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Gnosticism has influenced western media for hundreds of years, and as such it's cosmology has occasionally served as the inspiration of fantasy or sci-fi settings. As such, the main mythological agents of gnostic mythology, the otherworldly, oppressive beings collectively referred to as archons, often make an appearance in numerous works.

Derived from the Greek Archon ("ruler" or "lord"), "archon" has been adopted by Gnostic religion to refer to the supernatural ruling powers of the world. Considered demonic or angelic (largely because of the Demiurge), archons are syncretised with both, and not without reason, being hostilenote  (or else ignorant) powers associated with order and bureaucracy. Described as animalistic monstrosities that control the physical world, they're strongly associated with planetary bodies and stars, twisting the then common Greek pagan belief that Stars Are Souls, as they devour human souls after we die. Nonetheless, in spite of this Lovecraftian setup, they're often considered weaker than enlightened humans, and following the gnostic instruction manual will guarantee your escape from their clutches. note 

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Being associated with oppression and bureaucracy, many works have adopted archons as agents of The Conspiracy or evil world orders, keeping the masses as complacent cattle and turning on the protagonists once they discover the truth. In most cases, their Lovecraftian attributes are replaced by more mundane sci-fi gimmicks like being aliens (favourably reptilian ones). Other times their association with order and angelic traits are enhanced upon, and they become extremists trying to impose order on the world. Regardless of their portrayal, it's exceptionally rare to see "classical" archons in media, but as long as themes of Order Versus Chaos remain, so will archons, In Name Only or not.

Worth noting that despite the coolness of the name to English speakers, in Byzantium and latter-day Greece archon, while still literally meaning ruler or lord, is often treated as leader or administrator (of a club or department), or the equivalent of a provincial governor in the Byzantine Empire. The name is also used in Orthodox Christianity as an honorary title for lay members who have performed some significant service to the church, not unlike being knighted.

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Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • In The Invisibles, Archons are explicitly demonic powers (even though they're referred as "The Outer Church") who wish to control the world out of sheer pettiness, and have thus constructed a vast network of politicians, clergy, policemen and other people in positions of power in order to build a vast and intricate world order. Suffice to say, they're not in good terms with the protagonists.
  • Hellboy borrows from Gnostic mythology, though the Archons are instead called Watchers. The Watchers were the first beings created by God, then they were sent to the newborn Earth to watch and protect it. One of them, Anum, stole some vril (the secret fire of creation) from God, but his creation wound up being the Ogdru Jahad, the Big Bad of the entire series. Horrified at this creation, the Watchers sealed away the Ogdru Jahad, then turned against Anum and slayed him. At this point, God punished the rest of the Watchers by banishing them all-some of them to Hell, where they became known as demons, and others to Earth, where they became the gods of various mythologies and gave birth to monsters. Meanwhile, Anum's severed right hand was preserved and passed down among many generations of humans, and eventually wound up as Hellboy's right hand.
  • Marvel Comics
    • Fantastic Four: Abraxas is the antithesis of the multiverse and will kill all life everywhere if he has his way. Somehow he was bound to has to Galactus devour sentient civilizations to keep him that way (which seems to be defeating the purpose but whatever). This is an especially odd use, since the Marvel Demiurge is decidedly platonic and created Elder Gods instead of archons.
    • The Archons as a species were a race of giant humanoid constructs created by the Watchers, in order to guard and look over the Eldritch Abomination Abyss. By the modern era all but one named Archon have been wiped out.
  • In The Secret History, the Archons are a group of four immortal, supernatural siblings that influenced politics and world history with their schemes.

    Film 
  • While not explicitly identified as such, the Machines in The Matrix are not only essentially a sci-fi rendition of the Gnostic concept but draw heavily upon the mythological Archons. They feed on people's life energy, are lead by egotistical male demiurgesnote  in opposition to a wise divine woman and are naturally ugly as sin. They are also at the mercy of a fully enlightened Neo.

    Literature 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Prior to 4th Edition, Archons are the race of celestials native to the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, who correspond to the Lawful Good alignment. Among celestials they're known for their ability to teleport, as well as their "Aura of Menace" (which lowers the stats of nearby creatures who are hostile towards the archon, until they manage to hit the archon with an attack). From weakest to strongest, they consist of:
      • Lantern Archons: Floating orbs of light that shoot short-range energy beams.
      • Hound Archons: Muscular red-skinned humanoids with dog heads, who can transform into canine animals. Often become paladins who ride dragons as mounts.
      • Justice Archons: Humanoids with golden wings who guard Celestia. Their signature ability "Justice Strike" lets them use the damage and special properties of their opponent's attacks in place of their own.
      • Warden Archons: Armored humanoid polar bears who fight with their teeth and claws. Have extremely powerful sensory abilities, including Scent, mind-reading, scrying and True Sight, as well as an ability to read Character Alignment which cannot be blocked or deceived.
      • Word Archons: Humanoids surrounded by clouds of parchment in the shape of wings, who travel far and wide to make uplifting speeches and preserve the purity of Truename Magic.
      • Hammer Archons: Towering humanoids of craggy stone, who often work alongside dwarves to root out evils that lurk beneath the earth. Can move through earth like water, and fling stone "celestial spears" that deal great damage to the wicked.
      • Sibyllic Guardians: Tall women with glowing eyes and a corona of runic symbols, who wield Psychic Powers.
      • Owl Archons: Giant owls with Eye Beams that can turn living creatures to stone or return them to normal.
      • Sword Archons: Giant Winged Humanoids who can transform their arms into Flaming Swords, and are capable of a One-Hit Kill attack which binds the target's soul to a prison in Celestia.
      • Trumpet Archons: Bald, green-skinned women with angelic wings and cleric-based spellcasting abilities. Each carries a magic horn that stuns all non-archons within a massive range when sounded, and which can transform into a greatsword.
      • Throne Archons: Giant golden humanoids with glowing eyes that function similar to Ghost Rider's Penance Stare, and many other magical abilities.
      • The Celestial Hebdomand, a group of unique archons who rule the seven layers of Celestia, consisting of Barachiel, Domiel, Erathaol, Pistis Sophia, Raziel, Sealtiel and Zaphkiel. In earlier editions this group instead consisted of seven hawk-men known as the Tome Archons.
    • In 4th Edition, archons are the Chaotic Evil Monster Knights of the Elementals, who act as the Evil Counterpart of angels.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Archons are one of White's iconic races, usually showing up whenever angels can't, like in the Greek inspired Theros Block. Usually taking the form of mysterious humanoid figures riding winged steeds, they represent White's more malevolent traits, such as vicious justice and oppression. Indeed, in the aforementioned Theros they are the last remnants of a tyrannical empire that spawned the entire plane.
  • In Warhammer 40K, Archons are the leaders of the Dark Eldar, being more experienced in war, politics and cruelty than their underlings (though sometimes said underling gets lucky). Their psychic powers are stunted compared to the regular Eldar's (the only Archon with some measure of psychic ability is Aurelia Malys, and it's more of an Anti-Magic field and limited precognition).

    Video Games 
  • Darksiders II: The Archon Lucien is a powerful archangel who employs Death to stop an unknown corruption. He's a Holier Than Thou Jerkass, and turns out to have fallen to The Corruption himself.
  • The Wizard's Archon skill in Diablo III is a kind of Super Mode, transforming the user temporarily into an Energy Being with a different set of powers.
  • Makai Toshi SaGa: The archons pop up in Ashura and his minions, who spread evil amongst the world For the Evulz. They are servants of God, the real Big Bad.
  • According to Word of God, the Legacy of Kain franchise was heavily inspired by Gnosticism. Large parts of the story center on a mysterious entity called the Elder God, which misleads and manipulates the other various characters for its own nefarious ends. At the conclusion of the final game in the series, Defiance, one of the protagonists realizes that all of the tragedy, hardship and conflict that has befallen the game's fictional universe is because of the influence of the Elder God, and sets out to destroy it.
  • In Starcraft, Archons (and their counterparts, Dark Archons), are psionic Energy Beings created by the fusion of two protoss high templars (or dark templars), which are psionic specialising mystics. They're not very resistant, lacking physical substance as they do, though they can control minds and drain their energy; their usefulness as Deflector Shields also means that they see heavy use as frontline units. Both of which echo characteristics of gnostic archons.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time portrays the archons as more sympathetic than usual, feeling agonizingly bored and unfulfilled.
  • Archons in Tyranny begin life as ordinary humans, but become the source of the setting's Functional Magic seemingly through the power of belief, their powers growing (and their humanity dwindling) as they come to be loved, hated, or feared. Each archon is unique, gaining mastery over a specific element or concept (the four classical elements, gravity, vigor, life, emotion, shadow, and more) and various other powers which border on demigodhood; mages in the setting wield their powers by invoking the sigil associated with that archon, but cannot bring magic forth into the world on their own. History says that archons in the setting have inevitably been forced to bow to the Evil Overlord Kyros, serving as the greatest generals in his world-spanning Evil Empire; only a few, such as Occulted Jade, Archon of the Tides, have claimed the title without entering the Overlord's service.
  • In Mass Effect: Andromeda the Archons are the leaders of the Kett, an assimilatory alien species. Said Archons possess a fleshy Holy Halo and seem to be the genetic origin for the Kett, a twisted combination of the angelic and fleshy atributes of Gnostic archons.

    Webcomics 
  • Homestuck: While under a different name, the Denizens fit the general idea of the Gnostic Archon; animalistic abominations who rule over a planet and are the main obstacles in a quest for humans to ascend to godlike power. Most of them are named after figures from Classical Mythology, with the exceptions of the Gnostic-named Yaldabaoth and Abraxas. Appropriately enough Yaldabaoth(a name for the Gnostic Demiurge) is the most powerful Denizen, and the Denizen of the main villain's child self.
  • In The Order of the Stick, archons follow the D&D portrayal for the most part. When people die and go to Lawful Good heaven, they each get a lantern archon (a small, talking fuzzy ball of light) that follows them around and provides basic exposition about the nature of the afterlife.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: The god of flesh that the Sarkic gods worship, Yaldabaoth, has Archons of its own. They're named after figures in Chinese Mythology known as the Four Perils...and Zhurong.
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