Christians are monotheist. Every primordial force in the world they attribute to Creator. Creator may have a council, may have angels who do their jobs, and saints that bend their ear to the needs of humans, but ultimately Creator has all the power.
Being a polytheist, I believe that the fundemental forces of the world are in constant relation to each other, Creator being the origin of them all. Conflict, reconciliation, and peace come and go between them and humanity in the dance of life in the universe. My particular flavor of polytheism also relates deities back to parts of physical reality. Creator is best expressed as the void darkness between the stars, hence why I call Creator Ineffable Night. The Holy Spirit is a storm god. Jesus is plants. I could go on.
So my journey for a spiritual cosmology tends to tease apart things that Christians group together under one heading. The trinity, Creator, and now the devil. It’s been pointed out by a lot of people that there is no evidence in the bible for one singular adversarial being against Creator, rather there is a more complicated narrative at play here from disjointed sources. I then usually watch people use this as a gotcha to prove the devil doesn’t exist, which is just silly. Just because you don’t ascribe to a spiritual belief doesn’t make it not a spiritual belief.
For the record, the idea of a single Adversary leading a giant army of spirits against Creator and their army of angels is doctrinal and folkloric. It is also not as old as people think. The idea that spiritual beliefs are only real if they’re in the bible is a Protestant notion called sola scriptura, and it tickles my fancy to watch atheists raised in offshoots of Protestantism point out how much their childhood branch abandoned the scripture. It’s a sign of good character to me that they see the hypocrisy.
So I am asking you to follow me into a world where the devil is not one but many beings, some of whom are deities, who can be related back to things in physical reality. You don’t have to live here, just pop in for a visit.
For a bit of context, the polytheist cultures closest to the ancient Israelites would have been the Ugaritic and Canaanite cultures, and it is my understanding that the Israelites were affected by these neighbors. One of my future plans is to map the closest neighboring or antagonist culture to the Israelistes for each book in the Old Testamant, but that’s a project for much later.
Ba’al Hadad is the first to mention because he becomes the predecessor for a lot of major demons and provides background. In Kings 18ish, we see the prophet Elijah go up against priests of Ba’al Hadad, who was a storm god. The god of the Israelites was most likely an inheritor of the creator god Tôru ʼĒl. From what I can tell, Hadad was the son of Tôru ʼĒl, and they were both associated with bulls, though Hadad was the storm god between them. This is a really really hard area to research because of how little evidence we have and how politicized the findings are, so forgive me if I missed something or made too big a jump here.
We see the Israelites repeatedly either delving into worship of Hadad, such as the golden calf in Exodus 32, only to be chastised and brought back to their ancestral covenant with HaShem. They also mock their neighbors for worshiping Hadad and other deities, calling them “false gods”. Bael, Beelzebub, and a handful of other famous demons seem to be the inheritors of this god’s role and epithets as the names and stories were interpreted differently as the years went by.
Next is Satan, whom I understand to be a sort of prosecuting attorney. This goddess challenges and tests, but also puts barriers where they need to be. We see her in Job, in the being who tests Jesus in the desert, standing by High Priest in Zechariah, and in the story where Balaam’s donkey is warned to go home in Numbers 22. This idea is one I’ve gotten from Jewish content creators and the aforementioned atheist debunking videos.
For me, this is the solar deity of the pantheon. As the Canaanite goddess Shapash was a messenger for her father Tôru ʼĒl, so the solar goddess Satan is a messenger for HaShem. In other ancient Mesopotamian religions we see sun gods associated with justice, and this rhymes a bit with these scenes. As a Thelemite, Satan being solar is not completely unaligned with the tradition, nor is the idea that we are accused, tested, and prodded along the journey toward our True Will. While none of these are definitive, they form the best outline I have currently.
The Serpent in the garden of Eden is, to me, Sophia or Sapientia, archangel of the Earth. She initiates Eve and Adam in a sort of spiritual puberty. They must outgrow their father’s house to be fully human. So in this way, Sophia opposes the will of the Father of Adam and Eve. Rather than pulling from an ancient source, I relate this story back to the Early Modern re-interpretation of Eden first inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost. If I could find a more recent source for the other myths clumped together under the singular Devil title, I would, but alas. Sophia deserves her own jailbreak, so that’s all I will say here.
Leviathan is the last facet of the Devil I could tease out. From what I can tell, there was an Ugaritic god Yam, also a son of Tôru ʼĒl, who may have been a predecessor of the serpent-ocean symbolism that coagulated around Leviathan. Scores of writing has been done on the ocean serpent symbolism in the ancient Mediterranean. We see a delightful not-hymn to Leviathan in Job 41, and it is believed by some scholars that the red dragon in the Revelation to John is Leviathan or at least has been modeled after the symbolism of Leviathan.
On a personal level, it sits well with my visions that the consort of Babalon would be an ocean deity. In the planetary spheres, Khaos is in the sphere of Neptune while Babalon is in the sphere of Saturn. For you goofballs still using the hermetic “qabala”, that’s Binah and Chokmah. Or what you call Binah and Chokmah? Saturn, both in temperament and symbolism, is often regarded as earthy, and what astrologers have noted about Neptune thus far suggests an oceanic bent. The latest scientific theory on how life came to be also suggests that life began with single celled organisms in the ocean long before any lifeforms though to turn sunlight into energy.
So then, what do we have? A pack of storm demons, a solar goddess, the Archangel of the Earth, and a primordial ocean deity: these to me are the primary faces unified into one doctrinal and folkloric Devil. Where Early Modern Christianity sees a King of Hell, a single adversary against Creator’s glory, I experience and want to express a universe where Creator is paradoxical and therefore creates forces which come into conflict and resolution with each other.