Demons and Devils
The smell of candles and chalk mingles with the scent of brimstone and incense as shadows dance around the geometric patterns of the sigil inscribed on the floor. In the center of which stands the looming figure of the infernal patron you wish to appease, its ancient name transcribed onto a scroll from the book of diabolical knowledge you keep by your side. You smile. The Demon smiles. You both know that this is exactly the point at which things get interesting.
Summoning demons is often given a bad reputation by people who do not appreciate the rare and special gifts given to us by the agents of the infernal. Rarely are we given an opportunity to cause chaos and calamity on a scale that will satisfy our need for destruction, and demons never fail to satisfy. They are fun, dangerous, and extremely good value for money. You can achieve a lot on your own; you can achieve a lot more with the aid of a diabolic patron.
For many of us the days of summoning looming monsters to fight off knights with swords are behind us. We live slightly more refined lives of hotel lobbies and hidden manor houses. Armies of the damned have been largely replaced with cults dedicated to sex and death, and our demon summoning practices have moved along with it. Where once we may have led rituals to summon vast diabolical monsters to fight armies, we now look for something more subtle, more pervasive.
That is not to say there is not a time and a place for an actual physical manifestation of supernatural malign intent; it certainly adds spice to any basement supplication orgy, we can assure you. These days we are more inclined to want to summon manifestation of demonic interference into our own chosen vessels. Today we explore the alternatives to creating physical gateways into hell dimensions and focus instead on the subtle arts of accepting evil into our soul.
Masks and Personas
Playing a character can be hard enough on its own without all of the extra baggage of supernatural possession. Even those who play thinly veiled versions of themselves wearing funny hats have to put some work into attempting to portray a personality that is different to themselves, even if they always seem to be roughly the same. Once we allow ourselves to become possessed, the demonic entity —cool as they may be— is an extra layer of complication we need to prepare for.
We suggest that having a clear understanding of the difference between the character you are portraying and the possession can help you be clear in how you are going to portray your new, even more exciting alibi for bad behaviour. Take the time to meditate on the persona of the character you are playing and the persona of the demon that you are handing over control to. The differences between the two are the things that are going to stand out the most so make a note of those differences and play the hell out of them! If you’ll pardon the expression.
Once you have a clear idea of those personality differences you can allow the demon to take up some residency in your own soul. Try to embody the physicality of the demon and how they will move your meat vessel through this world of exciting opportunities for evil. Don’t be embarrassed! Your demon is perfectly equipped to take the blame for all manner of absurd postures and walking gaits you decide to adopt. What will help is having a clear idea of the internal rhythm and tempo of the demon.
We will often repeat the name of the demon in our heads at a speed that suits the creature. Once we feel our thought processes match the tempo of the demon we can let ourselves go and allow the demon to run riot, which they will, every time. The important question is “How quickly?” For the more somnolent demons you can slow your pace down and adjust your breathing to match, lazily opening your eyes when your inner languid evil is ready to face the world. For a more galvanic transition into easily excited or hyperactive demons you can repeat the name in your head, speeding up with each repetition until you have no choice but to open your eyes with a scream.
A substantially different tempo and rhythm will often work on its own to emphasise the difference between demon and host, but we still need to be able to interact with other people. Being very clear about what the demon wants and how they want to get it helps us emphasise the differences between the host and the demon. The demon will rarely be that bothered by the impact of its desires on its host and will exploit the possession ruthlessly. This is your opportunity to create a catastrophic mess that will take hours for you to fix once the demon is done with you. Enjoy it while it lasts and feast on the mayhem. Don’t forget to cry when your character realises what the demon made them do; or at least pretend to be sad.
Circles and Words
The ritual is an important part of the process of allowing demons into your heart. Taking the time to prepare properly gives you the time to make sure that you are ready to channel multiple character personas at once. It also helps with the immersion into the roles if you have some sort of ceremony that can help focus your mind. These ceremonies do not need to be elaborate but having some sort of process can make the whole thing a little easier by giving you time to really think about what it is you will be doing once the ritual is complete.
Small cards, scrolls and books can be useful reminders of key information about the demons you are inhabiting if that is required. Usually the only thing that matters is how the demon changes the persona of your character, so you will only need some things to do while you are getting ready to perform the transformation. Establishing a space in which you can sit in order to do the summoning is a good start, with or without a circle of some sort. You can then close your eyes and effectively perform a diegetic workshop in which you welcome the new spiritual intruder into your heart and soul.
Turning our own body into a physical vessel for the transubstantiated soul of a malevolent spirit is thirsty work and not something to be undertaken lightly. Make sure you hydrate and take breaks if you need to. Once you have mastered the art of the single possession there are other exciting opportunities that await those looking to surrender their bodies to the dark powers. A straightforward possession is draining and difficult, but with enough preparation you can expand your demonic entourage to multiple demonic interventions.
Possession, Legion and Pandemonium
Legion is the practice of being inhabited by many demons. You may not know the names of all of the demons you have allowed to inhabit your soul, but this should not stop you from enjoying the experience. We have found it helpful to always remain aware of the tempo of the various demons to keep track of how they interact with people. Your somnolent demons will keep a slow, regular pace with their interactions, interrupted by lively galvanic demons who can burst into your interactions with screams and outbursts.
Play on the differences between them, occasionally letting out bursts of grief, outrage and upset from the shattered remains of your original character. There does not need to be many of them, two or three is typical, but don’t let that stop you from implying that there are many more in there. Make sure that amidst the chaos you are staying calm and in control yourself. When you need to take a break do so. I have never been in a situation where I am channeling demons where I cannot just collapse in order to collect my thoughts before returning to the drama, usually with a slow paced adagio demon dragging my body back into the fray. This also provides an opportunity for your friends to try to help you, which is always funny.
Should you wish to escalate this to a state of Pandemonium you will have demons seemingly coming in and out of you at random. Your body is no longer a tool or even a temple, it is now a playground that is inhabited as and when these creatures need it. Throw yourself violently between the different tools with ridiculous abandon, shifting vocal tone, tempo and physical at every opportunity. Try to maintain the impression of a body that is being controlled, while also staying aware of the broad agenda behind the possession. This is difficult for others to interact with meaningfully, so should be kept extremely short; it can create tense scenes where the host has lost control of their channeling.
Whatever happens, remember to be kind to yourself when it is over. Have that drink, take that rest, and recharge your batteries. In larps the only reason to summon all the demons is to enhance the drama for everyone else around you. If you do it well you can create a complex situation that you can then enjoy trying to get out of. The satisfaction of allowing the dark forces to take control for a short while is its own reward. Something you can consider as the smell of wax and incense fades, and you are left with nothing but fear, ruin, and the fading afterglow of an intoxicating rush of endorphins.
Cover photo: Image by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay. Photo has been cropped.
This article is published in the companion book Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:
Ford, Kol. “Summon All the Demons: The Exciting World of Larp Demonology.” In Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021. Yes, all the demons.