The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Horned One and The Devil
The devil is a complex topic with enough information to fill its own encyclopedia, thus what is included here is by necessity a brief overview, with the emphasis on the identification of Pagan horned spirits with the devil.
In a dualist Christian vision, the devil is the evil force that opposes Jesus Christ. His role is to tempt Christians and undermine Christianity. He is also, however, the ruler of Hell, the Christian realm where damned souls are eternally punished. The devil is a trickster who tempts people to perform acts for which he will later punish them.
This idea of the devil is a Christian concept; this devil did not exist prior to Christianity. The devil is a complex character, an amalgamation of many sources. It took centuries for him to evolve into the form that first became familiar during the Middle Ages and remains so today.
Although various names are now used for the devil as if they were synonymous (Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, and so forth) these names actually derive from different concepts and traditions and originally indicated different spirits. The Christian devil evolved from Jewish, Pagan, and Zoroastrian sources, however he is not identical with any of them. Because this modern conception of “the devil” is thus something of a pastiche, he is often a contradictory and elusive figure, perhaps befitting a trickster.
Devil is related to the Indo-European root word de or divine. In pre-Zoroastrian Iran, a deva or dev was a divine being. The word still retains this meaning in Buddhism and Hinduism; Hindu devas are sacred and benevolent.
Christians were not the first to diabolize other people’s gods. When Zoroastrianism came to prominence in Iran, the word “devil” came to indicate dangerous, evil spirits. Zoroastrianism is intensely dualist: the devas form the army of the Lord of Darkness, opponent of the Lord of Light.
Although the cosmology has changed, the Christian conception of the devil as an opposing and (almost) equal force derives from Zoroastrian tradition, as does this use of the word “devil.”