Devil in Disguise
The Devil and his
cohorts appeared among humankind, it was said, they
most often wore disguises. In the iconography of the
Middle Ages and on the stage of the Renaissance, for
instance, devils appeared with horns, hooves, and a
tail (sometimes with a sort of arrowhead on the end),
suggesting that they were being confused with pagan
deities such as Pan, with
his goat hooves or satyrs,
half man and half beast.
Christopher Marlowe's great tragedy Dr. Faustus, Mephistophelis,
"servant to Great Lucifer," first appears
in horrible, hairy, animal guise and is told by anti-Catholic
Marlowe (if not by Catholic theology professor Johann
Faust) to assume a more apt disguise, such as that of
a Catholic monk or friar.
is often shown in medieval art as a human form to which
are added the wings of a bat.
As an archangel
originally, he ought to be extremely handsome but, as
Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray found out, evil can ruin one's
devils and demons are
shown most often as imps,
grinning ferociously as they go about their nefarious
business, horrible as the gargoyles
(left from earlier religions) that still lurk on the
outside (for the most part) of Christian churches.
spirits, devils in disguise, are most often thought
of as taking animal shape. The Blessed Albertus
Magnus was widely believed to be a magician and
the large black dog that accompanied him wherever he
went was popularly believed to be a devil in his service.
was a belief that though The Devil could create animals
he could never do anything perfectly, so one looked
for a deformed animal, a cat without a tail, a dog with
some defect, even for a deformed person. Any of them
might be devils in disguise.
the Sabbat the demon Leonard appeared as a large black
goat with three horns instead of two. The Devil himself
at a Sabbat was supposed to appear in the same shape.
Human beings who took his place at these rites sometimes
dressed as a black goat. Most often they wore some sort
of disguise and may often have made the ignorant peasants
believe they were The Devil in person. The Devil was
said to appear to poor people in the guise of a large
black man who offered them promises of wealth.
witches testified under oath that they had seen The
Devil in various animal guises:
bull, calf, cat, dog, foal, donkey, wolf,
goat, etc. Some said he appeared as a handsome youth
to seduce them. His phallus, however, was always ice
cold, even painfully barbed.
the goat disguise (tying The Devil in with lustful personages
of the older mythology) came the conviction that The
Devil had cloven hooves. The Basque for Sabbat was Akhelarre
depicts The Devil (or Leonard?
or a human in disguise?) as a huge goat at the Sabbat.
In the 18th century some participants at the Sabbat
came in goat masks and cloaks. The usefulness of attending
proscribed rites with face concealed is obvious. Even
in some few covens, small (13) and regular groups of
participants, members use first or even fake names only
and keep their identities secret from all but the leader.
Martin Antoine de Rio, S. J., who wrote an encyclopedia
of magic (1509), reports with confidence that: