‘It Is Better to Believe in the Devil’

Mikael Häll

in The Devil’s Party

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199779239
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979646 | DOI:
‘It Is Better to Believe in the Devil’

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This chapter demonstrates how, unlike in the English language, “Satanist” was in use as a term for Devil-worshippers in Swedish theological discourse as early as 1617. Further, using court records from the 17th and 18th centuries, the chapter shows such Satanists did actually exist in Sweden at the time, albeit only in an individual, solitary and unsystematic way. The sources reveal that for example some outlaws and cunning folk turned to the Devil for assistance, and that their practices could reasonably be seen as a form of “folk Satanism”. Through a process of exchange between learned and popular discourses Satan came to be regarded as a spirit governing the wilderness, and, similar to originally non-demonic nature spirits in folklore, he would sometimes grant favours to humans, for instance help with hunting and fishing.

Keywords: Satanism; Sweden; early modern; nature spirits; outlaws; cunning folk; folklore; theology

Chapter.  8009 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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