Monday 17 October 2011

The Origins of Satan (a sort of biography)

My readers know that I am fascinated by the Devil in folklore and literature, especially but not exclusively in his Christian form. So I was so happy to discover on Youtube a very instructive and complete video about the origins of the Satan character and its development and evolution in Western culture.

I knew a little about it, but in sum very little.What I find particularly interesting is the plural origins of the Devil and its inconsistent, often contradictory forms. For instance, the Serpent of the Genesis was never supposed to be Satan, merely a cunning trickster who fooled God's creation. The Original Sin, as written, is a practical joke. In The Book of Job, Satan is on good terms with God and follow his will. The Christians, and often not early ones, developed him into what/who he is now, the ultimate bogeyman. But what a fascinating character! An amoral underdog, ready to revolt against the most powerful being in the world, knowing every weakness of mankind and being able to exploit them, a seducer... I don't want to be like him, but I would love to play him, as I mentioned before. Evil characters are very often more interesting than good ones. But to understand a character better, it is important to know his origins, his genesis, so to speak. So here it is.

1 comment:

Mantan Calaveras said...

It's a very curious subject.

The serpent trickster from genesis is found in practically every culture on the planet. Particularly, you see the serpent coiling up the spine to the third eye of spiritual awareness in kundalini yoga, and the same imagery in the caduceus, the "staff of hermes" the roman deity of communication. In gnosticism the biblical god is seen as a sort of a Frankenstein monster which delusionally believes itself to be god. The serpent rises up the tree of knowledge to the fruit of gnosis, or knowledge of the true spiritual god.

In voodoo, and it's African originator Yoruba, Eshu is the lord of the crossroads and communication. This is supposedly why bluesmen went to the crossroads to make deals with the devil. In order to communicate with the gods, you have to go to Papa Legba first, and he's a trickster. He'll play games with what you think you know. Elegba carries a shepherd's crook, the serpent staff, which goes back to ancient Egypt. Moses also carried the serpent staff.

The traditional depiction of Christian satan has him carrying a trident. In hinduism, shiva carries a trident, and has a snake coiled around the neck.

Tridents and shepherd's crooks.