Worship of Satan, or the devil, the personality or principle regarded in the Judeo-Christian tradition as embodying absolute evil, in complete antithesis to God. Cults associated with satanism have been documented, however sketchily, back to the 17th century. Their central feature is the black mass, a corrupted and inverted rendition of the Christian Eucharist. Practices are said to include animal sacrifice and deviant sexual activity. Worship is motivated by the belief that Satan is more powerful than the forces of good, and so is more capable of bringing about the results sought by his adherents.
Learn more about satanism with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Spirit or power of evil. Though sometimes used to refer to demons, the term more often designates the prince of evil spirits. In the Bible the Devil is known as Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. In Judaism, Satan emerges as subservient to God and as an adversary and accuser of Job and other humans. In postbiblical traditions he emerges as the tempter of humankind and is responsible for all the sins in the Bible. Christian theology holds that his main task is to tempt humans to reject the way of life and redemption in favour of sin and death. In the Qurhamzahān the Devil is frequently associated with Iblīs; he tempts the unfaithful but not the true believer. In Hinduism there is no principal devil, although there are a variety of demons or devilish beings. Buddhists also recognize the existence of many demons, and Mara, the Buddha's opponent and tempter, is sometimes identified as a specific devil.
Learn more about devil with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii).
Learn more about Tasmanian devil with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The Devil is the title given to the supernatural being, who, in mainstream Christianity, Islam, and some other religions, is believed to be a powerful, evil entity and the tempter of humankind. The Devil is commonly associated with heretics, infidels, and other unbelievers.
The name "Devil" derives from the Greek word diabolos, which means "slanderer" or "accuser". In mainstream Christianity, God and the Devil are usually portrayed as fighting over the souls of humans, with the Devil seeking to lure people away from God and into Sheol. The Devil commands a force of lesser evil spirits, commonly known as demons. The Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) does not assign this level of personification to the devil; there, the Adversary (Ha-satan) is a servant of God whose job it is to test humankind.
This entity is commonly referred to by a variety of names, including Abbadon, Angra Mainyu, Satan, Asmodai, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Belial, and Iblis. Many other religions have a trickster or tempter figure that is similar to the Devil. Modern conceptions of the Devil include the concept that it symbolizes humans' own lower nature or sinfulness.
People put the concept of the Devil to use in social and political conflicts, claiming that their opponents are influenced by the Devil or even willingly supporting the Devil. The Devil has also been used to explain why others hold beliefs that are considered to be false and ungodly.
In the book of Job (Iyov), ha-satan is the title, not the proper name, of an angel submitted to God; he is the divine court's chief prosecutor. In Judaism ha-satan does not make evil, rather points out to God the evil inclinations and actions of humankind. In essence ha-satan has no power unless humans do evil things. After God points out Job's piety, ha-satan asks for permission to test the faith of Job. The righteous man is afflicted with loss of family, property, and later, health, but he still stays faithful to God. At the conclusion of this book God appears as a whirlwind, explaining to all that divine justice is inscrutable. In the epilogue Job's possessions are restored and he has a second family to "replace" the one that died.
In the Torah, ha-satan is mentioned several times. The main time is during the incident of the golden calf. As the source of people's evil inclination, or yetser harah, he is responsible for the Israelites building the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah from God. In the book of 1 Chronicles 21:1, ha-satan incites David to an unlawful census.
In mainstream Christianity the Devil is also known as Satan and sometimes as Lucifer, although most scholars recognize the reference in Isaiah 14:12 to Lucifer, or the Morning Star, to be a reference to the Babylonian king (see, for example, the entries in Nave's Topical Bible, the Holman Bible Dictionary and the Adam Clarke Commentary). Some consider the Devil to be an angel who rebelled against God and has consequently been condemned to the Lake of Fire. He is described as hating all humanity, or more accurately creation, opposing God, spreading lies and wreaking havoc on the souls of mankind. Other Christians consider the devil in the Bible to refer figuratively to human sin and temptation and to any human system in opposition to God. In the Bible, the devil is identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the dragon in the Book of Revelation (e.g. Rev. 12:9), and the tempter of the Gospels (e.g. Mat. 4:1).
According to Muslim theology, Iblis was expelled from the grace of God when he disobeyed God by choosing not to pay homage to Adam, the father of all mankind. He claimed to be superior to Adam, on the grounds that man was created of earth unlike himself. As for the angels, they prostrated before Adam to show their homage and obedience to God. However, Iblis, adamant in his view that man is inferior, and unlike angels was given the ability to choose, made a choice of not obeying God. This caused him to be expelled by God, a fact that Iblis blamed on humanity. Initially, the Devil was successful in deceiving Adam, but once his intentions became clear, Adam and Eve repented to God and were freed from their misdeeds and forgiven. God gave them a strong warning about Iblis and the fires of Hell and asked them and their children (humankind) to stay away from the deceptions of their senses caused by the Devil.
According to the verses of the Qur’an, the Devil's mission until the Qiyamah or Resurrection Day (yaum-ul-qiyama) is to deceive Adam's children (mankind). After that, he will be put into the fires of Hell along with those whom he has deceived. The Devil is also referred to as one of the jinns, as they are all created from the smokeless fire. The Qur'an does not depict Iblis as the enemy of God, as God is supreme over all his creations and Iblis is just one of his creations. Iblis's single enemy is humanity. He intends to discourage humans from obeying God. Thus, humankind is warned to struggle (jihad) against the mischiefs of the Satan and temptations he puts them in. The ones who succeed in this are rewarded with Paradise (jannath ul firdaus), attainable only by righteous conduct.
In the Gathas, the oldest texts of the Zoroastrian Avesta, believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the poet does not mention a manifest adversary. Ahura Mazda's Creation is "truth", asha. The "lie" (druj) is manifest only as decay or chaos, not an entity.
Today, the Parsis of India largely accept the 19th century interpretation that Angra Mainyu is the 'Destructive Emanation' of Ahura Mazda. Instead of struggling against Mazda himself, Angra Mainyu battles Spenta Mainyu, Mazda's 'Creative Emanation.'
"Watch over yourselves, for the Evil One is lying in wait, ready to entrap you. Gird yourselves against his wicked devices, and, led by the light of the name of the All-Seeing God, make your escape from the darkness that surroundeth you.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son wrote:
"This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan - the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside.
Shoghi Effendi, the head of the religion from 1921–1957 wrote:
"Regarding your question relative to the condition of those people who are described in the Gospel as being possessed of devils; this should be interpreted figuratively; devil or Satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation.
Few neopagan reconstructionist traditions recognize Satan or the Devil outright. However, many neopagan groups worship some sort of Horned God, for example as a consort of the Great Goddess in Wicca. These gods usually reflect mythological figures such as Cernunnos or Pan, and any similarity they may have to the Christian Devil seems to date back only to the 19th century, when a Christian reaction to Pan's growing importance in literature and art resulted in his image being translated to that of the Devil.
Some variants deny the existence of God and the Devil altogether, but still call themselves Satanists, such as Anton LaVey's Church Of Satan which sees Satan as a representation of the primal and natural state of mankind.
On the other hand in Hinduism, which provides plenty of room for counterpoint, there is also the notion of dvaita (dualism) where there is interplay between good and evil tendencies. A prominent asura is Rahu whose characteristics are similar to those of the Devil. However, Hindus, and Vaishnavites in particular, believe that an avatar of Vishnu incarnates to defeat evil when evil reaches its greatest strength. The concept of Guna and Karma also explain evil to a degree, rather than the influence of a devil.
To be more specific, Hindu philosophy defines that the only existing thing (Truth) is the Almighty God. So, all the asuric tendencies are inferior and mostly exist as illusions in the mind. Asuras are also different people in whom bad motivations and intentions (tamas) have temporarily outweighed the good ones (Sattva). Different beings like siddha, gandharva, yaksha etc. are considered beings unlike mankind, and in some ways superior to men.
In Ayyavazhi, officially an offshoot of Hinduism prominent in Tamil Nadu (a southern state in India with Dravidian heritage), followers, unlike most other branches of Hinduism, believes in a Satan-like figure, Kroni. Kroni, according to Ayyavazhi is the primordial manifestation of evil and manifests in various forms of evil, i.e., Ravana, Duryodhana, etc., in different ages or yugas. In response to such manifestation of evil, believers, in Ayya-Vazhi religion believe that God, as Vishnu manifests in His avatars such as Rama and Krishna to defeat evil. Eventually, the Ekam with the spirit (the spirit taken by Narayana only for incarnating in the world) of Narayana incarnates in the world as Ayya Vaikundar to destroy the final manifestaion of Kroni, Kaliyan.
Kroni, the spirit of Kali Yuga is said to be omnipresent in this age and that is one of the reasons why followers of Ayya Vazhi, like most Hindus, believe that the current yuga, Kali Yuga is so degraded.
As in most polytheistic faiths, the characters involved differentiate themselves from the Western tradition of a devil in that all the gods are closely related. In this case, numerous historic texts suggest that Set is the Uncle or Brother of Horus and in the "defeat" of Set, we see another separation from the norm in the devouring/assimilation of Set into Horus with the result of Horus having depictions of both the falcon head and the (unknown animal) head of Set. This (like Buddhism) represents a dissolution of dichotomy.