Evil, Exorcism, and Magic


This research unit considers the different interpretations of malevolent figures such as demons and monsters as seen in ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Biblical material. It aims to understand how such liminal beings were represented in these different, though connected, contexts, and how they were characterized in both textual and artistic depictions. Demons and other supernatural beings were often constructed in the negative: created and defined through measures that could be taken to protect against them or exorcize them from an afflicted individual. The ways in which such figures could be fought or expelled, as well as the qualities that defined a number of benevolent supernatural figures that worked to oppose their malevolence, speaks to their important, but often fluid and shifting, roles in each context and culture. This research unit will consider the wide nature and variety of malevolent figures that may be found among these connected contexts in the ancient and biblical world, and in doing so, examine how their identification and classification informs the societies creating them. It particularly invites research that addresses the demonic beings as cultural constructions, and examines them through anthropological and sociological means.


Ancient Near East, Biblical and Related Texts, Demons, Ritual, Exorcism, Magic


Tupá Guerra
Museu do TCU Guido Mondim

Gina Konstantopoulos
University of Tsukuba

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers

Demons and Illness

Evil beings, in general, are often connected to specific illnesses and diseases. The influence of such creatures like demons and monsters figure in ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Biblical contexts. This session invites papers that consider aspects of diseases, maladies and illness caused or associated with evil beings, especially in light of how such figures were protected against, and the rituals and texts utilized to cure those afflicted. In particular, this session focus on the influences such figures can have on the human body in a variety of ancient contexts, approaching this topic as connected to a number of key questions, such as:  How are demons connected to disease and illness, and how are they opposed? When do demons function as a vector for diseases, in contrast to the embodiment of disease, and how might either affect their characterization? What distinctions may be drawn between representations of demons as the cause for mental as opposed to physical illness, and how might either connect to the larger discourse of possession and exorcism in the ancient and biblical world? The session invites papers that focus on these themes, as well as the broader issues connected to demons and illness.