Who is Beelzebub?
Beezlebub is a powerful demon who holds a high seat in Hell’s hierarchy. He is known for spreading belief in false gods, fanning the flames of war or lust, and possessing human bodies to carry out horrific acts.
With nicknames like “lord of dung” and “god of filth,” it’s a safe guess that Beelzebub is not a pretty character. Like many demons, he is often described as a smallish creature, withered and hunched. He may have red or purple skin, ram horns, a forked tongue, and a long tail. But he is most famous for his wings, which are so powerful that he has sometimes been called “lord of the heavens” or “lord of the flies.”
Some sorcery books note that, when summoned, Beezlebub likes to appear in the shape of a fly. This may seem like a harmless choice, but when you stop to consider ancient beliefs about flies, it becomes deeply sinister. The old scientific theory of spontaneous generation claimed that flies were born from rotting flesh and crawled out of corpses to take to the air. Flies were also associated with the spread of disease; Beezlebub’s fly, in particular, is said to be a replica of the flies he observed swarming around the decaying bodies of plague victims.
Don’t be fooled by the insulting nicknames and impotent shapes used to describe Beezlebub. This is one of Hell’s most powerful demons, taking second place only to Satan himself. Some theologians even claim that Beezlebub has usurped Satan and become “prince of the devils” and “chief of Hell.” Others claim that Beezlebub and Satan are one and the same.
According to Judeo-Christian beliefs, Beezelebub began his demonic career as a false god. He used clever lies and earthly rewards to convince men to worship false gods, usually himself. For example, the Torah tells a story of an Israeli god who injured himself and ordered his servants to go ask Beezlebub if he would recover. In response, the prophet Elijah appeared to condemn the king, since he had asked help from Beezlebub instead of the one true God. According to God’s wish, the king died from his injuries.
Later, Beezlebub diversified his strategies for torturing mankind. In the “Testament of Solomon,” Solomon claims that Beezlebub was among the demons whom he enslaved to build his temple. He describes a conversation with the demon, in which Beezlebub claimed
“to cause destruction through tyrants, to cause demons to be worshipped among men, to excite priests to lust, to cause jealousies in cities and murders, and to bring on war.”
Anything that causes chaos or suffering is sure to delight this demon.
Like all demons, Beezlebub has an assortment of magical powers. His specialty seems to be possession. In the early days, he liked to embody golden idols, making them seem as if they had powers so that people would worship them. Later, he began possessing human beings. His name has appeared in numerous famous cases of possession: Anneilse Michel, Louis Gafridi, and many of the “witches” in the Salem Witch Trial. Opponents of Jesus Christ even accused him of mingling his powers with Beezlebub!
Before Beezlebub was a demon dreaded by Jewish and Christian people, he was Ba’al, a god in the Philistine city of Ekron. The suffix zebub was added to his name as a sign of respect, similar to calling someone a prince. It’s unclear exactly what Ba’al’s role was in Ekron. Some scholars have suggested that he was a god of agriculture, while others have connected him to “fly cults.”
When Jewish monotheism arose around Ekron, any god who wasn’t “the one true god” had to be discredited. Ba’al Zebub was turned into a demon and disgraced with nicknames like “lord of the flies” and “lord of the dung.”
It’s in this demonic form that Beezlebub first appears in the Jewish Torah. He is mentioned once, in the book of Melachim, as a false god. Later, the Christian Bible added to Beezlebub’s legend. He doesn’t appear in the old testament, but in the new testament, his name appears as a taunt thrown at Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and John all describe moments when Jesus was accused of consorting with Beezlebub.
Still, Beezlebub remained a minor character in the Christian faith until the sixteenth century, when occultists and theologians began attempting to describe the hierarchy of Hell. Most of them agreed that Beezlebub was high among the ranks of demons—possibly even equal to or above Satan. He makes his most famous appearances in Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost, and Pilgrim’s Progress.
Today, Beelzebub has taken one step back into his shadows. Most people believe that he is just another variation on “the devil,” and the names Satan and Lucifer are more popularly used to describe that character. However, a few works of literature have paid homage to this prince of demons, most notably Lord of the Flies.