The Concept of Satan in World Religions

The concept of Satan in world religions is an interesting one that has not sufficiently been studied by scholars. We all know that Satan is a familiar character from Christianity; does the red-pajama’d, soul-stealing badass, however, appear in other religions as well, drinking the blood of newborn babes and raping evildoers with his white-hot thorned penis? As it turns out, he does (although not in his characteristic red pajamas).

In Hinduism, for example, there is an evil trickster known as Majapudu, who is reputed to have twelve horns, eyes of fire, and noxious flatulence that can kill an entire village in minutes, like mustard gas. Worshipers in the south of India and in Burma, fearful of Majapudu’s power, reportedly have developed an elaborate set of rites intended to pacify this worst of demons. Some of the rites include the ritual sacrifice of all infants born in the month of D’vindi (roughly mid-November to mid-December of our calendar).

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The religion of the aborigines of the Ukraine has a similar character, Thauraza. No traditions give any direct description of Thauraza, though, He is said to travel around the countryside in a giant ball of fire, only stepping out to devour the occasional soul and send it to thousands of years of torment in his miles-long sulphurous bowels.

Not all Satan characters in world religions, though, are terrifying. Others are more like tricksters, or, even worse, like that frat brother everyone had who was always able to score at any party, no matter what. The Indonesians, for example, tell of a mysterious stranger known as Jobimba, or “mystery man,” who would occasionally come into a town, seduce all of the women under thirty, and then leave them pregnant and unfulfilled by their less seductive husbands. The resulting social dysfunction that would ensue was said to be worse than that caused by a thousand episodes of “Dr. Phil.”
In sum, many world religions talk about Satan (or someone who looks a lot like him). Maybe that’s the most important thing about Satan– he goes by many names and wears many faces (the Devil, the Lord of the Flies, Prince of Darkness, even Jobimba). So we should all be on our guard, just in case the next person you meet– or the author of the next paper you read– isn’t the Devil himself!
Jones, Stella. “Figures of Evil among the Pacific Islanders.” Journal of Comparative Anthropology 58.2 (Spring 1976), 23-57.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Vintage Books, 1972.

Sokal, Allan. “The Devil is in the Details.” Annals of Improbable Research 3 (1956), 765-781.


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