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DAIMON IN HELLENISMOS

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Daimohn (Gr. δαίμων, ΔΑΙΜΩΝ. Plural is δαίμονες. Etym. from δαίομαι, "distribute, divider [of destiny].") 

In Ællinismós (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, the word daimohn does not have the connotation of evil. It is actually a neutral term, but usually used in a positive context. Daimohn refers to a benevolent divine being, or a benevolent force or power (there are exceptions), and, most generally, daimohn refers to a God.

In line five of the Orphic hymn to Apóllohn (Ἀπόλλων) we see the God referred to with the epithet:

Φωσφόρε Δαῖμον
Light-bearing Daimohn

 And in line seven of the Orphic hymn to Diónysos (Διόνυσος), the God is called:

Ἄμβροτε Δαῖμον

Immortal Daimohn

 ...and we could find many other such examples where a God is called a Daimohn. 

The great Heroes of the Silver Age [1] of Krónos (Κρόνος), described by Ἡσίοδος (Hesiod) in Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι (Works and Days), were a race of mortals who lived like Gods. They were Ἡμίθεος, Demi-Gods, almost Gods, and were later deified and became Ἀνθρωποδαίμονες, the deified mortals; as such, they are known as Δαίμονες Χρυσέοι, the Golden Daimonæs:

"But after the earth had covered this generation---they are called pure spirits (ed. δαίμονες in the Greek text) dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds, givers of wealth..." [2]


A
fter his description of the Daimonæs Khrysǽi, Isíodos (Hesiod) talks of a new race of men who were not as virtuous as the earlier race. Nonetheless, when this newer generation passed, they also became benevolent deities known as the Ὑποχθόνιοι Μάκαρες Δαίμονες, the Happy Subterranean Daimonæs, second in rank to the Golden Daimonæs (who dwell over the earth clothed in mist), but yet still worthy of honor. [3]

Later in Works and Days, Isíodos describes a race of daimohnæs who are guardians (φύλακες) of those mortals who may be subjected to injustice:

"You princes, mark well this punishment you also; for the deathless Gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress their fellows with crooked judgements, and reek not the anger of the Gods. For upon the bounteous earth Zeus has thrice ten thousand spirits (δαίμονες), watchers of mortal men, and these keep watch on judgements and deeds of wrong as they roam, clothed in mist, all over the earth." [4]

 In his lives of philosophers, speaking of Zínohn (Zeno of Elea, Ζήνων ὁ Ἐλεάτης), Dioyǽnis Läǽrtios (Diogenes Laërtius; Διογένης Λαέρτιος) writes:

 

"They also say that there are some Dæmones, who have a sympathy with mankind, being surveyors of all human affairs; and that there are heroes, which are the souls of virtuous men, which have left their bodies." [5]

We often find the word Daimohn being used to refer to a lower or subordinate deity, but the term may be used for any God as well as semi-divine beings. The word daimohn may also be used as a synonym to the word psykhí (ψυχή), the soul, but here meaning a soul without a mortal body. Nonetheless, it is possible to refer to one’s own soul as a daimohn, but it would be more appropriate to do so when discussing the soul as it exists between lives. From this we can derive one definition: a daimohn is a soul without a mortal body, whether it be of good or bad nature, whether this soul be subject to re-birth or whether it be immortal


Plátohn,
 Daimonæs, and Ǽrohs

In his discussion of Ǽrohs (Ἔρως) from Συμπόσιον (Symposium), Plátohn (Πλάτων) uses the word in a particular way, saying that daimohnæs are "intermediate between the divine and the mortal." He describes Ǽrohs as such a daimohn, a very special daimohn, the one who delivers our prayers to the Gods and who returns with the commands and replies of Gods:

Sohkrátis (Σωκράτης): 'What is Love (Ǽrohs)?' I asked. 'Is he mortal?' 

Diotíma (Διοτίμα): No.

Sohkrátis:  What then? 

Diotíma: ...he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two.     

Sohkrátis:  What is he Diotima?

Diotíma: He is a great spirit (δαίμων), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.

Sohkrátis: 'And what,' I said, 'is his power?'

Diotíma: 'He interprets,' she replied, 'between Gods and men, conveying and taking across to the Gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the Gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on.' " [6]

The North African Neo-Platonist philosopher Apuleius in his work On the God of Sohkrátis (Σωκράτης) comments on this passage, applying the concept to all daimohnæs:

"...there are certain divine middle powers, situated in this interval of the air, between the highest ether and earth, which is in the lowest place, through whom our desires and our deserts pass to the Gods. These are called by a Greek name dæmons, who, being placed between the terrestrial and celestial inhabitants, transmit prayers from the one, and gifts from the other. They likewise carry supplications from the one, and auxiliaries from the other, as certain interpreters and saluters of both. Through these same dæmons, as Plato says in the Banquet (ed. Sympósion), all denunciations, the various miracles of enchanters, and all the species of presages, are directed. Prefects, from among the number of these, providentially attend to every thing, according to the province assigned to each; either by the formation of dreams, or causing the fissures in entrails, or governing the flights of some birds, and instructing the songs of others, or by inspiring prophets, or hurling thunder, or producing the coruscations of lightning in the clouds; or causing other things to take place, by which we obtain a knowledge of future events. And it is requisite to think that all these particulars are effected by the will, the power, and authority of the celestial Gods, but by the compliance, operations, and ministrant offices of dæmons... It is not fit that the supernal Gods should descend to things of this kind. This is the province of the intermediate Gods, who dwell in the regions of the air, which border on the earth, and yet are no less conversant with the confines of the heavens; just as in every part of the world there are animals adapted to the several parts, the volant (ed. capable of flight) living in the air, and the gradient on the earth." [7]  

The Agathós Daimohn and the Kakodaimohn

The word daimohn was corrupted by Christians into "demon," giving it a pernicious meaning. This became the convention of the church in the Latin-speaking Western Roman Empire, but in the Greek-speaking Eastern Empire, the word daimohn does not convey this negative stigma. Daimohn is used to signify any spirit. For instance, the Holy Spirit, part of the Christian Trinity, is called a daimohn, with no negative implication at all, and this is still true in the Orthodox Church today. In the West, the negative meaning is ubiquitous and denotes an evil 'spirit.' 

Nonetheless, in our religion we are aware of malevolent daimohnæs, souls of immoral individuals who, after they die, wish to continue their harmful mischief. Such beings are inhabitants of the lower sky and are known as kakodaimohnæs (κακοδαίμονες, plural). Kακός means "bad" or "evil." They are, generally, the prósyeia pnévmata (πρόσγεια πνεύματα), the landed daimohnæs, i.e. those souls who have not progressed, who may have committed crimes, and who, by their own actions are attached and bound nearest the terrestrial earth in the lower sky. They whisper in the ears of susceptible individuals and try to convince them to make bad decisions and lead a wicked life. They trick the unsuspecting and deliver false oracles in order to mislead them, and those who submit to their treachery are subject to become daimonizmós (δαιμονισμός), possessed by a kakodaimohn. 

The Agathós Daimohn (Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων) is the opposite of the kakodaimohn (κακοδαίμων, singular). Agathós means "good." This is a particular kind of daimohn, one who protects, a type of tutelary entity which we are all believed to possess.  

At the most fundamental level, we are protected by our own character, as is succinctly stated by the philosopher Irákleitos (Ἡράκλειτος):

Ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων [8]

The character of a man determines his destiny.

Why is the word daimohn here being translated as "destiny?" It is because the etymology of the word is connected with the ancient Greek δαίομαι, "to divide, to distribute." Daimohnæs are thought to be somehow connected with destiny, and destiny is thought to be determined by the Mírai (Moirae, Μοῖραι), those three Goddesses who apportion or divide out our our fate. Irákleitos is here saying that our destiny is not determined by powers completely beyond our control, but, rather, our fate is the result of whether or not we live in arǽti (arete, ἀρετή), whether or not we have achieved virtue. Nonetheless, there is a belief from antiquity that we are given a helping hand in this regard, that there is a daimonic power, possibly even a soul, who watches over us, and this soul or influence is the aforementioned Agathós Daimohn.

The Agathós Daimohn is the soul of someone who has sacrificed a life for the benefit of someone to whom it loves. In other words, rather than being reborn and continuing on with a new body, the Agathós Daimohn places their own self-interest aside to protect a soul she loves. The Agathós Daimohn is not usually a God, but a soul more progressed than the one which it cares for. The character of the Agathós Daimohn is beautifully defined by Apuleius:


"But there is another species of dæmons, more sublime and venerable, not less numerous, but far superior in dignity, who, being always liberated from the bonds and conjunction of the body, preside over certain powers. In the number of these are Sleep and Love, who possess powers of a different nature; Love, of exciting to wakefulness, but Sleep of lulling to rest. From this more sublime order of dæmons, Plato asserts that a peculiar dæmon is allotted to every man, who is a witness and a guardian of his conduct in life, who, without being visible to any one, is always present, and who is an arbitrator not only of his deeds, but also of his thoughts. But when, life being finished, the soul returns [to the judges of its conduct], then the dæmon who presided over it immediately seizes, and leads it as his charge to judgement and is there present with it while it pleads its cause. Hence, the dæmon reprehends it, if it has acted on any false pretence; solemnly confirms what it says, if it asserts any thing that is true; and conformably to its testimony passes sentence. All you, therefore, who hear this divine opinion of Plato, as interpreted by me, so form your minds to whatever you may do, or to whatever may be the subject of your meditation, that you may know there is nothing concealed from those guardians either within the mind, or external to it; but that the dæmon who presides over you inquisitively participates of all that concerns you, sees all things, understands all things, and in the place of conscience dwells in the most profound recesses of the mind. For he of whom I speak is a perfect guardian, a singular prefect, a domestic speculator, a proper curator, an intimate inspector, an assiduous observer, an inseparable arbiter, a reprobater of what is evil, an approver of what is good; and if he is legitimately attended to, sedulously known, and religiously worshipped, in the way in which he was reverenced by Socrates with justice and innocence, will be a predictor in things uncertain, a premonitor in things dubious, a defender in things dangerous, and an assistant in want. He will also be able, by dreams, by tokens, and perhaps also manifestly, when the occasion demands it, to avert from you evil, increase your good, raise your depressed, support your falling, illuminate your obscure, govern your prosperous, and correct your adverse circumstances." [9]

 Apuleius is trying to point out that we have a great opportunity which must not be wasted, that we have a guide and a protector, if we are willing to hear the voice of the Agathós Daimohn and yield to its advice and protection. What is this advice and protection? There are various opinions, but it is generally not thought to be an explicit voice, but rather it is something that stops us and prevents us from blundering badly, at least, that is, if we do not ignore its warnings. Some say that the Agathós Daimohn is nothing more than simply the voice of our conscience.

Of course, Apuleius is using as his example the Agathós Daimohn of none other than Sohkrátis (Σωκράτης), a highly evolved soul who would be accompanied by an equally, indeed, even more highly advanced daimohn; in his case, it is not unlikely that this daimohn was a God. For more ordinary people, the Agathós Daimohn is a soul more advanced than you, but not actually a God. And the tradition relates that if we should progress beyond the development of the Agathós Daimohn, another, more surpassing daimohn will take its place. 


The Orphic Hymn to Daimohn

In Orphic Hymn 73, Daimohn, the word refers to Zefs Ploutodótis (Πλουτοδότης), 'Zeus the Giver of Wealth,' but the hymn also is referring to the divine power which protects and gives great benefit and, thus, gives honor to the Agathós Daimohn and can be used when honoring it.


Please also visit: Glossary of Daemons.


NOTES:

[1] Ἡσίοδος (Hesiod) assigns to Krónos the Golden Age, but in Orphic literature it is otherwise:

ὁ μὲν θεολόγος Ὀ. τρία γένη παραδέδωκεν ἀνθρώπων· πρώτιστον τὸ χρυσούν, ὅπερ ὑποστῆσαι τὸν Φάνητά φησιν· δεύτερον τὸ ἀργυροῦν, οὗ φησιν ἄρχαι τὸν μέγιστον Κρόνον· τρίτον τὸ Τιτανικόν, ὅ φησιν ἐκ τῶν Τιτανικών μελῶν τὸν Δία συστήσασθαι

"Whereas the Theologian Orphéfs (Orpheus) conveys that there are three generations of men: the very first a Golden age said to be of Phánis; the second Silver brought forth by mighty Krónos; the third is the Titanic age formed of the Titanic limbs of Zefs." (trans. by the author)

[2] Ἡσίοδος (Hesiod) Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι 120 (Works and Days), trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914.

[3] Ἡσίοδος Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι 125-142, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914. 

[4] Ἡσίοδος Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι 248-255, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914. 

[5] Διογένης Λαέρτιος (Diogenes Laërtius) Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων (The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers) Book VII Life of Zínohn (Zeno of Elea; Ζήνων ὁ Ἐλεάτης) Chapter 79, trans. C. D. Yonge, 1853.

[6] Πλάτων (Plato) Συμπόσιον (Symposium) 202d-203a, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

[7] Apuleius On the God of Sohkrátis (Σωκράτης) 132-137. Trans. Thomas Taylor 1822.

[8] Ἡράκλειτος (Heraclitus) 119 (Diels-Kranz numbering).

[9] Apuleius On the God of Sohkrátis (Σωκράτης) 154-156. Trans. Thomas Taylor 1822.



The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, 
Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).


PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as 

, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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