In Lyra's world, a dæmon is an outward and physical manifestation of a person's soul, in an animal form that reflects the person's character.
|"A dæmon is not an animal, of course; a dæmon is a person. A real cat, face to face with a dæmon in cat form, would not be puzzled for a moment. She would see a human being."|
|The Subtle Knife, Lantern Slides|
Until the age of puberty, dæmons are able to change their form (must be an animal form though). During puberty, the dæmon will lose the ability to change shapes, and eventually settle in a shape most reflective of its human’s character. The dæmon will keep this shape until the day it dies with its human.
The settling of dæmons also caused Dust to be attracted to their human. The Church, and especially the General Oblation Board, believed Dust was the physical manifestation of Original Sin, and that the settling of dæmons and the gathering of Dust onto a person indicated the beginning of sinful thought, which inspired and was used as justification for their experiments with intercision.
In Lyra's world servants' dæmons usually settle as dogs.
This was explained thusly by Philip Pullman at Unicon 2000:
|...somebody criticised me for being terribly class-ridden and British and snobbish because all servants are people whose dæmons are dogs. This critic thought that I was saying if your dæmon’s a dog you have to be a servant. It’s not like that at all, as Lyra explains elsewhere to Will (who doesn’t know about dæmons). "If your dæmon turns out to be a dog, that means you’re the sort of person (and there are plenty of those about) who enjoys knowing where they are in a hierarchy, who enjoys following orders and pleasing the person in charge." There are people like that, and they make good servants. We don’t have servants any more in our society but we do in Lyra’s world. If your dæmon is a dog that is a sign to you that that’d be a career that you’d enjoy doing and that you’d be good at.|
|Philip Pullman, Unicon 2000|
All witches have birds as dæmons. Each Witch goes through an initiation as a young girl that allows their dæmon to travel great distances from them.
It is rare for dæmons to have the same sex as their human.
Philip Pullman spoke of this matter at Unicon 2000. Asked what a same-sex dæmons might indicate of their human, he replied:
|I don’t know. There are plenty of things about my worlds I don’t know, and that’s one of them. It might do! But it might not! Occasionally, no doubt, people do have a demon of the same sex; that might indicate homosexuality, or it might indicate some other sort of gift or quality, such as second sight. I do not know. But I don’t have to know everything about what I write." Further explained at Readerville in 2001: "Same-sex daemons: it was clear to me from the beginning that occasionally someone might acquire a daemon of the same sex. What might that mean? I don't know everything it might mean; it could mean something about their own sexuality, or it might mean something quite different. It's one of the many things I don't know fully about my world. Similarly with how daemons are born. There wasn't actually any part of the story that depended on studying my daemonic gynecology, so I didn't go into it.|
|Philip Pullman, Unicon 2000|
Birth, Death & Intercision
When their humans die, their dæmons simply disintegrate. As previously stated, it is unknown how and when dæmons are born, although considering the nature of their deaths, it is reasonable to assume they are not birthed alongside their humans but rather at some point simply come into being. A fatal blow to a dæmon can kill that dæmon's human instantly, as Iorek Byrnison demonstrates against a Bolvangar guard in The Golden Compass.
The process of separating a dæmon from their human is called intercision, which can be performed either through the Maystadt process or simply by physically tearing the two entities away from each other, a ritual performed for centuries by the Tartars. After intercision, the dæmon is no longer representative of their human's soul and becomes a seperate being, albeit greatly reduced in intelligence. If the human remains near their dæmon, they can survive, suffering, however, the loss of their soul, which makes their life bleak and monotonous, and makes them far more susceptible to being put into servitude. If there is distance put between the human and the dæmon, though, the trauma involved will likely cause the human to die.
In Africa, however, a method has been perfected by which a human is able to survive without a dæmon in a corpse-like and barely alive form, called a Zombi.
The dæmons of witches, unlike humans, have the ability to travel great distances from their witches and for long periods of time. This ability effectively makes them insusceptible to the 'tearing' method of intercision, though it is unknown if they are vulnerable to the Maystadt process.
The separation of dæmon from human does have a use, however, as it releases a massive amount of energy which, when harnessed, is one of the most efficient energy sources known.
In His Dark Materials, it is only the people of Lyra's world that have a outward and physical dæmon. In the other worlds readers are taken to, dæmons/souls are invisible or contained within the person, although it can be possible for the people of these worlds to see their dæmons and learn their names, as was the case with Will. However, considering the Many Worlds Theory (an infinite number of possible worlds), there are undoubtedly other worlds, perhaps spinoffs of Lyra's, where dæmons are visible.
List of Dæmons
|Alpine Chough||unknown||Dr. Mary Malone|
|Baboon||unknown||Third Doctor at Bolvangar|
|Blue-Throated Bird||Sergi||Ruta Skadi|
|Crow||unknown||Father Semyon Borisovitch|
|Frog||unknown||Fra Pavel Rasek|
|Golden Monkey||unknown||Mrs. Coulter|
|Green Beetle||unknown||Father Luis Gomez|
|Lizard||unknown||Father Hugh MacPhail|
|Marmoset||unknown||Dame Hannah Relf|
|Marmot||unknown||First Doctor at Bolvangar|
|Moth||unknown||Second Doctor at Bolvangar|
|Osprey||Sayan Kotor||John Parry|
|Owl||unknown||Priest at Observatory|
|Pelican||unknown||Priest at Trollesund|
|Raven||unknown||Master of Jordan College|
|Raven||unknown||Unnamed Witch (flies wire to Aurora)|
|Red Setter||unknown||Mr. Cawson|
|Scarlet Macaw||unknown||Old Lady with Lornette|
|Seagull||Belisaria||Jerry the Seaman|
|Serpent||unknown||Sir Charles Latrom|
|Snow Bunting||unknown||Lena Feldt|
|Snow Goose||Kaisa||Serafina Pekkala|
|Snow Leopard||Stelmaria||Lord Asriel|
|Terrier||unknown||Orderly at Adamant Tower|
|unknown||Castor||Child in Land of the Dead|
|unknown||Cerebaton||Simon Le Clerc|
|unknown||Matapan||Child in Land of the Dead|
|unknwon||Sandling||Child in Land of the Dead|
|White Dog||unknown||Sister Clara (Bolvangar)|
- See also Dæmons in other cultures