On this, the spookiest day of the year, we thought we’d share some images and text from books which tackle the subject of demons, devils, spirits and witches; all creatures regarded as a serious threat to body and soul in times past.
Our first tome is The hierarchie of the blessed angels, a long didactic poem by the playwright Thomas Heywood (ca. 1570-1641) which also features Lucifer and his fallen angels, and includes many folkloric anecdotes and tales of demonic creatures engaged in spreading dread and devilment. Note the tumbling angels falling towards a demonic mouth on the right hand side of the title page below.
One illustration within the volume depicts the Archangel Michael standing victorious over the defeated Satan and his minions:
A detail from another appears to show a court of horned demons in hell:
Elsewhere, men of God try to ward off the forces of evil:
The poem has many evocative descriptions of various creatures up to the kind of mischief and mayhem you might associate with Halloween:
Another passage vividly describes the marks by which evil creatures may be identified, including hooked noses and flaming eyes:
One of the anecdotes later in the text tells of a German illusionist who performed an aerial display with a woman and child in tow, only to end his life being burned at the stake as a witch:
Other works on demonology held in the Library include a late 16th-century Latin tome by a German theologian, Peter Thyraeus (1546-1601) and an 18th-century pamphlet by theologian William Whiston (1667-1752):
The latter work describes the manner in which demons were cast out in the early years of Christianity:
Whatever you are doing this Halloween, stay safe out there, and watch out for things that go bump in the night!