top of page

The Nature of Evil

IntroductionEvil: 1.  morally reprehensible: sinful, wicked.  2. Causing discomfort or repulsion: disagreeable. 3. Causing harm: unlucky (Merriam-Webster).
           Evil is a topic that has a bit of an odd relationship with polytheism.  There is no dogma within most polytheistic religions that tells us how to view evil or what makes something evil, and no supreme being responsible for its existence.  However, at the same time, many polytheists have had experiences where people from other religions have told them that their beliefs or rituals are inherently evil themselves.  I believe that dichotomy provides us with a unique opportunity to explore the concept of evil and how it was viewed by the ancient cultures that have so strongly influenced our modern day paths and practices. 
As a modern Pagan, I have never really had a need or desire to dig into evil or the causes of it prior to this essay.  I don’t regularly perform rituals against evil, or concern myself with evil beings or people.  I do believe that evil exists and can have an impact on the world but that’s about as far as it goes.  Therefore, as I began to research this topic, I was a little surprised at how prevalent the idea of “evil” was in the ancient societies that I’ve built my spiritualty around.  
           When researching the presence of evil in ancient cultures, the one thing that I quickly recognized was that there are some resources that may have a strong bias against the ancient Pagan beliefs.  Many of myths and rites were destroyed or changed by practitioners of monotheistic religions in an effort to convert Pagans to their faith. This has limited our knowledge of some cultures and mythology to a few sources, and tainted the information found in others.  For example, Karl Mortensen refers to Loki as the “originator of all evil” (Mortensen 36).  However, he was also a devout Christian, so did the ancient Norse culture truly believe that Loki was evil, or has his writing been predisposed to promote his own spiritual beliefs?  I would definitely lean toward the second option. 
           Despite the presence of these biases, there are still numerous references to evil within the lore and philosophy that seem legitimate.  There are also numerous historic records of activities and rituals that were focused on the removal or prevention of evil in the lives of the ancient people.  Each culture viewed evil in a slightly different way, as seen in their ritual practices and the mythology they were based upon.  I didn’t come across a single culture in my research that did not hold some belief or practice related to the concept of evil.  Again, that doesn’t mean that a culture with no concept of evil doesn’t exist, but simply that my limited scope has not found one yet.



     To begin my exploration into the idea of evil, I want to take the time to consider the mythology from several different cultures.  These myths had many different variations while simultaneously bearing striking similarities.  Many of the societies that I researched had descriptions of entities or beings that were considered evil.  In some cases, these creatures were the cause of illness and death.  Other times they simply had a negative influence on humankind. Sometimes the myth focuses instead on a god or hero overcoming an evil being.  No matter the approach that is taken in the myths, evil seems to have been a widely popular concept in many ancient societies.  With that information in mind, let’s begin looking at some specific cultures to see the role that evil played within them.  I’ll begin with my primary hearth culture, the Hellenes.
Hellenic Mythology
           Evil was a subject matter that was frequently expressed in Hellenic mythology.  Some of the references are brief, such as the plaque at the base of the statue of Heracles in Ephesus which refers to him as the “averter of evil” (Luck 145).  Other references are much more in depth and include elaborate stories with numerous involved characters.  I found it intriguing that there was no overall primary source of all the evil in the Hellenic world.          
Despite the lack of “supreme evil” being, there were still numerous other opportunities for evil beings to exist.  One of the most common descriptions of evil beings was a group of spirts called daemons.   Daemons are a group of minor deities or nature spirits that were recognized regularly in ancient Hellenic practices.  Daemons in general not considered evil despite their name and the implications that it holds in the modern world.  However, there was a subgroup of daemons known as “kakodaimones,” who were inherently evil.  One example of a kakodaimones was the daemon known as Eidolon Ephesios.  Eidolon was credited with bringing a deadly plague to the city of Ephesos.  This kakodaimono caused mischief in the city until it was finally banished by Apollonios (Atsma).
           Another myth in Greek history dealt directly with the origins of evil.  This is the myth of Pandora. In this story, Pandora was the first woman, created by Hephaestus and granted many gifts by the Olympians, including a mysterious jar.  She was then given to Epimetheus by Zeus to be his bride.  Prometheus, the brother of Epimetheus, had given a warning that gifts should not be accepted from Zeus, but Epimetheus did not listen.  Epimetheus accepted Pandora as his bride, and after their wedding ceremony she then scattered the contents of her jar into the world, filling the earth and sea with evils, toils, and sickness, leaving only hope inside (Hesiod, Works and Days).  This myth acts as a type of theodicy which works to explain the origins of evil in the world. 


Vedic Mythology

            Vedic mythology also has numerous accounts of evil expressed in several different stories.  They have myths which include a variety of deities who were said to work directly against evil.  One example is Ashvins, the deity of the morning.  Ashvins was said to rise early in the day and push out the darkness of night, while chasing away the evil spirits that walked the land (Macdonell 50-51).   Another example would be Parjanya, the deity of thunder and production.  He was believed to “strike down trees, demons, and evil doers” with his thunder (Macdonell 84). 
           Of course, if you have a set of deities that are able to combat evil, you have to have some sort of evil being for them to fight against.  As expected, Vedic mythology had a race of evil terrestrial demons called Raksases.  These beings are mentioned in the Rg Veda most often in the context of a deity being invoked to destroy them. However, in the descriptions that do exist, these goblins were said to have a hunger for flesh and blood.  They were believed to attack humans by entering them through their mouths and eating them from the inside out.  The Raksases would only come out of hiding at night, as the Vedic people believed that the dark time of the new moon belonged to the evil spirits (Macdonell 162-163).  Agni, the god of fire, was said to protect his followers from these evil spirits by bringing light to the darkness.
Norse Mythology
           Norse mythology also has a few references to evil, most often in the descriptions of specific entities.  This includes the monstrous wolves, Fenrir and Garm, who were both locked away from the world and would only to be freed during Ragnarok (Lindow 83).  However, the one disclaimer that I do want to give here is that much of the Norse mythology was translated by Christian authors, including Snorri.  It is quite possible that these creatures were not necessarily viewed as evil in the original myths when they were told, and that this is an outcome of the author’s influence.  Nonetheless, I still wanted to include these types of myths as well to show some examples of the biases found within translations.


Slavic Mythology

            While the examples I have listed so far seemed to have a wealth of options to refer to, Slavic mythology does not seem to dive quite as deeply into the realm of evil.  However, that doesn’t mean that evil isn’t present in their mythology.  There is a description I found in the reference to the deity named Chernobog.  Chernobog was believed to be the personification of evil, darkness, and death.  He was a god that was viewed as the cause of all humankind’s misfortune (Dixon-Kennedy).  However, I will point out that the idea that Chernobog is an evil deity may be another area where mythology was adapted by a writer’s personal religious influences.  It’s really difficult in some instances to know what was truly believed, and what has been influenced by the author. 

Avestan Mythology

            Avestan mythology is a little bit more difficult to dig into in general as it quickly crosses the line into Zoroastrian practices.  However, there is one reference to an evil demon that I did find intriguing.  This was a reference to a sensual demon named Akem Manah.  This demon’s name is directly translated to mean evil mind, purpose, or thought.  This demon was said to trick or manipulate the minds of humans.  Humans who were disobedient or deceitful were thought to be influenced by this spirit, so their actions were also referred to as “akem manah” (Ebrahimi and Bakhshayesh).  I found this influence to be a very interesting concept, and it seems different from the mythology in many of the other cultures.            

Persian Mythology

            Persian mythology is something that I was not very familiar with when I began researching their beliefs on evil.  However, I learned that one of their resources has numerous accounts of evil beings.  These references are found in the longest epic poem ever written by a single author titled Shahnameh, the Epic of the Kings.  The poem describes the history of many different Persian rulers.  Throughout the poem there are several references to evil beings who are often striving to attain more power.  The first reference is to a ruler named Ahriman “the evil”.  Ahriman is overwhelmed by jealousy when he learns of Kaiumer, the king of the world.  Ahriman sends his son, to gather an army and fight against Kaiumer’s army.  During this battle, Kaiumer’s son is killed.  After many years of mourning, Kaiumer kills Ahriman’s son and then  dies himself (Ferdowsi).  The poem tells us right out the gate that Ahriman is evil, and his actions reinforce this idea.  However, as the story continues, we see that his evil actions are the direct cause of more evil occurring in the world. 
           Later in the poem, a man named Husheng becomes king.  He is a wonderful ruler, giving men the power of fire, tilling, and reaping their crops.  When he passed away, his son Tahumer became the ruler.  This time, someone named Deevs is filled with jealousy and tries to fight Tahumer.  However, Deevs is defeated, and instead of killing him Tahumer allowed the man to live.  The poem says “the evil Deevs became a boon upon mankind” by teaching art to Tahumer and his followers (Ferdowsi).  Again, the evil here begins with envy, but this time we see someone overcoming the evil inside of them and making a positive change for the good of humankind. 
           This poem contains multiple other references to evil, including the quote “desire turned toward evil and heart was steeped in greed” which gives us a glimpse into the beliefs and views of the Persian people.  These brief examples seem to point to the idea that the Persians saw greed and envy as evil actions.  


Welsh Mythology

            Welsh mythology refers to a group of wizards called “dyn hysbys” or “cunning man.”  These wizards were said to be able to see the future, help find lost items, heal, and create magical charms. However, one of their other skills was the ability to dissolve curses and spells by “undoing the evil perpetrated by witches and others” (Oxford University Press).  This brief description shows the belief that some magic users were evil, while others were benevolent.

Baltic Mythology

            In Baltic mythology, Velnias is the closest being that I found to something that they believed was evil.  Velnias was the god of the underworld and protector of the dead.  It was believed that, while he did sometimes help humans, he also tempted them frequently to perform evil acts.  He was one-eyed and could see the future.  He also enjoyed performing terrible tricks, including kidnapping brides (Larson, Littleton and Puhvel).  Yet again, I’m unsure how much of this mythology can truly show an ancient belief that Velnias was evil because after Christianity was introduced to Lithuania, Velnias was converted to be seen as the equivalent to the devil in Christian mythos.  It could be the influence of Christian writers that made this change (O'Connor). 

Celtic Mythology

            Celtic mythology contains the tale of King Cormac mac Airt.  In this myth, it is said that the king turned away from Druidry and joined the Christian church.  The druids were so angered by this action that they sent a “malediction” which lead to him choking on a salmon bone (Byrne).  This myth shows us again that there was a general belief in evil spirits being present in the world, and that the Celtic people believed that these spirits could be convinced to work with humans if you had the appropriate knowledge.  This context seems very different than many other cultures. In most cultures, working with evil beings made the person evil as well.  That does not seem to be what is being expressed in this myth.     

The Evil Eye

            Celtic mythology also describes a race of beings called “Fomorians” who represented the “powers of evil” (Rolleston).  Balor was the king of the Fomorian race, and he is most well-known for his “evil eye.”  Balor was in Ireland and was walking past a house when he heard some mysterious chanting.  He approached the house and looked through a window, where smoke from inside blew into his face and blinded him.  One of the druids who had been in the house came out and found Balor writhing in pain.  The druid told Balor that the spell that hit him was a spell of death, and anyone looking upon his eye would be killed.  Essentially, Balor was given the gift of the “evil eye.”  The evil eye was a belief that someone has the ability to cause harm to someone else simply by looking at them (Dundes 258).  With just a look, a person can become cursed, and this curse may go on to harm either the person directly, or it may instead affect their property or belongings.  Some of the symptoms of this curse included “loss of appetite, excessive yawning, vomiting, and fever” (Dundes 258) which admittedly are quite generic.  The evil eye may also present itself in a cow whose milk has dried up, or a plant that has died.  Ultimately, the mythology tells us that Balor ended up using this evil eye as a weapon against his enemies (Heaney). 
           The myth of Balor and his evil eye is actually not unique to the Celtic culture.  While each culture seemed to have their own take on evil and what exactly that constituted, the idea of an “evil eye” was a topic that I found repeated across many different societies.  The Greek people knew the evil eye as the word “baskanos” (Burkert 73).  The epic poem Argonautica, tells the tale of Jason and the Argonauts as they travel to try to retrieve the golden fleece.  Along this voyage, Jason and his crew land in Crete where they encounter a giant bronze creature named Talos.  This creature tries to stop their journey, but the sorceress Medea puts baskanos on him, causing the creature to scrape his ankle on a rock and bleed to death (Rhodius). 
           In the cultures who had this belief of the “evil eye” there were preventative measures that people could take in order to prevent its harm, including wearing specific amulets around their necks, or performing certain actions, such as hand gestures or spitting (Dundes 258).   There is evidence of different charms being used throughout Wales with the intention of protecting against the evil eye (Withey). In ancient Greece, amulets were worn as protection against curses, the evil eye, and evil powers in general.  (Luck 49). 


Gods vs Serpents

            Another mythological theme that I found repeatedly when researching the role of evil in ancient societies was the myth of a hero or deity defeating an evil serpent.  In Hittite mythology, we find this theme in the myth of the storm god Teshub’s victory over Illuyanka.  Illuyanka was a serpent that represented the forces of evil and darkness.  While fighting against the serpent, Teshub was aided by his daughter, a mortal human.  The Hittites believed that Illuyanka had been overpowered in this fight, but the serpent was not slain, so he could rise again. They also expressed the idea it was humanity’s duty to continue that fight against evil and maintain balance in the Cosmos to prevent the serpent’s return.   They believe this responsibility was present because of the involvement of a mortal in the original fight between the gods and evil. 
           In Vedic mythology we see this myth repeated in the battle of Indra and Vritra.  Vritra was a serpent who embodied sin, hunger, and great evil (O'Flaherty 150).  Interestingly, Indra is the god of thunder and storms, just as Teshub was to the Hittites. In this myth, Vritra was blocking the rivers and streams with his giant body, and causing a major drought.  The world had dried up, and people could no longer grow their crops so they were starving.  Teshub saw their struggle and decided to fight against Vritra.  Eventually Vritra was destroyed and water was returned to the lands and ending the drought.
           We can also find this theme of deity fighting against an evil serpent in Greek mythology in Hesiod’s Theogony.  Within this book, we can learn of the fight between Typhon and Zeus.  Typhon was the terrible serpent son of Gaia and Tartarus who lived in the heart of a volcano.  Zeus, once again, is the god of thunder and the king of the Olympians.  Typhon rose out of his home in the volcano and challenged Zeus for rule over the Cosmos.  However, Zeus quickly struck him down with lightning, securing his reign once more (Hesiod, Theogony). 
           In Persian mythology the evil serpent is Zohak who sits upon a throne.  He is filled with evil until he is overflowing and his people try to push back against him.  However, the serpent doesn’t listen.  In this moment “vice stalked in daylight but virtue was hidden” from mankind (Ferdowsi).  The people were filled with fear and despair as two humans were sacrificed to the serpent each day.  Zohak showed his people no mercy and the land became dark because of the evil ruler.  Zohak had a dream that he would be defeated by someone named Feridoun, so he had all humans with that name killed.  However, one mother heard of these actions and hid her son away to be raised by others.  Feridoun spent time being raised by a cow, and a hermit until reaching adulthood and returning to his mother.  During this time, Zohak had left his throne to search for the one who would overtake him.  Feridoun approached the castle, and as he did the people began to follow him to the Zohak’s domain.  When they reached the castle, Feridoun took the throne for himself.  Zohak returned to find Feridoun in his place, but when Zohak tried to attack he was defeated by the people.  The people then carried Zohak to a rock outside of the city where he was bound and left to die (Ferdowsi). 



Hittite Beliefs

            The Hittite culture put a lot of emphasis on living life in a way that was pleasing to the gods.  They had a concept called “para handantatar” which encouraged people to life in harmony with each other and to obey the wishes of the gods, all while discouraging evil actions.  Following para handantatar would ensure that a person would receive “protection and blessings of divine favor” (Bryce 139-140).  They specifically called out specific actions that they considered evil, which included: murder, theft, violating oaths, and other crimes committed against “fellow creatures.”  If these actions were taken, not only would the person be punished by their fellow humans, but it was also believed that they would be punished by the gods.
           One of the primary celebrations of the Hittite people was the Purulli festival.  In this festival, they celebrated the triumph of the storm god Teshub over Illuyanka, a serpent that represented the forces of evil and darkness.  As I discussed previously, the Hittites believed that Illuyanka had been overpowered but that he could rise again.  Because of the role Teshub’s daughter played in the fight, the Hittites saw this as a statement that mortals needed to work directly with the gods to ensure that the cosmos “functioned properly” and that evil was kept away (Bryce 216-218).  Fulfilling this duty was the purpose of the Purulli festival.  


Hellenic Beliefs

            When it comes to researching and understanding the lives of the Hellenic people, we are very lucky to have a wealth of resources available.  One such resource is the Delphic Maxims, which is a group of sayings that were carved into the walls at the temple of Delphi.  These phrases acted as a set of rules that people were expected to follow.  Evil is directly mentioned in these maxims on two different occasions, one indicating that people should “shun evil” and another stating that they should “despise evil” (Silvanus).  These maxims show that, not only did the Hellenic people believe in evil, but that humans should avoid contact with it and hate its existence. While these maxims don’t tell us how evil was defined in their culture, it does at least validate the belief in the concept of evil itself at the very least. 
           Hellenic people held a strong belief in the afterlife, and the possibility of ghosts in the mortal realm.  In this culture, it was believed that most ghosts indicated the presence of evil.  A ghost in a specific location would indicate that the victim was murdered or suffered some other violent death (Luck 238-239).  Additionally, while priests and seers were honored and respected in ancient Greece, magic itself was often feared. Some of the beings who regularly practiced magic were perceived as evil and dangerous, such as the mythological witches Circe and Medea (Luck 35).  


Vedic Beliefs

            The Vedic people held very interesting beliefs when it came to the concept of evil.  They believed that the gods wanted humans to be virtuous and wholesome.  To promote this positive lifestyle the people would make sacrifices to the gods, which aided the deities, who in turn helped the people.  This created a mutual dependence between mortals and gods (O'Flaherty 82).  We see this concept repeatedly in many different cultures as well.  Previously I had never considered this type of relationship to be something that was done to help prevent evil in the world, so this approach was very interesting to me. 

Slavic Beliefs

            The Slavic people also had a unique set of beliefs about evil, specifically as it pertained to the dead.  The Slavic society was comfortable preparing their dead for funerals by dressing and caring for the bodies.  Some people even went so far as to make their own coffins.  However, there was a certain subset of people that were viewed as being “unclean” after they died.  This would include anyone who had contact with “evil spirits” during their lives.  Evil spirits were defined as witches, sorcerers, and people with a “double soul” (Vinogradova).  This brief passage shows that at least some of the people believed that magic, or at least those who practiced it, was evil.

Baltic Beliefs

            In Estonia, a lot of emphasis was put on building a home in a place that was not touched by evil.  If a house burned, they would never rebuild a house on that site out of fear that it was now filled with evil.  When they did choose a place to build a new home, they would trace specific furrow patterns into the ground before building in an effort to protect the house and those who lived within (Lecouteaux).   

Rituals & Practices

            As I have explored, there was a vast set of myths and beliefs tied to the idea of evil.  There were also numerous rituals and practices in ancient cultures that were intended to either prevent evil from effecting someone, or to purify an evil that had already been encountered. There were rituals to purify homes of evil forces, sympathetic magic to purify individuals, festivals to purify the entire community, and even marriage rites to prevent evil from effecting the couple’s offspring. Just as we saw in the mythology and beliefs, each culture approached these rites in slightly different ways, but the practices were present consistently.

Hittite Rituals & Practices

            While we have limited resources about the Hittite people, there are still references to practices related to evil.  For example, they had a form of sympathetic magic that was used to purge their community of those who may have done evil things.  They would place a small boat into a river or other body of water, and as the river would carry the boat away, they would say “just as the river carried away the boat, whoever has committed evil word, oath, curse, and uncleanliness in the presence of the gods, let the river carry them away” (Bryce 200-201).  
           They also had another sympathetic ritual that was intended to bring harmony to a household that had been filled with conflict. They would bring in an animal, and would transfer the evil forces that had been influencing the family into that creature.  The animal would then be sacrificed and the disposed by burning or burial to destroy the evil inside of it (Bryce 205).  This sympathetic magic was commonly done as a way to turn away illnesses that were thought to be brought on by evil beings.  They would sacrifice the animal and tell the evil “behold, here is an animal, well fed. May human meat be avoided by you” (Burkert).  These types of rituals were also popular in Greek and Babylonian societies. 
           Within the Hittite practices, homes were also purified and protected from evil in another magical ritual.  They would create a small dog out of tallow.  The dog would then be left at the entry of the home with the words “just by day you do not let other men into the courtyard, so do not let in the Evil Thing during the night” (Bryce 208-209).  This type of rite shows us that the Hittites were just as dedicated to protecting against evil as they were to expelling it once it was encountered.


Vedic Rituals & Practices

            The Vedic people believed evil was so exceedingly present in their world that they even incorporated a working against evil in their marriage rituals.  During the ceremony, a wand was shot into the air and the priest would say “I pierce through the eye of the Raksasas who are running around the bride, stepping toward the fire” (Oldenberg 134).  The marriage ceremony was only completed after this precaution had been taken, but even then the couple were required to remain abstinent for several days following the celebration as another method of evil prevention.  They believed that this abstinence would keep evil spirits from entering into the body of the bride and ultimately cause harm to their offspring. 

How is Evil Reflected in modern Paganism?

            With evil taking so many different forms within the ancient Indo-European cultures, it’s hard to believe that we wouldn’t incorporate at least some of those practices into our work within modern Neopaganism.  After a lot of time and consideration, there are a few different practices that I believe could be tied into the ancient’s approaches to evil.  The first example of this would be the simple act of purification.  While we typically do not say that we are looking to remove evil specifically, purification is described as a way to “remove or temporarily suspend undesirables, like negative energies, disruptive thoughts, or other items that may be productive in a ritual environment” (Newberg).  To me, this would logically include the removal of any evil energies or beings that may be attached to a participant or ritual space.
           Another way that we work against evil in our rituals and practices are apotropaic offerings.  Apotropaic sacrifices a type of ritual offering that is given as a way to specifically avert evil (Thomas).  This type of offering is not found in all of our rituals, but they may be done in times where an omen indicates that offerings were not accepted, or in personal practices if someone feels the need for deeper work. 
           Additionally, many different cultures had an idea of the reciprocal relationship with the deities as a way to bring balance and prevent evil in the Cosmos.  Many different modern polytheists incorporate this type of reciprocity into our own practices to build our relationships with the Kindreds. This type of reciprocal relationship is another theme that is repeated across many cultures, including the ancient Greek concept of “xenia” (Biggs, Joseph and Bennet) and the Vedic practice of making sacrifices to deities for protection and to prevent these evils from interfering with their lives.  I had never considered this relationship as a way to prevent evil, but when looking at the historic context it does make sense. 
           Overall, I was surprised at how many different practices we have could be viewed as ways to prevent evils in our lives, or to work against the evil forces that may exist in the world.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been though, especially considering how heavily our influence pulls our practices from each of these cultures. 



            There are several different philosophies that can relate directly to the concept of evil, but I think the most obvious example of this is theodicy.  Theodicy is a philosophical study that explains the presence of evil if an all-knowing, all powerful deity exists.  It has several possible arguments to justify this evil ranging arguments that evil is caused by free will, to the idea that god permits evil things to happen.  There are four major types of theodicy throughout the ages.  The first is the thought that evil is caused by the inappropriate use of free will.  The second is that god allows bad things to happen because it allows humans to gain an understanding of morality.  The third type of theodicy indicates that god actually causes bad things to happen, which eliminates the idea that “god is good” the way it’s traditionally perceived.  The final type of theodicy is the idea that god has a reason for allowing evil that humans may not understand (Greer).  
           The Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus wrote about his theory of evil in a couple of different contexts.  He described evil as a “psychic event” experienced by souls, but also believed that it is not a “meaningless plague” upon humans (Moore).  Instead he believed that evil is something that can allow a person to grow and change.  Plotinus expanded on this idea, stating that a soul was capable of weakness, and therefore easily manipulated or tricked by an influential force.  He indicated that when evil is done by someone, it is because they were overtaken by the “baser side,” such as desire or rage, or some other evil (Plotinus).  However, despite believing that evil came from an outside source, he did not see evil as something caused by a deity.  Instead he believed that it existed purely because souls were fallible and could be weak and make the wrong decisions.   He described disease as an evil caused by a lack of health, and sin as an evil caused by a lack of virtue (Calder).  He said that evil was a necessary part of the world, and that it was the “soul’s design” to get away from these evils by gaining likeness to God (Plotinus).  One of the ways those evils could be escaped was by the soul experiencing love in a pure form (Moore).
            Another philosopher who explored the idea of evil was Democritus.  Democritus was a pre-Socratic philosopher in ancient Greece.  He believed that the concept of evil came from “external” goods, such as the food that was eaten by a person.  It is from these external forces that people either received or escaped evil (Gale Research Inc. 261).  He didn’t express any belief that there was divine interference, or even demons or spirits that were involved, but only these “external” goods.  However, he didn’t necessarily believe that the external forces themselves were inherently evil.  He believed that the soul could turn good things into evil if they didn’t know how to handle it appropriately.  Democritus described this belief in his explanation of naturalistic ethics, saying that nature is “necessity not justice”, and not good or evil by itself (Gale Research Inc.). 



            When I started this essay, I indicated that evil is something that I don’t really concern myself with.  While I’d love to say that this course changed my opinion, I don’t know that it really did.  I understand the practice of the ancients, and I do believe that there are evil beings, humans, and energies in the universe.  However, I also don’t know that there can be much benefit to putting a lot of focus into the idea of counteracting those measures.  I appreciate that the work we do as polytheists may already address the concept evil, but I also appreciate that it does so as a side-effect, not as the direct focus.  The idea of evil feels like something that is deeply tied into the concept of “sin.” While this may be a personal hang-up, I don’t feel the need for my spiritual practice to focus that on a daily basis. 

Works Cited

Atsma, Aaron J. Eidolon Ephesios. 2017. October 2019. <>.
Biggs, Cory, et al. The Value of Hospitality. 2002. 2019. <>.
Bonewits, Rev. Isaac. What Do Neopagan Druids Believe? October 2010. October 2019. <>.
Bryce, Trevor. Life and Socity in the Hittite World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Burkert, Walter. Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual. Berkley: University of California Press, 1979.
Byrne, Francis J. Irish Kings and High-Kings. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001.
Calder, Todd. The Concept of Evil. 2018. October 2019. <>.
Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1998.
Dundes, Alan. The Evil Eye: A Casebook. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.
Ebrahimi, Seyed Reza and Elnaz Valaei Bakhshayesh. Manifestation of Evil in Persian Mythology from the Perspective of the Zoroastrian Religion. n.d. October 2019. <>.
Ferdowsi, Hakim Abol Qasem. Shahnmaeh: The Epic of Kings. Ed. Translated by Helen Zimmern. n.d.
Gale Research Inc. Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. Vol. 136. Cengage Gale, n.d.
Heaney, Marie. Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.
Hesiod. Theogony. n.d.
—. Works and Days. n.d.
Larson, Gerald James, C. Scott Littleton and Jaan Puhvel. Myth in Indo-European Antiquity. Berkley: University of California Press, 1974.
Lecouteaux, Claude. The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore & Practices. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2013.
Lindow, John. Norse Mythology. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Macdonell, Arthur Anthony. Vedic Mythology. Oxford University Press, 1897.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. n.d. 2019. <>.
Moore, Edward. Plotinus. n.d. October 2019. <>.
Mortensen, Karl. A Handbook of Norse Mythology. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1913.
Newberg, Brandon. Core Order of Ritual Tutorial. 2007. October 2019. <>.
O'Connor, Kevin. Cutlure and customs of the Baltic States. Greenwood Press: Westport, 2006.
O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. Berkley: University of California Press, 1976.
Oldenberg, Hermann. The Religion of the Veda. Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1993.
Oxford University Press. Oxford Reference. 2019. October 2019. <>.
Plotinus. The Six Enneads. n.d. October 2019. <>.
Rhodius, Apollonius. The Argonautica. 2013. October 2019. <>.
Rolleston, T. W. Celtic Myths and Legends. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2009.
Silvanus, Klayton. Delphic Maxims. 2017. October 2019. <>.
Thomas, Rev. Kirk. The Nature of Sacrifice. March 2008. October 2019. <>.
Vinogradova, Lyudmila N. Notions of Good and Bad Death in the System of Slavic Beliefs. n.d. October 2019. <>.
Withey, Alun. The 'dyn hysbys' and the Doctor. n.d. October 2019. <>.


bottom of page