I have little interest in demonology, but when I happened on Esther Inglis-Arkell’s webpage The Five Best and Five Worst Demons to Get Possessed By, I knew I had to post about #3 on the Worst Demons list:

Agares can be a woman or a man. If the demon is a man, the man is old and riding a crocodile. If the demon is a woman, she’s young and angelically beautiful […]. The good news is a short time with Agares will give you knowledge of every language in the world. The bad news is that he or she will only teach you the foulest and most offensive words.

Now, that’s my kind of demon!


  1. Reminds me of a saying I just heard on the radio about how to avoid danger from all directions:

    Ni frente al toro, ni detrás de mula; y si poder ser, ni al lado de mujer

    The idea behind Agares-as-beautiful-young-woman, I’m guessing, is that you will curse the day you married her because it brought jealousy and despair. “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, / Never make a pretty woman your wife …”.

    Unlike Inglis, I see here no “messed up double standards when it comes to beauty”.

  2. As somebody who is interested in demonology (as well as the anthropology of demonic possession stories), it was kind of sad to read a crappy clickbait article about what are actually some fascinating folklore villains.

  3. Brett, how’s your Spanish ? There is a strange internet radio channel I listen to for the lingo: Edenex, La Radio del Misterio. They do demonology too.

  4. On the nature of demons:

    Some years ago when the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls started to be made public, I read a few pages of them and was struck by the following sample of demonology: a woman had for years been possessed by a demon which caused her severe abdominal pain. A holy man was able to expel the demon by means of a strong enema.

  5. An enema a day keeps the enemy away. Perhaps the woman had a painful gas build-up caused by an intestinal obstruction. Demons come in all shapes, sizes and states (here the gas state).

    The WiPe on enema says:

    # There was a Keeper of the Royal Rectum who may have primarily been the pharaoh’s enema maker. The god Thoth, according to Egyptian mythology, invented the enema. #

  6. Stu, on first glance I saw your 10:22 comment as saying “[…] There is a strange internal radio channel I listen to […]”

  7. Everybody has one. It’s only when there are several of them that problems may develop.

  8. I wonder how it was originally pronounced. I couldn’t find it listed in any dictionary, or any other source that gave a pronunciation or etymology. I’m sure in practice, people nowadays use all sorts of pronunciations, and it’s common for names like this to evolve over time. But I still wonder if we have any evidence of the medieval pronunciation. Apparently “Agreas” is an attested variant spelling, in Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (1577) it was spelled as “Aguarès”, and in Livre des Esperitz, which was in French, it was spelled as “Agarat”. For whatever reason, I’m tending towards /ˈæg.ə.riːz/.

  9. Admit it, you just want to say it right when you invoke the beautiful, language-knowledge providing demon (and who of us wouldn’t want to)… 😉

  10. “… and one thing led to another, Your Lordship.”

  11. Thanks, all of yez — this thread has given me several good laughs!

    it was kind of sad to read a crappy clickbait article about what are actually some fascinating folklore villains.

    Yeah, sorry about that — I realized it was a crappy clickbait article, but I couldn’t find a more respectable source in my (admittedly cursory) search. Congrats to Eli Nelson for better detective work.

  12. And of course I too would like to know the correct pronunciation, if there is one, of the name, if it actually exists. I think I was mentally saying it as if it were Spanish, which makes no sense, but I’m not going to switch unless I have something sensible to switch to.

  13. Stu Clayton says

    With final stress, as suggested by Eli’s Aguarès and Agarat ?

  14. Well, those are French spellings, and if I were speaking French I would know how to pronounce it. In English, I haven’t a clue. Unless Ag(u)arès is in fact a French demon.

  15. @Stu Clayton:
    Well, final stress would be right if it is pronounced as an unnativized loan from French. But this is not the case for several other names found in the Livre des Esperitz, such as “Lucifer” and “Satan”. There are so many variant spellings of demonic names though that it is kind of silly for me to seek out a “correct” pronunciation of any particular spelling. The most useful thing would be to know the etymology of the name; it should be possible to infer plausible anglicized pronunciations from that. I did find a book from 2013, GOETIAN CODEX, that gives (uncited) pronunciation guides for the demons: for Agares it says “Ay-GARES” which would seem to indicate /ˌeɪˈgɛərz/. The /eɪ/ in the pretonic syllable seems quite unnatural to me, though: I’d expect it to either get the primary stress, or be reduced to schwa. Some of the other pronunciations also seem a bit dubious to me, like “AHL-low-kees” (/ˈɑloʊkiːz/) for “Alloces”.

  16. Those sound like somebody with no relevant information made them up on the spur of the moment.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Don’t such things belong to written language and aren’t really intended to have any particular pronunciation?

  18. But some of us want to pronounce them anyway.

  19. There really have been practical demonologists who would want to say those names for the sake of either invoking or banishing the demons. Would-be medieval sorcerers were amost always clerics; their demon-summoning rituals leaned heavily on liturgy (in Latin, of course). That doesn’t really help make sense of the odder spellings. I wonder what languages the medieval sorcerers imagined those derived from. They could always blame the failure of a demon to appear on having not gotten the pronunciation right.

  20. That doesn’t really help make sense of the odder spellings. I wonder what languages the medieval sorcerers imagined those derived from.
    Demonic? 😉
    But seriously, I’d assume that the odd spellings and exoticity of those names are a means to convey the otherness and dangerousness of the demons.

  21. Since Agares/Agarus/etc. bestows titles and a knowledge of colorful epithets in all languages, perhaps his name is a mangled medieval Greek rendering, with [ɡ] for γγ, of an Ἀγγάρης ultimately of Iranian origin: a *(h)angaras “the praise-singer” or the like, from an Old Iranian *hamkāra-, “herald, praise-poet, griot”, with the root and preverb also seen in Avestan hamkāraiia-, usually interpreted as “to praise, celebrate, announce”, and further akin to Greek κῆρυξ, “herald”, and Sanskrit kāruḥ, “praise-singer”.

    Such an Ἀγγάρης is mentioned by Athenaeus in the Deipnosophistae (14.633 d-e):

    τὴν γοῦν Κύρου τοῦ πρώτου ἀνδρείαν καὶ τὸν μέλλοντα πόλεμον ἔσεσθαι πρὸς Ἀστυάγην προείδοντο οἱ ᾠδοί. ὅτε γάρ φησίν ᾐτήσατο τὴν εἰς Πέρσας ἀποδημίαν ὁ Κῦρος ἐγεγόνει δὲ αὐτοῦ πρότερον ἐπὶ τῶν ῥαβδοφόρων, εἶθ᾽ ὕστερον ἐπὶ τῶν ὁπλοφόρων καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εὐωχουμένου οὖν τοῦ Ἀστυάγους μετὰ τῶν φίλων τότε Ἀγγάρης τις ὄνομα οὗτος δ᾽ ἦν τῶν ᾠδῶν ὁ ἐνδοξότατος ᾖδεν εἰσκληθεὶς τά τε ἄλλα τῶν εἰθισμένων καὶ τὸ ἔσχατον εἶπεν ὡς ἀφεῖται εἰς τὸ ἕλος θηρίον μέγα, θρασύτερον ὑὸς ἀγρίου ὃ ἂν κυριεύσῃ τῶν καθ᾽ αὑτὸ τόπων, πολλοῖς μετ᾽ ὀλίγον ῥᾳδίως μαχεῖται, ἐρομένου δὲ τοῦ Ἀστυάγους ‘ποῖον θηρίον;’ ἔφη Κῦρον τὸν Πέρσην νομίσας οὖν ὀρθῶς αὐτὸν ὑπωπτευκέναι καὶ μεταπεμπόμενος … οὐδὲν ὤνησεν.

    The bards knew in advance about the courage of Cyrus for example, and about the war that was about to take place against Astyages. He says that when Cyrus requested permission to visit Persia—he had previously commanded Astyages’ rod-bearers, and then later his armed men— . . . and he left. Astyages was having a feast at that point with his friends, and a man named Angares—he was the most distinguished bard—who had been invited in, sang the other, conventional songs, and at the end said that a great beast, even bolder than a wild boar, had been allowed to escape into the swamps; if it got control of the territory around there, it would soon have no difficulty fighting large numbers of men. When Astyages asked “What kind of beast are you referring to?”, the bard said that he meant Cyrus the Persian. Although Astyages was accordingly convinced that he had been right to be suspicious of Cyrus and tried to summon . . . it did no good.


    Such an etymology has been offered for Greek ἄγγαρος “mounted courier” by Philip Huyse (1993), “Von angaros und anderen iranischen Boten,” Historische Sprachforschung 106: 272-284.

  22. Cf. angary.

  23. One of the Lovecraftian gnats at which I strain is when the protagonist sees something like “ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”, reads it aloud, and summons Cthulhu or whoever, on his first attempt.

  24. Since Agares/Agarus/etc. bestows titles and a knowledge of colorful epithets in all languages, perhaps his name is a mangled medieval Greek rendering, with [ɡ] for γγ, of an Ἀγγάρης ultimately of Iranian origin

    Hey, I like that! OK, I’m tentatively going with /əˈgɛ.riːz/.

  25. summons Cthulhu or whoever, on his first attempt

    Actually they don’t. The cultists chant it over and over, more as an evocation than an invocation. Summoning Cthulhu himself is probably beyond human power, other than by direct physical intervention, as in the Johansen expedition. And anyway the folks at Arkham University now mostly think that what Johansen saw was a lesser squid-headed being rather than the Great Old One himself.

    I’m reading a story at present about a young man who has been possessed by a chaos demon with ten human and two animal personalities, pieces of its former hosts. After they arrive at a modus vivendi, he names the collective Desdemona (it had no name before), which to him is just a name from a half-remembered story. He doesn’t know enough Greek (though the demon probably does) to identify its etymology < δυσδαιμονία, an excellent name for a chaos demon.

  26. I’m glad you like the attempt at an etymology of Agares, Hat!

    In regard to angary, Mancini (1995) has offered another etymology for ἄγγαρος, “conscript courier”, besides the one proposed by Huyse and mentioned above. (Here is the reference: Mancini, Marco. (1995). “Etimologia e semantica del gr. ἄγγαϱος”. Glotta 73(1/4), 210-222, available at

    I believe that Mancini’s essential argument is that ἄγγαρος is ultimately (probably via a back-formation—influenced by ἄγγελος—from ἀγγαρήιον, “postal system”) from a hypothetical Old Persian *angarā “missive, letter,” from an Aramaic *ʾengarā, absolute state of *ʾengarā, dialectal variant of ʾiggartā, “missive, letter”. For the variation between -ND- and geminate -DD- ( gg and ng- variation, in this case), compare the similar variation in Mandaic (in the very name of the Mandaeans:

    I think Semitic philologists now lean towards the view that Aramaic ʾiggartā is a borrowing of Akkadian egirtu (and not the other way around, as was often thought in the past). Akkadian egirtu, “inscribed tablet (perhaps especially one not written in cuneiform or Akkadian?)”, would be from egēru, “to be difficult or perverse”. This verb is akin to Amharic aggärä, Arabic ḥajara, and Syriac ḥgar, “to hinder”, I believe.

  27. God, I love etymology! Thanks for those tasty details and conjectures.

  28. David Marjanović says

    *pretends being able to raise one eyebrow*

  29. @John Cowan: Watch out! The so-called “Arkham University” is a diploma mill. The actual scholars as Miskatonic would never suggest such balderdash.

    A mountain walked or stumbled.

  30. Sorry, the name was a brain fart, of course. Miskatonic it is, but what I actually meant to refer to was one of the Wilmarth Foundation’s reports popularized by Brian Lumley as The Transition of Titus Crow.

    But actually the idea makes sense. If Cthulhu had really been liberated from R’lyeh some 91 years ago, the history of the 20C would have been very different. It was just a glitch: the earth heaved, a cthulhoid being came out, saw that the stars were wrong, and went back to suspended animation. Fortunately for us all.

  31. Who Will Be Eaten First? (for those who haven’t seen it)

  32. Miskatonic’s concerns that fracking will awaken ancient creatures are just part of the East Coast liberal conspiracy. Ice core samples from the Mountains of Madness show that nameless evils have enslaved humanity regularly over the millennia; it’s got nothing to do with Big Oil.

  33. I was discussing this with a close colleague at lunch today. (We have lunch every Friday, and for a while we both wore matching Cthulhu for President shirts each week. We thought about getting the ones with the extra “No Lives Matter” slogan, which we both thought was pretty funny, but neither of us felt entirely comfortable wearing.) He pointed out that, even beyond the usual difficulties in determining “what really happened” in a work of fiction, it is especially tricky in the Mythos, where, there is intentionally no distinction between canonical works and fan fiction.

  34. David Marjanović says

    “I did not see their battle, but I can only deduce that Godzilla defeated Cthulhu since mankind’s civilization yet thrives. A victory for the new gods of man’s own making.”

  35. Big Oil is bad enough, but Big Ichor is infinitely worse.

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