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Hierarchy of demons

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In early Christian theology, Satan or the Devil was seen as chief of all other demons. But soon this changed and Hell was divided in several hierarchies of demons. This was presumably due to the division of angels in hierarchies or choirs taken from Judaism (see angelology), and as demons were angels before, their organisation had to be similar.

During the Middle Ages, many other schema were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. One of these divisions is offered by Sebastian Michaelis, who divided demons in three hierarchies (first, second and third), not making allusion to their rulers (see Michaelis' classification of demons).

Soon this division took another sense, and nobility titles were granted to demons as if they were part of an earthly monarchy. Demons were Great Marshals, Knights, Presidents, Great Presidents, Earls, Great Earls, Dukes, Great Dukes, Marquises, Great Marquises, Princes, Great Princes, Kings, Great Kings, and the ruler of all them the Emperor. As in the earth, some of them had more than one title. Curiously the titles of Baronet, Baron, Viscount and Viceroy were not used. It is unclear if Earl was used as a synonym of Count, or with the ancient meaning of Eorl (Old English for 'nobleman, Prince, Warlord, chief of soldiers'), because the Latin term 'comes' has both meanings. Other hierarchies mention physicians, superintendents, demons in charge of keeping the fire of Hell lit, etc. The rest of the demons were divided in legions.

Several grimoires rank demons according to titles of nobility, among them The Great Book of Saint Cyprian, Le Dragon Rouge, and The Lesser Key of Solomon.


In Christian demonology, Hell is treated as a medieval or Renaissance earthly kingdom, and this shows the imagination of those authors that assigned titles of nobility to some demons that even had attendants, dividing the rest into legions. Perhaps the division in legions was inspired by Mark 5:9, when a demon was asked his name and answered "Legion, because we are many". The word 'legion' could have inspired the military hierarchy, and the fact that Satan was called Prince of this World more than once (i.e. in John 12:31 and 14:30) could have inspired the conception of the hellish nobility. More, theoretically, physicians are not necessary in Hell, demons being spiritual entities. This idea seems to have been inspired by the story of the angel Raphael, "God's medicine", healing Tobias in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, but Raphael was intended to heal humans, not angels. Plutarch wrote that demons could get sick, and this may also have influenced some Christian demonologists.

See also