From demons who torment sleeping humans to hellish creatures for every sign of the zodiac, this mystical manuscript holds a variety of horrors.
Belief in the existence of demons can be traced back to ancient times. And, with the rise of religion around the globe, superstition and beliefs in mysticism also grew — as evidenced by the various depictions of demons that have been uncovered in historical manuscripts.
This manuscript discovered in the city of Isfahan, in what is now central Iran, features 56 eye-catching illustrations of different demons. These drawings were depicted alongside pages of spells that were believed to be potent in defeating such evil creatures.
Take a look inside, if you dare.
A History Of Demons
Long before the advent of modern science, cultures around the globe used supernatural practices like spell-casting and incantations to treat various ailments. These old inscriptions were meticulously recorded and believed to be a way for humans to ward off evil spirits.
The idea of demons and other evil beings from Hell can be traced as far back as the fifth century and were, ironically, mostly birthed in parallel with the rise of religion.
During this time, the rise of Christianity led to a relaxation in Jewish strictures against depicting supernatural beings. So, Jews in Babylon created what are believed to be the first visual depictions of demons in recorded history.
These ancient illustrations were meant to give religious followers a visible representation of the dark forces which threatened their family and their souls. Incantations and spells to ward off evils have been found on household objects — likely for use as protective talismans — as well as within ancient texts.
Later, in 18th century Europe, for example, practices of witchcraft and the occult existed even after the rise of Christianity. This was evident through the discoveries of vividly-illustrated books like the Compendium Of Demonology And Magic.
The Compendium features a disturbing index of hair-raising demons of all shapes and sizes drawn in watercolor, in addition to what appear to be graphic demonstrations of satanic rituals.
Historical records of such practices of magic were also found in ancient manuscripts from the Middle East during the time that Islam was flourishing in Iran. Demonic beings were believed to be as real as Heaven and Hell, and so spells were deemed necessary to ward off such evils.
In the gallery above, check out shocking watercolor illustrations of various demon beasts featured in an illustrated Persian manuscript about magic and astrology titled Kitab-i Aja'ib-i makhluqat.
Early 20th-Century Persian Incantations
The unholy creatures depicted in this text, which dates back to the early 20th century, are described in their relation to the signs of the zodiacs.
According to Ali Karjoo-Ravary, a lecturer at the Department of Religious Studies at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, these demon paintings were taken from an earlier text. They were later combined into a text featuring various talismans and spells to ward off different demons.
The author of the manuscript, now held at Princeton University's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, credits their knowledge of these demonic beings to the Biblical Solomon, who was known for his influence over demons and other spirits. This manuscript was likely used by a divination expert in Isfahan, a city in Iran where the illustrations were uncovered.
One of the more terrifying demons depicted in this old demon guide is a brown, furry seven-headed beast with horns and seven different mouths.
Wearing gold jewelry and blue bottoms, the scary-looking dog-demon is pictured sitting by itself. The page is placed side-by-side with the drawing of a crab, a reference to its connection to the Cancer zodiac sign.
The most disturbing thing about these illustrations — apart from their incredibly haunting demonic depictions — is that many of these demons are shown tormenting living humans, even while they sleep. One of the more sinister-looking demons is shown licking a slumbering human's foot.
In addition to the demons and their astrological connections, Arabic writings featured in the manuscript contain information on constellations, star births, and an unexpected description of the archangels Mika'īl (Michael) and Jibra'īl (Gabriel) complete with their alleged likenesses.
The book's early 20th-century date puts it as one of the newer mystical Islamic texts and underlines the fact that these demonic descriptions were still featured in late period texts, reflecting how the belief in magic persisted into the modern age, as was the case in many religions and cultures around the world.
Although belief in the supernatural has largely dissipated from the mainstream, manuscripts like these which tell of magic and monsters in the dark continue to fascinate.