Beelzebub is also known as Beelzebuth, Belzebuth, Beelzeboul, Baalsebul, Belzaboul, Baalzebub, Belzebud, Beezelbub, Ba’al-zebub, Beelzebus, Beezlebub,, and Baalzebubg.
In the New Testament in Matthew 12:24-27, Mark 3:22 and Luke 11:15-18 it is mentioned as the name of a demon. Beelzebub appears several times in the New Testament, but only once in the Old Testament, and never in apocalyptic literature.
In the Grimoire of Arm-adel, Beelzebub goes under the name of Belzebut and is supposedly have joined Lucifer and Astaroth in telling the summoner abbot the rebellion and the fall of the angels. He ranks as one of the eight sub-princes over all the demons.
In the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage Beelzebub has the metamorphic power to change men into animals and animals into men. He also sows discord. casts curses, and causes harm.
Beelzebub was also known as Achor by the Cyreneans, which probably meant ‘Lord of the High House’, referring to the Canaanite chief god ‘Baal the prince’. This title could only properly apply to Solomon in his temple, so the Jews changed the name to Beelzebub which translates as ‘Lord of Flies’, possibly because of his supposedly role as creator and controller of the flies in the Philistine city of Ekron.
One of the oldest and most famous demonic figures, Beelzebub also had command over disease — flies congregate around the corpses of the dead, and spread disease from the dead to the living — and his role is to tempt men with pride. He was called the prince of devils by the Pharisees.
According to the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, Jesus gave Beelzebub dominion over Hell in gratitude for helping remove Adam and other pre-Christian, unbaptized ‘saints in prison’ and bringing them to Heaven, over Satan’s objections. In those early days, Satan outranked Beelzebub. By the sixteenth century, however, demonologist Johann Wierus was listing Beelzebub as supreme chieftain of Hell, with Satan below him.
According to demonology’s lore, when Satan first rebelled, he recruited several very powerful seraphim, Beelzebub among them, to fight at his side. Once he took up his new residence in Hell, Beelzebub learned to tempt men with pride. When summoned by witches or sorcerers, he appeared in the form of a fly, because “Lord of the Flies” was his nom de guerre, as it were. He’d acquired it by visiting a plague of flies upon the harvest of Canaan, or, perhaps, simply because flies were once believed to be generated in the flesh of decaying corpses. Another tale suggests that God created every creature, except the fly — which was made by the Devil.
Beelzebub came to be regarded as the leading representative of the fallen gods, referred to as the Devil himself; in Matthew 12:24 he is mentioned as ‘Prince of the Devils’ and this appellation has stuck, even though Milton has him next in rank to Satan.
Beelzebub first appears in the Old Testament in 2 Kings, being worshiped by the Philistines in the city of Ekron. To him King Ahazah sent an oracle which greatly disturbed Elijah. Rabbinical literature interpreted Beelzebub as “King of Dunghill”; other interpretations have the title as “King (or) Lord of filth,” hence “Lord of Flies.” It should be noted “Lord of filth” is a more general title given the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, by those on the left-handed path believing in the power of these dark deities. For some filth and power are synonymous. “Lord of filth” also maybe derived from the Hebrew “Baalzebub” or “Prince Baal.” Phonetically the sound of “zebub” is similar to “zebel, ‘to make dung'” that the opposition to this demon-deity was able to interpret the name which ever way they wished.
Even though Beelzebub was called a false god in the Old Testament his place within the infernal hierarchy was confirmed in the New Testament. In Mathew 12:24 he is the “Prince of Demons.” It is in the 1863 edition of Collin de Plancy’s Dictionarie Infernal that Beelzebub is depicted as the infernal fly with a skull-and-crossbones motif on its wings. In the Grand Grimoire, Beelzebub, spelled Belzebuth, is named the Prince of Hell. Frenchman Charles Berbiguier in his 1821 work says Beelzebub replaces Satan as ruler of Hell, giving him the regal title of Chief of the Infernal Empire and Founder of the Order of the Fly. In the True Keys of Solomon Beelzebub is said to co-rule with the demon Astaroth all the spirits of the Americas.
Beelzebub in the Testament of Solomon under the name of Beelzeboul claims primacy over all demons since he was not a child of an angel but an angel himself, the First Angel of the First Heaven prior to his fall. This latter statement associates him with Shemyaza and Azazel of the Watcher tradition and also to Lucifer in more common demonology. As a result of his supposed exalted angelic status, Beelzeboul claims to answer only to one of the names of God.
Beelzebub was said to reign highest of the demons at the Black Mass. He also supposedly reigned over the witches’ Sabbaths in which the participants denied Christ, danced, and copulated with in and other demons during wild orgies. Some said he appeared in the form of a fly, but he apparently had other manifestations. He also is proclaimed to have been involved in the possession of the nuns in Louviers, France during the seventeenth century.
Other demonologists also regarded Beelzebub as the ruler of the infernal regions:
“Beelzebub was Prince of the Seraphim, the next unto Lucifer. For all the princes, that is to say all the chief of the nine choirs of angels, are fallen; and of the choir of Seraphim there fell the three first, to wit, Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Leviathan, who did all revolt.” (Possessed Catholic nun Sister Madeleine of Aix-en-Provence)
“Then I summoned Beelzeboul to appear before me again. When he was seated, I thought it appropriate to ask him, ‘Why are you alone Prince of the Demons?’ He replied, ‘Because I am the only one left of the heavenly angels (who fell). I was the highest-ranking angel in heaven, the one called Beelzeboul. There is also accompanied me another ungodly (angel) whom God cut off and now, imprisoned here, he holds in his power the race of those bound by me in Tartarus. He is being nurtured in the Red Sea; when he is ready, he will come in triumph. I said to him, ‘What are your activities?’ He replied, ‘I bring destruction by means of tyrants; I cause the demons to be worshiped alongside men; and I arouse desire in holy men and select priests. I bring about jealousies and murders in a country, and I instigate wars.” (Testament of Solomon, 6:1-4)
“There are some of the school of the theologians who distribute the evil spirits into nine degrees, as contrary to the nine orders of the angels. Therefore the first of these are those which are called False Gods, who usurping the name of God, would be worshiped for gods, and require sacrifices and adoration, as that Devil, who saith to Christ, if thou wilt fall down and worship me, I will give thee all these things, showing him all the kingdoms of the world; and the prince of these is he who said, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, and will be like to the Most High; who is therefore called Beelzebub, that is, an old god.”
(Renaissance magician Cornelius Agrippa)
“As a monarch of hell, Beelzebub is of a prodigious size with a swollen chest and a bloated face with flashing eyes and raised eyebrows. He also gives a menacing aura and sits on a throne surrounded by fire. He is black as a Moor, with large nostrils and two horns on his head. He has two bat-like wings attached to his shoulders, two duck feet, a lion’s tail, and is covered from head to foot in shaggy fur.” (Palingene’s Zodiaco Vitae)
Sources and further reading:
- Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing;
- Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group;
- Masello, Robert, Fallen Angels. . . and Spirits of the Dark, The Berkley Publishing Group;
- Testament of Solomon, Lulu Enterprises;
- Lewis, James R., Angels A to Z, Visible Ink Press.