- "The Old Ones were demons pure. They warred as we would breathe—endlessly. The greater ones were interred, for death was not always their end."
- "This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their... their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magics, certain creatures..."
- ―Rupert Giles[src]
The Old Ones were brought forth from another, more horrific, dimension during the creation of Earth through the Seed of Wonder. They shared the Earth with fellow higher beings which would come to be known as The Powers That Be. The rise of the Old Ones led the Powers to flee this world, while the demons became rulers of vast territories, commanded enormous armies that worshiped them as gods and constantly made war against each other, turning the Earth into their hell. This ancient epoch was known as the Primordium Age, and it is likely that the Primordial Sanskrit language was from this time.
- "There were demons, monsters beyond imagination, most of them pure evil. They ruled this dimension as they did so many others. [...] Eventually, as mortal animals evolved, under the protection of certain mages and loranites-- [...] The demons, most of them, found more hospitable dimen... places, and left the Earth to the mortals. For the most part. Some remained, hidden away. Some bred within the human community, their power weakened throughout generations. Some assimilated. And some... infected."
The Old Ones eventually lost their claim over Earth. Some were killed in their own wars, while others either fled or were banished to other dimensions. It was widely believed that the rise of humankind was responsible for the demise of the Old Ones. Those who were killed were placed in sarcophagi which were hidden at the Deeper Well, a hole in the world running between England (in the Cotswolds) and New Zealand. The remains of the Old Ones were supposed to be kept there in order to prevent their resurrection, as not only their corpses but also their essences were trapped. According to the Guardians, the last Old One to walk the Earth was killed with the Scythe, at the Hellmouth that would come to be known as Sunnydale. Other records claimed that the last pure demon to leave Earth infected a human with its blood, creating the first vampire. However, after her resurrection in the modern era, the Old One Illyria implied that vampires already existed during the Primordium Age, suggesting whatever the truth, it was not quite so poetic as that.
When Xander tapped into the Old One Maloker's memories, he saw the time of the banishment of the Old Ones at the hands of humans wielding powerful magicks. Fearful of his imprisonment, Maloker sought to raise an army, and so sired the first vampire(s). This may suggest that the banishment of the Old Ones took place over a protracted period of time, during which time the vampire race (and presumably other sorts of half-breeds) widely proliferated.
- "All the demons that walk the Earth are tainted, are human hybrids like vampires. The Ascension means that a human becomes pure demon. They're different."
The demons that remained on Earth were forced to remain hidden and breed within mortal animals, creating weaker offspring as time went on. However, the legacy of the Old Ones remained not only in the form of the hundreds of demon species, but also in the form of cults that worshiped them, awaiting their return to bring about the destruction of mankind. These included the Order of Aurelius, led by the vampire Master, who tried to open the Sunnydale Hellmouth on several occasions to bring the Old Ones back to Earth, and Illyria's cult whom the humans Knox and Sparrow are follower. Mortal beings could even take on the physical form of an Old One through a complicated ritual known as the Ascension. They could also be reborn in mortal bodies, killing the hosts in the process. Illyria was resurrected in a human body in 2004, and Maloker attempted to return through Dracula, transforming his body and overwriting his persona with that of the Old One's in the process, although he was ultimately unsuccessful.
- "The forces of darkness are always around us. Just beyond the edges of our vision, waiting for an opening... an opportunity to insinuate themselves into this world. Those who stand against the dark must band together, trust one another, and share what few simple weapons we have. The alternative... the disaster that would result if what lurks beyond should ever return-- well, it's simply... unimaginable."
- ―Rupert Giles[src]
Biology and Powers
Though each Old One had a different shape and powers, what they all shared in common was their enormous size; they could become as big as they wished to be. They were also vastly more powerful than even the strongest hybrid demon races that walked the Earth. The most powerful Old Ones could never be completely destroyed: even if their bodies had perished, their essence lived on, and they could find ways to come back into being.
Known Old Ones
- Lohesh — Described as a "four winged soul killer", weaker descendants of Lohesh survived until the present day. Around 1200, a sorcerer in the Kastka Vallies above the Urals Ascended to the form of Lohesh. He laid waste to the village within hours. Anyanka was the only known witness to this event, and even hundreds of years later, the disturbing things she saw there stayed with her.
- Olvikan — An enormous snake-like demon, Olvikan was killed by a volcano in Hawaii.; human villagers near the volcano site later told stories about the "legend of Olukai". In 1999, the human Richard Wilkins achieved Ascension and became the embodiment of Olvikan, but was soon killed in an explosion by Buffy Summers.
- Hellmouth Spawn
- Illyria— The only Old One who demonstrated a positive evolution in his comportment, sacrificing his own life to save the world.
- Illyria's killers
- Maloker — This Old One sired the first vampires before he was sealed in the Deeper Well. Simone Doffler woke him up and let him out of his sarcophagus. His body was destroyed when the new Seed of Wonder took root, but he was able to return through a vague description written in the Vampyr book that caused Dracula to transform into the Old One. He was staked by a giant Dawn, after which Dracula reassembled himself in his human form but quickly started transforming into Maloker again. Xander wrote into the Vampyr book that Dracula was able to fight off the Old One using his willpower, barring Maloker from coming into existence through Dracula.
- Laibach of the Abyss — Old One who came up with a complicated plan to bring an army of demons loyal to him from his Hell dimension to Earth using the Dreamers. Possessed Drusilla to communicate and force Spike to help by resurrecting the Master. Is eventually exorcised by Xander Harris and Rupert Giles and his plan is foiled when Buffy kills the Dreamers and destroys the Master.
- "The Harvest" (Only mentioned)
- "Prophecy Girl" (First appearance)
- "The Zeppo"
- "Graduation Day, Part One" (Only mentioned)
- "Graduation Day, Part Two"
- Ready, Steady ... (Only in flashbacks)
- The Gateway
- All Hell
- "Shiny Happy People" (Only mentioned)
- "A Hole in the World"
- "Time Bomb"
- Anywhere But Here
- Family Reunion
- The Core
- New Rules