Hello all! I apologize for my recent absence, but there will be a separate post about that. Continuing with some spooky content, I wanted to research and dip my toe in demonology. I recently watched the film, Hereditary and absolutely loved it, but I wasn’t too familiar with the mythology.
Lesser Key of Solomon is a 17th century spell book on demonology. It is divided into five different books, which include: Ars Goetia, Ars Theurgia Goetia, Ars Paulina, Ars Almadel, and Ars Notaria. “Ars,” is a latin term that signifies art and “Goetia” is the practice of conjuring demons. In the Ars Goetia, Seventy-Two demons are summoned by four kings, each representing a cardinal direction. King Paimon is associated with the west. King Paimon is known as one of Lucifer’s devoted and obedient followers. According to Crowley/Mather’s edition of Lesser Key of Solomon, he is the ruler of 200 spirits, is a master of art and science, has a great voice, and a band of spirits follow him while playing musical instruments like trumpets and symbols. He also rides a camel. Seems like a pretty cool dude if you forget the whole demon aspect. According to Abraham von Worms’ The Book of Abramelin: A New Translation, Paimon has some powers. His powers include: knowing of all things of the past and future, he creates visions, acquire and dismiss spirits, flight, and being able to reanimate the dead.
So what does this mean? Well nothing, I’m just curious about the demonology. Slightly kidding. The cult in Hereditary worships Paimon and summoning him is a part of their tradition. Not sure why they can’t just eat apple pie on Thanksgiving, but who am I to judge other people’s traditions? The grandmother’s attempt to give Paimon a host does not begin with Peter or Charlie. Earlier in the film, When Annie visits the grief counseling meeting, she mentions how her schizophrenic brother hated their mother as he believed their mother was trying to “put people into him”. This whole trying to find the perfect body for Paimon goes way back. Paimon was always looking for a vulnerable male host, but Annie’s brother eventually commits suicide. Annie did not let her mother around Peter when he was young, but decides to allow her mother to interact with Charlie. In the film, we see an embroidered welcome mat with the name Charles. Annie reveals that her mom interfered with Charlie’s upbringing. Constantly hovering over her and even wanting to breastfeed Charlie. It is possible that the grandmother conjured Paimon to possess Charlie’s body from birth. Throughout the film, Charlie comes across as more than a little weird. There’s a difference between being the kid who picks worms from the dirt and being the kid who decapitates a bird. (The difference is being possessed by Paimon.) Maybe Charlie never had the opportunity to be herself and was possessed since birth. The director of the film Ari Aster confirmed that Charlie’s death was “designed by the cult”. Her death has an emotional and stressful impact on her family. Making Peter into the perfect vulnerable male host for Paimon.
Now what’s the big metaphorical point of Paimon? Couldn’t Ari Aster pick any demon? Well yes, but it would be less fun. There’s element of fear knowing that Paimon is only one of four kings of hell. Besides Lucifer himself, more evil exists and that’s always discomforting to hear. Annie has suffered immensely throughout her life. She had to deal with her family’s history of mental illness, her own mental illness, and death. Peter has to live with the guilt of killing his younger sister and creating chaos within his home. We see his own mental health deteriorate. The cult looks to King Paimon for peace and salvation which is probably what Annie and Peter needed. The mental illness in their family was really being masked by a demon. Similarly how some mental illnesses can be genetic, in the case of Annie Graham demon possession was hereditary.
All the links used as references:
Thanks for reading!