The Conjuring movies and their subsequent spin-offs are famous for giving paranormal “true stories” a big Hollywood makeover. So far these movies have tapped into several investigations carried out (or concocted) by Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of real-life spook chasers whose cases have captured the pop culture imagination despite being discredited by the non-believers. Even if you don’t accept that their exploits confronting the supernatural are real (and you probably shouldn’t), there’s no denying that the Warrens have inspired some successful scare fare.
The Nun is the latest movie to stem from the Conjuring cinematic universe and the titular character is anything but holy (more like unholy, am I right?). Also known as Valak, the demonic nun first appeared in The Conjuring 2, a movie that was loosely inspired by the well-documented Amityville and Enfield haunting cases. The character also pops up at the end of Annabelle: Creation, which centers around a creepy doll with its own basis in the Warrens brand of paranormal folklore.
In the movies, the Valak character was introduced to connect these stories somewhat cohesively. No entity that goes by that name has ever been mentioned in the Warrens actual case files. However, among practitioners of the dark arts and connoisseurs of demonology, Valak is a being that can be traced back centuries. That being said, the way the hellspawn has been portrayed in the Conjuring universe is very far removed from the demon’s proper mythology.
For a start, the real Valak isn’t a nun, nor a woman for that matter. At least not according to demonic history anyway. According to “The Lesser Key of Solomon“– which is a collection of grimoires translated from ancient texts by famed occultists Aleister Crowley and S. L. MacGregor Mathers in 1904 — he’s a high-ranking hellspawn with a sweet mode of transport. Crowley and Mathers dedicated their life to his shenanigans and were even prone to carrying out the odd freaky ritual from time to time. If anyone knew about demons it was these delinquents.
Check out the passage below for the demon’s official description:
“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.”
Other translations of these texts, which can be traced back to King Solomon (who apparently conversed with Valak and countless other demons), have different wording. But the characteristics that define Valak are always the same: a child-like entity who rides a two-headed dragon, possesses great knowledge, and commands his own demonic legion. There’s no mention of him being a nun, but maybe he likes to dress up?
Reading about this Valak has ruined The Nun for me. If they stuck to the original mythology then the movie would potentially feature demonic armies, dragons, and treasure hunting (in either the physical sense or the metaphorical/spiritual one). A nun haunting an abbey is fine, but it’s hardly befitting of the legacy of a Hell commander of this stature.