Happy Sunday! Today’s scripture is Mark 1:29-39. There is a lot happening in this passage, but the best art comes from the part about the demons (of course).
He knew them. Maybe they lunched on Wednesdays. But I digress…
I was looking up art of Jesus casting out demons, and nothing was really tickling my fancy, so I expanded the search a few times. I landed on ‘Medieval demons in art.’ Oh my. And this is how I discovered the Medieval trend of depicting demons with faces in their nether regions. Like this painting from between 1471 and 1475 by Michael Pacher: St Augustine (or Wolfgang) and the devil. It’s….something. So what’s going on?
I came across a few possible interpretations.
It was traditional at the time to think that humans had God’s favor, and that was shown in our ability to walk upright. Our heads were closer to God (who was in the sky, of course). Depicting a demon with a head down lower was to show their disfavor with God. Another theory is that their bodies were disordered to reflect the disorder in their souls.
The theory that struck me was that it was meant to diminish the demon; that the medieval concept of Satan and demons was more pathetic and revulsive than terrifying. Which brings me back to today’s scripture. The original Greek used for “demon” in this text is daimónion (or δαιμόνιον if you want to be fancy with it). It is a diminutive for daimón, or “little demon.” Oh, and also daimón is a feminine noun. Because of course.
So, really, Mark says that Jesus cast out many little demons.
I guess they left that part out because it minimizes the majesty of this feat. I was wondering what happens to the cast out demons. So I did some digging, and found the following (not part of today’s lectionary but listen to this):
That seemed sort of harsh to me, like really, what’s the point of casting out these little demons then? But then I thought about that house, all swept clean and put in order, but sitting empty. And then I thought about brownies. See, last week I made a bunch of brownies. They were supposed to be a gift but I got the timing wrong, and then there was a snowstorm….long story short, I had a lot of brownies. But I. Was. Not. Going. To. Eat. Them. I was going to be good. I had one brownie, then I ate a carrot, you know, to cleanse the palate. I swept my stomach clean and put it in order….and, well. Those brownies found my stomach empty, and I don’t know how it happened but they took up with seven other brownies more delicious than the first. And I was most definitely worse off than before.
Maybe those “little demons” aren’t so little after all.
The point is not necessarily to get rid of them, but to proactively fill your house with something that is truly good, so that when the demons drop by with seven of their friends, they find a FULL house with no room for them.
So, what little demons keep returning to haunt you?
And how will you “fill your house” so that next time they come a-knocking, there is no room for them?