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TexasDude's avatar

Why are Satanic forces portrayed in media as almost invariably speaking Latin?

Asked by TexasDude (25199 points ) November 14th, 2010

I’m currently watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the possessed chick just started speaking Latin. Come to think of it, almost every movie about possession, Satan, or whatever that I have seen has portrayed the possessed, or the Devil, or demons as speaking Latin whenever they really get pissed off. Is there a theological basis for this? Or is it just because Latin is a spooky sounding language? in which case, I think German would be more appropriate.

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44 Answers

Mamradpivo's avatar

I’m sure it has to do with the fact that the Catholic Church is based in Rome and most of its liturgy is in Latin.

JLeslie's avatar

I guess because the Roman Catholics use Latin. They usually bring in a priest to take care of the problem.

Jeruba's avatar

Also you’ve got Carmina Burana to remind you of just how creepily Latin can be set to music.

incendiary_dan's avatar

A lot of occult-oriented people are inclined to say occultish things in Latin. Then again, I heard on one of those late night paranormal radio shows that they do so because supposedly demons are afraid of it. Sounds kooky, but it connects anyway.

Also, while writing this, my lurve is at 666. Spooky.

jaytkay's avatar

Yep, the Catholic thing. A foreign tongue with religious connotations.

Nullo's avatar

You might enjoy the TvTropes page on Ominous Latin Chanting.

TexasDude's avatar

@Mamradpivo, @JLeslie, and @jaytkay, that actually makes a hell of a lot of sense. Thank you folks.

@Jeruba, I had to look up Carmina Burana and it’s awesome. Thanks for mentioning it.

@incendiary_dan, holy goddamn shit… This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone with 666 love the entire time I’ve been here… and it happens in this thread. Fuck.

@Nullo, awesome, haha.

DominicX's avatar

In the movie “The Fourth Kind”, the creepy entities were speaking Sumerian and in that episode of the X-Files (I don’t remember which one), the demon spoke Romanian. :P

I’m guessing the use of Latin in “demonic” settings, as the others have said already, is definitely related to the Catholic church’s usage of Latin (since they do perform exorcisms unlike most Christian denominations, and in the movies, it’s always a Catholic priest doing the exorcism). It also could come from the Gregorian chants like “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) which are a bit ominous and are a well-known usage of Latin. Also the fact that it’s a dead language, which makes it more “mysterious”.

I don’t think the sound of Latin is “spooky”; I find it quite beautiful. Yes, there are some harsh-sounding words like “cunctus” and “tacebunt”, but then you have more melodious words like “alaria” and “venientium”. Italian is most closely related to Latin and no one seems to think Italian is spooky… :)

cockswain's avatar

Would it be because when the Earth was created 3000 years ago, that was the dominant language in the Christian world? And Satan decided he wasn’t going to learn any new ones?

truecomedian's avatar

Because it’s an ancient language and the powers that be want to portray demons as ancient beings. Also, it’s to piss off the Catholic Church, because in Catholicism it’s used as a language of enlightenment and ancient wisdom, as in prayers. Also, it’s not 100% of movies with demons that do this. Word.

TexasDude's avatar

@DominicX, yeah, I don’t really think of Latin as spooky, but I know a lot of people who do. I get what you are saying about it sounding alien and mysterious to most folks, though, which is pretty much what I figured.

@cockswain, well, 5000 years is the creationist timespan, actually. Satan must be intellectually lazy. If I was the Devil, I’d speak Azerbaijani, or something more creative.

@truecomedian, lol, Catholicism. Also, word.

ucme's avatar

Because it sounds menacing & cool I suppose. I would have loved to have heard Jason belting out a few bars of Pie Jesus as he slashed yet another high school whore’s…....girl’s throat. Would have definitely brought something to the party, added a little gravitas. Or that might just be me.

TexasDude's avatar

@ucme, Latin_Speaking_Whore_Killing_Vorhees would be absolutely awesome, in my opinion.

ucme's avatar

@Fiddle Playing Creole Bastard Well then on that we appear to be in broad agreement. god i’m so creative. Although he is a bit of a “shy boy” would have to come out of his shell. He may struggle on his dissertation but hey, let’s give the lad a chance.

Seelix's avatar

Latin is spooky-sounding, and relatively few people understand it. Then there’s the Catholic angle – in the portrayals I’ve seen, the “exorcism” is invariably done by a member of the Catholic clergy.

mrentropy's avatar

Having taken Latin for three years in high school I’d just have to say it’s because Latin is evil. There’s a Bauhaus song where Peter Murphy sang in Latin, backwards (which is supposed to be the traditional demon thing) which sounded nifty.

Additional: Actually, demons (and witches) are supposed to only be able to recite passages from the Bible backwards in Latin. One of those tests that are sprung on people. And I believe Peter Murphy sang a passage from the Bible backwards, which gave him the heebie jeebies since he’s fairly religious.

cockswain's avatar

Bauhaus! Just downloaded some recently

TexasDude's avatar

I love Bauhaus, but I had never heard that song… Do you know the name?

@Seelix, that seems to be the consensus here.

mrentropy's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard It’s near the end of “Stigmata Martyr.”

TexasDude's avatar

Awesome, thanks.

Symbeline's avatar

Carmina Burana rocks. (Except when I hear it during Wrestlemania PayPerView commercials, but it was awesome in Excalibur lol.)

Well, my guess is…and it’s just a guess, really, nothing informative, but…Most people don’t know any Latin, but chances are, if you either speak French or English, you can catch bits and pieces, so it makes it sound mysterious and ominous but without it seemingly making any sense like The Bible
I can change something like Cuncti Simus Concanentes Ave Maria to Cuncti Simus Concanentes Ave Satani or Terminus Est (The End, more or less.) and then it just sounds creepshit.
It doesn’t matter if my modification actually makes no sense when it comes to actual genuine Latin translation, because remember, the height of Christianity, especially Catholicism’s epitome, was back when people thought it was awesome to add ’‘is’’ or ’‘us’’ at the end of everything lol, and not only was that back when Christianity ruled over the government or was the government, but it’s also it’s most brutal and violent period, which backs up Satan a lot in movies today.
Incorporating some of Christianity’s most notable elements (No matter how ignored by some.) can make for some very hard hitting impact, even today, whether or not you know what a Spanish Donkey is.

Hell even though these dudes eventually made a Dominican version of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, it does not halter my goosebumps.

TexasDude's avatar

@Symbeline, great answer. I’ve heard and seen some of those “corruptions” of Christian Latin songs before like the ones you mention in literature and songs.

Nullo's avatar

If priests use Latin, then it stands to reason that the forces of darkness at least understand it. And if they understand it, why not speak it?
Just guessing.

Symbeline's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Yeah, since a lot of Christian songs, especially older ones, are fashioned to portray something awesome and powerful, I don’t see why it couldn’t work with something dark and evil, and make it sound all awesome and powerful

TexasDude's avatar

@Symbeline also, in a lot of old-school Christian literature, Satan and his minions are portrayed as constantly mocking the institutions of the Church by inverting and subverting them, so there is definitely a precedent for the examples you provided.

Symbeline's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Oh yeah, I remember reading about that once before. It also mentioned the famous ’‘Satanic’’ inverted crucifix, which is apparently meant merely as an insult to God, rather than any kind of actual Satanic symbol. (The actual symbol is an inverted Star of David, which actually draws the face of a goat, but that only stands for LaVeyathan Satanism but still; there’s that ’‘inversion’’ again.)
Wasn’t there some dude in The Bible who requested to be crucified upside down, just for the hell of it?

mrentropy's avatar

@Symbeline Er, a Star of David has six points. I’m not sure it can be inverted. A pentacle or pentagram can be inverted and then you can draw in a goat head.

Symbeline's avatar

Hey wait yeah. What the fuck star am I talking about then? It has five points, like a tradiitonal one, but the apex pointed downwards.

mrentropy's avatar

Oh, and I think that other guy chose to be crucified upside down because he felt he wasn’t good enough to be crucified the way Jesus was. I think I heard that somewhere.

mrentropy's avatar

@Symbeline Yeah, a pentagram (which is just a five pointed star) or a pentacle (five pointed star in a circle). When you flip that upside the down the stars legs become the horns, the two side points are ears, the middle is the “face” of a goat and top point goes on the bottom to be the billy goats beard.

Check out some 80s heavy metal album covers.

Symbeline's avatar

Yeah I seen the goat in the stars plenty of times. (It’s on the cover of the Satanic Bible.) Does the pentagram or pentacle have anything to do with Christianity?

mrentropy's avatar

According to our friend Wikipedia: ” Christians once more commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus. The pentagram has associations with Freemasonry”

To be honest, I’ve never heard of that. Otherwise, the pentagram/pentacle is a pagan thing and that’s always considered anti-Christian (except where pagan ideas were officially incorporated into Christianity for the purpose of making converting easier, I guess).

Symbeline's avatar

Yeah I always thought that it was a Pagan thing too. I wonder if we even still have any Bibles that actually mention that in there.

mrentropy's avatar

I wouldn’t know. If it’s not mentioned by name or description it would probably be lumped into the “mystic symbols” category. It’s quite an ancient symbol.

TexasDude's avatar

A pentacle is only considered Satanic when it is upside down with a goat head inside of it.

Also, it was Peter who insisted on being crucified upside down.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I suspect because Latin is an “old language”, and an old sounding language sounds creepier than modern English. Yikes.

I was wondering about this too the other week, when I saw the movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” . I don’t know what tongue Dracula was mouthing off, but it certainly wasn’t romantic French. Lol.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Also, old languages give horror flicks and demonic monsters more credibility, because they sound more “formal”—-don’t you think? Can you imagine Dracula telling his victim in rap talk “Hey brotha, I’m gonna suck ya blood”? Lol!

cockswain's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES There was a movie called Blackula.

TexasDude's avatar

Haha, that was the movie title I was looking for!

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@cockswain I didn’t know such a film existed. LOL.

cockswain's avatar

Oh yeah. I saw it when I was a kid. Not too spectacular of a movie, but sort of gained a minor cult following, probably because of the title and concept.

Symbeline's avatar

@cockswain Yeah. It’s a different take on the vampire genre, so it had impact.
I still like the classics way better though.

GracieT's avatar

I’m coming in late to this conversation, but no one mentioned that at least in the western world, the mass is no longer sung and it is no longer in Latin. So the “creepiness factor” is actually way down. I was brought up Catholic but because it was after Vaticant II and Latin was no longer used then. Like @DominicX I love the language, but it isn’t spoken anymore as a language. It is used in many Romance and also English words, so I am extremely grateful to have had two years in high school and three semesters in college. I haven’t seen most of the movies or heard most of the songs, so I am curious as to how correct the Latin used in them is, and how many of the words used are just used for shock value, because they sound “spooky” together.

Thulenord's avatar

There is a Gospel parable about a man who was possessed by an evil spirit, “Legion is my name.” He could have been speaking many languages. Perhaps like the hunchback (played by Ron Perleman) in “The Name of the Rose.” Sometimes, at a Pentecost Sunday service the lesson (Acts 4) will be read by many readers, each in a different tongue. I did the Greek once. It was so different from the others, mostly Latinate European languages. One in Swahili, one in Hebrew, very strange sounding. Although Greek was the authoritative language of the time, and still is, Latin is the Western authority. And the devil and his minions want that authority. God help us. As for Him, well He did confuse the languages at Babel.

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