Number of the Beast
One of the most interesting things that medieval demonologists gave us is the so-called "Number of the Beast", the existence of which, probably, is known even to those who cannot distinguish Asmodeus from Astaroth. The combination of three sixes is firmly planted in modern pop culture. I propose to figure out where it came from and what it can mean.
The source of the terrible number 666 is the "Revelation of John the Theologian", also known as the "Apocalypse". In his text, such a set of symbols is associated with the second apocalyptic beast that came out of the earth. It doesn't really explain why, unfortunately. It is simply written: "Whoever has a mind, count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; his number is six hundred and sixty-six." To argue means to admit that you have no mind. You have to nod and agree.
By the way, it is interesting that in some variants of writing the text, the number suddenly changes to 616. Also without explanation.
Since then, the unfortunate sixes have been overgrown with interpretations from all sides. Most often, they tried to find an encrypted name in them - the Greeks and Jews, with whom all this Christian pandemonium began, used the letters of the alphabet as numbers. Being written as a sum of different numbers, 666 turns into different letter combinations. Gaius Julius Caesar and Emperor Nero were especially stubborn in this crossword puzzle, but most theologians agreed that the name of the Antichrist should be encrypted there.
This version was supported by the fact that the letters of the name of Jesus, understood as a set of numbers, gave the combination 888, and the eight also has a deep symbolism.
According to Irenaeus of Lyons, the leading theologian of the 2nd century, the number 666 adds up to 600 (the age of Noah at the time of the flood), 60 (the height of the statue of Nebuchadnezzar in cubits) and 6 (the width of the same statue in cubits). The number suits the Antichrist, because by the Apocalypse the sinfulness of the world will be as great as it was during the flood, and because the said statue was used to spread idolatry.
It sounds, unfortunately, not only boring, but far-fetched. And for the elbows.
Attempts were made to interpret the Number of the Beast from the standpoint of Pythagorean numerical symbolism. According to this theory, 666 is a "triangular" number: it is the sum of consecutive numbers from 1 to 36, and the number 36 is the sum of consecutive numbers from 1 to 8. Thus, we again came to the eight.
But according to the Pythagoreans, the figure eight is not a symbol of Jesus, but of the Antichrist. Yes, and in the same "Revelation of John the Theologian" there are lines: "And the beast, which was and which is not, is the eighth."
Signing Contracts with the Devil
According to the early medieval canons, the relationship between man and the devil does not carry a sensual component. A person who wants to sign a contract comprehends his act pragmatically, using the formula do ut des (I give so that you give). The devil, on the other hand, considers original sin to be a legal justification for his right to own a person, and therefore he also approaches his duties in a balanced and pragmatic way. It is curious that the very idea of a contract in this case has biblical roots, and therefore the devil, if he needs to legally substantiate his right to a soul, can absolutely calmly refer to the Bible, which says: "we made an alliance with death and made an agreement with the underworld."
Demonologists moved away from the concept of impartial advocacy quite quickly - for example, already in the Renaissance, the devil may well conclude an agreement with a witch on the basis of mutual sympathy or even love. This trend continued: Mephistopheles was looking for a comrade in Faust and the consolation of his own sadness, sometimes the devil even offered his services out of sympathy for a person in a difficult situation.
The idea of union with the devil as a legal contract is first heard by Augustine in his treatise On Christian Doctrine. The theologian considers magic, astrology and other similar entertainments as dark arts and a manifestation of "a destructive community between man and the devil, an agreement of unfaithful and insidious friendship." In the era of the witch hunt, this contract took the form of evidence for the inquisitors (no one knew exactly how the contract looked like, therefore, it happened that absolutely random records were equated with it). In the same cases, if the inquisitor could not find a suitable paper, then the term "contract" itself was understood broadly, meaning any conscious use of the power of the devil for one's own purposes. It was believed that such an agreement could be concluded "mentally" - and hence grew a contradiction in what can be considered evidence. After all, formally, unprecedented prospects opened up for witch hunters - you can prove the existence of a mental contract, if you try, for absolutely any person.
As a result, treaties began to be divided into "expressed" and "tacit". The difference, I think, is clear. But the severity of the crime was absolutely the same for both options.
One of the oldest and most famous legends about the agreement with hell is the Legend of Theophilus. It was translated into Russian by A. Blok, and before him, in ancient Russian literature, a legend about Theophilus the Economist, similar in content, surfaced.
It tells of a priest named Theophilus of Adana. He piously refused the bishopric offered to him, but after that he found himself in an extremely disadvantageous position: the new bishop disliked a potential competitor. And, alas, Theophilus lacked humility: he became angry and vowed to take revenge by taking episcopal privileges. Theophilus, according to legend, refers to the Jewish magician, who at night led the priest to a certain deserted place, to the mass of devil worshipers. The devil, surrounded by his admirers, with candles in his hands, calls on the priest to renounce God and take an oath of allegiance. Theophilus signs the treaty and kisses the devil as a sign of obedience. After that, his former influence returns to him, life passes in luxury, and the former bishop voluntarily transfers his privileges. However, when the time of reckoning comes, the devil sends demons for the cleric to drag Theophilus to hell.
In later versions of the legend, a happy ending appears - Theophilus repents, asks the virgin Mary for protection, and she saves the priest. But in that case, he got off too easy, right?
An expressed contract, that is, drawn up in the form of a document, required a complex ritual. In demonological literature, it is similar at the same time to the ritual of baptism and the ritual of anointing - taking a feudal oath. The ritual includes the introduction of the neophyte by the magician, the question of the devil about the neophyte's consent to the article as the servant, the signing of the contract and the "kiss of the world", symbolically completing the ritual.
Martin Luther argued that the devil should not be kissed on the lips, but on the ass. But Luther, in principle, had strange fetishes, some of which have already been mentioned.
Like the summoning ritual, the preparation of the contract is permeated with the symbolism of the beginning of a new life, expressed, among other things, in the use of new, unused items.
The contract, according to demonological evidence, should be written with one's own hand on the so-called virgin parchment, i.e. made from the skin of an animal that has never been pregnant. The animal, in addition, was stabbed with a special wooden knife, made specifically for the ritual. The skin was placed in a new clay pot, quicklime was added to it and holy water was poured. The pot, surrounded by magical formulas, was left to pickle for five days.
The text of the agreement, as a rule, included the recognition in the devil of an equal god, which can be considered a reference to the dualistic early medieval heresies. Next came the denial of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the rest of the holy team. After - an expression of readiness to transfer the body, soul and life to the devil if he fulfills the requirements of the caster.
There are many "genuine" pacts with the devil preserved in the historical archives. In Russia, they also indulged in similar things. For example, there is an agreement signed by a certain Ivan Robota dated 1749, executed with blood.
Strictly speaking, a signature in blood is only one of the forms of pledge of the soul. Witches at the Sabbaths sacrificed their hair to the devil, sometimes someone else's life was a pledge.
The contract with the devil itself, physically existing, was considered by demonologists as a kind of amulet. Demonomaniacs and sorcerers sought to make the contract merge with the human body - for example, they sewed it under the skin, after which the person allegedly became invulnerable and received magical powers.
It was almost always possible to break the contract either by deceiving the devil, or by repenting in time. In this sense, the behavior of Dr. Faust from the original German legend is curious - he refuses to break the contract with Mephistopheles for reasons of honor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.