Posted on September 8, 2015 by Billzilla
Available from Drive Thru Fiction
The Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures
by Theresa Bane
Published by Marfarland & Co., Inc.
There have been an awful lot of demons mentioned in the bible, the Koran, the Torah, the writings of other religions, in classical literature, and elsewhere. You practically need a scorecard to keep track of all of them. McFarland & Company Publishers has produced a massive volume cataloging the numerous evil entities from the void, The Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. It may not be a scorecard exactly, but it’s the next best thing.
Collected by Theresa Bane, this work includes a vast array of not only demons, but includes references to and entries for angelic entities, as well as a few with less clearly defined loyalties. These entities were written about in the religious texts of such diverse faiths as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Ashurism, and from such ancient cultures as Sumeria, China, Scythia, the Mayan Empire, and many African cultures.
Interestingly, many gods and creatures of folklore around the world were lumped in with demons as Christianity and other monotheistic religions spread. An excellent example would be the Tengu, a winged, goblin-like spirit of forests and mountains of Japan. In this book, on page 311, one finds an extensive sketch of the Tengu as a demonic entity, including the following description:
“They are typically described as looking like a crow, a crow with a long beak and claws, or as a man with a crow’s beak. In human form they have a large nose and a red face. It is said that the larger the beak or nose, the more powerful the demon.”
Next is a bit about how they behave:
“These demons cause rock slides, collapse buildings, fell trees, and set forest fires. They are very quick and have the ability to bewitch humans and become invisible. They have magical powers and are renowned martial artists and storytellers.”
Far from the only such creature, there are numerous examples of humble folklore entities turned demonic in this volume. Because of what seems to be the fairly scrupulous nature of Ms. Bane’s research documented in this book, I must assume that such license was taken previously by her sources — possibly by overly religious individuals seeking to codify existing mythology with their doctrine of choice. I intend such statement to be neither criticism nor accolade: merely an observation that, throughout history, human beings have sought to define the world based on their own ideas and sense of morality.
This book contains a wealth of information on Demonic entities, including names, spheres of influence, abilities and powers, all frequently cross-referenced to similar and/or related entities. As such, it is a treasure-trove of ideas and inspiration for writers of all sorts, as well as game masters looking for a new foe to thwart the in-game machinations of a tabletop role-playing group.
Reading such a book cover to cover can be tedious and challenging. It is not a novel or other narrative, but rather a reference work. As such a resource, however, it will prove immensely valuable to all but the most advanced scholars of the subject. In that aspect, I highly recommend the Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures.
Rating: Four of Five Stars
Reviewed by Bill Bodden
Note: The author received a gratis copy of the ebook version of this volume to assist in reviewing it.