Expelled from heaven, the tale of the fallen angel is not anonymous to us. Be it Islam’s ‘Shaytan’ or Christianity’s ‘Lucifer’, the tales surrounding the devil has mesmerized many of its avid fanatics. The history of the devil entwines with theology, mythology, psychiatry, art, and literature. Called by several names Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, or Al-Shaytan, the intertwined history of the fallen angel is quite a masterpiece to contemporary literature.
The beast scrunching sinners bones out or the Lucifer raging war against his own creator, these two figures remain a central character of ‘The old testament.’ But how did this devilish beast turn out to be the heartthrob to girly fetish? Let’s take a look at the intriguing history of the Devil.
The history of the Devil
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
The Modern English word devil derives from the Middle English ‘devel’, which means an evil creature that resides in hell. Historically known as Satan, the roots of this creature can be traced to the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, Satan is described as an accuser of heaven- a fallen angel who once was the most profound creation of god. But unlike any of the Devil, there’s no such exploration of the character of Satan in the Bible. However, in the New Testament, the character of Satan was further explored who tempts Jesus as well as humans to commit sin. Thus, Satan becomes the ultimate antagonist of the Bible.
In the bible, it was mentioned that the god created a powerful, intelligent, and beautiful angelic being known as Lucifer to serve heaven, however, the free will of this angel led him to rebel against his own creator demanding an equal designation of that of a god. With time his pride grew more and more and he offered Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit- “tree of the knowledge”, thus ultimately being banished to hell. In hell, Lucifer became a Rebel king who was contemptuous to rule hell rather than serve in hell. Though the idea of the devil being the supreme leader of hell is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, yet this assumption may be the result of art and literature with the epic poem by Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy that glorified the devil even further.
In the honorifics of the Bible, Satan was considered a dragon-like creature that had three faces and a sinister instinct. The role of Satan was not naturally evil; he found his way into the part and matured to the role. In fact, if we go by the facts, there’s no mention of Lucifer at all (morning star) and the only nemesis we had was a Devil- however, the name stuck and the devil is still widely known as Lucifer. By the time, many artists and sculptures painted several images of the devil although the most popular appeared during the Middle age when the devil’s appearance slightly changed as the tri-horned figure with a tail. In Dante’s Inferno, Satan is depicted as a giant demon with a frozen breast lying at the center of Hell.
Soon, many poets pitied the character of Satan as a loner serving in hell. And as time passed, the devil started to assume a more human form like in The Genius of Evil (1848) by Guillaume Geefs. But with the advent of modern literature- Satan got modernized as Lucifer. During the Age of Enlightenment, the belief about Satan’s existence was questioned by many thinkers such as Voltaire. However, the belief in Satan has persisted throughout.
It was during this time that another version of Satan- Mephistopheles gained a lot of momentum. A demon featured in German folklore was a trickster to trick people into committing sins. His name becomes popular with Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. And just like Lucifer, Mephistopheles too appeared as a charming character in many of the plays of 1700, comic books, and advertisements.
The Romantics of 1800
In the 1667 masterpiece Paradise Lost by John Milton fantasized the character of Lucifer as an ambiguous figure, a rebellion who started the war against gods. This character of Lucifer soon inspired several poets and the image of Satan transformed into a romantic Lucifer. People started recognizing him as a hero who defied anyone to rule over him and had tragic consequences. In essence, Lucifer could also be quintessentially considered one of the greatest characters in contemporary literature.
With this belief, many started praising Satan and made the Church of Satan. In this church, he was not worshipped rather embraced as a symbol of pride and liberty. Whereas, some Satanists known as theistic Satanists do worship the Devil as a deity and practice Satanic rituals.
The popular image of Satan-inspired by john Milton emerged in the modern world with several movies featuring the devil as heartthrob Lucifer. Many elite actors such as Jack Nicholson, Vincent Price, or Al Pacino took the character to the next level with their incredibly catchy personalities. Especially, the series Lucifer premiered in 2016 with Brit Tom Ellis playing the lead role as charismatic former guardian of Hell. This series hyped the Devil as a charming protagonist with a bit of sexy devilish tinge. Thus the character of Devil remains a masterpiece for several creators to date who mould him according to modern standards.