10 Demons That Actually Had Roots In Myth And Literature
From 1998 to 2006, fans listened to supernatural fantasy phenomena Charm to watch the Halliwell sisters fight to protect innocent people and banish the evils that lurk in every corner of San Francisco. For eight seasons, the original series followed the trio of witches working with the “power of three” to wipe out the creatures of the underworld. To the show’s credit, fans suspended their disbelief that all the evils of the underworld were wreaking hellish havoc out there on the West Coast.
Watching the witches balance boyfriends, businesses, and the occasional run-in with the forces of pure evil was a weekly treat. But these are the demons of Charm which sometimes stole the show. Many supernatural creatures that have appeared in the series have their roots in classical myth, folklore, and literature. While sometimes staying true to the original mythos, there are also plenty of occasions when Charm took creative license and adapted the characters to modernize or threaten them.
Of Celtic mythological origin, the story of the banshee (or bean sidhe) begins in the 8th century. The banshee is a fairy that attaches itself to a family, and its moan predicts the impending death of a family member. She takes many physical forms, variously appearing as a witch, a young woman, a washerwoman, or a matron.
The banshee is reinvented in Charm like a demon preying on pain and suffering. In legends and folklore, the banshee kills no one. On the contrary, it is a harbinger of death, prefiguring it but not causing it. The Charm the rendition has the banshee screaming at people until their eyes bleed. A little dramatic license never killed anyone except people bleeding to death in their face.
The Furies were Greek goddesses born from the fallen blood of Ouranos when his son, the Titan Cronos, castrated him. They have a vested interest in bringing justice to family matters, given that they were created out of a horrible family feud. Ruthless punishers of mortals who shed immoral blood, they were sometimes depicted as having wings symbolizing swift revenge. Identified in some sources as sisters, they were hideous women with snakes in their hair and around their arms.
Given that Piper became a fury while mourning her sister Prue, this idea fits perfectly with the concept of furies related to family feuds and unjust bloodshed. But there are a few deviations from the origin myths: these furies breathe smoke, and the snakes entwining their arms are more pourable and economical body paint.
Jinns or jinns featured in Arabian mythology – they can take human or animal form, or inhabit inanimate objects. The “genie in a bottle” trope first appeared in Thousand and one Night, also known as Arabian Nights, a famous collection of Middle Eastern tales told by Scheherazade. Geniuses are not inherently evil and have the ability to punish or inspire.
The genius of Charm follows the trope of the trickster well – he makes choices between being good or bad, choosing to punish or to help. Following the tradition of the thousand and one nights of living in a bottle, this genie takes on a human form as French Stuartand at one point as Prue’s date, adopting the jinn shapeshifting from folklore.
With origins in Norse myth, in early legends the Valkyries were demons of death. Riding dragons or white horses into the skies, the Valkyries gathered the heroic dead from the battlefield for Odin’s army in Valhalla.
The Book of Shadows entry on the Valkyries is spot on, stating that they “scour the battlefields for dying warriors then take their souls to Valhalla…” But there’s a lot of artistic license taken with the Valkyries couriers. , which are Harley-Davidsons in this iteration. Another departure from the mythos is the location of Valhalla. The Charmed Ones find Valhalla in the Maldives, which seems an unlikely location for Odin’s Celestial Hall of the Dead.
Hecate is the Greek goddess of necromancy and agriculture, bizarrely combining death and fertility. When Persephone was abducted, Hecate used her torch to help find her, and was later assigned to the Torches at the Crossroads. Her domain is that of thresholds and borders, and Hecate is sometimes depicted as having three faces to be seen in all directions.
The Charm The story of Hecate’s attempt to consummate with an abducted groom and kill him does justice to the link between fertility and death in the origin myths. But the original Hecate presides over the earth, the sea and the sky, and not the underworld as Charm laid. The creators also went for a serious make-under, giving Hecate a monstrous appearance, which may have offended the ancient Athenians who held her in high regard.
The succubus has been identified in Judeo-Christian folklore as Lilith, and appears in the 1487 treatise on witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum. There are different versions of the succubus, and she also appears in Sumerian, Greek, and Roman folklore. She tends to be a demon disguised as a beautiful woman who seduces men, draining their lives with a kiss.
In some tales, she comes to see the men while they sleep, which explains why Phoebe first connects with the succubus in her dreams. But there is no mention of a terrifying testosterone snake in the original stories. The Malleus Maleficarum also notes that defeating a succubus requires confessing one’s sins, which would have made for a significantly duller final showdown for The Charmed Ones.
In Greek mythological tradition, the Titans were the offspring of heaven and earth. Older than the Olympian gods, Hesiodit is Theogony mentions twelve original Titans. They overthrew their father, but Zeus, son of the Titan Cronus, engaged in a decade-long battle with the Titans for supreme control.
Charm ticks the boxes of the Titans being very large and extremely powerful, their defeat only possible at the hands of the gods. However, viewers will have to suspend their disbelief to accept that the all-powerful Cronus has been defeated and sent to Hades, which appears to be located entirely under a house in San Francisco.
Luring men to their death with a deadly song, the mermaid is part-bird, part-woman, best known for her mention in Homerit is Odyssey. Odysseus had his men put beeswax in their ears and tie themselves to the mast as their ship passed the sirens. Avoiding the mermaid’s song would be the only way to pass alive, as their song causes anyone who hears it to follow it blindly and crash on rocky shores.
The biggest difference here is that Melinda Clarke has human legs and is not, in fact, half-bird. There’s not a shipwreck in sight either, and all of this mermaid’s conquests are on solid ground. She sings a song that casts a spell on her prey, but that’s where the similarities to the origin myth end.
Of Persian and Greek origin, the manticore (from Persian “man-eater”) is akin to a chimera. With a lion’s body, a human head, and a venomous, spiky tail, the manticore was included in Naturalis History as if it were a real animal. It has a loud trumpet roar, three rows of teeth, and red skin.
The manticore of Charm doesn’t seem to have any of these features other than a few mean looking chompers. This manticore is more of a lizard person than the goofy composite creature of myth. The Book of Shadows entry on the creature mentions poisonous claws, a slight departure from the scorpion-like tails of the mythological manticores.
Of ancient Greek origin, harpies were first described as personifications of storm and wind. Their interpretation morphed over the centuries and they became known as half-bird, half-woman monsters who robbed men from battlefields or abducted children. Similar to the Valkyries, the Harpies punish wrongdoers and work with the Furies to exact revenge on the culprits.
The harpy queen clad in leather Charm has no bird-like characteristics. Appearing only briefly, it’s hard to discern how much credence the creators gave to its original backstory. Yet, on the surface alone, nothing about this character says “Harpy.”
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