GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ The Story Behind the Story: Author Jeri Westerson explains Daemons vs Demons | I Smell Sheep

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Story Behind the Story: Author Jeri Westerson explains Daemons vs Demons

Daemons vs Demons
By Jeri Westerson
Image caption: King Solomon (with a horned Jewish aide) binds demons to his service. From Jacobus de Teramo's Das Buch Belial, 1473

Isn’t a demon just a demon? Well, not if you look closely enough.

In my new historical fantasy/steampunk series, THE DAEMON DEVICE, my protagonist is a magician in Victorian London, with Jewish/Romani heritage. And it was through his Jewish father that he studied the Kabbalah and other Jewish mysticism that taught him the fine art of summoning Jewish daemons—the helpful kind.

Because that’s the difference in spelling—the “ae” versus just the “e”. You get either the helpful kind or the evil kind. Medieval Jewish lore is full of all sorts of these kinds of variations. Christian lore has taught us that “demons” are the evil minions of the Devil, and summoning them is a big no-no from the Church.

But Jewish mysticism delves deeper. In Judaism there is no Hell as Christians have defined it. No pitchfork Devil in charge of tormenting souls for all eternity. Instead, Jewish belief is that there cannot be eternal punishment for a finite life of sin. God just isn’t that vindictive. The writings talk of Gehenna, like purgatory, a place to feel remorse for your sins, be purified, and then sent on to God, like taking a metaphorical shower before heading off to the party of parties. The biblical Sheol is merely the grave, where we all end up.

The word “daemon” itself is a Latin version of a Greek word for benevolent spirits. It starts to get complicated from there between the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), the Talmud (commentary on Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend), and translations between languages.

By the second century CE, most of the Greek Judeo-Christian bibles now referred to these more benign “nature spirits” as the more familiar to modern minds “evil spirit”. Time and translations seem to be behind the change of meaning we have come to know.

A “daemon”, therefore, can do helpful things, being more nature spirit that evil spirit—though it’s not to say that they can’t be mischievous—whereas the “demon” is all bad all the time.

You might be able to tell from the previous paragraphs how much I like to do research. (After all, I also write a series of medieval mysteries, heavy on the research there.) It’s good to have a foundation in the real history—or at the very least, documents of the past—before you start branching off into the supernatural with your own interpretation. That gives your own magic system weight. It also grounds it in the familiar for your readers so that they have a jumping off point. All part of the world-building the author is doing.

My magician, Leopold Kazmer, uses his knowledge of summoning daemons to do real magic to enhance his magic show, but soon finds out how his meddling in these mystical events is slowly drawing him into the danger of the Otherworld, where the Unholy Hosts who gave him this power will soon exact the ultimate price for it. And his helpful daemon friend, Eurynomos, may not be able to protect him from the cruelty of Sitra Achra (the realm from whence all evil derives, according to the Kabbalah).

In other words, the boy’s got big problems.

So it’s a good thing Leopold has his daemonic friend, as well as the help of Raj, a living automaton, the spirit of his friend from Scotland Yard, a German scientist, and possibly the mysterious Special Inspector Mingli Zhao, although he isn’t too sure about her. Because he has other problems besides evil spirits. There are the murders that look suspiciously like Jack the Ripper has made a return, and there may be a plot of world domination by someone using their own knowledge of the supernatural.

Yes, it’s all fun and games until otherworldly spirits want your soul.

You can read an excerpt here

The Daemon Device (Enchanter Chronicles trilogy Book One)
by Jeri Westerson
October 2, 2019
341 pages
London, 1891. Prince Albert has survived his brush with death. Dirigibles, like dark leviathans, surge through the sooty air of London. Steam powers the engines that supply electricity to the new electric lights along the Thames. And Jack the Ripper appears to be on the loose again on the seamy streets.

Someone is killing women and gutting them for their body parts. Is it Jack, or a far more sinister plot afoot than murder?

Leopold Kazsmer is a magician, the Great Enchanter. Ashamed of his Jewish-Gypsy heritage, he has fashioned himself into a proper English gentleman, though he harbors a carefully guarded secret; He has learned the dangerous art of summoning daemons. When he was a child, a tattoo was bestowed upon his wrist by the denizens of the Otherworld…the same night his father was killed. Though it gives him true magical powers once he’s made a sacrifice of blood, it is also his curse, for through it the creatures of nightmares have become aware of him.

With the help of Raj, a tarot-reading automated man, and Eurynomos, a shrewd Jewish daemon who helped Leopold through his tragic childhood, Leopold must discover what is behind the revolting murders that suddenly seem to involve tight-lipped German scientists, guarded Romani, ghosts, and the beautiful Special Inspector, Mingli Zhao. Is she truly from the secret depths of Scotland Yard or is she instead a heartless spy and murderess?

In a breakneck chase through London’s streets and fighting hand-to-wand high in the skies inside a lethal airship, Leopold must destroy a secret society to defeat their plan for world domination, unmask the girl, and rescue his daemon friend from the deadly Daemon Device before all is lost.

About the Author:
L.A. native JERI WESTERSON is the author of the Crispin Guest Medieval Mysteries, a series nominated for 13 national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. Her fifth novel BLOOD LANCE was named one of the Ten Hot Crime Novels for Colder Days by Kirkus Reviews, and her sixth, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, was named Best of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. Her twelfth, TRAITOR'S CODEX, was  released in May. For her paranormal fantasy series, BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN, Romantic Times said, “BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN is paranormal romance perfection…Jeri Westerson is flawless in this tale of adventure, mystery and saucy romance.” The last in the series, THE DARKEST GATEWAY, releases October 2019. THE DAEMON DEVICE, her new historical fantasy/steampunk novel, first in the Enchanter Chronicles trilogy, also releases in October. Jeri was twice president for the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and OC Sisters in Crime, and former vice president of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles. See more at and


  1. I love Jeri's Booke of the Hidden series so much that I might dip my toe into steampunk fiction purely because she's written it! ;-)