The dæmon /ˈdiːmən/ was the physical manifestation of a human soul in Lyra's world. Humans in other worlds had dæmons; however they were invisible to those who had not learnt the technique used to see them.
Dæmons were named by the dæmons of the child's parents. During the childhood of a human, their dæmon could shapeshift into any kind of animal. This change could be due to emotion, need for a particular skill such as nightvision, or simply whim.
When the human and their dæmon reached maturity, the dæmon settled into a permanent form. This form represented the personality of their human. Meanings of individual dæmons are discussed in their respective articles.
Dæmons didn't always settle into a permanent form their humans wanted. An example given by Jerry was of a sailor who couldn't leave his ship due to his dæmon settling as a dolphin, and was only truly happy when he was finally buried at sea.
As a human and their dæmon were one being, the death of one resulted in that of the other. Upon death, the dæmon instantly scattered as Dust.
A person's dæmon was usually the opposite sex. It was uncommon, but not unheard of, for a human and their dæmon to have the same sex. Bernie Johansen was a man whose dæmon was also male.
As a human and their dæmon were one being, it was physically and emotionally painful for them to separate too far from each other. Death usually followed such separation due to the severe trauma. The General Oblation Board attempted to perfect the intercision process, to separate the human and dæmon in a way which did not result in death. Nevertheless, this resulted in the human losing some of their willpower and vitality. Less advanced methods have been used to create hollow servants called zombi.
It was considered taboo for a person to touch another person's dæmon. Humans whose dæmons were touched by others felt a strong sense of repulsion. One exception is when two people touch each other's dæmons in a gesture of love.
Dæmon is an Anglicisation of the Ancient Greek word daimōn which means 'spirit'. It is a neutral term with none of the malevolent connotations associated with the modern English word demon.
Behind the scenes
- The idea of the dæmon was inspired by paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine" where there seems to be a psychological connection between the lady and the animal.
- Northern Lights
- The Golden Compass (film)
- The Golden Compass (video game)
- The Subtle Knife
- The Amber Spyglass
- Lyra's Oxford
- Once Upon a Time in the North