Department for the Study of Religions, Masaryk University

Physical intoxication with demons in the medieval beliefs

According to widespread medieval religious beliefs, the devil and demons represented not only a spiritual threat but also a material one. The ways demons were believed to harm the body varied from disturbing one’s senses with a monstrous apparition via the horrors of demonic possession to direct killing of a human. In this paper I will discuss a set of motifs related to the topic of demons as a physical threat – that of bodily intoxication with hellish forces, typically taking the form of insect entering the human body through the mouth a taking over the person’s senses and mental capacities. I will show how this set of motifs can be divided into two substantial categories: The demonic attack on an unsuspecting victim, de facto a kind of demonic possession, and the voluntary reception of demons in the insect form, constituting an inverted imagery of the Eucharist. I will discuss both categories as a part of the medieval thought about the human free will and the Adversary.

František Novotný