If you have seen any of the movies from “The Conjuring” franchise, then you’re quite familiar with Valak the Demon, who takes on the form of a nun. To the series’ credit, this is probably one of the scarier demons in a work of fiction, in my opinion. As we all gear up to see “The Nun”, which opens on Friday, September 7th, let’s take a journey into the world of demonology. Given my ever-curious nature, I have been wondering what the true story is with Valak. Being familiar with the Warrens and their case files, I know the films took some serious liberties with the Enfield Poltergeist. Valak is neither a thing that is mentioned or involved. Dramatic effects…that’s all it was. That’s what Hollywood does because they need to entertain the world, not bore us all with those pesky facts and research.
Well, sort of. There is mythology on Valak (Volac/Valu) that you can find in numerous grimoires. According to the grimoire, “The Lesser Key of Solomon,” Valak is described as the Great President of Hell. In fact, Valak is in command of 38 legions of demons. So, Valak isn’t some low ranking devil. But Valak does not take the form of a nun. Valak takes the form of a child who rides a two-headed dragon, who has a lot of intelligence. Valak is also mentioned in Thomas Rudd’s variant (as Valu), Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (as Volac), the Liber Officium Spirituum (as Coolor or Doolas), and in the Munich Manual of Demonic Magic (as Volach). He apparently has the power of finding hidden treasures, whatever that means.
From The Lesser Key of Solomon:
“The Sixty-second Spirit is Volac, or Valak, or Valu. He is a President Mighty and Great, and appeareth like a Child with Angel’s Wings, riding on a Two-headed Dragon. His Office is to give True Answers of Hidden Treasures and to tell where Serpents may be seen. The which he will bring unto the Exorciser without any Force or Strength being by him employed. He governeth 38 Legions of Spirits, and his Seal is thus.”
So, where did the nun appearance come from? Apparently, Lorraine Warren talked about how she was visited by a hooded figure who had a “swirling, tornado vortex around it.” That gave James Wan the idea to go in the nun direction. He said,
“I remember hearing that and my first thought was, ‘Oh crap, that’s going to be a CGI character.’ I didn’t want to do that. And so, it kind of took me a while to cement in my head what this vision was. And it came across eventually in a very organic way. Because it is a demonic vision that haunts her, that only attacks her, I wanted something that would attack her faith. Something that would threaten the safety of her husband. And so that was eventually how the idea of this very iconographic image of a holy icon cemented in my head.”
While I’m somewhat disappointed that the Valak in the movie has little in common with the Valak of lore, there are similarities like the snakes and having the title of being the Marquis of Snakes. What is pretty interesting is that James Wan was so taken by Lorraine’s story that he added Valak in reshoots for “The Conjuring 2.” It ended up being a good decision on his part.
But, in terms of cases where Valak has had interactions with humans, there isn’t much to support this argument. It seems that Valak has stayed in the grimoires until “The Conjuring” franchise took off. There hasn’t been any record of a person being possessed by Valak from what I’ve researched. But I can’t help but wonder if this film franchise may inspire a few incidents. Rumor has it that there are magical practitioners who call upon Valak, and apparently, he is more than happy to share those strengths and secrets of hidden treasures if you’re worthy of them. I don’t want to know what happens if you aren’t worthy.
What About the Cârța Monastery?
What I am excited for is that “The Nun” takes place at the Cârța Monastery in Transylvania in Southern Romania. This abbey is very much a real place that is considered to be haunted. However, you won’t find stories of demons there. The abbey is a Cistercian monastery that was built in the 1200’s in the shape of a cross. During the Mongol invasion of 1241, the abbey experienced quite a bit of damage, so it was restored numerous times throughout its life. It stopped its functions in the 1500’s, which means it was out of commission during the time period “The Nun” is set in. The only part of the original monastery that is still intact is the church building. Ironically, it is now a Lutheran Evangelical Church! It is known as “The Haunted Abbey,” which means its reputation is quite a paranormal one!
Tourists have reported vibrated walls and moving chairs. The only ghost sightings the abbey has been associated with are apparitions of monks in white robes. When the site was a full-functioning abbey, the monks indeed wore white robes. They also worked very hard every day, and their life expectancy was around 40 years old. According to the legends, they fasted all day and woke up at 3 am every day. Apparently, they also had church every 3 hours by the time evening hit. Plus, they all slept in one room with hay. There are dozens of monks who are buried on site along with some soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. Perhaps the sightings are merely residuals hauntings from their heyday? There are no records of demonic encounters at the abbey. If it is haunted, it sounds innocent and benevolent.
The monks also were fearful of foreign invasion, so they supposedly dug a tunnel from the abbey to the Olt river, where there were boats standing by. There is another rumor that Matthias Corvinus, the King of Hungary, ordered the monks to leave Cârța in 1474, thus banished. This was because Cârța was doing so well and became a wealth adversary to the Saxon guilds that controlled the commerce of Transylvania.
Archaeologists did find something interesting while excavating the abbey. They found the remains of two abnormally tall individuals who were over 6 1/2′ tall. While this may not seem odd today, it was certainly odd hundreds of years ago when people were shorter. Back in those days, it was not uncommon for people with disabilities and abnormalities to be sent to abbeys to live out their days away from the community. It looks like this might have been the case here.
What was the Inspiration for “The Nun”?
“The Nun” was inspired by one of my favorite movies, “The Name of the Rose,” which stars Sean Connery and a very young Christian Slater. Connery plays a friar who goes to a Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy to investigate the mysterious death of a monk. It is believed that the Devil is behind the murder because the last person who spoke to the monk was found dead in a vat full of pig’s blood. “The Nun” has a similar story with a priest and a nun going to the Cârța Monastery to investigate a nun’s mysterious suicide. The culprit of the murder was human in “The Name of the Rose,” and nothing supernatural. We know that “The Nun” will have a more supernatural culprit.