I speak Spanish to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, German to my Horse, and Enochian to My Demons
—misattributed to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, demonic attribution addition by Yours Truly.
Okay. Let’s assume you’re a good ol’ Christian demon. According to Usher’s calculations, you’ve been around for 7000 years, tops (as of 2013 A.D.). One has to assume that demoniacal things get together every once in a while to discuss who has the best temptation to condemned soul ratio and pass along tips on the most efficient way to get some chump eternally damned. I mean, sometimes you have to blow off a little steam, sipping a mojito under an umbrella on the shore by the Lake of Fire. If Hell is a bureaucracy, then they have to have some sort of human resources protocols. All work and no play, after all. Incidentally, a great theatrical representation of this can be found on the TV Show Millennium (Season 2, Episode 21, “Somehow, Satan Got Behind me”), where four demons meet at a doughnut shop after a long night of messing with humans, and swap war stories. If you never see any other episode of Millennium, this one stands alone as pure genius. It is one of the few episodes where a monster is actually seen—in the rest of the series the monsters are generally implied, but never actually pass into the field of vision. And in this vein, speaking of the classics, if you want to imagine how demons regard us, pick up a copy of Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth, where a baffled Satan incredulously describes the beliefs and behavior of mankind for friends at home. I assume it’s a pretty fair and balanced representation. You know what? Screw that, Twain’s been dead for a while. Inexplicably, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland (incidentally my undergraduate alma mater. Go Terps! Who the hell chooses a turtle as their mascot?) posted a full text copy at http://www.cs.umd.edu/~mvz/bible/ltrs-from-earth.pdf. Don’t say I never did anything for you.
Back to the matter at hand. Demons. And what they speak when they aren’t busy confusing exorcists. At some point, even a demon is off the clock. The question that occurred to me lately (which may tell you a little something about my own particular pathologies, and the fact that I tangentially work in computational linguistics) is when demons chat amongst themselves, what language do they speak? Luckily, I’ve committed to this bizarre hobby that allows me to pursue such inquiries, albeit for no pay, and the vague sense of accomplishment that comes from exposing the weirdness of the human race to the light of day. It helps if you drink. Latin is too painfully obvious, and ethnocentric, to say the least. Who speaks Latin, after all? Dead Romans and Catholic priests. While I’m sure the Roman Empire as well as the Catholic Church sent a fair share of unrepentant degenerates straight to Hell, there is no reason to assume that the lingua franca of the infernal set is Latin, unless of course the Catholic Church has been theologically accurate all along, as opposed to oh, every other religion that has ever existed. What are the odds? With humanity’s luck it will turn out that Heaven’s Gate had it right. Personally, I keep a pair of black high-tops around just in case. Aramaic? Well, supposedly Jesus had a few conversations with demons, but rumor has it the devilish crowd is multilingual when it comes to messing with humans. Also, it assumes a certain Middle Eastern flavor to demonology that just doesn’t sound reasonable, given the ubiquity of demons in mythology. Aramaic wasn’t even particularly original, with even its alphabet largely being based on Phoenician. French has been suggested, but we’ll chalk that one up to cultural bias. The Korowai of Papua New Guinea consider Indonesian to be a “demonic language”, but that’s a bit to local to extrapolate to the demon population in general. Still the question remains. What language do demons file their TPS reports in?
Occult scholars appear to come down on the side of a language called Enochian (sometimes referred to as Angelical, Celestial Language, or Adamical i.e. the language spoken by Adam in the Garden of Eden). Enochian, thus named because according to Welsh mathematician and occultist John Dee (1527-1608 A.D.), who claimed the language of the angels was revealed to him during a late night of scrying (staring into some sort of translucent material until you get groovy) and general loopiness with his spirit medium buddy Edward Kelley (1555-1597 A.D.), got word from on high that the Biblical patriarch Enoch was the last living man who could understand the language of the angels. Dee never called it Enochian himself, but his contemporary magicians, who in the 16th Century England were pretty much indistinguishable from scientists thought it sounded catchy. Those sourpuss, modern comparative linguists who have taken a look at Enochian call it a “constructed” language, basically mimicking a mix of ancient languages with grammar derived primarily from English. Yes, Mr. Esoterx, I hear you saying, but that’s what angels speak, and we’re talking about demons. Work with me here, Gomer. Angels are thought to have been around pretty much forever. Demons are generally thought of in the Abrahamic tradition and its direct precursors as some form of fallen angels. So, bam, you’re in the Pit, having just gotten the mother of all smackdowns from the big guy. You stand up, look around and say…well, probably a witty catch phrase like, “Strange things are afoot at the Cricle-K” if Milton is to be believed, but you probably said it Enochian, because that was the language you were speaking when you got your hat handed to you at the Pearly Gates. This is actually a fairly amusing idea, that is, that angels and demons share a common language.
First, a little about Enochian. Its consist of 21 letters received from on high (take that as you will), we are told, on exactly March 26, 1583 by Edward Kelley, followed by a book in Enochian consisting of ninety-eight 49 X 49 character tables (magic squares for those of you who hadn’t figured that out already, and c’mon, how do you expect to get anywhere without a little sympathetic magic?), that together comprised what was called the Liber Loagaeth (“Book of Speech from God”). Rudely, the angels didn’t bother to translate the Enochian into plain English. So you end up with 98 texts and an alphabet, none of which mean anything. A year later and apparently in order to correct this celestial oversight, angels reportedly sent Kelley an additional forty-eight 49 X 49 magic squares, which Dee called the Claves Angelicae. Luckily, our winged friends were kind enough to provide English translations. Turns out it was actually titled “To Serve Man”. Just kidding. Unfortunately, there were a lot of discrepancies between the Enochian in the Liber Loagaeth and Claves Angelicae, generously referred to as “stylistic differences”, so a basic Enochian vocabulary was possible, but there are thousands of Enochian words in Dee’s diaries as well as the Liber Loagaeth that we have no clear idea what the intended meaning was. Either that or the dialect spoken in West Heaven differs from that of East Heaven. You just can’t have a good eternal mystery without, well, a little mystery. A particularly salient point brought up by those pesky linguists, other than the fact that Enochian pretty much seems to use English syntax despite its funky characters, is that it doesn’t seem to share phonetic features of natural languages (and when a linguist says that, they’re pretty much saying it was “synthesized” i.e. “made up”), and more interestingly, that it seems to share a lot of features with glossolalia, also called “speaking in tongues”. Lots of magical societies involved in Western Occultism, have since decided that Enochian is the true language of ritual magic.
It’s never been clear to me why angels would share this language with us. It’s a little like a lawyer explaining what the Latin in the contract means. Not likely to happen, and certainly not in their interest. Far be it from me to accuse Dee and Kelley of charlatanism, since ultimately they were just trying to answer the same question I am – if the divine menagerie speaks, what language is it in? I just don’t have the attention span to stare into a bowl of water until the angels talk to me. The only voice I hear keeps telling me “Get a horse”, and I’m pretty sure there are no theological implications behind that. I don’t even really have the patience for cooking anything in the microwave that takes longer than three minutes, which puts severe limitations on the career as a 16th Century English wizard that I’ve always thought would make a good Plan B. I find the answer that Demons speak Enochian when talking amongst themselves strangely unsatisfying. I think I’ll fall back on French.
Dee, John, 1527-1608. A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee … And Some Spirits: Tending, Had it Succeeded, to a General Alteration of Most States And Kingdomes In the World … As Also the Letters of Sundry Great Men And Princes … to the Said D. Dee … Out of the Original Copy Written With Dr. Dee’s Own Hand, Kept In the Library of Sir Tho. Cotton, Kt. Baronet. Glasgow: Antonine Pub. Co. , 1974.