Dealing with Demons

I recently had an experience in my grimoire work that I thought I’d share here. Ever since the rise of demonolatry publications in the 1990s—especially those of the prolific S. Connolly, whose approaches I happen to appreciate quite a bit even if I don’t always follow them—the trend in spirit work, particularly with demons, and especially with the demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon (the Goetia), has been non-coercive.

Jason Miller, on his Strategic Sorcery blog, calls this the “be nice” approach; though, I prefer to think of it as transactional. In other words, I’m not being nice to the demons, I’m being businesslike. They’re not my friends; they’re my partners in some project. And as with any business partners, it doesn’t pay to be hostile and nasty, nor does it pay to be fawning and gushy. Rather, the ideal is “fair and firm.”

When you’re entering a transactional relationship with someone, whether a spirit or a incarnate human, you want “consideration” on both sides, which can be defined as “the benefit that each party gets or expects to get from the contractual deal” (https://bit.ly/2M5eV9s). If both parties are getting what they agree on, all that is required is performance, nothing more. This usually works very well. Still, just as in business, sometimes you get screwed. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Everyone who runs a business of any kind knows that sometimes you will work with someone who either fails to perform or who misrepresents something. It’s part of life. In an ideal world, we’d all be honest and clear with each other about what we’ve done and what we’re able to do. But this world is far from ideal, and that includes the “spirit world,” which is also part of the world in which we live.

That said, especially when dealing with demons, you usually have to be strict about what you expect, even if the relationship is transactional. In my experience, the demons of the Goetia are largely reliable and, although they may act like you’re bothering them with your concerns, most of the time they actually enjoy working with magicians. A few, however, are nasty as hell, a few are pathological liars, and a few will only perform to the exact letter (and not the overall intent) of what you ask them to do, behaving more like stereotypical mischievous djinn.

Every magician will have a personal relationship with her spirits and so it’s hard to generalize about which ones will behave honorably and which will turn out to be screwballs and psychopaths. So it would be pointless for me to (further) blacken the reputation of certain demons who might turn out to be good partners for other practitioners.

But I will say this: identify and keep a list of the ones who do not perform, who seek to harm you in various ways, and who withhold information in bad faith. NEVER work with those spirits again. There are many others who can do future work. Much as with a human partner, they might fool you once and abuse your good nature. But if it happens a second time, the fault is yours for not learning your lesson.

Keep that list handy because sometimes, when a spirit thinks it’s clever, it will try to enter into another transaction with you, raising the stakes for another payoff not only from the agreed-upon exchange but also from the negative emotional fallout when you realize the same spirit screwed you over a second time. Avoid this.

I’m not saying not to work with demons. Sometimes, they are precisely the specialists you need for the problem you have. I’m saying do so carefully, wisely, and in a way informed by your own well-documented observations and experiences. Because anyone can be had. The point is to learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off, and become better.

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