Sumerian Demons

A Primer On Sumerian Demons

Sumerian Demonology might be difficult for someone from another religion to understand. There is no absolute good or evil. The demons are not fallen from grace, nor are they malicious spirits or ghosts. Sumerian demons have to observe many rules and can be taken to task for misbehavior.

The Sumerian word Udug means demon. The Sumerian Udug does not translate directly into English however. Dingir, the Sumerian gods, are those in the pantheon who are in a position of power within the Order of the universe. They are usually of divine birth, but occasionally they are mortal or part mortal. An entity that is not a Dingir is an Udug. That means that ghosts, foreign gods, monsters, protective spirits, and numerous other essences are all lumped into the broad category of Udug.

The idea of the Order is important. This is the system that the great gods created that all, even the gods, are accountable to. Dingir gods will enforce their laws wherever they come across transgressors. Generally this is to the benefit of humans dwelling within civilization and to the detriment of any who cause a disruption to civilization. Dingir will even use Udug to carry out their will.

The term Udug Hul is often translated as evil demon, but it more properly refers to a hostile demon. All demons have a good side and a bad side even if we do not know everything about the demon. If you are on the receiving end of a demon’s bad side then that demon is an Udug Hul. To put this into perspective, a fox is neither good nor evil. To the rabbit that is hunted by the fox it is the essence of evil. The fox might not have any ill will towards the rabbit, but the rabbit will die by the hand of the fox if the proper precautions are not taken.

Udug play many rolls in myth. There are obviously the disease causing Udug portrayed in the Udug Hul texts, but this is a text full of the Udug who are causing problems. This is like reading a set of police reports and assuming that criminals are the dominant aspect of society, or reading a doctor’s case journal and wondering how humans manage to survive at all. There are hostile demons, but these are not the only demons that there are out there.

Udug can also be in full support of the gods and the Order. In Christian demonology you occasionally see demons acting in armies. So and so is an earl of hell and commands ten thousand minions. In Sumerian demonology the demons all have specific tasks and work in coordinated teams. There are several myths where a god will lead a small team of demons against a foreign demon.

Then there are those demons that the gods are taking the army to reign in. These are usually foreign demons who have transgressed against the Dingir in one way or another. These are demons that are either not bound by, or who are not submitting to the Order.

There are also demons that used to be humans. Ghosts are in this category, and the ghosts of sorcerers are particularly feared. There are also essences formed of lost potential like the lilitu demons. You could also count the vampyric types and the undead, but these are usually better categorized as another type of demon inhabiting a corpse.