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Gnosticism has influenced western media for hundreds of years, and as such its 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 either 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. It was also the title of many leaders in Greek city-states, Athens being one (some were elected, others not). 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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    Card Games 
  • 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, most often either winged lions or winged stags, 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 spanned the entire plane. Archons are never seen without their mounts, and in at least some planes the two are one and the same creature.

    Comic Books 
  • In Doom Patrol, Cultists of the Unwritten Book can become archons. This version is somewhat true to Gnosticism, being agents of an evil god, but they stick around in a throne doing nothing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • The Matrix: While not explicitly identified as such, the Machines 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 led 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 

    Live-Action Television 
  • Doom Patrol (2019): Much like in the comics, the worshippers of the Decreator can become archons. The scene is very faithfully restored.

    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 Chaotic Evil Monster Knight Elemental Embodiments created by the Primordials to battle the gods' angelic warriors in the Dawn War but now serve other evil elemental beings since the Primordials were defeated. Other than the standard fire, water, earth, and air archons, there are archons of ice, storm, mud, iron, crystal, and more. Due to cries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks! from some parts of the fandom in regards to name usage though, they were renamed Elemental Myrmidons in 5th edition.
  • Pathfinder uses the pre-4th Edition celestial archons of D&D, serving as the main race of outsiders native to Heaven and embodying the concepts of virtue, nobility, just rulership and order; however, they are also more prone to dogmatism and inflexibility than other celestials are. As with D&D, they come in several distinct types; their intensely Lawful natures mean that each serves a very specific role in the hierarchy of Heaven, often with highly martial bents, although their appearance is surprisingly varied — archons are usually humanoid, but many lower-ranking archons have animal heads; others closely resemble angels instead. Many archons are also associated with and named after some type of object, and the weakest archons are often just that object given life.
    • Lantern and harbinger archons, respectively floating balls of light surrounded by metal fretwork and flying orreries, are the least and weakest and the most likely to serve mortal masters — harbinger archons are common Familiars among Lawful Good spell casters.
    • Spyglass archons, resembling shrouded and masked humanoids with black angel's wings, specialize in missions of stealth and espionage.
    • Hound archons, resembling humanoids with canine heads, serve Heaven as soldiers, scouts and agents in the field.
    • Stag archons, aka horned archons, are elk-headed humanoids who serve the god Erastil instead of being strictly part of the main chain of command, but nonetheless serve their brethren as well as their god's faithful as skilled scouts and trackers.
    • Codex archons resemble living, winged books and act as living repositories of information.
    • Legion archons, which resemble humans with metallic wings growing directly from their armor, make up the rank and file of most Heavenly armies.
    • The raven-headed preceptor archons act as guides and counselors to mortals struggling with inner doubt or life-changing decisions — plots like those of It's a Wonderful Life are fairly typical in their job.
    • Shield archons manifest as humanoids encased in golden armor and bearing enormous shields, and serve Heaven and its allies in a variety of defensive roles.
    • The mouthless, fire-winged exscinder archons serve as Heaven's censors, hunting down and either destroying or secreting away the setting's wide array of Tomes of Eldritch Lore before they can fall into the hands of mortals who don't know what they're doing or fiends who know exactly what they're doing.
    • Trumpet archons, angel-like beings distinguished by their bald heads and magic trumpets, act as messengers for both powerful celestial beings and Heaven's gods when these wish to communicate with other planar beings or with mortals.
    • Mote archons are tiny, floating specks of light formed as a side effect of other archons ascending to higher forms. They move in large swarms controlled by a single gestalt mind — individual motes are all but mindless and powerless — and serve chiefly as medics and caregivers.
    • Gate archons, seemingly carved out of living rock, watch over planar gates to ensure that agents of evil cannot gains access to them.
    • Hammer archons are the champions of Heaven's armies, often directly elevated from hound and legion archons. As their name implies, they carry massive warhammers.
    • The towering star archons are the pinnacle of typical archon progression, and direct the armies of Heaven as generals and tacticians of immense skill and foresight.
    • Bastion archons, four-armed giants made out of the rough-hewn stone of the mountain of Heaven itself, are the rarest and most powerful archons in existence and born in the very rare occurrence where a shield archon and a group of lantern archons fuse during a teleportation mishap. Immensely strong and almost literally immovable, bastion archons live to stand watch over the holy places where they were born, and several guard the depths of Heaven's mountain against demonic intrusion.
    • Finally there are the archon empyral lords, archons who grown in power to point of having become minor deities in their own right. It should be noted that all of the main celestial races — archons, angels, agathions and azatas — have this as their highest rank, and their empyral lords are distinguished from one another by little beyond their alignment and home plane.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, 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. Visually, he has two pairs of feathered wings and his his head glows with a golden holy light under his hood. He's a Holier Than Thou Jerkass, and turns out to have fallen to The Corruption himself, becoming covered in the sludge of corruption, his glowing head turning a sickly shade upon revealing his deception, and growing a pair of bony Corruption-covered wings after Death chops off a pair during the fight.
    • The Archon Hestus is briefly mentioned by Uriel as having been one of the Hellguard's leaders and presumably an archangel himself in the fight against the demons on Earth and wielder of the Rod of Arafel, a weapon of immense holy power, before his death in battle.
  • 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.
  • Legacy of Kain: According to Word of God, the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tyranny: Archons begin life as ordinary humans, or at least with comparable minor abilities and differencesnote , 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... although one conversation with Lantry, the resident sage companion, indicates that this is partly as technically Archon as a title was invented by Kyros, and formally people with Archon-like abilities that haven't been recognised by Kyros as an Archon are called Exarchs (it's just that in recent history the only surviving Exarch Kyros hadn't declared an Archon was Occulted Jade, and she took to calling herself an Archon in deliberate slight of Kyros. Even the player is recognised as an Archon almost immediately after it becomes clear they have become an Exarch).
  • In XCOM 2, Archons are elite soldiers fielded by the ADVENT Administration, and were designed in response to the horrified reaction humans had to the Floaters who fought in the conquest of Earth. So while Floaters were tortured combinations of alien flesh and metal, little more than an upper torso fused to a Jet Pack, Archons have sculpted bodies, a gold and white coloration, and a thruster array that resembles stylized wings, giving them an overall angelic look. However, there's obvious seams in their "chest," suggesting they're the same old Floaters stuffed into a new casing, and despite their more human appearance, Archons are just as Axe-Crazy as their predecessors, and go into a Battle Frenzy upon taking damage. When they aren't berserk, Archons like to fight with their "Blazing Pinions" attack, so they're anything but heavenly.
  • Archons in Nexus Clash are a Darker and Edgier endgame outcome of archetypically gentle Shepherd angels. They are represented as a hard-hitting, zealous Glass Cannon who dishes out holy retribution on the wicked or insufficiently righteous.

    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 Lawful Good people die and go to 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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