Along with her daughter Dinah, author (and Weston resident) Carol J. Mack has written A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits, the most recent edition of which was released last month. Of course, it's available from Amazon.com and other fine online retailers.
To help promote the book, Carol graciously took the time to answer some questions from us via e-mail about her book and demons in general.
What was the inspiration to originally write this book?
My daughter and I had completed our M.A. degrees, mine in Religious Studies, hers in Cultural Anthropology, and to celebrate we planned a camping trip. Our plan ended with a terrible heat wave and all forests closed and so we decided to go to the coldest places in NYC. Our first stop was the Morgan Library. Freezing. And they had an exhibit of the 7 Deadly Sins which inspired a huge conversation about global concepts of "evil" and curiosity about how various cultures imagined demons and the heat wave subsided as our exploration began.
What's new in this edition?
We've added vampires and a zombie and an afterword and tweaked/edited a few wings here and there.
Why is there such a fascination with demons (and angels)?
Well it takes our mind off the headlines! At least we know these are only stories and when we close the book or leave the movie theatre, it's really over and we can walk away.
Many demons seem to be manifestations of our own fears and evils—what is the nature of that relationship?
Yes, we think that common human traits such as greed, envy, etc. are universal and then by looking at them as creatures with powers in tales, we get a good idea of the damage they can do.
Why are there so many different kinds of subversive spirits?
Humankind has a wonderful imagination. And the spirits were here long before us, according to lore, and guarded sacred portals of nature before humans entered the territory. That irritated the demonic guardians
What should people know about dealing with demons?
Our book has a disarming and dispelling section for EACH demon so that people will know what to bring along should they travel in various parts of the world and encounter various demons. Also laughter and compassion melts all of them.
So here in Connecticut, for what kinds of demons should we be on the lookout?
Hmmmm. Well we do have Domiciles, a great section in the book, and we also have water and forest quite nearby. There may be quite a variety of spirits about!
In the guide, demons are broken down by category (water, mountain, forest, desert, domicile, psyche)—is there much crossover? As entities that live on the edge of reality, how hard are they to define?
Their habitats have a great deal to do with their behavior. All quite different! The fairies for example, all live in a parallel universe and won't bother you unless you mistakenly eat their food, or join their dance, and the house demons can be helpful or not depending on how one treats them. Their habits are closely related to their habitats...
How do you define a demon?
They are shape-shifters, bestial by habit, powerful and enchanting (at first) and can transform themselves into neighbors, shimmering lights, animals, attractive strangers, who knows?
Do you have a "favorite" demon?
I do like the Kappa from Japan and Madame White from China, also Lilith, and the Russian Leshii and I think the fairies rock.
In the Information Age, what roles do demons play? Is there still room for them?
There should be a LOT of room for the global creatures now that we can share ideas and stories and are so interconnected that it is very important for us to recognize the universal themes of good and evil and how much we have in common. It is also a good time to enjoy our imagination.
With so many demons included from various cultures and geographic areas, what was the research process for this book like?
Fascinating! Many libraries and wonderful folktales sent by friends from around the world.
Did you have any unusual experiences while researching and writing this book?
Not that I remember.
Have you personally ever encountered any demons?
Not that I know of.
Thanks again to Carol for taking the time to answer our questions. Now let's hope we don't run into any computer demons from posting this!
Again, A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits is available from Amazon.com and other online retailers. A fun addition to any damned book shelf.