identifies himself as the morning star.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” – Revelation 22:16
Is Jesus, then, Lucifer? And if Lucifer is supposed to be the same as Satan, what does that make Jesus then? What does it make Satan? Not to mention, the title of Lucifer has apparently even been applied to John the Baptist. So what about him? Instead, the morning star of Isaiah is typically identified as a human, more specifically a king of Babylon who is struck down. The king in question is usually named Nebuchadnezzar II. He is known as the king who ordered the construction of the famous Ishtar Gate as well as the purported Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the walls of Babylon which were famous for the fact that they were so broad that you could race chariots on them. He is also known for leading the expansion of the Babylonian empire through the conquest of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Arameans and Israelites and the defeat of the Assyrians and the Egyptians. He made Babylon one of the largest and most powerful cities of the ancient world through his conquests. However, he is portrayed negatively in the Bible, perhaps because he was also responsible for Jews being held captive in and later exiled from Babylon, as well as the destruction of the original Temple of Solomon in 587 BC. Of course, that is one speculation. It is said that the title Lucifer could’ve been applied to any other king. Chapter 14 of the Book of Isaiah is intended to be a prophecy regarding a king who was then mighty but will seen face defeat and fall from glory. Indeed, the king is accused of holding in his heart ambitions of ascent to godhood.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” – Isaiah 14:13-14
The epithet of the morning star, with its brilliance, is supposed to signify how great the king was or believed himself to be, in order to stress the magnitude of his fall. Lucifer, here, was the title of a human; a human who stood against the Israelites in his quest to expand Babylon and thus he was seen as standing against YHWH himself.
Speaking of Helel ben Shahar, there was an Ugaritic deity named Shahar associated with the dawn. He has a twin brother named Shalim, who is considered a deity of the dusk. Both of them are sons of the sky father El. They are called upon in an Ugaritic hymn to protect the fields and their harvest. Some sources speak of a deity named Helel, who it is claimed tried to usurp the throne of El/Elyon but was defeated by , and they claim that this myth is the precursor to the prophecy of the king of Babylon in Isaiah. However, not much is known about this pre-Isaiah myth.
There is another Biblical story that is used to link another Lucifer figure with the idea of a fallen angel. The Book of Ezekiel recounts another prophecy against an ancient king, this time against a king of Tyre, an ancient Phoenician city which was sieged by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II between 586 and 573 BC. Ithobaal III is said to have ruled Tyre between 590 and 573 BC. The prophecy states that, like the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre viewed himself as a living deity, who had grown proud because of the wealth that he had purportedly amassed through his skill in trading and his wisdom, and that the “Sovereign Lord” will send barbarians against the king in order to kill him. There then follows a lamentation from the “Sovereign Lord” in which the king is compared to an unnamed cherub, who was the “seal of perfection” in the garden of Eden, adorned with all manner of precious stones, but was driven from the mount of God for having being filled with pride, desecrating sanctuaries and trading dishonestly, thereby having sinned against YHWH. Again, there is no implicit attachment to Satan found within the prophecy itself, and the prophecy refers to a human character, with the comparison. There is also no direct reference to the morning star, just that the theme is similar to that of the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah.
The idea of Lucifer as a demonic fallen angel crystallizes in the Middle Ages, replete with infernal artwork depicting him as a horned, animalistic devil. This is no doubt due to the identification of Lucifer with the Satan whom Jesus beheld falling from heaven according to the Gospel of Luke, and of course the pantheon of pre-Christian deities who were used to create the visage of Satan. By this time, there is also the influence of Dante’s Inferno to consider, which had a powerful effect on the Christian, not to mention collective, cultural imagination. In it, Satan is trapped waist-deep in a lake of ice in resentment for the crime of having betrayed God. By this point, Lucifer had already been linked to Satan by the Church and Christian tradition, with the pride and his self-deification of earthly kings identified with the morning star being used to explain the fall of Satan. The seven deadly sins were already codified into Catholic tradition by Pope Gregory I well before the Middle Ages, and in the 15th century these sins were related to specific demons. In the case of Lucifer, it is probably not an accident that the sin related to him is pride.
The closest thing to an actual deity named Lucifer is the Greek deity named Eosphoros (aka Phosphorus, Heosphorus). Eosphoros was the Greek deity of the morning star, which was the planet Venus as it appeared during the day. His name meant “dawn-bringer”. His counterpart, Hesperus, represented the evening star. Both Eosphoros and Hesperus are associated with the planet Venus, and they seem to represent different phases of the morning star. They are also depicted as bearers of light or torches. The two deities are generally accepted as synonymous with or complimentary towards each other, because the morning and evening star are both references to Venus, or rather Venus in certain phases.
This theme may not necessarily have been new to the Greeks. Paul Collins suggests that, in Mesopotamia, Attar and Ishtar may well have represented male and female aspects of the planet Venus, with Attar representing the morning star and Ishtar representing the evening star, and one aspect representing war and the other representing love and sex.
Phosphoros is also a title given to Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and the moon. In Rome, this has resulted in the name Diana Lucifer, depicting the goddess Diana as the bringer of light.
The name Lucifer also appears as in a positive context within, of all religions, Christianity. In the Middle Ages, there existed heretical sect of Christianity known as Luciferianism – not to be confused with the modern spiritual movement known as Luciferianism. The medieval Luciferians believed that Lucifer was the actual creator of the world and mankind who was once in heaven before being unjustly expelled by the Christian God, who is seen as the true evil deity, along with his host of angels. They believed that one day Lucifer would eventually overthrow the Christian God. Because they believed the Christian god to be evil, they did all they could to displease him so that they may be worthy of joining with Lucifer in the afterlife. It was basically an inversion of the Christian doctrine concerning good and evil. The sect was, naturally, persecuted by the Catholic Church, with many adherents burning for their beliefs. There is also an older sect of Christians who were known as Luciferians in the 4th century, but they did not worship a being named Lucifer in any capacity. They were rather named after a Roman Christian bishop who happened to be named Lucifer Calaritanus (aka Lucifer of Cagliari), who staunchly defended Catholic orthodoxy and opposed the doctrine of Arianism – a sect that rejected the notion of the Holy Trinity and held that Jesus was created by and indistinct from God. The sect was dedicated to his views on early church doctrine and to the deposing of Arian clerics and excommunication of Arian bishops. Some Gnositcs, consider Lucifer to be a messenger of the true and unknowable God, or an opponent of the Demiurge, even going so far as to identify him with the serpent of Eden. This is, of course, an alternative interpretation of the Genesis account, which tells of the serpent as just a talking serpent. Some Gnostics also believe that Lucifer is identical to the Greek Prometheus.
Lucifer is very often compared to Prometheus, based on the premise that Prometheus stole fire from the gods (or more specifically Zeus) so that he could give it to mankind, thus imparting knowledge. This is unsurprising, given the nature of the Lucifer myth. Lucifer is seen as having gone against the heavens themselves, defying either God or the gods either because he disagreed with their position on how to run the cosmos or simply because he prized the throne of heaven for himself. Either way he was cast down. Prometheus, whether he liked it or not, betrayed the gods so that he might bring the fire of Olympus to mankind, and for this he was chained to a rock until eventually being rescued by Hercules. It’s easy to see how one might draw similarities between the two. Beyond that, however, there is no obvious connection between the two (for one thing, Prometheus has nothing to do with the morning star). Some of this connection stems from the premise that Lucifer and the serpent of Genesis are the same being. According to the Genesis account, however, the serpent has nothing to do with Lucifer, or Satan for that matter. It’s just a clever talking serpent. I suppose the main connection drawn between the two is in the role they play, being dispensers of a kind of forbidden knowledge after all (the knowledge of fire vs the knowledge of good and evil). That said, I think a stronger case can be made between Prometheus and the Grigori – the angels in the Book of Enoch who became attracted to human women, were cast out of heaven and decided to gave the forbidden knowledge of the angels to Man.
Over the years Lucifer has had many roles in newer spiritual or occult traditions before the 21st century. The Anthroposophists considered Lucifer to be the embodiment of the side of Man that is imaginative, creative, artistic, spiritual and idealistic, as opposed to Ahriman who represented the rational, materialistic side of Man. Helena Blavatsky considered Lucifer to be “the spirit of Intellectual Enlightenment and Freedom of Thought” who guides the intellectual progress of humanity and sparked the initial awakening of the soul of Man within the bodies created by Jehovah. The Process Church of the Final Judgement views Lucifer to be one of the four “Great Gods of the Universe” alongside Satan, Jehovah and Jesus. They consider Lucifer to be a deity of light, love and sex responsible for the creation of women. Eliphas Levi considered Lucifer to be the name of a force that he claims was identified by the Hebrews as Samael and Satan by “other easterns” (an identification which, as we’ve established, the historical evidence does not support), and he believes that the “Lucifer of the Kabbalah” is not an evil being but rather “the angel who enlightens, who regenerates by fire”. He has also stated that Lucifer is an angel who shunned heaven so that he may illuminate the “unworked fields of light”, but would not recognize him as an angel of light unless he submitted to “the eternal order”. In his description of the pentagram, he also seems to hint Lucifer as a force of light, in contrast to a force of dusk and darkness (or Vesper), and yet seemingly two sides of the same coin. Albert Pike of the Freemasons has given praise to a figure named Lucifer, which may have led him and his organization to be accused of worshiping Lucifer or rather of worshiping Satan, but it is unlikely that this figure actually is Satan in any way. His views on God and Lucifer were the subject of an infamous hoax by Leo Taxil intended to smear to the Freemasons. Gregor A. Gregorius considered him to be a brother of Christ, while his organization Fraternitas Saturni was of the view that Lucifer is a higher “octave” of the principle of Saturn (with Satan being the lower, implying that the two are two different phases of the same concept), associated with the Logos. Manly P. Hall is said to have praised Lucifer as “the individual intellect and will which rebels against the domination of Nature”. Aleister Crowley at one point identified Aiwass, the spirit Crowley claimed to have heard, with Lucifer, whom he considered to be a solar and phallic force. The Gnostic interpretation of Lucifer found new genesis through the ideas of Ben Kadosh (real name: Carl William Hansen), who views Lucifer as the rebel who gives Man secrets that were forbidden by the Christian church. He also equates him with the Greek deity Pan, and the alchemical element of gold.
In the modern era, Lucifer as an icon found his own spiritual movement, drawing from aspects of the philosophy of Satanism. Luciferianism is a movement with multiple manifestations and more than one organization representing a form of Luciferian philosophy. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Assembly of Light Bearers, formerly known as the Greater Church of Lucifer, based primarily on the ideas of contemporary Left Hand Path occultists Michael W. Ford and Jeremy Crow. Lucifer, for this brand of Luciferianism, is an adversarial figure associated with pride, intelligence and self-liberation, and a desire to climb ever higher on the path of personal evolution towards a maximization of personal potential (a kind of “apotheosis” if you will), and an opponent of blind faith and restrictive religious dogma. His historical attachment to the planet Venus is very much accounted for, but he takes on some adversarial characteristics associated with beings like Satan, Samael, Ahriman or Azazel. He is mostly treated as an archetype, whose qualities are to be applied to any individual who desires to follow the Luciferian path, but some adherents take a more theistic approach. Another organization is the Neo-Luciferian Church, founded by Michael Bertiaux and Bjarne Salling Pedersen. This organization takes a more Gnostic approach to Luciferianism, apparently influenced by Western esoteric tradtion, Gnosticism, Voodoo and the works of Ben Kadosh. They view Lucifer as basically the light-bringer in the original sense, alien to Christianity and having nothing to do with Satan. In fact, there seem to be many Luciferian groups out there today, with their own take on Lucifer and Luciferian philosophy.
To summarize again: Lucifer begins in Mesopotamia or Canaan as a deity of war, fertility and the planet Venus named Attar, who sought the throne of Heaven. The morning star was symbolized as other deities as well, one of whom may well have rebelled against El. In Greece he was a non-violent deity who simply brought the light of the morning star, an archetype that gradually metastasized into the concept of bringing the light of knowledge and enlightenment. He also came to be associated with powerful men who may have been seen as godlike, and who in their apparent actions towards the Israelites came to be seen as enemies of YHWH. He became attached to the ideal of Man seeking divinity, which may have linked him to a rather humanistic mythological ideal of the knowledge of the gods being spread to humans by beings who, in doing so, betray the gods. This was Satanic, adversarial, to the Christians who stressed that faith in God was key to salvation, and the idea that Man can grasp the divine on his own was the height of hubris, of sinful pride. This is perhaps how Lucifer transformed from merely the morning star, to the Satanic rebel against God. Like Satan, then, Lucifer is a concept that has evolved throughout the ages, probably for considerably longer than Satan considering that the deification of the morning star originates in Mesopotamian polytheism while the concept of Satan (not more broadly the principle of cosmic evil) evolved from Judaism. Lucifer became the epitome of the ideal of Man seeking the throne of heaven that he may sit upon it, through his own exertion, and through like the morning star or perhaps the Promethean archetype he spreads the light of the morning star, or of fire, to shine on Man. To me, thinking about it on my own, it seems fairly obvious how Lucifer came to be as he is. That the morning star is also the evening star, by virtue of the both of them being Venus, can be very easily interpreted as Lucifer, as a Venus-based archetype, containing both light of day and the darkness of light; or, the archetypal quantities of light and darkness. Perhaps this is what Michael W. Ford is hitting on.
For Part 3 of my planned series, I offer you a special Mythological Spotlight dedicated to comparing the archetypes of Satan and Lucifer, both of whom are important mythological figures within the current of Satanism, as well as its sister philosophy known as Luciferianism. The main impetus for these two posts is simple: although Satan and Lucifer are treated in the popular imagination as similar entities, if not the expressly synonymous, the two characters are known to have two separate historical origins within two distinct contexts. I hope that in these posts, I will adequately demonstrate how this is the case.
I had originally intended to wrote a single Mythological Spotlight comparing Satan and Lucifer, essentially making for two Mythological Spotlights in one. However, as I was writing it I decided that the single post would be excessively long, so I decided to split this into two part. The first part of this Mythological Spotlight, of course, concentrates on the character of Satan. The second part is in progress should be released soon enough.
To Christians, he is The Devil, The Beast, That Old Snake, 666 and other names, the being that leads people away from God’s will and into sin and will soon do final battle with God. To Jews, he is just another angel of God, just that his main function is to test the faith of Mankind. To Muslims, he is Iblis, the one who refused to bow to Adam and revolted against Allah in order to become the master of the djinn. To Satanists, he is the embodiment of Man’s true nature, and the representation of Man as he ought to be. To others, just a bogeyman made up of all manner of pre-Christian deities designed solely to revile pre-Christian religions. Satan is a character with a complex and storied history, and one that continues to evolve.
Satan seems to have originated as a title in Hebrew lore, meaning “adversary”, “opposer” or “accuser”. It could have referred to anyone, often including a human, who served as an obstacle to the individual believer. Sometimes it can refer to an invisible or illusory obstacle placed by YHWH. The most familiar context of the name is that of a specific angel, or a specific kind of angel, found within the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh; one who tests the faith of Man, argues his sins to YHWH and creates difficulties for humans under YHWH’s command. This is the angel typically identified as Ha-Satan, or “the Satan”, the angel cited as the original Satan. This Satan is the angel who features in the Biblical story of Job, who thought that Job was only humbly serving YHWH because he gave him a blessed life, and that if he took it all away he would stop praising his name. YHWH accepted the challenge, and so he ordered the Satan to take his misfortune away from him and ruin his life. As an angel of YHWH, the Satan requires the permission of YHWH before he can act, and cannot act independently according to Jewish lore.
Since Satan is a title, “the Satan” or Ha-Satan is not necessarily a proper name, but rather a title referring to the role played by the angel in question, the identity of the Satan of the book of Job has been the subject of some debate. The name Satan is typically used to identify the Satan of Job, perhaps to relate to the Christian concept of Satan. However, traditional and apocryphal Jewish sources consider the identity of the Satan of Job to be Samael, also known as the angel of death. Little appears to be known about Samael, and opinion of Samael can vary wildly within Jewish tradition. Samael is either the prince of evil itself, a being unaligned with the heavenly host or even outside of it, which is the view held in some later or more apocryphal texts, or as simply an angel who, though pernicious and often malevolent, is still a servant of YHWH and is simply playing his role in YHWH’s order of things, which aligns with the view of the concept of Satan held within mainstream Judaism.
In the Ascension of Moses, an apocryphal Jewish text, Samael is identified directly as the angel who tests Job, apparently to weaken his faith so that he may collect his soul:
There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes, at the sight of which the beholder fell prostrate in awe. “This one,” said Metatron, addressing Moses, “is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.” “Whither goes he now?” asked Moses, and Metatron replied, “To fetch the soul of Job the pious.” Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, “O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel.”
The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament by Montague Rhodes James identifies Samael as The Devil, the opposite of the archangel Michael, and is described as a being .
And Moses said unto Jesus the son of Nauë, ‘Let us go up into the mountain.’ And when they were gone up, Moses saw the land of promise and said to Jesus, ‘Go down unto the people and tell them “Moses is dead.”‘ And Jesus went down unto the people, but Moses came to the end of his life. And Samael tried to bring down his body (tabernacle) unto the people, that they might make him a god. But Michael, the Chief Captain, by the command of God came to take him and bury him, and Samael resisted him, and they contended. So the Chief Captain was wroth and rebuked him, saying, ‘The Lord rebuke thee, devil.’ And so the adversary was vanquished and took to flight, but the Archangel Michael buried the body of Moses where he was bidden by Christ our God (and no man saw the burial of Moses)
It is noted, however, that as Michael’s opposite Samael is also seen as the compliment to Michael in some way. Samael is the prosecutor and the adversary of Mankind and Israel, while Michael is its defender. As not only the Satan par excellence but also the prince of “satans”, the prince of the powers of evil, Samael is very much a figure synonymous with Satan similar to how we may understand him today. But nonetheless, this Satan is still viewed as a servant of YHWH, just a servant who fulfills a negative function – that of bringing misfortune, tempting people to sin and arguing the sins of Man or Israel to his master, which brings him into conflict with Michael.
At a later period in Jewish history, specifically during the Babylonian Exile, the role of the Satan begins to change because of the influence of Persian teachings, namely those of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism stressed the dualistic monotheistic view more akin to modern Christianity and Islam – that of a single Supreme God who is the embodiment of goodness, light, truth and justice, juxtaposed against his opposite; the embodiment of evil, darkness, falsehood and wickedness, a concept encapsulated as The Lie. During the time of the Babylonian Exile, the Jews came into contact with Persian beliefs, and after that period Judaism became more in line with Persian teachings. And so the concept of Satan became more and more aligned with the idea of an evil opposite to God (YHWH). Samael became attached to this idea in Talmudic and apocryphal sources to the point that Samael is viewed as the architect of evil, sin and the fall of Man, as well as having mated with Eve and even either planting or playing the role of the serpent in the Garden of Eden thus being responsible for their fall from Paradise.
At this point it’s worth noting that the link between any Satan and the serpent of the Garden of Eden is questionable at best. The connection between the serpent of Genesis and Satan seems to stem from a verse from the Book of Revelation which reads:
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth,” – Revelation 12:9
However, Genesis makes no reference to Satan in relation to the serpent in the myth of the Garden of Eden. The myth originates in Jewish tradition, which does not recognize a singular literal or personal Satan. Not to mention, the serpent of Genesis used to have limbs, but had his limbs removed by YHWH through a curse as punishment for tempting Adam and Eve, and is consigned to live as a snake, whereas the Beast of Revelation doesn’t appear to resemble a proper snake in both appearance and behavior. In all likelihood, the serpent of Genesis was just a serpent, unaffiliated with YHWH or any Satan, who perhaps happened to be particularly clever. Returning to Revelation, the dragon is previously described as “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads“. You may recognize this sort of creature as the mount of the Whore of Babylon, whose appearance indicates a symbolic reference to Ancient Rome, the adversary (or perhaps, the “Satan”?) of the early Christian movement, or more specifically John – the man who wrote Revelation. It is an expression of an empire or civilization believed to be rife with sin, wickedness and blasphemy and which persecuted the believers of God/YHWH. It may also be an expression a more ancient mythological motif of conflict between a warrior figure and a dragon or serpent, such as the Old Testament battle between YHWH and Leviathan.
There is another angel in Jewish lore who is associated with the concept of Satan and is identified with the Satan of the Book of Job: Mastema. Mastema is an angel who is believed to carry out punishments on the orders of YHWH, as well as a commander of evil spirits who harass humans. He is often retconned in the pseudepigraphical Book of Jubilees as an evil force who either motivates YHWH to do strange evil things or as a someone who does some of those things instead of YHWH. For instance, he is considered to be the one who persuaded YHWH to challenge Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and the one who persuaded the followers of Moses to commit idolatry. There is also a strange instance in the Bible where YHWH tries to kill Moses, but the story gets rewritten so that Mastema becomes responsible for the attempted murder. He is also written to be the one who aids the sorcerers of the Pharaoh to oppose Moses, and is seen as the angel responsible for the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt as part of the Ten Plagues sent by YHWH. Like Samael, Mastema was not necessarily an enemy of YHWH, rather a servant of his whose role is to tempt the souls of men, obstruct and hinder them, and argue their sins. YHWH even allows him to keep a portion of demons under his service before the great flood. Indeed, in much the same way as Samael may have become synonymous with the Christian Satan, it is this sinister function that has led him to be treated not as an angel in service of YHWH but rather a devil who opposes him, to that point that Mastema is often treated as synonymous with Belial.
Returning to Zoroastrianism, Ahriman is an important influence on the character of the Christian Satan. He was, from the outset, evil incarnate. Also known as Angra Mainyu, Ahriman is the embodiment of evil and “the Lie” and opposite of Ahura Mazda (though the Gathas position him as the opponent of another being, Spenta Mainyu; an aspect of Ahura Mazda) and is believed to be the creator of all manner of nasty creatures that seek to bring harm to humans. Much like the Christian Satan, Ahriman is the deceiver according to Zoroastrian tradition, and he is the chief and/or creator of a group of demonic beings who are referred to as daevas (which was originally the Hindu term “deva”, referring to a class of deities that resided in the heavens). The entire universe is presented as being divided between Ahriman and Ahura Mazda, with both sides fighting for the souls of Man at large.
Within mainstream Christian tradition, the names Samael and Mastema seem to have lost relevance, and the chief opponent of YHWH comes to be identified simply as Satan. If anything, the Christian Satan seems to be identified with Beelzebub, who in Jewish lore was the lord of the flies who represented a rival deity to YHWH. The Book of Revelation also identifies him with the beast with seven heads, who we have discussed earlier in this post. However The Ascension of Isaiah, a mostly Christian apocryphal text, identifies Samael (or Sammael) as Satan, though the same text also identifies Satan with Belial (Beliar), the angel of lawlessness, who is also considered the ruler of this world. The being is recounted as having possessed King Manasseh in order to bring about Isaiah’s martyrdom. The Christian role of Satan no longer resembles the Jewish conception of The Satan as a prosecutor and accuser on behalf of YHWH, but the opponent of YHWH and the ruler of Hell, whose temptations lead the souls of humans to Hell and their doom and damnation, who will according the Bible eventually be judged by the resurrected Jesus and imprisoned in the very Hell he is supposed to rule over. In fact, the role of the ruler of the underworld, and his iconic appearance from the medieval period going forward, has noticeably more in common with pre-Christian pagan beliefs about the deities of the underworld – such as Hades, Nergal or Yama – than the original Jewish tradition. He certainly took on many characteristics associated with the pre-Christian pantheon: horns associated with Ba’al, the trident associated with Poseidon, goat features including hooves associated with Pan (not to mention his famously lustful attributes) and his dominion of the underworld a trait of Hades (which funny enough became an alternate name for Hell). He is also identified with the Beast of Revelation, or the Great Red Dragon chasing after the Woman Clothed in Sun. That he is identified with a draconic beast the way he is in revelation suggests, to me at least, that Satan has transformed from merely an angel in God’s service to an apocalyptic force of chaos set against God, and that this is his ultimate role in things.
In Christianity, Satan and Lucifer are typically seen as synonymous, typically based on certain Biblical verses. But, as will be explored much further in Part 2, there is nothing in these verses that actually connects Satan with Lucifer. The Book of Isaiah is typically used to show how Satan was once the morning star before he fell, when in fact the morning star seems to be referring to a king of Babylon. The Book of Ezekiel is similarly cited to show how Satan was the greatest of the angels before his fall, when in fact it is a king of Tyre being compared to an unnamed angel. Indeed, the explanations for how he turned from simply the Adversary of Job to the Beast seem strange to me.
In Gnostic Christian tradition, Samael appears as a name of the Demiurge – the malevolent or incompetent deity who creates the material universe as a prison for the souls that presently inhabit the body of Man. Since the Demiugre is treated as basically Satan, being the opposite of the true and perfect God described by the Gnostics, this is essentially stating that Samael and Satan are identical. In a similar tradition, adherents of the Bogomil sect believe that Satan created matter while God created the soul of Man. The Bogomils identify Satan as Satanael, an angel who also appears in the apocryphal Second Book of Enoch as the name of the leader of the Grigori (or the Watchers), a group of angels who fell from heaven after becoming infatuated and attracted to human women and sought to teach humans various forms of knowledge that were previously kept by the angels (in the first Book of Enoch, the leader of the Grigori is named Samyaza; the two are sometimes seen as synonymous).
The apocryphal lore surrounding the Grigori, and the identification of their leader as Satanael (whose name you may note means “Adversary of God”), may have influenced the Judeo-Christian character Satan as we know him, by positioning him as a rebellious angel who fell to the Earth and spread forbidden knowledge. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this is partly how the serpent became seen as related to Satan – after all, the serpent performed a similar function by tempting Adam and Eve towards the forbidden knowledge of good and evil. And perhaps this is how Satan came to be seen as the Beast? The Enochian Satanael was later rewritten by an occultist named Faustus Scorpius, founder of a group known as the Order of the Left Hand Path, to show Satanael as the one or first angel in heaven to realize the concept of self-consciounsess and hence rebelled against the Demiurge and his heavenly host. He was defeated by Michael and his angels, but still set out to spread self-consciousness and freedom to Man.
In Islam, Satan is known as Iblis. Iblis was a djinn – a being made of fire, as opposed to the angels who were made out of light – who was banished from the heavenly realm for refusing Allah’s command to bow to the first human he created. Like the Christian Satan, Iblis is seen as leading souls away from Allah through temptation and actively opposes Allah’s will . Although it is generally agreed that Iblis is a Djinn, some Islamic scholars think that Iblis was originally an angel, much like Samael.
Perhaps the most famous interpretation of Satan is the one found in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. In this work, Satan was once an angel in Heaven who served God, but rebelled along with a third of the heavenly host, only to be defeated and be cast down into Hell, where he decides to establish his own kingdom, uttering the famous phrase “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. I can assume that this draws from the attempted connection by Christians between Satan and the Lucifer figures of the Bible, but it is through this depiction that the traditional conception of Satan emerges, rather than the actual scripture of Christianity or Judaism. Here we see a more romantic interpretation of Satan, and arguably a heroic Satan – the first instance wherein we see Satan as the rebellious figure, standing up to God, and arguing the case for his unjust character. Indeed, I suspect this is the source of the Satanic Temple interpretation of Satan as the eternal rebel standing up to tyrannical authority. The irony being, of course, that before John Milton Satan doesn’t seem to be shown as much of an enemy of God until the Book of Revelation, the verses typically shown before hand to refer to Satan’s fall having nothing to do with Satan. And before all of that, it was a Satan that was working with tyrannical authority, that of YHWH.
Because of the prevalence of Milton’s Satan in the popular imagination, Satan has been compared to a Greek mythological figure known as Prometheus. In fact, the author of the drama Prometheus Unbound wrote a preface explaining his personal judgement that Satan is the only character resembling Prometheus. Prometheus is a being related to the Titans (that is, he is a son of one of them), the personification of foresight and knowledge. He was the creator of mankind who stole the fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, for which he was chained to a rock by Zeus. The fire of Olympus came to be a symbol of Man’s enlightenment, reason and knowledge, which was withheld by Zeus. Before stealing the fire of Olympus, Prometheus was considered an ally of the Olympian gods, thus the act of stealing it for mankind’s benefit was an act of betrayal of the gods. In a way, there are some characteristics he thus shares with Satan. Other than, however, there is no direct connection. Many connect the two through the serpent myth, asserting that Prometheus was like Satan who brought the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve. But, as has been established, the serpent of Eden is not actually Satan.
Another influential interpretation is the story of Mephistopheles, the demon who appeared to Faust in his eponymous legend. In the legend, Faust summons Mephistopheles, who offers him his service for a period of time, at the end of which Mephistopheles claims his soul for eternity, leading it to Hell. This tale echoes into the modern world as the archetypal “deal with the devil”. Mephistopheles is explicitly a representation of the Devil, of Satan perhaps, and it seems to play on a characteristic that Jewish apocrpyha associated with Samael – that of taking away the souls of humans.
The archetype Satan found within Satanism is based on both the Miltonian conception of Satan, the Judeo-Christian notion of Satan as The Adversary and the opponent of the values associated with YHWH and the background laid by several magickal traditions in their description of Satan. Eliphas Levi describes Satan as “the goat of the Sabbath”, associated with profanation and darkness. Stanislas de Guatia views Satan as “the foul goat threatening Heaven”. The same inverted pentagram we know today from the Church of Satan actually comes from the works of Maurice Bessy. Indeed, whenever an inverted pentagram appears in historical magickal works, it is typically meant as a symbol of the inversion all that is good, which would be symbolized by the upward-pointing pentagram. Satan is also aligned with materialism in many spiritualist traditions, and indeed his symbol is taken as meaning matter prevailing over spirit. Curiously, Stanislas de Guatia’s Satan pentagram features the name Samael. It would seem to denote Samael as the negative opponent of Adam. Anton LaVey took the Satan of Judaism, Christianity and Western magickal tradition and made him a positive figure, the advocate of Man as he ought to be as defined by the philosophy of Satanism.
Finally, Satan is frequently compared with the Egyptian deity Set. Both Satan and Set are considered to be evil beings, but it is claimed that they are connected by the name Set-hen, a title purportedly attached to Set. I have been unable to find a lot of evidence for the “Set-hen” theory, with few resources available outside of Satanic circles and even then not much is elaborated. The claim seems to amount to the idea that “Set-hen” sounds like the modern Satan, therefore it’s a match. However, there are many characteristics that Set shares with the modern Satan. Much like the Jewish conception of Satan, Set was not always seen as an evil being. He was originally a deity of storms, the desert, and war. Similar to Apep, he was seen as a personification of chaos and destruction, but unlike Apep, Set was seen as very much a part of the natural order of things, his chaotic influence a necessary component of balance and harmony in the cosmos. Later on he came to be associated with foreigners. He was also considered a troublesome deity, perhaps most infamous for murdering his brother Osiris after he was seduced by the goddess Nephthys, who was supposed to be his wife, which led him to conflict with the sky deity Horus. However he was also the protector of the sun deity Ra, and at one point also considered to be one of the principle deities of the cosmos, alongside Amun, Ra and Ptah. After the Hyksos invaded Egypt and brought with them their religion, Set rose to prominence through his identification with the Semitic deity Ba’al (with whom he shares many characteristics). After they were driven out, Set’s association with the Hyksos and foreigners in general led him to be seen as an evil being who invited the conquest of Egypt by foreigners. Eventually he become almost synonymous with Apep, and lost his role as a protective deity. In Greece, Set was equated to Typhon – a monster personifying chaos and volcanic forces who lead the Titans against Zeus when they kill Dionysus.
Today, the character of Satan is alive and well and still continues to be invoked as a bogeyman, particularly in conspiracy theories wherein he is somehow one of the main benefactors. For instance, he believed to be the deity worshiped by the Freemasons, the “Illuminati” and the New World Order. Some even believe him to be the true God of the Muslims and Jews, which of course is historically and religiously illiterate. A similar point can be made about the Islamic world, where the Great Satan is a term used by Islamist regimes and Islamic terrorists to refer to demonize the United States of America. However, in the modern world, his character is also still influenced by John Milton’s characterization of him, and today the Miltonian Satan is also used as a political tool by some of those who wish for the expulsion of religion from the public sphere. Satan is often conflated with an idol named Baphomet – originally the name of the idol the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping -, a symbol that in occult traditions generally refers to the unity and harmony of opposites in the universe and not strictly to the Devil; although Baphomet has proven influential in shaping the image of Satan. And of course, Satan is a celebrated icon in the subculture of heavy metal music, where many songs, albums or musical careers are dedicated to him to this day. Not that the vast majority of heavy metal fans and musicians are Satanists or Satan worshipers per se. For metalheads, it’s just that he happens to make for awesome music.
In summation, Satan, as a concept, begins in Judaism wherein it refers to an adversary in general or to a specific angel who carries out punishment in the name of YHWH, before gradually evolving into the archetype of evil, chaos and sedition against God, to being equated with the bringer of knowledge and freedom and thus being seen as the opponent of dictatorial rule, and today the concept of Satan is influenced by both religious and literary tradition. In a way, the concept of Satan remains something of a historical scapegoat, with many people citing the Devil as the inspiration for many a malicious act on the part of themselves or of their enemies. Indeed, even among Christians different sects have been seen as in league with Satan for their heresy against the Church. And as I said earlier, if you go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory land it’s not too long before you find a Satan or two used as a scapegoat for many complex problems in the world. But the concept of Satan has also taken on many other meanings. Indeed, as Adversary, he can perhaps be seen as a force of passion – that is, the passion that has the potential to either lead to evil things, or drive life as we know it towards greatness and progress. In the end, the idea Satan eventually becoming the opponent of the Absolute, rather than just an accuser of Man, makes some sense when you consider the development of Jewish and later Christian tradition. At one point the Jews considered evil to be a part of God’s machinations. But, at some point the Jews suffered what would have been a great indignity, if not outright injustice, towards their faith. It is difficult to conceive that God would destroy his own temple to punish the Jews in some way. It was perhaps naturally to think that it was the work of something that was set against God. Samael then would’ve made for a terrific scapegoat, given he was the angel whose role was often an unpleasant one. Satan was once a title, and then became something of a scapegoat in the Christian tradition, but perhaps it can be said that Satan eventually took on a life of his own.
Kuk is an ancient Egyptian deity of darkness, obscurity and the unknown. He is part of a very ancient pair of primordial deities known as the Ogdoad, alongside his wife and female counterpart Kauket. Together, they are embodiments of a state of darkness that existed before the time of creation. Kuk is also known to go by the names Kek or Keku.
The Ogdoad were a group of primordial deities worshipped in the city of Khmun (Hermopolis) in Egypt during the Old Kingdom period. They consisted of eight deities: Amun, Nun, Kuk and Huh and their respective wives Amunet, Naunet, Kauket and Hauhet. Each of them represented elements of the state of primordial chaos that preceded the creation of the world according to Egyptian mythology. Amun and Amunet represented air, invisibility and hidden things, Nun and Nunet represented the primordial waters and the abysss, Kek and Kauket represented the darkness and obscurity and Huh and Hauhet represented eternity and the infinite space. The male deities were symbolized by the frog and were depicted as frog-headed deities, while the female deities were symbolized by the snake and were depicted as snake headed deities. Of course that is how they are usually depicted. Sometimes they were depicted as geese or baboons.
The creation myth goes as follows: the universe was originally a dark, watery and directionless chaos, inhabited by snakes and frogs. The qualities of this primordial chaos were represented by the deities of the Ogdoad, and these deities were the rulers of this chaos who renewed the primordial waters. It was believed that they created a primordial mound upon which an egg was laid, which then hatched into – depending on what version of the myth – either the sun deity Ra, the creator deity Atum or a scarab beetle representing the Sun. In either case, light was brought to the universe and the cosmos was forged, which brought about order. It is said that afterwards the deities died and passed into the underworld, or Duat, where they supported the flow of the Nile river and the rise of the sun.
In Hermopolis, the cult of the Ogdoad was eventually displaced in prominence by the cult of Djehuti (Thoth), the more popular deity of magic, wisdom, knowledge and the moon. Incidentally, there is a version of the creation myth which supposes that the egg laid upon the primordial mound was laid by an ibis, the sacred bird of Djehuti.
You would think that this would be where the story ends. But no. In the modern age, it seems that the deity Kuk has been elevated by Internet culture.
In November 2015, someone on 4chan posted about Kuk and his mythological background. Four months later, someone on Reddit submitted a macro identifying Kuk as Kek (which probably actually refers to the slang word “kek”, but also happens to another name of Kuk) and associating him with Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump and the concept of “memetic magic”. Over time the meme grew and grew within 4chan, and eventually an online parody religion known as the Cult of Kek emerged. The Cult identifies Kek as, according to their Facebook page, the one true god of chaos, darkness, obscurity and “dubs”, believed to grant the wishes of those who end their posts in a series of repeating numbers. Kek is also identified with Pepe the Frog, the latter often considered by the Cult to be a modern avatar of Kek. Members of the cult talk on 4chan about how meme magic supposedly affects the real world, particularly the current American presidential election cycle. Kek is also associated with the number 7, due to its sacred significance in many cultures.
Because Trump’s supporters have embraced the Pepe meme, and because much of 4chan, particularly /pol/ have embraced Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the mainstream media have decided to demonize the Pepe meme by attaching him to white nationalism and white supremacism, drawing ridicule from much of the Internet. It also generated a response in the form of an article about Pepe and the Cult of Kek, apparently explaining the full story of the origins of Pepe and the Cult of Kek. Before that, Hillary Clinton had a speech in Reno where went on and on about the alt-right, according to her vapid old mind anyway, and from there Trump supporters from Milo Yiannopoulos to more recently Palmer Luckey, the CEO of Oculus VR, were slapped with very liberal usage of the term alt-right regardless of the actual substance of their views. This invariably brought the alt-right and Pepe more attention, leading of course to Pepe’s demonization by the media. Now Pepe seems to have gained certain political prominence among those who oppose Clinton and/or support Trump.
The Cult of Kek is, without a doubt, one of my favorite developments in modern culture. People on 4chan have taken an ancient deity, a relatively obscure deity of primordial chaos and darkness that was supplanted in prominence by other deities no less, and through an invented mythology elevated him into a prominent modern cultural icon through Pepe the Frog. This icon is aligned against polite society and mainstream culture, due to its association with 4chan and Trump. Kek is thus an icon of a modern counter-culture, and thus rebellion. In doing so, I dare say they have inducted Kek as the newest member of the infernal pantheon, and for that I can’t help but smile in glee.
There are three Arabian goddesses that are a matter of some controversy among Islamic scholars. These goddesses are Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as shown above, and were worshiped in pre-Islamic polytheistic tradition. Allat is a goddess of fertility, Al-Uzza is a goddess of power and Manat is a goddess of fate. They are the subject of what is known as the “satanic verses”, which is apparently an incident when the prophet Muhammad believed that these goddesses were the daughters of Allah, before recanting this belief and denouncing it as the whispers of Satan (or rather Iblis). The idea that Muhammad could have venerated any deity, let alone three goddesses, alongside Allah is no doubt considered to be blasphemous by Muslims (after all, Muslims believe there is no deity other than Allah and Muhammad is his messenger), and it is believed that if the verses are authentic then it means that Muhammad not endorsed polytheism at one point but was also briefly suggestible to the words of Iblis – the latter apparently offends Muslims because they believe that the prophets, including Muhammad, are infallible.
Before the time of the prophet Muhammad and his conquest of Mecca, the Arabs practiced polytheism, worshipping many deities instead of one. Three of these deities were Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat.
Allat was worshipped in Mecca, but was also worshiped as far afield as Palmyra in Syria and it’s also been claimed that she was worshiped in ancient Carthage as Allatu. Aside from being considered a mother goddess and a goddess of fertility and spring, she was also considered to be a goddess associated with the underworld and seen as equivalent to the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal. Apparently there is also reference to a goddess named Beltis, or Beltis-Allat, that is identified with Allat and Ereshkigal. Her name means “Great Goddess”, and this is seen as an indication the wife of Allah – given that her name is the feminine form of Allah – much like how the Semitic goddess Asherah, who was also known as Elat which is a feminine form of El – her consort. And yes, Allah himself was originally a deity in worshiped in Mecca as part of pre-Islamic polytheism, just like Jehovah or Yahweh was originally a deity from Canaanite polytheism. The Greeks identified Allat with their own goddess of love Aphrodite, as well as Athena the goddess of wisdom and strategy – there also exists depictions of a syncretic deity named Allat-Minerva who may have been worshiped in Syria. She was also associated with the planet Venus. In the year 630 AD, the idol of Allat and her shrine in Ta’if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb. Muhammad demanded that the idol be destroyed immediately, rather than leave the idol remain until the people of Ta’if embraced Islam on their own.
Al-Uzza was worshipped in Meeca as well as in Petra, in what is now Jordan, where she may have been adopted as a presiding goddess alongside Dushara – a deity of the daytime. She was the goddess of power, but she was also associated with the stars as well as love, vegetation and funerary relationships. She was also a goddess that was invoked for protection by the pre-Islamic tribe that controlled Mecca. She may even have been seen as a supreme goddess in Petra. She was identified with Aphrodite Ourania (in Rome, Venus Celestis), a form of Venus associated with the heavens – perhaps as Queen of the Heavens – and with the Egyptian goddess Isis. It is thought that depictions of a syncretic deity named Isis-Al-Uzza are carved on the treasury in Petra. Her idol at Nakhla was demolished and her temple raided on the orders of Muhammad by the general Khalid ibn Al-Walid. Khalid destroyed trees associated with the goddess, demolished all her idols and killed the people who looked after the idols and the temple.
Manat, also known as Manawat, is considered to be the most ancient of the three goddesses. She was worshiped by the Nabataeans in Petra and the Aws and Khazraj in Arabia. She was believed to be the wife of the storm deity Hubal, and it was believed that sacrifices were made to her. She was also identified with the Greek goddess Nemesis, but some claim she is connected with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar because of the fact that “Menitu” is a title of Ishtar. It may have been believed that Manat watched over the graves and control the destinies of her worshipers. It is believed that she may have been worshiped in Palmyra alongside Ba’al. Her temple was destroyed on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Sa’d ibn Zaid al-Ashhali. During the raid, there was a dark-skinned women with unkempt hair that was killed by Sa’d, and Muhammad believed that she was the goddess Manat.
In Islam these goddesses are considered to be “false gods”, as are any deities other than Allah. But in the so-called “Satanic verses”, Muhammad appears to refer to Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as exalted goddesses. The verses, according to the historian Muhammad ibn Jarir Al-Tabari, are as follows:
“Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá and Manāt, the third, the other? These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for.“
The word “gharaniq” is usually taken to mean “high-flying cranes”, in case you were wondering. According to Al-Tabari’s account, Satan (or should that be Iblis in this case?) whispered these verses into Muhammad’s ears causing him to endorse veneration of and intercessory prayer to the three goddesses. It is described that afterwards the angel Gabriel tells Muhammad that what he had just recited was not from Allah. Realizing this, Muhammad was overcome with grief and fear of Allah, but finds that Allah sent a revelation upon Muhammad and was merciful. The verses that actually appear in the Quran which mention the goddesses are as follows:
“Have you considered El-Lat and El-‘Uzza and Manat the third, the other?… They are naught but names yourselves have named, and your fathers; God has sent down no authority touching them… How many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession avails not anything, save after that God gives leave to whomsoever He wills, and is well-pleased. Those who do not believe in the world to come name the angels with the names of females.“
The very idea that Muhammad could be misled by Satan and thus advocate the worship of pagan goddesses is considered blasphemous to many Muslims, considering that they believe Muhammad is the bringer of the word of God, and both are considered to be infallible and therefore incapable of error. It’s generally held that the teachings of the Quran are perfect, the final word of Allah (hence the reason orthodox Muslims have a problem with heterodoxy, as shown in their attitude towards the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam), and the idea that Muhammad can be suggestible to falsehood at any one point subverts this notion of perfection. Not to mention the mere idea that Muhammad would ever promote polytheism, when in Islam there is no God but Allah. It’s no wonder, then, that the “satanic verses” are the subject of discussion and debate among Islamic scholars, and often outright denounced as lies by Muslims.
This is why when Salman Rushdie released his novel, The Satanic Verses, in 1988, the novel was accused of being blasphemous, and why in 1989 the then-Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie and called for him to be executed. Because of this, there were quite a few attempts on his life. He survived, but a few of his translators were injured in various attacks and one of them, Hitoshi Igarashi, was killed. And Iran has not forgotten about the fatwa either. In recent years, the Iranian media has been offering generous monetary rewards, upwards of $600,000, for the assassination of Salman Rusdie. Incidentally, the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s novel helped re-ignite the debate among Islamic scholars about the specific verses.
These three goddesses exist as a reminder of the pre-Islamic polytheistic past, and evidently a rather embarrassing one for the Islamic faith. So much so, in fact, that the Islamic community has shat itself over a novel written about the verses that were allegedly whispered into Muhammad by Satan, to the point that they place a death fatwa on the author of the novel. But they are also, sadly, relics of an age that Muhammad tried to extirpate from Arabia in order to fulfill the conquest of Islam. And, following in Muhammad’s footsteps, ISIL wages much the same campaign wen they set out striving to erase all that is not Islamic from the world around them, as is shown by how they have destroyed many ancient sites of Middle Eastern cultural heritage over the last few years.
In Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is the Buddha of the future and the prophesied successor to Siddhartha Gautama. It’s believed that he will incarnate at some point in the future, specifically a time where the Buddhist teachings will have been completely forgotten, at which time he will achieve enlightenment and spread the Buddhist teachings in their pure and unaltered form. Maitreya is generally seen as a messianic figure who will save humanity and lead them into a new age of enlightenment and peace.
I suppose I should begin by answering the central question: are Mithras and Maitreya related? The name Maitreya is derived from the Sanskrit word “maitri” (meaning “loving-kindness”), and that word is said to be derived from the noun “mitra” (meaning “friend”). That noun is associated with the Vedic deity Mitra, whom you may remember is a deity associated with friendship and the Vedic Indian predecessor of both the Iranian Mithra and the Roman Mithras. This idea is at the center of the specultion that the Buddhist Maitreya was based on Mitra or Mithra. However, apart from the apparent connection between their names, the two entities seem largely unrelated, and any connection between them seems to be a stretch, entirely extrapolated from the connection between their names.
Maitreya’s first appearance is in a text called the Cakkavatti Sutta, in which Siddartha Gautama speaks of the future time wherein the Dharma (or Buddhist teachings) will have been completely forgotten. In this state, it is said that mankind will war with itself, a few people will take shelter in the wilderness, and the majority of mankind will be slaughtered while the few that remain will emerge out of their shelters to seek a virtuous life. Gautama states that at this time a future Buddha will be born among them, eventually attain enlightenment, and have a Sangha (community of ordained monks and nuns) numbering in the thousands. It is believed that Maitreya currently resides in the inner court of the Tushita heaven – the heavenly realm of contentment. This realm was also believed to be the domicile of Siddartha Gautama before his incarnation as the historical Buddha, and it is believed that Maitreya will descend from this realm at the time of his incarnation in order to assume his role as the next Buddha. It is also believed that the proper time of Maitreya’s incarnation on Earth would not come to pass for millions of years, and that he will remain in the Tushita realm for all that time until then, when he would be needed.
At this point, it seems obvious that the two entities have pretty much nothing to do with each other. Maitreya’s principal role is to appear at a time where Buddhist teachings are forgotten in the world and spread the teachings to those who will listen. He shares no roles and no attributes with Mitra, Mithra, or Mithras. Even the idea of one of those deities bringing salvation seems shaky, or is at least different from the role that Maitreya is said to play. He’s just a future Buddha, not a deity of justice, covenants, friendship, or light – let alone the Sun (in Buddhism, the solar Buddha is Vairocana).
You may or may not recognize a statue of a fat Buddha who is depicted as smiling, laughing, and full of joy. That Buddha is named Budai – commonly identified as the Laughing Buddha – a popular Chinese Buddhist icon sometimes revered in the name of wealth, and having the power. He is also considered an incarnation of Maitreya. This identification seems to have spawned from tales of a Ch’an (Zen) monk known as Pu Tai. Pu Tai wondered around his native province of Zhejiang where he begged for food, gave advice and tought those who cared to listen, and collected many things to put in his sack. He had no home to call his own and no temple in which to find sanctuary, but he was always in a cheerful mood. He was also purported to be very good at telling people’s fortunes and predicting the weather. When he was about to die, his last words were said to be “Maitreya, the true Maitreya, has billions of incarnations. Often he is shown to people all the time; other times they do not recognize him”, and this is said to be the source of his identification with Maitreya.
In China, Maitreya has also served as the inspiration for various messianic rebellions conducted against the imperial government by followers of a revolutionary interpretation of the Maitreya prophecy. During the Sui dynasty, three different people proclaimed themselves (or were proclaimed by their followers) as Maitreya Buddha and led insurrections against the dynasty between 610 and 613 CE, but all three were vanquished by the imperial government. Similar declarations of the arrival of the new Buddha and rebellions inspired by Maitreya would emerge in dynasties afterwards, right up to the Qing Dynasty. One notable player in these rebellions was a sect called White Lotus, an unorthodox Buddhist sect who rebelled against the Yuan and Qing dynasties in the name of Maitreya as well as the “Manichaean King of Light”. There were also similar rebellions inspired by the arrival of a “new Buddha” before the Sui dynasty, including one rebellion known as the Mahayana Rebellion, whose leader was a monk who managed to convince his followers that they would become bodhisattvas by killing a certain number of enemies. Because Maitreya’s incarnation wasn’t supposed to happen for millions of years, it can be safely assumed that the rebellious sects had reinterpreted the Maitreya prophecy which was more conducive to the mentality and goal of revolution against the imperial government.
In Japan, Maitreya is known as Miroku Bosatsu and he assumes much the same role as he does outside of Japan. Miroku Bosatsu is also considered one of the most prominent and beloved bodhisattvas in Japanese Buddhism, alongside other beloved icons such as Jizo Bosatsu, who vowed to remain on Earth to do good deeds until Miroku’s incarnation. At one point Miroku also became very popular in Shingon Buddhism, which believes that Miroku Bosatsu will become a Buddha and appear on Earth to save those who have not yet attained enlightenment in order to bring universal salvation. The sect was founded by a monk named Kukai, who travelled to China in order study and impart esoteric Buddhist teachings. There are some legends about Kukai that state that he is was reborn in the Tushita realm and is with Miroku or waiting upon him, or that he is not actually dead and is waiting for Miroku on Mount Koya in an eternal state of samadhi. Budai also appears in Japanese Buddhism as Hotei, who is identified as a deity of contentment and happiness, the guardian of children, the patron of bartenders, and one of the Seven Lucky Gods.
Outside of Asia, Maitreya is referred to in the teachings of Theosophy, where he is believed to be a high-ranking member of a hidden spiritual hierarchy whose function is to assist humanity in its evolution. In this hierarchy, he is said to hold the “Office of the World Teacher”. Helena Blavatsky linked the arrival of Maitreya with the return of Jesus of Nazareth, along with the arrival of other “ascended masters”. In the early 20th century, a Theosophist named Charles W. Leadbeater declared that Maitreya and Jesus were the exact same person, that said person lived somewhere in the Himalayas, and that his coming was imminent. In 1909, Leadbeater discovered a young Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom he regarded as a vehicle for Maitreya to reveal himself through. With that idea in mind, Krishnamurti was trained for that purpose, and the Order of the Star in the East was created to prepare the world for Maitreya’s arrival. Krishnamurti became the head of this organization until 1929, when he dissolved it. In 1975, a man named Benjamin Creme claimed to have received telepathic communications from Maitreya and that Maitreya revealed that his return to Earth would be earlier than the year 2025. He later claimed Maitreya had already incarnated on Earth and had been living in the Himalayas as of 1977 before moving to London where he lived in secrecy. He made all sorts of claims regarding Maitreya, none of which have proven true, and he since become a source of ridicule because of it.
There have been individuals other than the various leaders of messianic insurrections in China who claimed to be Maitreya incarnate, or are believed to be so. L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, once claimed that he was Maitreya – or rather Metteya. Claude Vorilhon, also known as Rael, was also believed to be Maitreya. Samael Aun Weor seems to refer to himself as an avatar of Kalki – the tenth avatar of Vishnu – whom he identifies with Maitreya, and Maitreya Buddha Samael seems to be a title he accepts for himself, though he interprets the title of Buddha to refer to one’s own state of having achieved self-realization or “Christification”. There is also a man who appeared in Nairobi, Kenya in 1988, who was referred to as Maitreya – people in the area also referred to him as Jesus Christ, while Benjamin Creme seemed to comment that the man was in fact Maitreya (who was viewed as being the same as Jesus). Even more bizarre, some people have even claimed that Maitreya is actually the Antichrist. Today, these people usually consist of the same type of conspiracy theorists who have claimed that every US president since Ronald Reagan is the Antichrist. So, go figure I guess.
Maitreya seems to be another one of those savior figures that people tend to cling to, but also one of those savior figures that seem to have inspired strong belief in him, even to the point of messianic delusion – much like how far belief in Jesus of Nazareth has been shown to go. Given Maitreya’s role as a figure who would appear on Earth at some point, it’s not hard to see why he would be compared with figures such as Jesus. However, as I have already written, Maitreya isn’t really related to the same deities that people have claimed he is.
This is a very special Spotlight as this one is split into two parts, each part dealing with separate but vaguely related entities. It’s also the first Spotlight to follow this formula.
Mithras is a very recognizable Roman cult deity, but he is also a very old deity in the world, having been worshiped in different names and capacities at different points in history. Traditionally he is seen a deity of light, often the sun, and justice, often taking on the characteristics of a warrior. At one point, he was the central deity of a popular cult, only to eventually disappear into obscurity. In today’s world he is often seen as one of the deities that inspired the invention of Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian religion, with some people believing Jesus is a rip-off of Mithras.
The story of Mithras begins in Vedic India, when he was worshipped as Mitra – the deity of light, friendship, the morning sun, and contracts. He was a deity who helped preserved the order of the world inhabited by Man, and as such he was often paired with another Vedic deity named Varuna, who was charged with the order of the cosmos. Mitra and Varuna sometimes appeared as a compound figure, known as Mitra-Varuna, possibly because in the oldest of texts, Mitra was often indistinguishable from Varuna. Mitra was sometimes, however, distinguished from Varuna by certain characteristics. Mitra was considered a gentler or friendlier deity who preferred peaceful ways of protecting order and often abhorred violence, while Varuna was often seen as crueller than Mitra and often associated specifically with the punishment of transgression. In the Rig Veda, both Mitra and Varuna as viewed as capable of forgiveness, but Mitra was called upon for mercy more often than Varuna, which might suggest a more merciful deity. Also, while Varuna was often associated with the night, Mitra was frequently associated with the day, and sometimes had solar characteristics attached to him. He was also praised as being an all-seeing deity. Mitra was also sometimes seen as a friend of Man, and a mediator between Man and the Vedic pantheon. As the Vedic period drew to a close, however, Mitra lost his prominence in Indian religion, just as Varuna and many other Vedic deities did. It’s worth noting that Mitra was a prominent member of the Asura class of Vedic deities, but in later Hinduism Mitra and Varuna are not necessarily treated as Asuras or as demons, instead being treated as still divine. As Mitra is associated with sunrise, he is still invoked in prayers of the sunrise.
There are some who believe that the Vedic Mitra is directly related to the bodhisattva Maitreya, due to their names being related. This will be elaborated on in Part 2 of this Mythological Spotlight.
In ancient Iran, the Vedic Mitra became known as Mithra and was treated as an important divinity or Yazata in service of the deity Ahura Mazda. Specifically, he is the Yazata of oaths, covenants, and contracts, as well as the lord of wide pastures and the protector of truth, of cattle, and of the waters. Mithra was sometimes seen as related to the sun, though an entity distinct from the sun. However, he did eventually evolve within Zoroastrianism into a being that was co-identified with the Sun, effectively seen as the Sun itself. Some hymns have described Mithra as having a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes, and as being a deity who never sleeps. Mithra was seen as a deity of honor and morality who always upheld the sanctity of the contract, even if the contract was made by those who were surely going to break that contract. And in addition to presiding over the contracts made between individuals, Mithra presided over the pledges made between nations. Much like the Vedic Mitra, Mithra was all-seeing and he served as a mediator between the heavens and the earth. However, unlike Mitra, Mithra was also seen as having the virtues of a warrior and capable of potent wrath (whereas Mitra was averse to violence) – he punished whose who were impious and broke their word, sometimes bringing diseases and illness to wicked men, and he conquered the armies of evil with a powerful chariot. Mithra also fights alongside such divine companions as Sraosha (the Yazata of obedience), Rashnu (the Yazata of justice), and Verethragna (the Yazata of victory). By his militant virtues and his not-so-militant virtues, he was charged with maintaining the creation and order of Ahura Mazda. It is said that before the rise of Zoroastrianism, Mithra also happened to be the most important deity of a polytheistic tradition practiced by the ancient Iranians.
The Zoroastrian Mithra has also been equated by angelologists with the angel Metatron – the angel identified as the voice of YHWH. Yazdanism also recognizes Mithras as the “sun of the faith”, also named Shayk Shams al-Din.
Eventually, the Iranian Mithra somehow became the Roman cult deity Mithras, or at least become the basis of that deity. Mithras was a deity who emerged in the beginning out of a rock, and then enacted the creation of all things good through the sacrifice of a bull. This deity has some noticeable characteristics that separate him from his Iranian and Indian predecessors. While the Vedic Mitra abhorred violence, the Roman Mithras is known to have enacted creation itself through the violent act of sacrificing a bull, and was worshiped by soldiers. The myth of the tauroctony, which is central to the Mithraic cult, also contradicts one of the roles of the Iranian Mithra – the protector of cattle – and the sacrifice of a bull was said to have been abhorred by the Zoroastrians and denounced by the prophet Zoroaster, so the Mithraic idea of creation through tauroctony was antithetical to Zoroastrian or Iranian sentiments and was either a Roman notion or a notion originating in pre-Zororastrian Iranian religion. Mithras was not specifically a solar deity, but he was allied with the Roman deity Sol, who imparted Mithras with the powers of the sun. Some believe that Mithras was identified with the Greek primordial deity Phanes, who was seen as the creator deity of the Orphic religion. Mithras’ chief role is as the deity who oppose the forces of evil to protect life in the name of good, and the tauroctony may have been seen as an act of cosmic regeneration – in other words, by sacrificing the cosmic bull, Mithras may have staved off the forces of evil by nourishing the universe with life. Some also interpret the act as astrological in meaning – the bull may have represent the constellation of Taurus the Bull, and by sacrificing the bull Mithras ends the Age of Taurus and ushering in a new age. It is also believed that Mithras died and was reborn, and his birth was celebrated on the winter solstice.
The Mithraic cult preferred to conduct their worship in secretive temples called Mithraeums, which were made to resemble natural caves, like the cave wherein Mithras performed the cosmic tauroctony. Members would perform initiatory rituals to confirm levels of knowledge and spiritual development, and they were divided into seven ranks – all members were expected to pass through the first four ranks (Corax, Nymphus, Miles, and Leo) while only a few might pass through the rest (Perses, Heliodromus, and Pater). The Mithraic cult became very popular in Rome over the years, gaining many followers among the lower classes, the military, and eventually even among the upper classes. Because of its growing popularity, the Mithraic cult was once a considerable rival to the Christian faith, but unlike Christianity it was also primarily disadvantaged by the fact that only men could adhere to it – women were not allowed to join the Mithraic cult. Ultimately, the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and years later Rome endorsed Christianity as the state religion, thus bringing an end to the cult of Mithras. At this time, many of Mithras’ followers began to abandon his worship in order to please the Roman emperor, and the old Mithraeums were abandoned, desecrated, and destroyed – such destruction would undoubtedly have been encouraged by the Christian church, who viewed the Mithraic cult – along with every religion other than their own – as false and blasphemous.
Mithras is nowadays compared to Jesus of Nazareth, believed to be one of the deities that inspired his whole concept. Mithras and Jesus may have a few superficial similairities, but it’s important to remember some key differences: Jesus didn’t create the world through an act of sacrifice (also, in the Christian belief, the creator of the universe is still Yahweh/Jehovah; Jesus had nothing to do with the act of creation), Mithras was never born out of a “virgin” woman impregnated by a divine party (he was born out of a rock), Jesus was a human revolutionary who claimed ti be the son of “God” as opposed to being a full-blown deity, Mithras was not born in a manger, and Jesus, according to the Bible, cannot be confirmed as being born on the winter solstice – that was the product of the Christian church co-opting pre-Christian traditions in order to gain converts. Also, in the Mithraic cult, other deities could be worshiped alongside Mithras, while Jesus championed the monotheism of the Jewish religion, and the Christian religion based around him only allowed the worship of one deity, barring all others.
Mithras seems to have been a very ancient and very potent force of light. I find myself interested in his deep-seated connection to the sun, with justice, with the contract, with cosmic struggle, and the masculine warrior archetype, all of which makes him that potent an archetype of light. Considering those who read my blog usually know me in relation to the forces of darkness, this is kind of refreshing. But then, I like the Sun, and Mithras is a very interesting deity associated with the powers of the sun.
Also known as Ea, Enki is an important deity recorded in one of the mythology of the Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations. He tends to be viewed as the creator of humanity, a lord of wisdom and the soul, and as a rather mischievous deity. Enki was said to have resided in the deep primeval waters of the Abzu since before the creation of humans. Some people in this day and age believe that Enki is the original deity behind either Satan or Lucifer, often linking him with the serpent who persuaded Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Enki was originally the patron deity of the Sumerian city of Eridu, a place often argued to be the oldest city in all of Sumer and still considered by some to be the oldest city in the world. Eridu was also considered to be the home of Enki and his temple, known as E-abzu (the house of Abzu). According the Sumerian Kings List, Eridu was the first city to which kingship was bestowed on earth, meaning that it was the first city of the kings, and in Sumerian mythology Eridu was not only the first city but it was built by the gods themselves and is also believed to be one of the first five cities built before the occurrence of a great deluge. Eridu would have much the same reputation in Babylon, where Eridu was believed to have been established by the deity Marduk as the first city. Eventually, Enki went from the local deity of Eridu to being one of the most powerful deities in the Sumerian pantheon and found himself in a triad of powerful deities consisting of Enki, Anu (a sky deity), and Enlil (a deity of wind and storms).
As the creator of humans, Enki had originally intended to create humans to work for the gods, specifically to supply them their food. But Enlil wanted to destroy the humans because he felt they made too much noise and prevented him from sleeping. Enlil sent disease and famine against mankind, but Enki found ways to prevent the total destruction of mankind. This lead Enlil to try and destroy mankind by flooding the world, but Enki had a human named Ziusudra build a boat in order to save himself, along with his family and livestock, from the flood sent by Enlil. After foiling Enlil’s attempts to destroy mankind, Enki and the other gods institute measures to control the population of mankind.
For the Sumerians, everything was ruled by a principle of cosmic order referred to as Me, and the rules of the universe were contained in a tablet known as the Tablet of Destinies. Enki was the deity who incarnated the principle of Me, and in one poem it is said that he created the Tablet of Destinies. One myth also shows Enki as having established the boundaries between nations and assigning all the other gods their roles. However, Enki has often been shown to lose control of this principle and the tablet that embodies it. In one instance, the goddess Inanna visits Enki for a feast and gets Enki drunk, and manages to take the tablet from him. When Enki returned to sobriety, he asked his servant for the Tablet of Destinies and realized that it had been lost. Inanna had taken the tablet to the city of Uruk (where she was a patron deity), and with it the principle of cosmic order and the gift of civilization, culture, and knowledge. Because of this, Eridu lost its prominence and the seat of power moved to Uruk, and presumably Inanna became much more popular from there. In another myth, the tablet is stolen by a lion-faced eagle named Anzu, and the hero Ninurta to retrieved it from Anzu. But Ninurta decided to keep the tablet, though Enki thwarted Ninurta’s ambitions by creating a turtle to drag him into a pit, and eventually the tablet was returned to Enki.
In Babylon and Akkad, Enki was known as Ea and was revered as the lord of ritual purification, sorcery, magic, and incantation. He was the favorite deity of diviners, exorcists, and sorcerers, and was hailed as the source of all ritual knowledge used to expel and avert the presence of evil; because of this, Ea was invoked in prayers for successful divination and the protection of kings. Ea was also considered an adviser to kings, a clever mediator capable of deviousness and cunning, and the patron of civilization and the arts and crafts. In Akkad, Ea was the father of the deity Marduk, who would later slay Tiamat and aid the establishment of civilization by the gods. However, as national deity and king of the gods, Marduk exceeded Enki in terms of importance. Eventually, the spells that removed evil invoked not merely Ea, but also Marduk and a solar deity named Shamash: Ea would provide the spell, but Marduk would oversee its implementation and Shamash would provide purification.
After the decline of Babylon and the rise of Semitic monotheism, Enki and the other Mesopotamian deities fell into decline and became obscured by the cult of Yahweh. But, in modern times, some have equated Enki with Satan and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Particularly, a group of known as Joy of Satan who believe that Satan was in fact the Sumerian deity Enki, who they believe created humanity with the goal of having them ascend to godhood.A lot of it tends to be based on the reputation that Enki was a serpent deity, or a deity associated with serpents. In fact, Enki was originally associated with the fish, often depicted as being surrounded by streams with fish swimming in them. However, he was also associated with another animal: the goat. While the goat was also connected with Satan in medieval Christian lore, and later the world occultism and Satanism, the connection seems purely superficial. On a related note, the fish and the goat are the same animals that, combined, form the astrological sign of Capricorn. Then goat-fish was a symbol that appeared in Sumerian lore, and was associated with Enki. The serpent on the tree was probably lifted from either the deity Ningizzida, or the story of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality, which was foiled by a serpent eating the fruit of immortality and gaining the power to shed its skin. The same serpent was purported to lead the first humans to knowledge of good and evil, but Enki did not do this. When Inanna stole the Tablet of Destinies, she brought knowledge of the divine order to the humans in the city of Uruk, meaning that it was her who brought knowledge to humans, rather than Enki who led the first humans to it. There was a tree that bore fruit in a place called Dilumn, a paradisaical abode that was inhabited by Enki and his wife Ninhursag. But that fruit contained Enki’s semen, and it wasn’t eaten by a proto-Adam and proto-Eve, but Enki himself, against the advice of Isimud. When he ate the forbidden fruit, and forbidden flowers, his wife cursed him and his body became injured. Ninhursag later gave birth to eight new goddesses to heal Enkis body, at the behest of Enlil, and one of these goddesses was Ninti, the lady of the rib, who became equated with Eve.
As far as Enki’s primary role is concerned, he is likely closer to Yahweh than Satan, or Lucifer for that matter. Some might say Enki corresponds to Satan because he resists the destruction headed for mankind via the deluge. But Enki does so by telling a human to build a boat to shelter from the flood, which is what Yahweh told Noah to do. Remember? But aside from that, there’s also little that Enki shares with Yahweh, at least compared to Anu or even Enlil, but Enlil doesn’t easily fit either. In a way, all three share characteristics and certain actions with Yahweh, but only on a small level. As another example, there’s a myth where Enki sets about confusing the tongues of humanity, much like Yahweh did in the Bible. Enki was described as changing the speech of Man and bringing contention into a once united Sumer, much like how the Bible describes humans as being united by a single language until Yahweh intervened in response to the construction of the Tower of Babel. Usually, the reason given is a rivalry between Enki and Enlil.
Enki’s role was probably more complex than simply the guy who created mankind and was a wisdom deity. His connection with Satan is pretty much superficial, based only on his connection with the goat, and his connection with Lucifer is by and large non-existent in that Enki and Lucifer simply have nothing to do with each other. It’s important to remember that Lucifer would be interested in the freedom of human beings to think for themselves individually, while Enki’s reason for creating humans was so that they could be the slaves who did work for the gods, and I doubt he intended to enlighten them in the way Lucifer would. And since Enki incarnated the principle of cosmic order and laws, it’s more likely Enki would have wanted humanity to follow the order of the gods rather than subvert it or liberate themselves from it, as Satan or Lucifer might. He is definitely closer to Yahweh than Satan or Lucifer, and even then it’s only in small ways. He was not the same as Yahweh any more than he was the same as Satan. The Yahweh we know today was a Canaanite war deity who took on the roles and attributes of other deities (probably including Enki or Ea). Enki generally reminds me more of the Vedic deity Varuna in his connection to both water and the cosmic order. It also seems that Enki fell on hard times and lost his prominence, though perhaps not in the same way Varuna did.
Melek Taus, or Tawuse Melek if you prefer, is the central figure of the religion of the Yazidis, an ancient Kurdish religious and ethnic community who are mostly based in Iraq. According to the Yazidis, Melek Taus is the chief of all the angels and/or holy beings, or even the creator and ruler of the world and the universe, and is usually represented as a peacock, hence his nickname The Peacock Angel. In Yazidi myths, Melek Taus is a servant or emanation of God, but it is also believed he rebelled against God by refusing to bow down to Adam. This, along with his other name apparently being Shaitan, led to him being confused with the Islamic figure Shaitan or Iblis, which in turn got him confused with Satan and Lucifer. But unlike Satan, Lucifer, or Iblis, Melek Taus repented and not only restored his status as a high angel, he also became a demiurgic figure who created the world. It is said that after his repentance, he wept for 7,000 years, and these tears are believed to have filled seven jars with which he quenched the fires of Hell.
The religion of the Yazidi people is considered to be a branch of a religion known as Yazdanism. Yazdanism is a pre-Islamic religion practiced by the Kurdish people, and is influenced by Zoroastrian theology and other Mesopotamian religions, though Yazdanism is also considered a name for a group of ancient Kurdish monotheistic religions rather than simply one whole religion. A key belief of Yazdanism is that God (in the traditional sense) is an absolute and transcendental being that encompasses the whole universe, and manifests himself through seven divine beings, one of which is Melek Taus (who is also the chief of these beings), in order to sustain universal life. In the Yazidi tradition, Melek Taus was the first of these angelic beings to emerge from the light of God in the form of a rainbow, which bifurcated to form him and the six other angelic beings, who together now represent the seven colors of the rainbow (Melek Taus representing blue, the color of the heavens). It is also believed that these angels occasionally incarnate in this world as humans. Melek Taus, for instance, is believed to have incarnated as a man named Sheikh Abi Idn Musafir, who is credited as being the founder of Yazidism.
Melek Taus is traditionally represented by the peacock, but the peacock is not native to Iraq. It’s believed that the peacock symbolism originates with the early Christians, who thought peacock represented immortality and/or resurrection because of the belief that the peacock’s flesh did not decay after death.
The myth of the fall and repentance of Melek Taus has often been conflated with the myth of the fall of Iblis as defined by orthodox Islamic belief. In the Islamic myth, Iblis was a being created by “God” (or rather Allah as he is called in the Quran) who refused to bow down to Adam unlike the angels, so he rebelled against “God” and his angels and was defeated, and afterwards he became known as the leader of the djinn or demons. This itself parallels the Christian myth of Satan’s fall from grace. In the Yazidi myth, Melek Taus also refused to bow to the first human and was punished for it, but unlike Iblis, Melek Taus repented and went on to create the world. This myth, along with their particular theology concerning God, frequently leads to the Yazidis being judged as devil-worshipers and denounced accordingly by Muslims and Christians. The identification of Melek Taus with the name Shaitan may also be part of why it is considered forbidden in the Yazidi tradition to speak the name Shaitan out loud. It is important to remember that, although Melek Taus ostensibly defied the will of God, he is still very much seen as a high-ranking angel and an emanation of God rather than as a fallen angel or devil, and is very much in God’s good graces. Melek Taus simply became attached to Iblis, and Satan by proxy, by Muslims. In this sense, Melek Taus is as related to Satan as Santa Claus is related to Jesus. It’s also worth noting that some believe Melek Taus was ultimately rewarded for refusing to bow to the first human rather than punished, because it meant upholding the monotheistic worship of only one God and not Man, an outlook in some interpretations (mustly Sufi) of Iblis refusing to bow down to Adam out of love and devotion to God.
Quick side-note: I’ve noticed that members of an organization known as the Joy of Satan relates a number of deities from various mythologies to their interpretation of Satan, and one of these is Melek Taus. This is obviously based on the supposed connection Melek Taus to Satan, which, as was previously stated, is simply a construct of Islamic and Christian interpretation and doesn’t have any real bearing on the character of Melek Taus. Because why would an angel tied to the monotheistic God have anything to do with Satan?
Anyways, because of their particular beliefs and theological ideas, the Yazidis have frequently met persecution by Islam and other religious traditions, and are deemed as falling outside the protected category of “People of the Book”, which refers to members of religions who follow monotheistic scriptures related to Islamic teachings. This has led to the Yazidi people facing threats of genocide and massacre many times, and their culture facing threats of extermination. The Yazidis have been considered devil-worshippers since the late 16th century, but organized violence against them actually dates back to the Ottoman Empire’s campaigns against the Yazidis during the 19th century. In the 1970s, the Yazidis also suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who razed Yazidi villages and communities and forced them to relocate into his cities, which disrupted their rural mountain communities and their lifestyle. More recently, last year the Yazidis were the victims of a brutal campaign conducted by ISIL, who have brutally killed, enslaved, or forcibly exiled members of the Yazidi community and captured their territory. It could argued that this is because of the perception that they are devil-worshipers, but with ISIL anyone who falls outside their religious views is considered fair game to them, so to them the Yazidis being accused of worshipping Satan probably doesn’t matter as much as them not being extremist Sunni Muslims. ISIL’s brutality against the Yazidis is ongoing, but nowadays it is sadly not getting a lot of attention anymore. Outside the Middle East, the Yazidis are also misunderstood as devil-worshipers, even in fiction, but his reputed connection to Satan and the mysteriousness of his religion has gained Melek Taus some fame within occultism, and sometimes he crops up in Left Hand Path circles.
All I can say is that it’s weird how Melek Taus came to be seen as a Satanic figure when by all rights he is more like the the archangels of Jewish and Christian lore or the Zoroastrian yazatas. Given one of his names is Shaitan, his reputation as a Devil figure is almost literally a case of mistaken identity, and people choosing not to look past the veneer of the myth of the fall from grace. If you’re interested in angels and holy beings, mind you, you might find Melek Taus to be a very interesting and captivating figure.