The Devil, Satan, Lucifer or whatever you’d like to call him is the pinnacle of evil in the Christian religion. He punishes the evil, is responsible for all the wickedness in the world and is in a constant battle with God for control of the Universe. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate but more or less is the gist of it and what the majority of people know.
Now, how does the devil look like in different religions? How do other people and cultures imagine pure evil to be and who rules in the underworld?
Ahriman – Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism was the main religion of the Persian Empire. It was most prevalent around 600 BC, when the Empire was at its zenith. Ahriman or Angra Mainyu was the god of all that is bad and chaotic in the world. Twin brother to Spenta Mainyu or Ahura Mazda -the “Wise Lord”- Ahriman sought to undo everything his bother did. He was the root of all evil in the world and was in a constant battle with all that is good.
He is in fact the forefather of Satan himself. Zoroastrianism was the first religion to have a completely dualistic point of view of good and evil and heavily influenced the present day monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Māra – Buddhism
The Buddhist belief centers around the idea that every man, in order to achieve true happiness and escape the loop of repeating lives -to reach Nirvana-, should renounce his desires, wants and carnal side. In Buddhism the being that represents the distractions of the real world is called Māra. Also called “Lord of the Senses”, Māra is associated with death, darkness and blindness and all the sensory pleasures in the world.
The full extent of Māra’s power is utterly formidable to everyone except those on the verge of enlightenment, and is generally formidable even to those who have been following the eightfold-path for some time.
Iblis – Islam
In Islam the equivalent of Satan is Shaitan, which can be used to describe any barrier or opposition to God, no matter its intention. The formal name of the being that represents all such attempts is Iblis. However, it is safe to assume that wherever you see Shaitan capitalized as Shaitan, then, it is in fact a reference to Iblis. Shaitan is often easier to use because of its similarity to Satan.
Nidhogg – Norse
Nidhogg (Old Norse Níðhöggr, literally “Curse-striker” or “He Who Strikes with Malice”) is the foremost of several serpents or dragons who dwell beneath the world-tree Yggdrasil and eat its roots. This is highly damaging to the tree, which holds all of the nine worlds. Nidhogg is in fact looking to return the cosmos to an original state of chaos.
Nidhogg is also said to preside over a part of the underworld called Náströnd (“The Shore of Corpses”) where perjurers, murderers, and adulterers are punished. The Norse religion however didn’t have such a view of the afterlife and so it is obvious how Christianity influenced the Viking Sagas.
Sekhmet – The Egyptians
Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of war and destruction, depicted with a lioness head. She was the creation of Ra who wanted to punish the people for not worshiping him enough. She was so violent though, killing people in a frenzied bloodbath, that Ra had to trick her into getting drunk and then change her into the gentler goddess Hathor.
Crnobog – The Slavs
Crnobog, also known as Cert or Cernobog, was the god of night, chaos, misfortune and winter, generating all the evils around the world. He is also responsible for creating the world, together with Belobog, the god of light, goodness and summer. Because of their quarrels, the world as we know it, along with the universe and everything in it were created.
Death, chaos and bad luck were seen as part of everyday life and necessary to existence and the Slavs often times recited curses towards themselves in order to attract misfortune.