How Much Do You Know About Pazuzu, The Demon Made Famous By 'The Exorcist'?

If you've heard of Pazuzu at all, it's because you paid attention while watching The Exorcist. Pazuzu was the demon that possessed young Regan in the filmHowever, this fascinating character has a long history that goes back several centuries, far before he ever appeared in a movie. Regardless of whether or not you think that demons are actually real, belief in Pazuzu has definitely influenced the actions of countless people.

In conflict with the film's representation, some historians have pointed out that Pazuzu is a bit of a conundrum as he doesn't easily fit into the modern day interpretation of a demon. Turns out the Hollywood-ized version of the demon seen on the big screen isn't truly indicative of the traits that people living in pre-biblical times attributed to Pazuzu. Luckily for those of us looking for more info on the "real" hellion who inspired the demon in The Exorcist, the facts on Pazuzu are actually much more interesting than the stereotype. Here's everything you never knew about your new favorite fiend.

Photo: flickr / CC0

  • He Was A Demonic God Of The Underworld With A Royal Lineage

    This demonic god enjoyed the height of his popularity from 2,000 BCE to 1,000 BCE. Babylonian and Assyrian people alternated between fearing Pazuzu and turning to him for help. This could be because Pazuzu held a high position in the underworld. His father, Hanbi, ruled the underworld as the king of demons.

    His brother, Humbaba, had an important role in The Epic of Gilgamesh as a demon-god. Because the heroes of The Epic of Gilgamesh killed Humbaba, Pazuzu was only one step away from ascending to the underworld's throne. 

  • He Was Evil, But Then Again He Also Protected Pregnant Women

    Demons were often believed to have a multifaceted personalities. For example, no historian would argue that Pazuzu wasn't seen as a malevolent spirit, but at the same time people would invoke Pazuzu for assistance during pregnancy. According to ancient Mesopotamian beliefs, the demon-goddess Lamashtu was especially dangerous to pregnant women and newborn babies.

    Pazuzu, on the other hand, was a countering force that could keep Lamashtu at bay. As a result, women often asked for Pazuzu's assistance, even though they also believed he was evil. 

  • His Physical Appearance Is Similar To Many Biblical Beasts

    The Bible contains numerous beasts that are hybrids of various creatures. It's possible that the inspiration for this came from earlier gods and demons such as Pazuzu. This particular demon-god is often depicted as being partially human. The rest of his frame, though, is fleshed out with a scorpion's tail, eagle talons, two sets of wings, and a fierce lion's head.

    With an appearance like that, it's no wonder ancient people alternated between fearing and invoking the name of Pazuzu.

  • He Was In Charge Of Destructive Winds That Destroyed Crops And Homes

    When your father rules the underworld, you're going to end up with some fearsome and awesome powers of your own. Pazuzu commanded the southwest and west winds that blew through Babylon and Assyria. The importance of this cannot possibly be overstated as these winds had the power to cause famine, locusts, and destructive storms.

    Unsurprisingly, people decided that they should appeal to Pazuzu to control these winds in their favor instead of against them. It does makes sense that Mesopotamian people would assume that the demon capable of sending winds to destroy their land may keep those winds in check if given the proper level of prayers and worship.    

  • He's The Only Mesopotamian Demon To Star In A Movie

    According to Mesopotamian scholar Stephen Bertman, Pazuzu has a special distinction from the rest of his ancient demon contemporaries. 

    "He is the only Mesopotamian demon to star in a movie - The Exorcist." 

    Author William Peter Blatty's awareness of Pazuzu from Mesopotamian culture influenced his novel, The Exorcist. By the time the movie of the same name came out, this demon-god would be more recognizable than any other demon god in history. (Not that that's saying a whole lot.) There are, of course, a lot of liberties taken with the history of Pazuzu. However, the book and the movie both pull from the real Pazuzu with scenes that feature ancient statues of the demon. 

  • He Inspired A Modern Day Satanist Named Pazuzu Algarad

    With a name like Pazuzu Algarad, how could you not become a devil-worshipping murderer? On October 5, 2014, in Clemmons, North Carolina, police discovered skeletal remains in a local yard. Algarad and his girlfriend, Amber Nicole Burch, killed two men in 2009 and buried their remains.

    Choosing to bury the bodies in their own backyard would prove to be a huge tactical error, though, and they both eventually went to prison. Algarad was later found dead in his cell while Burch is still serving her minimum term of 30 years.