Witches, werewolves, demons and your neighborhood ghosts are coming out to play this Halloween. Traditionally, if you thought about what an American “demon” or demonic figure would look like, you’d probably be thinking of the scarecrow with the pitchfork.
He’s silently put out in the cornfields waiting for some gullible young teenagers or college kids to come across his path and face his judgment. But when I was growing up in Pakistan, my aunts used to scare me into going to sleep by calling on the Jinn.
The Jinn is a demon found in Islamic mythology and theology that is an intelligent spirit who is able to possess humans and take human form itself. The Jinn’s existence as a demonic spirit is rooted in Islam and is even found in the Quran.
The combination of culture and religion marks this apparition as specific to Muslim communities and countries. While the Jinn is primarily in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, many other cultures envision demons in different ways — especially when connecting the demons' origins to their spiritual beliefs.
One of the most famous demonic figures is La Llorona. “The weeping woman” has haunted the streets of Mexico long before the conquistadors set down their diseased blankets. The origins of the legend have been passed down for centuries and are deeply ingrained in Mexican culture and among the Latinx population of the United States.
She is a dark shadowy figure dressed in all white, often found by bodies of water, who cries into the night for her children. Legend has it that she suffered a horrible marriage and took her suffering out by drowning her children and then killing herself. For many, she is the bogeywoman used to scare children into good behavior.
In many films that have been based on the legend of La Llorona, a priest is called to exorcise the house or the family of her ghost. Latin America remains home to an estimated 40% of the world’s Catholics, and many Latin American households practice Catholicism. It’s interesting to see how even this demonic apparition can be tied to the religious roots of the Latinx community.
But many origin stories of demonic apparitions are connected to the spiritual beliefs of the specific culture, one you may not have heard of as often is Baku. Baku are Japanese supernatural beings that are said to devour dreams and nightmares.
Most would call on the Baku to eat their nightmares but don’t always remember the full legend. One must not call on the Baku too often, because if the Baku remains hungry even after eating the nightmare, it will devour one’s hopes and dreams.
The Baku’s legend is found in Japanese folklore and is tied to the spiritual beliefs of Japanese society given that they were created by the spare pieces that were left over when the Gods finished creating all other animals.
Japanese culture isn’t the only one that has supernatural beings and demons associated with their origin stories. There is one that is very close to home and is rooted in Christianity’s very famous concept of Heaven and Hell.
Baal or Bael is known as one of the seven princes of Hell and is associated with all evils of paganism. Legend even has it that the origin of Halloween was believed to involve pagan worship and sacrifice to Baal. While Baal may not be the scariest, his army of demons that he commands is as scary as you’ll ever find.
They consist of household demons like Beelzebub and Abaddon who can all be found in the Bible. They have also been featured in popular television shows such as “Supernatural” and “The Originals.”
Lastly, one of the most interesting varieties of demonic apparitions is found in Caribbean culture. Caribbean folklore is comprised of many myths rooted in African origins given that slaves brought from Africa’s West coast made up a majority of people brought to the region.
The Jumbee is like the Caribbean’s jinn. Jumbee is a Caribbean term given to all malevolent entities, demons or devils or bad people that are instruments of death that come in the shape a darker, sinister figure. Different countries across the Caribbean have different concepts of Jumbees.
It's evident that different cultures all over the world have their own interpretations of demons and all things evil. This Halloween, take the time to learn about some scary stories that you may never have heard of, because you never know what might be coming out of the dark on Halloween night.