Netflix’s obsession with cults doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon. We have seen the presence of these satanic cults in many Netflix titles, such as “Feria: The Darkest Light,” “Archive 81,” “House of Secrets,” and “Midnight Mass,” to name a few. Following the legacy of such shows, we see a wicked but impactful insular cult in the Netflix limited series “Devil in Ohio.” The cult is named “Sliocht an Diabhail,” also called “The Devil’s Own,” and is based in Amon County, Ohio. But before we jump into the origin, motivation, and beliefs of the cult, let’s introduce the prominent characters of the series whose lives are going to be affected by the activities of the cult.
Dr. Suzanne Mathis, a respected psychiatrist in a trauma ward at Remmingham Memorial Hospital, lives a peaceful life with her family of five, which includes her husband and three daughters. However, their happy life is soon disturbed due to the arrival of a traumatized girl named Mae Louise Dodd, whom we see running away from her parent’s house in the opening scene of “Devil in Ohio.” Mae ends up in Suzanne’s hospital, where the doctors find an inverted pentagram carved on her back. There are marks of a rope on her hands that suggest Mae has been kept as a captive by her perpetrators. These marks remind Suzanne of her own ugly past, and thus she tries to help Mae at all costs. In fact, she even brings her to her house in order to protect her from the people of the cult; in the meantime, Suzanne teams up with Detective Alex Lopez to investigate and expose the cult so that they will stop terrorizing Mae.
The founder of the cult was an Irish man named Caleb Dodd, who called it “Sliocht an Diabhail,” in the Gaelic language used in old Ireland, which translated to “Devil’s own. However, before turning to evil, Caleb, his brother Seamus, and their followers used to worship Yahweh, the name of the God in Hebrew. The community was initially farmers who had settled in Connemara, Ireland, but soon the deadly famine hit the country, and they lost all their crops. At this time of urgency, Yahweh guided Caleb and others to sail across the perilous sea in search of fertile land, and soon they ended up in America. But even in these new lands, misfortune followed Yahweh’s followers. They failed to grow crops on American soil, and soon, their animals starved, and their children died an untimely death. In the autumn of 1922, the Caleb and Seamus Dodd family, who lived in Edenville settlement, West Virginia, lost all their family members. But even after such a terrible thing happened, Seamus stayed faithful to Yahweh and believed in his blessings, even though Caleb’s heart had grown bitter, and while he was burying his family, he heard the call of a new god, who spoke to him through a cruel crow.
In many cultures, crows and ravens are considered to be messengers of the gods who can travel from one realm to another. Even in the Netflix series “The Sandman,” Morpheus’s crow had the power to travel from the dream realm to the human world. Morpheus used his crow as an agent who would spy on his friends or foes and would deliver his messages on his behalf. In “Devil in Ohio,” the most evil God of all, Lucifer, also known as the fallen angel or the morning star, contacted Caleb through his messenger crow. In Caleb, Lucifer saw a grieving man who had recently buried his entire family. Caleb had not only lost all his faith in Yahweh, the one true God but had also developed hatred against him. It was the right moment to fill his heart with the darkness of evil, and that’s what Lucifer did. Lucifer promised Caleb all the things that Yahweh failed to provide and hence became the “Granter of Wishes” for the Dodd family. But all evil demands a sacrifice in return, and that is what distinguishes it from the self-sacrificing God.
Caleb spread the words of his new God, and everyone followed him, except for one, Seamus. In order to curb the conflict, Caleb killed his own brother, Seamus, and later tried to marry Seamus’s wife, Mary Dodd. But when Mary refused to marry Caleb, he made up a story and told his followers that the Devil had chosen Mary and hence she was special. Later, he marked Mary with an upside-down pentagram on her back that represented Satan or Lucifer’s wings so that she could be taken away to Lucifer’s realm. The mark on Mary’s back was a sign of Caleb’s unstable mind and jealous revenge because Mary refused his marriage offer. He burnt her alive and sacrificed her to the Devil against her wishes. He lied to his followers that Mary had “willingly offered” herself to the new God, thereby biding her own life to Lucifer. It was the beginning of such ruthless sacrifices of innocent lives in the name of blind religious practices in the cult. In return, the Devil promised to fulfill their desires and keep their followers safe and sound from all perils to come. After Mary’s death initiated the chain of sacrifices, the messengers of Lucifer, the crows, guided Caleb and his followers to a new fertile land where there was an abundance of crops. Caleb named this new land Amontown.
Before dying, the First Prophet, Caleb, wrote all these lies in his book that came to be known as “The Book of Covenants.” Through this book, he directed his followers or family to follow the tradition of sacrifice and never let the chain of sacrifices get broken, or all their wealth and privileges would disappear. There was one other point mentioned in the book related to the sacrifice. According to Caleb, Lucifer demanded suffering, and thus the sacrifice given to him should cause some kind of pain in the hearts of men and women who are making an offering to the Devil. For example, in Caleb’s case, he loved Mary, and killing her probably caused him a lot of pain, but that was the kind of feeling on which the Devil dwells. Even in the present time, the current cult leader, Malachi Dodd, tried to sacrifice his own child, Mae, in order to bring suffering to his sacrifice and keep the chain going on. Though, as a father, he never loved his children. He treated his children like flocks of sheep and used them to make sacrifices to the Devil to fulfill his sinister beliefs.
Throughout the series, there were many elements that were frequently used by the cult. Some of them are an upside-down pentagram, pig head, white roses, an inverted cross, vicious crow, and the sign of Chenor, the sign of wish granter or Lucifer, which can even be seen in the title of the series. The followers of the cult, while performing or attending a ritual ceremony, wore nasty crow masks and black feather suits because they believed they were the messengers of Lucifer. The satanic cultists also bought five pieces of land in Amontown that represented a pentagram on the map. They lived in a close-knit community and even controlled the jurisdiction of Amontown so that no one from the outside world would ever interfere in their insular cult, until one brave soul, Mae, gathered some courage and ran away from Amontown, thereby becoming a threat to the chain. Everyone found out about the cult through Mae, and the cultists had to influence fear in the nearby people to keep them away from their lands, but the damage had already been done, and there was no turning back now.
At the end of “Devil in Ohio,” Mae went back to the cult in order to lure Suzanne to Amontown. Mae had designed a sinister plan to get rid of the cult once and for all, and thus she brought its activities to public attention. She told all about the cult to Suzanne (though very slowly), and through Suzanne, Detective Lopez got hold of information that began a police investigation to put Malachi Dodd and his followers behind bars. In the climax sequence, Suzanne had accidentally set the temple of Lucifer on fire, and Malachi left the sacrifice ceremony in the middle in order to save “The Book of Covenants,” which was their only source of history. It was also believed that through the story of Mary, mentioned in “The Book of Covenants,” the cultists were able to control people, which was why the book was so important for the Dodd family to maintain their reign of terror.
After Suzanne and Mae escaped from Amontown with the help of Detective Lopez, Mae’s mother, Abigail, decided to sacrifice herself to Lucifer in order to keep the chain going. When Malachi returned to the ritual site with his followers, he was quite stunned after witnessing Abigail on the platform. There was a moment of shock, but he quickly improvised to not let his weakness be exposed to his blind followers. He fooled the followers again, like his ancestors, and deciphered a new meaning out of Abigail’s sacrifice, which is utterly stupid. That’s why the followers are called “blind” because they fail to see through the lies of such godmen.
After the dreadful night, Detective Lopez, who had been promoted to lieutenant, got permission from the judge to search all of Malachi’s properties that were connected to the corrupt sheriff, Henry Wilkins, who was shot dead by Lopez. However, when Lopez visited Amon County with his new officer, he found that Malachi and his followers had already deserted the town in search of greener pastures. They probably believed that too many people knew about their secret cult, and it was better to switch locations than to face an official investigation. Hence, the end of the series is not the end of the activities of the cult, and we can speculate that they will continue their sinful operations in a new land. Their obsession with never breaking the chain will continue, but Malachi Dodd is expected to die soon from illness or old age. He was seen doing a blood exchange transfusion in one of the scenes, which suggests that he was suffering from blood cancer or something like that.
The tradition of these cults will be carried upon by the men and women whose hearts have been poisoned by such beliefs, and one such surviving woman is Mae herself. Even though she didn’t want to die or sacrifice herself to Lucifer, she stayed faithful to the deity till the end and secretly worshiped him in the woods near Suzanne’s house. She believed that it was the “Granter of Wishes” who heard her prayers and helped her to stay with Suzanne, but it was the wicked actions of Mae herself who made it possible. The mind is the evilest of all, as we can say. It is the human mind that gives birth to such evil and it is there where these corrupt practices flourish. It is only the human mind that will put an end to them only if we can see beyond our blind faith. Even in the cult, one such poisoned mind, Mae’s elder brother, Noah Dodd, will continue the legacy of his forefathers and will become the new leader of the satanic cult. He may not try to threaten his sister anymore because the cultists believe in willing sacrifice, but we never know when they will change their minds.