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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Devil A figure in religious mysticism depicted as a man-figure with horns, a tail, and cloven feet. Frequently, in Italian and French sculpture, the figure also has a conspicuous organ of procreation. The Devil is often synonymous with Satan.
      Despite his usual evil reputation, he was credited in medieval times with some good deeds as well as bad. In anthropomorphic form, he was said to work in deep silver mines where human beings could not go, to build massive bridges, and to assist sailors in navigating through hazardous waters——in response to appropriate prayers or incantations, of course.
      Some of the greatest support for belief in devils and demons was provided by St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who endorsed as fact every fable that had ever been adopted by Christianity from other religions. Nothing, no matter how bizarre, was unacceptable to St. Thomas. He even claimed that devils could produce progeny:  

      When children are born of the intercourse of devils with human beings, they do not come from the seed of the devil or of the human body he has assumed, but of the seed which he has extracted from another human being. The same devil, who, as a woman, has intercourse with a man can also, in the form of a man, have intercourse with a woman.

      Since no half-devils were extant, this explanation took care of that awkward fact; the devilish progeny would look just like real, regular persons.

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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.

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