Aris Legowski, University of Bonn

What is the Evil within Demons? Exploring the Egyptian semantic field of the Evil

Throughout all periods of Ancient Egyptian history liminal entities, or demons, played a significant role in cultural life. They can be regarded as concrete manifestations of universal forces such as good and evil. Analogously to their liminal nature, demons can possess either benevolent or malevolent powers, or in some cases both. Appearing in various forms and on a wide range of different sources demons convey the vivid discourses about good and evil. Repelling and overcoming demonic evil forces was fundamental, as it was often expressed in both literary and figurative form. Quite frequently, indeed, the principle of good was virtually defined through the renunciation and rejection of evil.

Looking into particular cases of demons and their actions, several words describing evil have been attributed to them. Yet their very nature and purpose are not always obvious since there is no single and simple definition of evil.
As part of a broader study on the semantic fields of evil, this paper will analyse the meaning of evil in the context of demons by comparing attributes of evil within a larger scope of different genres. The focus will be on the semantic fields of words also appearing as abstracta, hence these bear a higher significance in regard to a comprehension of diachronic and inter-generic discourses.

This approach aims for a more distinct understanding of the evil ascribed to demons and for shedding light on the nature of those liminal entities, whose character is not immediately evident from their context.

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