My almost comprehensive compilation and reconciliation of the nature of demons in the Buffyverse. Including an assumed distinction between pure demons, demons in human form, vampires and half-breeds.
"You've never seen a demon"
Anya - Graduation Day: Part 1
True demons are massive, monstrous beings, and fortunately very rare indeed upon the face of the Earth. In times long past, all were said to have been driven into the outer darkness of the Hell Dimensions. The last remaining true demon was slain using the Scythe (7:21) but a handful have plainly crept back to lurk in the dark paces of the world. To date, the sewer-dwelling Lurconis (Band Candy) is the only definite example of such a remnant that Buffy has faced and defeated. In LA, Angel, Wesley and Cordelia destroyed a Hacksaw - an inner-earth demon whose colossal size suggests a true demon (Expecting), although it's fundamental sissieness argues against it.
A number of other beasties have been encountered by Buffy and her friends which are of apparently demonic origin and do not appear to have blended with a human host, but these may well be no more than monstrous brutes.
Also, a mortal sorcerer of sufficient power can perform the Rite of Ascension, and transform himself into a true demon, to wreak havoc upon the suffering world. The transformation takes decades to prepare for, and requires a source of immense power, such as the Hellmouth, as well as the patronage of assorted demons. The process of ascension culminates in the Hundred Days, during which the Ascendee becomes invulnerable to harm (Bad Girls). The hundred days commences with the ritual Dedication, and concludes with the Ascension itself.
Potestatem matris nostrae in tenebris invoco maledictum filium tuum ab omni periculo custodias nunc et in saecula!
(I call upon the forces of our mother in darkness, protect your unholy son from harm...now...and forever!)
- The Dedication, Bad Girls
On the day of the Ascension, the candidate must consume a number of the spider-creatures contained in the Box of Gavrok, the power contained within these (high-fibre) beasties triggering the final stage of the transformation. At the appointed time, the sun is blacked out, and the candidate begins to change. At this stage, he must consume living or recently-dead humans - the symbolic life-stealing of the vampire feed destroys the worth of such a meal - in order to fuel the transition. (Graduation Day: Part 2)
There are three instances of Ascension mentioned in the series:
Wesley: How did they kill it?
Anya: You know anyone who lives in the Koskov Valley?
(Graduation Day: Part 1)
True demons are more powerful by far than any flesh-bound demon - although they may not have specialised destructive power as great as a demon such as The Judge - and much, much harder to kill. Fire seems to be one of the few things that they fear, as fire was used to kill Lurconis, and flame-throwers to contain the Mayor in his Olvikan-form. Two of the referenced Ascended demons were killed by massive explosions: a volcanic eruption in the first case, and a mix of military explosives, fertiliser bomb and exploding gas mains in the second. The Hacksaw - if true demon it was - was destroyed by freezing and shattering.
There is another way in which a demon can cross to the human world without blending with a human host, and that is in the form of a Kleynach demon (Reprise). The Kleynach is not a breed of demon, but rather a particular shape used by various dark entities to manifest in our world. It is popular, because a Kleynach demon does not need to be called forth, but can manifest at will, using the Band of Blacknil. The Band is a plain and unremarkable looking ring, but it permits the Kleynach to cross the boundaries between the world at will. An added bonus is that a human who strikes at a Kleynach with fist or sword will be burned down. To kill one requires a special gauntlet, forged by a pure knight, and blessed by the powers of light, with which a warrior must grab the Kleynach at the throat. Unfortunately, the only known example of such a glove was left in the hands of Wolfram & Hart.
The vast majority of demons are unable to enter the human world in their true form, and instead are forced to mingle their essence with a human body. This results in the Buffyverse's familiar monstrous humanoids, as the human flesh is distorted and warped by the power that enters it.
Most pure-breed demons are unable to pass as human - and in most cases have no desire to do so - although a few may do so through the use of make-up and latex masks (Anne). To judge by Rupert Giles's transformation into a Fyarl demon (A New Man), the process of inhabiting a human shell can be slow, and takes the form of a gradual transfer of personality. On the other hand, it is possible that Ethan Rayne's spell was highly atypical, and that most demons enter a fleshly shell by some other process entirely.
If a demon socialises or seeks alliances, it will generally be with others of their own breed, with whom they share a little empathy; only a little, but more than with anyone else. Demons of different breeds seem to regard each other with almost as much contempt as they do humans, and rarely mix. There exist loose rules against making war on the demon world, but this is given only lips service unless a demon makes too much of a habit of killing his own (Goodbye Iowa). Demons have something of a social pecking order, based on strength, fear and the ability to do harm to those who disobey.
Some demon breeds gather in tribes or clans, either breeding among themselves or spawning by some asexual means. These groups will tend to swell in isolation from human society - unlike hybrid clans - unless they require humans as food (Belonging) or as part of the spawning process (Reprise). They will also typically assemble a complex and often dogmatic body of tribal lore and tradition.
Breeds are groupings of demons who share specific traits, in terms of appearance and powers. It seems likely that these demons are of a kind in their pure form, and so become alike when clad in human shells. The presence of hybrid clans suggest that most forms of flesh-bound demon are able to mate with humans, although such would not necessarily rate as safe sex (Bargaining: Part 2). Presumably, pure-breeds could also mate with each other, although there seems to be little demonic miscegenation, and indeed little evidence that demons pair at all in the usual run of things.
Unlike vampires, demons of a given breed show a marked lack of variation in their abilities and personality, and are rarely generalists. Many of the most common types are grunts; low-powered fighters brought forth or bred to fight for more powerful demons, vampires or sorcerers.
- Fyarl - The Fyarls are an exercise in brutal excess. Powerful foot soldiers, frequently employed by more sophisticated breeds, they are highly aggressive, but lack wit and sophistication and thus require careful guidance to achieve anything more than plain destruction. As well as awesome physical power, a Fyarl demon can eject a paralysing, fast-setting mucus from its nasal passages. Fyarls have their own language, also called Fyarl (A New Man).
- Mohra - The Mohra are Warriors of darkness; a highly sophisticated and near-indestructible soldier breed. They are skilled weapon users, and have an almost limitless ability to regenerate injury. Their only weakness is a ruby in the centre of their forehead, and they will be killed outright if this gem is smashed (I Will Remember you).
- Hell Hound - Foot soldiers and trackers, bred during the Mahkash wars, Hell Hounds are stupid and relatively easy-to-train creatures. They are savage and powerful, but with no particular powers beyond the ripping and the biting and the ouching. They feed on the brains of the dead (The Prom).
- Lei-Ach - Stalkers and powerful fighters, Lei-Ach demons are relatively stealthy and reasonably intelligent, but still little more than a soldier breed (Family).
- Tothric - The Tothric Clan were a breed of powerful sorcerer-demons. The Tothric no longer exist; the last surviving member of the Clan, Toth, having been destroyed while attempting to kill the Slayer. If Toth can be used as a measure, the Tothrics were not only physically powerful, but also skilled and subtle sorcerers (The Replacement).
- Deathwok - The anagogic demons of the Deathwok Clan are a breed of warriors and hunters from the world of Pylea. They use their ability to sense emotions as a means of tracking their prey, usually monsters such as the drokken. They are - by Pylea's black and white standards - good, but like many of the races of Pylea, they feed on human flesh. They breed exclusively among their own, can only be killed if their body is mutilated, and have their heart in their left buttock (Over the Rainbow).
- Kungai - Asian demons, the kungai are powerful fighters, and are also capable of stealing the life-force of their enemies through their Tak horn (Parting Gifts).
- Miquot - These demons are yellow-skinned, scaly demons, with head spines and serrated blades that pop from their forearms and can be thrown. They are intelligent, but fairly unsophisticated (Homecoming).
- The Sisterhood of Jhe - The Sisterhood are an Apocalypse cult, dedicated to ending the world. They are an all-female breed of hag-demon, with pale, bluish hide. They are physically very powerful; almost a match for a Slayer one-on-one (The Zeppo).
- Ethros - Possessors of human bodies, Ethros demons are among the few demons noted to gain power with age. Lizzy Borden was said to have been possessed by an adolescent Ethros demon when she murdered her parents. Exorcising an Ethros is highly dangerous, as the expelled demon will attempt to possess the nearest person with such violence that it will shatter a human form. It must be trapped on release in an Ethros Box, or it will flee, and take physical form to recuperate by absorbing elements from primordial basalt. At least while possessing a human host, the Ethros is repelled by the cross; it also excretes an ichor, called plakticine (I've Got You Under My Skin).
- Lubber - Another Apocalypse cult, the Lubber demons sought a human - the Golden Child - whose actions would allow them to bring about the destruction of all mortal animals. They were physically strong, with some little magic and an understanding of mathematics and quantum mechanics, but basically if they'd ended the world, a lot of people would have been pretty damn embarrassed (Happy Anniversary).
- Skylosh - A tribal breed of asexual, parasitic demons, bearing a third eye in the back of their head. The reproduce by implanting their spawn in the back of a human's skull using a sting-like ovipositor in their tongue, and within a few days a full-grown Skylosh erupts from the host's skull (Epiphany).
Other - unnamed - breeds encountered include 'Ken' and his family of hellish gaolers (Anne) and the telepathic demons that infected Buffy with their aspect (Earshot).
Something not quite akin to either flesh-bound or ascended demons, these avenging dark angels were once mortals before being transfigured into demonic form by the Lower Beings of Arashmahar. Led by D'Hoffryn (Something Blue) and ancient and powerful being, the Arashmaharans choose mortals - and specifically mortal women - who have inside them a certain kind of rage and offer them the chance to mete out punishment to those they consider deserving.
When a wronged mortal's pain reaches epic proportions and they extract a revenge worthy of legend (Triangle), or begin to wreak havoc on all those around them, D'Hoffryn may approach them and offer them a place as a vengeance demon. If the mortal accepts, she - although never stated outright, the implication is that D'Hoffryn's sales-end personnel are exclusively female - is given the power to grant the wishes of the wronged, whatever those might be (The Wish). Their power is awesome, but limited by the fact that they can not grant wishes on their own behalf (Seeing Red).
Although they grant the wishes of mortals, Vengeance Demons are not about helping the victim. They are duty bound to twist the words of their chosen subject in order to enact an effect that will cause the greatest pain and suffering to all concerned. Few women are lucky enough to survive the granting of their secret desire, instead falling victim to whatever twisted mockery their careless words have called forth.
Each such demon has a pendant; a gift from the lower beings. This pendant is their power source, the focus of their abilities and the token of their pact with D'Hoffryn. If her power source is destroyed then an Arashmaharan demon reverts to mortal form, and her work is all undone (The Wish). Aside from this drastic step, the effects of a wish can only be cancelled by the Vengeance Demon before it has taken a human life. Afterwards the wish can only be granted, the hurt undone, by D'Hoffryn himself and the cost is a terrible one: The life and soul of a Vengeance Demon.
Some flesh-bounds do not conform to any particular breed, but are utterly unique. These are often demons brought forth or created for a specific purpose, and their nature in the mortal realm may be related more to this purpose than to their original nature. Others may simply be members of breeds rare enough on the mortal earth to be undocumented.
- The Judge was brought forth to scour the world clean of the plague of humanity. He had the power to literally burn the humanity from a person - a human, or even another demon or vampire - with a look. He was also near-impervious to harm; no weapon forged could injure him. At his first calling, he was stopped by an army, which managed to dismember him and scatter the pieces, but only at the cost of most of their number. When he was restored by Drusilla and Spike, the Judge was destroyed using a rocket launcher (Surprise, Innocence).
- Acathla was raised to destroy the world itself, by sucking it into hell with a single breath. He was slain by a worthy knight using a blessed sword, before the vortex could completely form, but instead of dying, turned to stone. He was raised by Angelus, but again struck down, this time by the Slayer (Becoming 1 & 2).
- Moloch was known as the Corrupter. Although in appearance a massive, powerful, hideous, horned creature, he was able to win the hearts and absolute devotion of mortals, who would then give their very lives to please him. He was bound into the pages of a book for centuries, before he escaped into the internet, but was destroyed when an e-spell trapped him in a robotic body (I Robot, You Jane).
Other demons of humanoid form but no specified breed include Eygon the Sleepwalker (The Dark Age), the musically-inclined Sweet (Once More with Feeling) and Gachnar, Dark Lord of Nightmares (Fear, Itself)..
"These people are going to need more than their mythic promised one. The contractually obligated five-hundred might be a start."Doyle, Hero
The Scourge (Hero) are not a breed, but a political movement; an army of pure-blood demons dedicated to tracking down and slaughtering all those tainted with human blood. They will kill humans, but their particular hatred is reserved for hybrid demons and vampires, especially peaceful hybrid clans who epitomise the weakness they despise, and - conveniently - make easy targets. Any pure-blood may join the Scourge, and it even embraces a few hybrid collaborators as cannon fodder. The Scourge are fanatics, and their ideology is everything to them, beyond good and evil and even their own survival.
The Scourge represent the extreme of demonic hatred for the animals which displaced them. They display their utter contempt for humanity by dressing as nazis. Or something. It is entirely possible that they are simply a pack of hate-mongers, with no special claim to purity.
Hybrid demons are those who descend from a mixture of demon and mortal heritage. While a pure-blooded demon enters and takes over a human frame or descends from an unbroken line of other pure-bloods, a hybrid is actually part-demon, part-human. Many descend from demons who remained on Earth in human guise when the barriers were first closed, while others presumably descend from pure-bloods who came to Earth later and either gave up many of their prejudices or simply engaged in a little bit of casual rapine. As they breed with humans, the demon blood is diluted, which is why the likes of the Scourge despise hybrids so. This means that hybrids are usually less notably demonic than pure demons, as well as less powerful; reason enough for many pure-bloods to pick on them.
As with any mixing of blood, for some passing demons their demonic heritage is a source of pride, for others a source of shame. Like half-caste humans they have difficulty belonging to either the demon world, which rejects their humanity and weakness, or the human world which rejects their appearance and power. The luckier hybrids are passing; that is, able to conceal their demonic visage behind a human face, as vampires do. These find it relatively easy to move in human society, make human friends and even find a human partner. A human might not even know that their workmate, friend or lover was something other than strictly homo sapiens. Others are not so lucky and must get by the best they can.
Passing demons are usually more powerful when wearing their demonic face.
Some hybrids have continued to breed with others of their bloodline, leading to the creation and sustaining of distinct demon clans. Given their persecuted status, many hybrid clans are very - well - clannish. They stick together for defence, distrusting outsiders and preserving sometimes archaic traditions.
- Bracken demons are a clan fairly common in the Americas, likely of Irish descent. A tribe of Bracken demons from Oregon was annihilated in LA while fleeing from the Scourge (Hero). Bracken demons have green skin, bristling with blue spines. They are considerably stronger and tougher than a human - although not really on a par with a vampire or warrior demon - and capable of dislocating their necks without lasting harm (Hero). They also have superior senses, in particular sense of smell (In the Dark). They are a largely peaceful clan, and as such are persecuted by the Scourge with particular vigour.
- Lister demons seem to have fairly weak demon blood, possessing little power and having only a pronounced ridging around the eyes to mark them out, but they have a strong sense of tradition. They have a prophecy of The Promised One, who would save them from destruction. A peaceful clan, many found shelter on the South American island of Briole (Hero), when they were targeted for extermination by the Scourge.
- The Anomovic clan were a group of nomadic demons with violent tendencies. Around the turn of the twentieth century however, they abandoned many of their traditional teachings, integrated into human society and opened a chain of high-class restaurants. Anomovics have red, scaled features, and while they have a violent heritage, they seem to have let themselves go, and do not display even so much physical prowess as a bracken demon (The Bachelor Party). On occasion they seem to backslide into their old ways, but essentially are fully integrated into human society. They are almost all passing, and spend most of their time in human face.
- Kailiff demons are a fairly sophisticated clan. They are physically powerful and have adapted well to human society, working as debt collectors, strong-arms and leg-breakers for loan sharks (Rm w/ a Vu). They have dark red skin, and rows of short spines on their forehead and jaw line. Those with more human blood may have hair, but their demon heritage brings complete baldness.
In addition, the creatures who serve as Glory's minions may be a form of demon hybrid.
To a pure-breed demon, a vampire is the very worst form of hybrid (Hero). Whereas other half-breeds dilute their demon blood with that of humanity, vampires actually meld their essence with that of their mortal 'host', taking their memories and much of their character besides. Hence, vampires and demons do not get on.
Demons are not the only terrors to stalk the night. As well as ghosts, and those purely human threats known to all of us, there are a plethora of other beasties that haunt the world.
The embodiment of primal aggression and predatory instinct, werewolves are humans who become wolf-like beasts at the full moon. The transformation actually occurs at sunset on the night of the full moon itself, and on the nights immediately preceding and following, the werewolf remaining in bestial form until sunrise. While the beast into which the werewolf changes is referred to as 'The Wolf', it is in fact a monstrous thing, and not a natural animal at all. It has a certain canine quality, but is more apish than lupine (at least after its first appearance in Phases). Moreover, despite Veruca's claims, a werewolf does not act like an animal, but instead lashes out with the rage of the unfettered human id.
"You're an animal. Animals kill."Veruca, Wild at Heart
Oz was able to gain a degree of control over the wolf through meditation and by ingesting certain herbal compounds (New Moon Rising). While he quashed the regular transformations however, he found that this had enabled anger and jealousy to bring the wolf out, even in the daytime. Whether he could have transformed at any time, or still only on the days of the full moon, remains unknown. Regardless, what is clear is that - like most states of emotional arousal - the werewolf's transformations are not something that can be controlled by suppression.
The werewolf's nature appears to be physical, rather than especially mystical. It transforms, but is not possessed by a demon. Certain wolfish traits, such as preternaturally keen senses - especially smell - appear to stay with the werewolf even in human form. Moreover, the werewolf's metabolism alters, in such a way as to promote the development of muscle (unless we are to believe that slacker guitarist Oz works out a lot (Wild at Heart)). While it may have been nothing to do with her lycanthropic condition, the more experienced werewolf Veruca (Wild at Heart) possessed a clear and potent animal magnetism, which had an especially dramatic effect - almost pheromonal - on fellow werewolf Oz. Likewise, she was specifically attracted to the beast inside Oz, more than his human self.
When transformed, a werewolf appears to be highly resistant to harm, but is not invulnerable, does not need a silver bullet or a shot to the heart to be killed, and can be incapacitated using simple animal tranquillisers. If killed in its transformed state, a werewolf does not revert to its human shape, and can be skinned (Phases), werewolf pelts netting a pretty penny in Sri Lanka.
"Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead."Giles, Dead Man's Party
The first shambling corpses we see in
Sunnydale - not counting Daryl Epps, who had more of a Frankenstein's
monster vibe going on - were the minions of the zombie demon Ovu Mobani ("evil
eye") (Dead Man's Party), animated by the power held in
his ritual mask. The mask's power causes the corpse of anyone dying in the
vicinity to become animated, and to seek to possess the mask. They also
kill anyone in their path, thus creating more zombies, until at last one
of the zombies gains control of the mask, becoming an incarnation of the
So far, our only other zombies were the high school gang raised by the wacky Southern mojo of Jack O'Toole and his grandpappy. These were called up by magic, but differ from the traditional zombi in that they retain their complete personalities, however decayed their bodies.
If Sunnydale is not a haven for the shambling, LA has seen
a plethora of mindless, putrefying hordes. Ovu Mobani turns out not to be the
only zombifying force in the Buffyverse, as an angry and disillusioned police
captain called upon Granath the Zombie God to reanimate his fallen comrades (The
Thin Dead Line). Unlike the zombie gang in Sunnydale, these officers
retained only enough vestigial personality to masquerade as regular beat cops,
their prime motivating force coming from the Captain's magical control.
Another plague of the dead appears when the offices of Wolfram & Hart are attacked (Habeas Corpses). Apparently a part of the law firm's security lockdown procedures, the reanimated lawyers are zombies in the true Hollywood tradition: Mindless shamblers, obedient only to their masters' most basic commands.
Other monsters of non- or quasi-demonic origin include the Mantis Woman, Miss French (Teacher's Pet); the Incan Mummy, 'Ampada' (Inca Mummy Girl); the Pylean Drokken.
Some things are clearly supernatural in origin, yet exist as a part of the mortal world, living and breeding - usually in secret - just like any other animal. These include:
The beast with flaming flatulence encountered under the Kenyard School for Girls (Blood Money).
The three-tonne, corpse-eating Haklar demon (Belonging).