scribed by da-at-ass, divinely inspired by tiferetstrokes
This might have been the most-asked question in those brave days at MPV when we still had the ask box open.* It’s been the most difficult to answer. We’ve seen some practitioners give a few examples of which demons to start out with, but we really don’t like giving that sort of advice. The demon world isn’t Pokemon.**
There is no #1 starter demon.
That would, for one, make things really boring for that one demon who always had to deal with beginners or initiates. It’d be like an eternity of teaching Freshman Composition; a Hell of Academic Damnation. But when you think about it, the concept of a “starter demon” is kind of weird - shouldn’t you be looking for the best demon for you to work with? If there’s a certain purpose you’re pursuing, you should be focused on that purpose, not which demon is the best for “beginners”.
Besides, this leads to thinking of demons having “difficulty levels”. I’m not sure if I’d think of any one demon as easiest to work with for everyone. I know some practitioners don’t like to think of demons and people as being on the same level, so consider this comparison more metaphorical than implying any placement higher or lower: That’s akin to thinking of one single person being, in the same way for every person in the world they meet, difficult to talk to or interact with.
Now if you’re a quiet introvert, maybe a boisterous person is more difficult for you to interact with, but that won’t be the same for all people. And if they’re your optometrist, or your bus driver, or your florist, that personality clash probably won’t impact the work you pay them for. As a therapist, they may not be the best for you, but as a go-to person for technical drawings? General yard work? Interior decorating? Photography? Whether there’s a difficulty at all really just depends what your relationship is with a person, and what you’re interacting with them for.
And when it comes to professional work…
Different people have different paths.
Some people will be beginners only in that they haven’t worked with demons before, but they’re already seasoned practitioners in other fields or traditions. Some people have never performed a ritual. Some people will never perform a ritual. Some people make all their contact through horsing and some people only get the vaguest impressions of entities via their immediate senses. Some people call me Maurice. No one demon will be the best fit for all of those different people.
One demon may be very good at teaching magical techniques at an advanced level, but won’t have a knack for bringing beginners up to speed, so only takes students if they’ve already got prior experience. Another demon may be great at handling beginning magic students but may not enjoy highly theoretical work. Yet another demon’s style may not be to treat beginners any differently but just throw them into lessons head-first and watch what happens as they stumble to gain their footing. Another demon may reveal information only through quiet, slow hours of contemplation. None of these are better demons for anyone to start with than the others - the one who seems to work with “beginners” best in that list is really only in the context of magical practice. They may have high expectations of how experienced you’ll be with demons already.
Perhaps you’re looking for a demon who is more “forgiving”.
If this is your first time working with a demon, you may be afraid that you’ll use the wrong etiquette or say the wrong thing or insult them in some way you didn’t intend. You may also not want to work with a demon who is overly “strict”. But you may find that a demon who seems strict and severe is actually very forgiving of your missteps, but is simply very vocal in correcting them. In a way this is an excellent demon for some beginners because they help people work past the training wheels stage very quickly.
Some demons who are very nice and seem like they would be great for anyone to work with are a bit deceptive. I’ve written about how this happens very often with Eligos. He’s sincerely nice, but he plays situations to his advantage and is an expert manipulator. So whoever works with him is working with a good teacher who is very kind but may manipulate them into codependency if they aren’t wary. That’s a subtle battlefield to navigate - the severe, strict one mentioned earlier may actually be easier to deal with in the long run because there’s less danger of getting trapped under layers of nuance. It should be noted that Eligos isn’t the only demon we’ve encountered who is genuinely, sincerely nice but also uses those skills to play situations to their advantage, so just avoiding Eligos won’t eliminate the problem.
Of course many people are wary of trying to work with a demon and then, with no warning, getting attacked. There’s the possibility of emotional abuse, lies, blackmail, all sorts of malice. Demonology can be a dangerous field and these are real dangers. However, a demon who attacks you at the outset because they don’t like you is a blessing in disguise. You didn’t have to go through years of manipulation and lies to figure out that they were malicious. They told you outright (through actions) not to work with them.
Of course, some practitioners are fighters, and they might work best with demons who come out swinging. Those demons may be looking to test initiates to see what their mettle is - whether they’ll run or stand their ground. In the end they may be a real creampuff under the antagonistic veneer, once you earn the chance to look past their aggressive front.
Demons have personalities, preferences, and agendas.
I have not seen a demon treat every person they meet the same way, though I’ve seen some similarities between interactions. Similar enough to give testament to a consistent personality, but different enough to give a bit of a warning: not all demons will get along with you. This isn’t always the demon’s fault, and it isn’t always your fault.
Some people don’t get along with certain demons, just personality-wise. Some people did some really strange stuff in past lives. Some people have an emanation living on a higher plane who got into a fight/war/legal battle with that demon’s boss. Some people are already allied with other demons who are in a fight with/insulted the family head of the current demon, and those people weren’t made aware of this before they attempted a summoning.***
This doesn’t even begin to touch off on topics such as different aspects of single entities, or different emanations, or the phenomenon of names listed in grimoires actually being titles instead of personal names. So when someone else has a great personal experience with a certain demon, there’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be working with the same demon. This would especially hold true with past life memories since enough time could have passed by now that a different entity is holding office. There’s also the fact that enough time may have passed that the demon may simply have changed and grown since then, gone through a traumatic experience, gotten counseling, reached a mid-life crisis, etc.
It’s a really thorny landscape, and it’s hard to keep everyone’s story straight when we’re working with the mostly-invisible. It’s especially difficult because people and demons keep a lot of secrets (often for good reasons, you don’t publicly say you’re an undercover cop in service to demons for instance, or at least it seems like a bad idea). Everyone has a different view of how the world works. Sometimes it is really hard to understand why something didn’t work out.
Sometimes you never find out.
So how do you find the right one to work with?
I can’t tell you which demons will be less likely to have problems with you, or vice versa. Best I could do is divine it for you, and I may not be the best go-to for that. Usually the best diviner for what your spiritual path should be is yourself. You know yourself best, and often demons want to communicate directly instead of through an intermediary. Tif wrote a guide on different ways to communicate and extend your awareness. Though you could consult a diviner, keep in mind that some diviners will have the same clashes with certain demons that are listed above. Also, when you ask a diviner to investigate a demon or any other entity for you, you’re asking that diviner to connect to that entity and become involved with that entity. The diviner may not want that kind of attention. It’s a lot of risk you’re asking them to take on, so please be sure that they’re up for it, that you’ll take ultimate responsibility for what happens, and that you compensate them well.
I wrote a post on how to seek on your own which specific demon to work with, and then there’s a later post on actually summoning that demon after you’ve narrowed down the scope. These articles explain how to seek demons on your own and find the right demon for you. We’re still writing material on this (we don’t think there will ever be enough written on this subject, but we’ll keep trying) but what’s in the How to Goetia**** tag should keep you occupied.
Most of all, I’d like to emphasize:
There is no specific badass demon that “most people” should avoid.
Work with whoever works out for you. Work with who you’re drawn to, even if someone else tells you they’re hard to work with. Some people will give you warnings about specific demons and say they’re only for advanced practitioners or shouldn’t be worked with at all (yet they’re working with them). Those people don’t know your life the way you do, and they don’t know your background, and they don’t know how you’ll end up relating to the demons you may choose to work with. It’s just not their business to know your business, even if they mean well. I’ve got a laundry list of demons I won’t work with day-to-day - and then I find people working with those demons in functional, super-constructive ways. It seems wrong to tell you to write off a demon because we had a bad experience or just couldn’t get along with them. The closest we’ll come to that is writing articles like my article on Eligos, warning about specific things to watch out for, and that one wasn’t just meant to warn about Eligos but to also be aware that the most dangerous threats out there in the demon world are far from the most obvious.
The first demon you work with will come with their own unique challenges. Any demon is a good starter demon.
* It’s not that we’re anti-social, it’s that our spare time is in the negative and managing an inbox for occult questions is extremely taxing right now.
** No matter what some religious radicals might write on a protest sign.
*** Those are all hypotheticals, but an example I scrapped was “issued a parking citation to”, if you think any of those sound in the least bit ridiculous.
**** I may retroactively retag those at some point with a better-fitting tag because there are far more texts than the Goetia that list demons. It’s really just the most famous.