In defense of The Hierophant

I had a bit of an epiphany about The Hierophant the other day (I love when that happens). As I was looking at the card it suddenly struck me that perhaps many of the traditionally negative attributes associated with The Hierophant are because of our own expectations of spiritual authority figures.

Pearls of Wisdom Hierophant

When one considers the spiritual leader most often associated with this card is The Pope and when one looks at the history of the papacy and its abuses, it’s very easy to get a bad taste in your mouth. It’s not limited to the papacy; it seems to me that powerful high priests in ancient pagan religions created the same kind of negative attitudes. Whenever spiritual leaders acquire power (and mix in politics) we seem to see similar patterns develop. Consider this however, what came first the chicken or the egg? Is it that the types of people drawn to positions of authority (whether spiritual or political) possess character traits that cause them to abuse this power? Or that the demands put upon them by their followers force them to become that way?

I remember reading James Michener’s book The Source and one point he makes is that people get the gods they demand. Perhaps the same is true of spiritual leaders. When one gets passed the hype, at his core Jesus appears to have been a teacher. He used parables and personal examples to get his message through to his followers. He was not trying to force them to submit. He was just showing them a new way of relating to Yahweh and each other. Clearly that has mutated as his spiritual successors have acquired more prominence and power but did it have to be that way? What happened that allowed the papacy to claim such power over people’s lives?

I believe the sad but true fact is that many (of not most) people out there want to be told what to do with their lives. They desire a rule book, a set of instructions telling them what is good and what is bad; how to live their lives so that they will go to heaven. They want a clear map to help them find their way through this confusing, sometimes dark and often chaotic thing we call life. Lest it seem that I am picking on Catholicism (it’s just the Christian religion with which I’m most familiar), I see the same trend in various Pagan sects. How many high priestesses and high priests become de facto parent figures for their coven? How many find themselves besieged by followers (not coven mates) pleading “tell me what to do?” It drains them and in my opinion is the reason that paid clergy has become such a hot topic. If coven leaders are being called upon to service so many different needs among their co-religionists it leaves them with little time for anything else. It makes the idea of being compensated for their efforts seem reasonable. Of course my problem is that if I didn’t want to be told what do as a Catholic I certainly refuse to be told what to do as a Pagan.

Blue Rose Hierophant

In my current favorite TV show Supernatural there is an angel named Castiel. At several points Castiel is asked to lead the other angels. They plead with him to tell them what to do next. He tries to explain the concept of free will to them but they insist that they require his guidance. Each time he tries to guide or lead them things turn into a clusterfuck but is that his fault? He is trying his best to help his fellow angels because they feel unable to make decisions on their own. At the same time, Castiel is clearly not competent to lead them. His intentions are good but the results are not. Is that how abusive spiritual leaders are born? Are they initially teachers seeking to help querents, those lost souls seeking guidance, whose demands eventually push the teacher to make increasingly autocratic decisions?

The truth is that I don’t have the answers. I’m simply pondering this stuff and sharing it with whoever ends up reading this post. I guess at the end of the day all I can hope for is to raise questions in the minds of others; to find teachers rather than spiritual leaders. Maybe if we stop accepting or expecting that leaders (spiritual or political) have the right to ignore our wishes and requirements and tell us how to live, we’ll be able to create a better world. I remain eternally hopeful.

Blue Rose Devil

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: Yes, we create our own Devils. We, ourselves. Without any help from anyone else. We can do this trick with no hands. All we have to do is experience a willingness, no matter how fleeting, to give up. To abdicate responsibility. To refrain from thinking. That desire to offer up those gifts that are our most magical and filled with light (our Inner Power and Free Will) creates the vacuum for the Darkness to come in. An invited guest that, once firmly and comfortably ensconced, is very difficult to oust. These days we call it “selling your Soul to the Devil”. And nothing could be more true. Many a rational mind will repel from such a notion. The idea that we each create our own personal Devils or Dark Spaces, is an unattractive idea. It is far more comforting to entertain the notion that Darkness/Evil/The Devil exists as a separate Entity that wreaks havoc upon innocent travelers who have the misfortune to fall victim to him or his followers. But as much as we may like this to be so, it is not. This does not mean that we cannot fall victim to the Darkness of another being, another traveler who has forfeited himself to his darker nature. We certainly can. However, no matter what we may suffer at the hands of another Fool’s “Devil”, it is nothing compared to what we suffer when we succumb to a Devil of our own making. In the first case, we can lose much. We can lose life, limb, a loved one, our sexual innocence, our property. We can lose little or we can lose much. But what we do not lose is ourselves. We do not lose our own Souls. We know this because spiritual “forward progress” can still be made. The Journey may become more difficult or the path may divert into a harsh terrain not previously envisioned or anticipated, but the Soul can continue forward. If it wants to. And that is the key. For even if you think you have observed an innocent Soul succumb to the ultimate Darkness because of the pain or evil inflicted by the Devil of a fellow traveler, this is not the case. Think again. For what has in actuality occurred is that, as a result of that victimization, the innocent Soul experiences a loss, translating to an emptiness, translating to a fear, translating to a need of such proportions that he now creates his own Devil.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card is one of attraction that seduces and imprisons, losing yourself in the false enchantment and false promises of an illusion. The masked man is the dream lover who seduces us from reality and promises a happily ever after that will never arrive.  He is the male counterpart to the Spider Woman we saw in last week’s Transformational Tarot Devil.   It is a trap into which we fall.

The image of this Devil reminds me of Charles Boyer in Gaslight – a seductive, sociopathic husband who tries to drive his wife insane. This is the abusive lover who undermines our self-esteem and cuts us off from our friends so we are isolated, vulnerable and dependent upon him. It is the parent who cuts away at our sense of self-worth and confidence so that we feel unable to break away and create our own life. This Devil is everyone in our lives who is supposed to love and nurture us but who undermines us and creates a sense of helplessness and dependence.

The key to liberating ourselves is realizing that we allow ourselves to remain in this trap. We accept the false illusion and give up our power. We allow ourselves to become or to remain weak, convincing ourselves that we will be happier this way. Anyone who has ever given up their dream to maintain the status quo or who has forced themselves to conform when they have wanted to rebel has been trapped by this Devil.

What is important to remember that we can climb that fence, break down that barrier and reclaim our power if we so desire. We have all seen or heard of amazing stories about people who have overcome amazing obstacles to achieve happiness in their lives. One example who always stayed with me is Liz Murray, the young woman whose parents were drug abusers, one (or possibly both) died of AIDS, she and her sister were homeless and yet she still managed to stay in school, get good grades and get accepted to Harvard. What a tribute to the human spirit and our ability to overcome anything.

For every abused child who becomes a child abuser there are hundreds who do not fall into this trap. For every child raised in poverty who becomes a life-long welfare recipient, there are hundreds who manage to get decent jobs and live productive lives. So while poverty and hardship are indeed major obstacles, they are only permanent traps if we allow them to become so.  It is our choice.  In the words of Sarah Connor in The Terminator movies “no fate but what we make”.  We can only remain imprisoned if we allow it.

Transformational Tarot Devil

Transformational Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games (2006) ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Passion at it’s most primal level. Erotica and sensual pleasure. A tendency towards mischievousness. Obsession, temptation, blind impulse. Feeling out of control. Dependence upon another that can lead to misery. Self-destructive tendencies. Ignoring one’s inborn code of ethics. Lack of Balance. It may indicate an inability to trust. The seeker may be experiencing limitation in a current situation which narrow the perception of options. On the other hand this card can imply an attempt to break the chains of psychological bondage. Separation, divorce. It could also indicate pleasure in the subjugation of others: sadomasochistic tendencies.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This is the Spider Woman, the dark lady who lures you into her web and traps you before you even realize what has happened. She seduces, entices, attracts and repels. Her confidence and aura of self-control and power is a powerful bait. She is the Black Lady of whom Cher sings (“Black Lady sang and danced and lit the candles one by one”) She is attractive and soulless. able to capture you in her web and suck all your energy, all your life force. She is the eternal vampire who takes and never gives. As Billy Joel sang “she’s so fascinating that you stand there waiting while she comes in for the kill”. If she doesn’t direct the demon’s actions then at a minimum she approves and possibly enjoys them.

She could just as easily be male. Think of the lonely hearts con man – a sociopathic charmer who can smile as he empties the bank account. This Devil is the dominatrix who teaches you to beg for her abuse; the addiction which holds you in its thrall; or the lack of self-esteem that keeps you captive in a lousy situation. But the key to overcoming this Devil is being willing to say “Stop”. We only become her victims if that is what we want. If we are finally able to wake up and see how we have become trapped then we have the potential to break free. It may no be easy or fun but it can be done. But first you have to take the initiative

Do the ends truly justify the means?

The ends justify the means. I’ve heard this statement presented as unshakeable, unalterable fact. It seems to get used when the person speaking is justifying some behavior h/she knows is probably wrong. I’ve seen it used to excuse military actions (usually cloaked in some “we’re bringing democracy to this backwards nation” rhetoric). I’ve seen it used to justify cheating in school in order to get better grades or pass tests. It sounds reasonable, but I’ve never been able to buy into this concept.

I don’t understand how we can consider something a moral victory if, in order to achieve it, we need to become as “bad” as the people we’re fighting. For example the “war on terror” has caused the United States, land of the free and home of the brave, to violate a number of personal freedoms and infringe on our liberties in order to ensure safety. When you ask many average Americans how they feel about airport security and strip searching, their responses tend to be of the “well as long as it keeps us safe” variety. Reality is that no matter what steps we take to prevent “terrorists”, they figure more creative ways to circumvent these measures. We willingly give up our rights for the illusion of safety and believe the ends (keeping us safe) justifies the means (the violation of our personal freedoms and Constitutional rights)

Another aspect of the “war on terror” that many people don’t like but view as a necessary evil is torture. We may cloak it in more politically appropriate terms but basically that’s what it is. The United States is allowing military and intelligence personnel to torture certain individuals in the belief that it will reveal crucial information that will enable our government to defeat terrorists. In reality all that is accomplished is that the individual tortured will say anything, absolutely anything, to make it stop. Cessation of pain is a powerful motivator. I’m not claiming that useful information may not be gained in this way but if we resort to torture and violation of civil and human rights then how are we any better than those we profess are terrorists?

How often have we heard law enforcement personnel makes statements about “knowing” the suspect was guilty of something, even if it was not the specific crime for which he was arrested. In other words, it doesn’t matter if he is wrongfully convicted because in the long run he will commit another crime that would result in his conviction and imprisonment. Putting him away now prevents others from being hurt by his actions so the ends justifies the means. I think what bothers me most about this mindset is the inherent hypocrisy. It implies that any action taken, no matter how repugnant or heinous, is acceptable as long as the outcome is “just”. This mindset is what leads to bombings at abortion clinics and police brutality towards suspects. They may truly believe they are on the side of the righteous, so they are justified in their behaviors.

Adherents to this mindset seem oblivious to the fact that they have become as guilty as those they profess to battle. Are we truly justified in committing atrocities against others because they are “evil”? It seems to me that this battle cry is often wielded when the issue at hand is so subjective that it is impossible to reach an impartial conclusion. As has often been stated, one group’s terrorists are another people’s freedom fighters. And if, as we have so often been assured, history is written by the winners then perhaps we have been deluded in thinking there is such thing as a righteous war or justified means. Maybe there are certain behaviors that are just wrong regardless of reason. Is torture ever really justified? Is cruelty ever justified? Is rape or willfully creating situations that result in the starvation and death of others every justified?

I’m not making any claims to moral superiority. If I don’t engage in this particular form of self-delusion, there are others I seem to commit with wanton abandon. The truth is that I don’t have the answers and even if I did they can only apply to me. I’m not trying to tell others what moral choices they should make. I can only point things out and hope that it makes other folks stop and think for a minute. Maybe if we each consider these issues and lead by example, we can change some attitudes one person at time.

Celtic Wisdom The Challenger

Celtic Wisdom Challenger

Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999
ISBN 0-89281-720-8

The Book says: The Challenger of Will makes the soul question what is accepted and find true release from fear. He speaks words of liberation and wisdom to those who can hear them. Those who hear only what they want to hear, and demand that others obey them, petrify the living stream of tradition into dead formulas. How are you listening to yourself?
Fear, bondage, extreme challenge, misery, obsession, resentment, role-playing for effect, dependence, manipulation, humorlessness, self-sabotage, inability to realize goals.
REVERSED: Understanding, release, breaking the spell, respite from fears, obsessions or worries, recognition of the true self, challenges are opportunities for growth.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: It’s interesting but when I see this card the first thing that crosses my mind is the phrase “dialing for destiny”. The Cernunnos figure seems to be frozen, trapped for all eternity in his familiar pose. While above him the larger figure – human or god, seems to be working a cosmic telephone and dialing some sort of code. Will the code offer freedom to Cernunnos, freeing him from his frozen state? Why is he holding onto the serpent and the torc? If he releases them will he be able to free himself from his prison. Or perhaps Cernunnos is the guide, leading us through the hedge of leaves in into the heart of yourself. Maybe he knows the code for the larger figure to dial to free himself from his familial bondage, his ancestral expectations.

It brings to mind the adage about the “sins of the father”.  Are they the chains that bind this figure – the “sins” of his ancestors? Certainly we have all experienced the prison that is our family’s hopes and expectations for us. How much more prevalent was this attitude in earlier societies? Everyone had a place and a task. But what if you didn’t wish to follow other’s plans for you? Then they became an oppressive prison, a burden and an obstacle. So the challenge to us may be to break free of these expectations and obligations and listen to our own desires and dreams.

Wheel of Change Devil

Wheel of Change Devil

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
ISBN #0-89281-609-0

The Book Says: When the Devil is a part of your reading; you are in the midst of an intense situation. Perhaps you are experiencing (possibly in excess) the pleasures and pains of living, in yourself or in those around you. Possibly, when you draw the Devil, the situation calls for more emotional engagement. Maybe it is a time to examine your attachments and learn the lesson of moderation. Look around you and really see the part you play in the natural world.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card explores the wildness and untamed energy of The Devil. This is the god of the wild woods who invites us to come dancing beneath the brilliant moon. His wicked grin promises fun and merriment, freeing yourself from the strictures imposed by society and everyday life. His drum will transport you to another place and time; a world free from the expectations of others and daily responsibilities. But be warned because once you have “danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight” you will never be the same. It may become easy to walk away from life’s burdens and lose yourself in his wild dance.

Think of Dionysus’ Maenads and their divine madness. They would lose themselves in the worship of the god and attack any who invaded their revels – be it son, husband, father or lover. For this god of the wild wood is a demanding and possessive god. He can take over your life and you can lose your will in his celebrations. He can liberate your spirit or enslave your soul. He is one of the guardians of the mysteries of drunkenness and madness. It is in his honor that rebels and pioneers in the 60s explored mind-altering, psychotropic drugs and how they affected their perceptions of the world. But we must be cautious of crossing that point of no return and losing ourselves in the heart of madness. This Devil is our guide to the brink of self-revelation and freedom, but if we are not careful we can become prisoners of his revels.

Always an outlier, never a trend

The older I grow the more I realize that I cultivate and revel in my self-perceived status as an outlier, a misfit, a weirdo, an oddball. One of the earliest caveats I can remember my parents instilling in me is not to do something simply because everyone else is doing it. The phrase “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” was tossed about a lot. As a result I developed a knee jerk reaction against being what I perceive as a follower. The more popular an opinion is the more likely I am to find reason to disagree with it. The more popular a book or television show, the less likely I am to watch it (at least while it’s still popular anyway). Even the activities and hobbies I do enjoy, I tend to share with only a small group of friends. For example I am almost rabid about the TV show Supernatural. If you’re my friend you know that because I have made your ears bleed with analyses of the characters and plots as well as bitched about what irritated me. However I only recently joined a FaceBook fan group because I am well aware that there are fans out there whose opinions of the show and various character relationships will irritate me. So why subject myself to them or vice versa.

Dark Goddess 6 of Air

Being an outlier can sometimes be lonely. I often find that not only do I avoid following the trend, I don’t understand the mindset of those who do. For example, not only have I never desired to become a mother I cannot understand why anyone else would want to either. I have no desire to impose my attitudes on others but I cling to them fairly fiercely nonetheless.

Being an outlier means that you are often misunderstood. My sense of humor is quirky at best. Comments I intend to be humorous can often come off as dark, sarcastic or bewildering to someone who doesn’t know me or doesn’t get it. I know this about myself. I’m the first to admit that I’m an acquired taste. I have a feeling I have often unintentionally alienated people I would have liked as friends because I don’t realize until it’s too late that maybe that comment wasn’t appropriate. A bit of moderation on my part right result in fewer hurt feelings and more social connections. I have to admit that I can be quite oblivious to how my pronouncements sound to others until it’s too late.

One thing I know about myself is that I hate it when something I enjoy becomes popular. For example I have always colored. It is one of my few creative outlets. From the time I can remember happiness was a new box of 64 Crayola crayons. The smell of a new box affects me the way “new car” aroma affects car guys. I still have Barbie coloring books that I bought in the early 80s. Now coloring for adults has become a trend and while I enjoy the new adult oriented coloring books out there, I detest feeling as though I’ve joined the popular kids’ table. I have the same issue with Tarot. As long as it’s a fringe profession and interest I’ll be happy. Recently it’s become a popular party game with folks who have never used a Tarot deck before (rather like Ouija boards were in the 70s). I would never try to limit anyone’s access to Tarot knowledge but using it in such a silly manner irritates me. Once again, not trying to make any rules to stop folks from doing it this way but I’ll be glad when this trend passes.

Dark Goddess Wheel

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because I have decided to abandon that bastion of trendiness and popularity – Facebook. I only recently re-joined because I wanted to connect with my Tarot friends but I quickly realized that Facebook gives me hives. It’s pimping of my information offends me. If my ass is going to be sold then I deserve a piece of the profits. So I’ve decided to reclaim my outlier status and once again depart Facebook. It wasn’t until I made this decision that I realized how much Facebook irritates me. Yes, I love the fact that I can easily keep in touch with friends. However the truth is if I can’t bother writing an email or calling them on the phone I have to wonder how close our relationship is. I am staying on Twitter and Pinterest and I’ve joined MeWe. So if you’re on any of these platforms and want to keep in touch – please do. As for me, after July 31st Facebook will be a memory in my rearview mirror.

Tarot Truths Tyr’s Day: The Lovers – Wheel of Change Tarot

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997

The Book says: When the Lovers card appears in a reading, it indicates recognition of what is self and what is other in the context of a relationship. The card is a symbol of partnership and collaboration, but also of the division and isolation we sometimes feel in relationships. The Lovers represents any relationship in which the parties to the action are partially or wholly defined in the context of their interaction. For example, a buyer and seller can exist only in the relationship they form by their interaction; one cannot exist without the other, and the terms of sale become meaningless.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card reminds me of a yin-yang symbol – the combined forces of light and dark, of positive and negative. Both are separate yet together.

This does describe a successful, healthy relationship. Each partner should remain an individual while at the same time both are part of this new creation called “the relationship”. We have all seen relationships where one partner’s personality becomes subsumed by the other partner’s and by the relationship. They lose all sense of themselves, of being an individual. As a result if the relationship ends the partner becomes lost and unsure how to proceed. This card symbolizes the importance of keeping your integrity while still being able to blend your energies with that of someone else.

This Lovers card reminds me of how we are changed slightly depending upon the relationship we are in. There are different facets of ourselves revealed in a work relationship versus a family relationship versus a romantic relationship. We may all be slightly different people on this list than we would be on any other list. Something about the synergy between ourselves and the other partners in the relationship creates a different whole. The Lovers in this deck also reminds us of the importance of integrating the different aspects of ourselves to create a healthy and happy whole. We all have light and dark sides but if we ignore either of these aspects we create imbalance in our lives.

I am reminded of an episode of the classic Star Trek series when a transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk into two distinctly different personalities. One is aggressive, violent and passionate, while the other is compassionate, calm and thoughtful. Over the course of the episode Kirk and the others come to realize that if these two aspects of his personality are not reintegrated, both with die. So no matter how ugly or repulsive the more aggressive persona might have seemed, without it Captain Kirk could not function as the commander of the Enterprise. This lesson is symbolized by this Lovers card. Light without dark, positive without negative creates an unhealthy situation. Even physics reminds us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our goal is to learn to blend and explore these energies in a healthy, loving way.

Accumulating vs. Minimizing

I have recently realized that I have hoarder tendencies. I seem to confuse the owning of things with acquiring knowledge – as long as I have the book then I will attain the information it possesses through osmosis and won’t need to actually read it. As a result I tend to hold on to book much longer than necessary. This has recently become a problem because I am running out of space. I have stacks of books piled all around the house. I have also managed to accumulate a collection of Barbie and fashion dolls in which I no longer have the interest I once did. I look at these things and wonder how the hell this happened?

The books I understand – I love reading and always have. As a child I didn’t always have the funds to purchase books (thank all the gods for libraries) so once I got a job and had some extra income it was natural that’s where a portion of my salary would go. I now have shelves overflowing with books ranging from cookbooks to herbal and alternative healing to paganism and Tarot. I have occasionally found myself releasing a book because I no longer have a strong interest in the topic only to reacquire it a few years later and I fall down yet another rabbit hole.

My accumulation tendencies are offset by bouts of minimalism. I become determined to clear out the clutter and ruthlessly weed out books I know I’ll never read/use. I set to work and donate piles of books to a local library’s used book store or list them on Paperback Swap. I become focused and driven, determined to reduce the amount of “stuff” I have. When the bloodletting is done I look around with pride at what I’ve managed to cut away. Then two weeks later I find myself looking for one of the books sacrificed in the purge and end up re-acquiring it. And the cycle continues. I’m hopeless.

Shadow Side Saturday: Supernatural’s Nasty Angels & Humorous Demons

Okay – I might have mentioned that I’ve become a fan of the show Supernatural (okay, full disclosure – I love the Impala and Dean). One of the aspect I’ve found fascinating is the portrayal of angels and demons on the show. The writers have chosen to make these creatures complex, multi-faceted characters. There is no simplistic belief that all angels are good and all demons are bad. There have been angels who commit atrocities in the righteous belief that they are doing God’s work. There have also been demons who help the shows’ two protagonists (monster hunting brothers Dean & Sam Winchester) due to enlightened self-interest. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the show for me (well after the two brothers).

Sam & Dean Winchester with Baby

Sam & Dean Winchester with Baby

In many New Age and modern traditions, angels are seen as winged guardians and helpers; beings who are there to protect and help humanity when possible. However when one explores more ancient Judeo-Christian tradition we see far different descriptions of angels and their responsibilities. They are God’s soldiers and police force. When humanity doesn’t toe the line and Yahweh has had enough of his recalcitrant, disobedient creations he sends his angels down to smite us. Let’s face it, Michael the Archangel could give Norman Schwarzkopf tips in the art of war. How many times has Yahweh punished humanity using the angels? Yahweh can be fairly unforgiving and rather vindictive. The angels are the ones who administer Yahweh’s justice.

There are angels who watch humanity, recording and remembering what we do. Apparently they do not interfere in humans’ lives unless instructed to do so. There are angels who support Yahweh’s throne and sing his praises. The archangels are often portrayed as Yahweh’s right hands, his lieutenants. There are the cherubim with their four different faces (ox, lion, human and eagle). None of these creatures seem to be the warm and fuzzy angelic beings so prevalent in New Age thought today.

Uriel

Uriel – an angel who has no use for humanity

Over the course of the several seasons since angels have appeared on Supernatural they have proven to be vindictive, violent, willing to maim, torture and brutalize in order to achieve their goals. They often cloak their actions with claims that they are God’s will or for the greater good but they are as violent and destructive as any demon. Their willingness to smite entire towns in order to achieve their goals is frightening and quite eye-opening. When the angels turn their wrath on each other, the havoc created is . . . cosmic.

Naomi

Naomi – angelic torturer

There are angels who willingly torture other angels during various battles for supremacy in Heaven. Angels who willingly ally with demons to achieve their goals. There are angels who happily sacrifice human lives and souls in pursuit of their agendas. Many of the angels in Supernatural are portrayed as looking down upon humans – referring to them as “mud monkeys” and “larva”. These angels are infuriated by Yahweh’s favoritism towards humanity. They may be forced to help us but they’re not happy about it. While the individual angels may not be based in ancient tradition, some of their actions are similar to those described in the Bible.

CastielSeason9

Castiel – a helpful angel (most of the time)

In the Supernatural universe, even demons have different levels. Some demons are humans whose souls were corrupted due to their behaviors and decisions while living. Some (like Lucifer and Azazel) are fallen angels who defied Yahweh and were punished. Others (like Lilith) were created by the fallen angels and never lived as humans. You also have such well-known demons as Cain and the Knights of Hell he helped create. Based on the description, the Knights of Hell sound like the demonic equivalent of archangels. Demons can possess humans and take over their bodies, forcing them to engage in horrific acts that often leave the hosts traumatized, assuming they survive the experience.

Spn510-0505

Meg the demon – a former enemy turned mistrusted ally.

Most of the demons behave in ways we might expect – seducing and corrupting humans to the dark side, committing acts of mayhem and violence and bartering for human souls. Some are more violent and aggressive than others. Crossroad demons are rather like persistent salespeople – the won’t pursue you but once you make a deal with one you can be sure she or he will collect.

Image row

Crowley – King of the Crossroads and King of Hell

Over the course of the series some demons have proven very helpful to the Winchester brothers – although their motivations were not always clear or benevolent. Ruby shows up at the start of Season 3 with a demon-slaying knife that aids the brothers in slaying some of the demons that escaped when the devil’s gate opened. Crowley, King of the Crossroads, has proven quite helpful to the brothers during their efforts to defeat Lucifer and short-circuit Armageddon. Even Meg, a demon who was quite an enemy of the brothers in Season 1, returns in later seasons and prove to be quite an asset. The Winchester brothers can never full trust these demons because each time their helpfulness has proven to mask a hidden agenda. Sometimes their aid is not worth the price that must be paid.

Angel or demon, in Supernatural all have the ability to prove dangerous to humanity. As Dean has noted numerous times “Angels are dicks” and if one is a believer in free will this certainly will seem to be the case. Angels appear to ensure we follow God’s cosmic plan for us. If we resist they tend to get aggressive in their efforts to bring us in line. Demons are corrupting influences and, as expected, quite detrimental to humanity’s spiritual health. However they also raise several valid points regarding humanity’s tendency towards self-destruction and the fact that we cause more damage to each other than any demons ever could. I find these portrayals both thought provoking and refreshing. Instead of falling into the simplistic approach that angels are good and have humanity’s best interests at heart and demons are bad, corrupting and evil influences, the writers have created a multitude of shades of gray. For better or worse, these are not your grandmother’s angels or demons.