Python spirit or spirit of python is one of many terms associated with a particular set of views related to the demonic world. According to some Charismatics, demons are the cause of almost every problem we face—and these demons are categorized and named. Such an approach to the spiritual world forms the theory behind so-called deliverance ministries, which seek to identify and exorcise evil spirits. By taking vague references to certain scriptural words badly out of context, some have invented an entire mythology of spiritual warfare, complete with a menagerie of unique demonic entities that wreak havoc in the world.
Those who believe in a python spirit point to Acts 16:16, where Scripture refers to a slave girl who had “a spirit of divination.” The Greek term for “divination” in this verse is pythōna. The origin of the Greek word is rooted in Greek mythology, which includes the story of Apollo slaying a serpent or dragon that dwelt in the region of Pytho and was said to have guarded the oracle of Delphi. It seems the local residents of Philippi in Acts 16 said this slave girl gained her powers through “a spirit of Python,” associating the mythological serpent with oracles in general. Paul freed this girl of the demon (Acts 16:18), angering the men taking advantage of her and leading to a lawsuit (Acts 16:19–21).
Taking the account in Acts 16 and the locals’ mythological term for the demon inhabiting the fortune-teller, some extrapolate that there is a specific demonic entity—the “python spirit” or the “spirit of python”—that oppresses people by interfering with the communication of the Holy Spirit and thwarting prayer. Others believe that the “python spirit” is one that gathers information about believers and uses the intel to call other demons to attack people or churches or cities.
Some teach that the “spirit of python” is one that “squeezes” believers to make them feel unhappy, depressed, or overcome. Some Charismatics incorporate other names and ideas into this “python spirit,” suggesting it has four faces and has names such as Jezebel or Absalom. Beyond these are even more diverse opinions about the demon’s emphasis. Some say the “spirit of python” is expressed in greed, fear, or physical problems.
Still others use the phrase python spirit or spirit of python in a generic sense, not necessarily ascribing it to a particular entity or intelligent being.
It’s notable that there is so much variety in beliefs about what a “python spirit” is and what it does. This is a common feature of “deliverance ministries.” The beliefs are based on little if any Scripture, and there is so much speculation that no coherent or consistent teaching on the “python spirit” and other demons can be found. The function of the “spirit of python” as held by one person might entirely overlap that of other spirits, which are given names such as Leviathan, Kundalini, or “water spirits.”
Scripture gives us no reason to believe there is any particular spirit named Python. It’s unwise to assume the existence of a particular type of demon based on the pagan name for a mythological monster. Further, the Bible gives us no reason to believe we have a specific ability to rebuke or exorcise any demon—there are no instructions on exorcisms in the Bible. It could be that a demonic entity of some sort is directly involved in a person’s spiritual or physical struggle. But the remedy is not to invent a mythology of demons, coin new terms, or turn God’s Word into a source of speculation. The only meaningful answers to spiritual problems are prayer, discipleship, and submission to God (see James 4:7).