Restrictions That Demons Must Live By
Sumerian demons can be dealt with in a number of ways should they become a problem. Most notably there are incantations in the Udug Hul texts that command the demons to follow their proper roles in the Order. These incantations generally end by commanding the demons by the laws of heaven and earth.
We get most of our information about Sumerian demonology from what we like to call the “Exorcistic Texts”. These are generally medical texts that talk about physical examination and treatment that includes an exorcism. The Udug Hul texts are the prime example of this.
The Sumerians didn’t believe that all diseases were caused by demons, but that illnesses could be caused by demons. Think of sickness demons as similar to an angry dog. If you have a raged wound it might have been caused by a dog, or it might have been caused by something else. If you see that the wound is in a certain pattern you might treat it as a dog bite. Similarly you could look at a sickness and determine if it is a normal sickness or if it is a sickness caused by a demon.
Continuing with the dog analogy, you could be bitten by a dog and remove the dog and still be bleeding. Exorcists would not be the only means of treatment. Exorcising a demon does not repair the physical damage or the sickness. What it does is prevent the demon from re-aggravating a healing patient. This is similar in many ways to what some priests do in hospitals today.
Another facet to the dog analogy is that treating a sick person who is tormented by demons does no more good than bandaging a wound while a dog is still trying to bite it. The dog either needs to be removed, or made to stop biting. This is where the Order of the universe comes in. A demon that is causing illness is either doing something that conflicts with the order, or is doing it at the behest of the gods. In either case it is the gods who should be asked to make the demon stop.
Another simple thing to keep in mind is that not all dogs bite. Similarly, not all demons cause sickness. Most demons are benign or even benevolent. A demon’s place in the Order is much the same as a human’s. They are here to do a task. They have motives and come from a wide variety of backgrounds that influence how they make decisions just as we do. They have societal norms that prevent them from acting too far out of their position just like we do.
In general demons will not attack in the light. The sun god, the moon god, and the god of fire are all to some extent responsible for making sure that demons stay in line. This means that demons are almost constantly being watched by their superiors, but that they will have opportunities to disobey.
Like human law breakers, demons are criminals of opportunity. Another factor to this is that demons tend to do that which is in their nature. Put these two things together and we see an explanation for why the death demons in the myth of the death of Ningishzida attempted to break the rules in order to kill one more than they were supposed to.
Demons tend to act in teams. If one can be protected against the attack of one member of the team then the effectiveness of the whole unit is reduced. If a ghost is trying to inhabit a body and then get it killed in order to sneak into the underworld, then preventing the ghost from taking the body would prevent the other members from the team from having any excuse to try to kill their intended victim.
Demons are susceptible to temptation. Many demons enjoy the taste of blood for one reason or another. If blood is made available because of wound or infection, then some demons will go for it. The flip side of this is that some forms of demon summoning involve blood.
One important thing to keep in mind when dealing with hostile demons is that for the most part they have to be polite. This sounds silly when thinking of demons that ambush and kill humans, but it is pretty close to true. More specifically they have to follow the laws of hospitality.
Demons have to be invited into a house. This invitation doesn’t have to be by name however. A demon can be invited by bringing in somebody who has one on their person. Similarly, if a demon attacks a human on the street, then that demon can continue to ride the human into the home.
One aspect of the hospitality laws that is generally not addressed as relates to demons is that there are proper ways to act if you are a guest in a home. If a demon is asked into a home intentionally then they will tend to behave themselves. This is seen most commonly with Imdugud / Anzu demons. Outside they can be a deadly storm demon. If given a vessel to live in such as a statue, then they become one of the most prominent protective demons in all of Sumerian spiritualism.
There are exceptions to how hospitality works with regards to demons. A tornado demon does not have to ask permission to enter a house. They can simply rip a house open and do as they please. Similarly an underworld demon does not need to ask permission to enter a person’s home to kill them. They will cause death wherever the gods have decreed that it is time that they cause death.
One special case to keep in mind is ghosts. A ghost does not have to ask permission to enter a house they lived in. They already have permission and would specifically need to be evicted in order to have that permission revoked. This extends to the homes of their descendants.
This does not come into play all that often. Most ghosts prefer to stay in the underworld, and similarly most ghosts are not hostile. Even the ones that are hostile sometimes are not dangerous because they do not have the tools necessary to cause harm. If one has an ancestor who was a sorcerer then the ghost is a force in its own right. A sorcerer’s ghost is powerful, and capable of doing great harm.