Mythological Spotlight #17 – Beelzebub

Colorized illustration of Beelzebub from Dictionnaire Infernal

Introduction

This is one of five Mythological Spotlights that were originally Deific Masks pages.

Beelzebub is the king of demons, the ruler of Hell, the prince of darkness, or at least that is what is implied in the New Testament when Jesus was accused of casting out demons by “the prince of demons”. The Devil as a broad concept of Christian mythos tends to be associated with many names, and in some ways what you might call him depends of how you view him. Strictly speaking, Satan is the accusing angel who prosecutes Man and presides over the principle of evil on God’s command, and indeed he was never the ruler of Hell so much as its eventual prisoner. But if it is the popular prince of demons you are looking for, Beelzebub is the Devil you are looking for.

History

The name Beelzebub comes from the name of a deity attested to in the Hebrew Bible called Baal-Zebub (or Baal Zebul). He was a deity worshiped by the Philistines at the city of Ekron, located somewhere in what is now Israel. According to the Book of Kings (2), the Israelite king Ahaziah sent oracles and messengers to this deity after recovering from a fall, but the prophet Elijah stopped them, condemned Ahaziah for seeking aid from a deity other than the national deity of Israel (Yahweh/Jehovah), and proclaimed he would never rise from his bed. The name Baal-Zebub means “lord of the flies”, but it may have been intended to be a pun on the name Baal-Zebul, which means “lord of the high place”, and such a pun might have been intended as a way of mocking or slandering the followers of the cult of Baal by referring to their deity as dung and their followers as flies. In those days, Baal’s cult was prominent in the lands of the Levant, and it was a prominent rival to the cult of Jehovah practiced by the Israelites. Baal came in many forms for different cities and with slightly different attributes. The deity popularly known as Baal was most likely, in actuality, a deity named Hadad, a deity of storms, rain, and fertility. The cult of Baal was even brought to Egypt by a people referred to as the Hyksos, who ruled Egypt under their own dynasty between 1603 and 1521 BCE. In Egypt, Baal (Hadad) was equated with the Egyptian deity Set, who was the deity of storms, the desert, war, and foreigners, and it turned the two deities had a lot in common in terms of their mythological attributes, so Baal became identified with Set and eventually a new cult formed devoted to a  hybrid deity named Set-Baal (or Baal-Set). After the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt, they became vilified by the Egyptians, and so was the Egyptian deity Set, having been associated with foreigners and thus becoming associated with the foreign rulers they came to despise, and Set now came to be seen as the evil deity to be vanquished by Horus.

In the New Testament, Beelzebub is identified as the prince of demons, and Jesus’ detractors had accused him of performing his famous miracles and exorcisms by the power of Beelzebub rather than through Jehovah. In those days, it may have been believed that only the prince of demons can control demons. Beelzebub clearly was considered the prince of demons, and this is the source of the Christian conception of Satan as the lord of “evil” spirits and the ruler of the underworld. In the Jewish faith, the term Satan didn’t refer to any specific entity. It simply meant “adversary”, and this could refer to anyone; human or angel, or anything else. It was only when Christianity rose to prominence that Satan came to be identified as a specific being, and that being is Beelzebub. In the Testament of Solomon (which scholars aren’t sure was written before or after Christianity), Beelzebub appears as the ruler and leader of the demons and an angel who fell from heaven. He claims to lead men into worshiping demons, bring destruction through tyrants, arouse lust in priests, cause jealousy, and instigate wars and murders, and he tells Solomon that he lives in the evening star or Venus.

Beelzebub tends to get a very high rank in the hierarchy of Hell in the Christian tradition demonology, and was presented in many different ways by occultists, theologians, demonologists, and other figures. He is commonly associated with gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins, as classified by Peter Binsfeld, while the exorcist Sebastien Michaelis associates Beelzebub with pride. Michaelis also places Beelzebub among the three most prominent fallen angels, the other two being Lucifer and Leviathan. The poet John Milton describes him as a fallen cherubim who was imposing and had a wise face. Colin DePlancy described him as the god of the Canaanites, who represented him as a fly, an idea which likely goes back to the age of the Israelites. DePlancy also states that he was known to give oracles, just as Baal-Zebul of Ekron was originally believed to do so, and that he can rid harvests of flies.  In the stories Johann Weyer, Beelzebub is Lucifer’s chief lieutenant who led a successful revolt against the Devil. The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage states that Beelzebub has the power to change men into animals and vice versa. In medieval times, Beelzebub was believed to be a demon of great power, who sorcerers conjured at risk of death by apoplexy or strangulation. The demon was difficult to banish and when summoned he would appear as a gigantic fly. Beelzebub was also believed to reign highest of the demons of the Black Mass, and to preside over the Sabbaths and black masses of witches, where they would deny Jesus in his name, chant as they dance, and even copulate with Beelzebub in wild orgies. Beelzebub is also one of thousands of demons blamed for the possessions that took place at the French province of Aix-en in 1611, which involved a nun named Sister Madeleine de Demandolx de la Palud. Beelzebub is considered to be the chief of all false gods, the governor of Hell, the prime minister of the infernal forces, the chief of staff under the Devil, among many other ranks and titles. Some demonographers consider him to be the chief of Hell itself.

He is traditionally depicted as either a giant fly or a being with noticeable fly features, but many grimoires have very different depictions of him. Some depict him as having the appearance of a misshapen calf, a goat with a long tail, a snake with feminine features, among various other descriptions. Reynnier Gustave describes Beelzebub in the De Marcelli Palingenii Stellati poetae Zodiaco as a spirit who is exceedingly tall, with a large and puffed out chest, a swollen face, menacing eyes and eyebrows, exceptionally large nostrils, bat wings, webbed duck feet, and a body covered in black fur, and with a crown of fire hovering around his head where two large horns protrude.

Nowadays, Beelzebub and Satan are considered synonymous, but at the same time they are somehow treated as different beings, and Beelzebub is usually treated as “that demon who looks like a fly”.

Conclusion

There is a reason for the iconic nature of Beelzebub that goes well beyond his notorious fly visage. Whereas Satan has a certain ambiguity in his identity as the incarnation of evil, Beelzebub has a loaded identity in that, in him, the hellish hierarchy and Jewish and Christian ideas about “heathen” religion and power come together as a single and mighty infernal totem, right down to his link to the main god of the Canaanites, whose religion was opposed by the Yahwist Israelites. For this reason he is the prince of demons cited in the New Testament, and it is important to note that for Christian belief, drawing from the Bible, all of the other gods are considered demons, thus Beelzebub is, from the Christian perspective, the prince of the pagan gods, therefore the prince of heathen adversity towards God.

Reading about Athtar (a.k.a. Attar)

I had been doing some light research about Lucifer/morning star archetypes before revisiting the Levantine deity Attar, and in the process I discovered a book called The Myth of Cosmic Rebellion: A Study of Its Reflexes in Ugaritic and Biblical Literature by Hugh Page Jr. Originally published in 1996, it contains a brilliant and fascinating study of the Athtar figure from the perspective of Ugaritic and Biblical mythology, and what I’ve learned about the Athtar figure has expanded my view of the obscure morning star deity exponentially.

Little is said of Athtar within the myths he features in, but what is featured apparently demonstrates him as a powerful and mysterious figure, even with a certain degree of autonomy. When Athtar descended from the throne of Ba’al Hadad at Mount Zaphon after attempting to replace him, he wasn’t cast down by the other gods or judged unworthy. Instead, it was written that he decided by himself that he would not rule from Zaphon.

“And Athtar the terrible answered: ‘I will not rule from atop Sapon.’ Athtar the terrible came down, from the throne of Aliyan Baal he descended. And he ruled over the Underworld, god of all of it.”

Two interpretations are given for this decision: the first is that his action is based on a reflection of his own abilities, having come to the conclusion that he is not worthy of the throne of Ba’al Hadad, helped by the fact that the Ba’al Cycle mentions Athtar’s feet failing to reach the stool of Ba’al Hadad’s throne due to being shorter than the aforementioned storm deity; the second is that he decided that he did not want the rule given to him by his benefactors (including the goddess Asherah), preferring instead to make himself king over a region not designated by the other gods. Either he found himself unworthy, or he found rule over Mount Zaphon unworthy. But he was certainly not the impotent substitute for Ba’al Hadad he is often seen as, and is even implied to be an equal to Ba’al Hadad and Yamm, between whom he vies for a house in the domain of the gods at one point and whom he was prepared to do battle with over that very issue. In my view, his rejection of the throne given to him by his patrons in the wake of Ba’al Hadad’s (temporary) death in favor of rule of the underworld amounts to him rejecting the will of the other gods in favor of his own will and decision, possibly viewing the throne as an imposition from the gods that he feels unworthy, either because of his own perceived shortcomings or his view that the throne itself is unworthy.

It is worth noting that Athtar is described as having a kind of freedom of movement between Zaphon and the underworld, mainly so that he could journey to the underworld and challenge his adversaries such as Yamm, though Athtar is never shown fighting Yamm as Ba’al Hadad ultimately did. He may have been viewed as a partially chthonic deity, which would make sense given his decision to rule the underworld. His dominion in the underworld also seems to put him in proximity with the main rival of Ba’al Hadad – Mot, the deity of death who tries to kill Ba’al Hadad. Anyways, this freedom of movement is also worth judging in the context of Athtar not having a house or singular like the other gods, making him effectively homeless (besides his rule over the underworld of course).

There is some data in the book pertaining to Athtar’s general traits. He is a possessor of kingship, he carries a torch (ooh, a morning star deity carrying a torch, what does that sound like I wonder?) and/or a scepter representing his power and sovereignty, he is described by Asherah as someone who “knows” and “understands”, possibly denoting his intelligence, he is associated with the lion and may have zoomorphic lion features, he is simultaneously described as “minute in strength” and “terrible” and “awesome” with regards to his strength and might, his divine locus is listed as both Zaphon and the underworld, he has no wife, he has servants known as Kotharim (but it’s unclear what they are supposed to be other than they wash his body, though maybe they’re related to Kothar-wa-Khasis?), and he is the son of El and Asherah. He is also cited as a specifically astral and martial deity, related to the planet Venus as the morning star, as well as having similar features to Ba’al Hadad (namely being a deity of fertility and being a bearer of rain and the waters) and may have at one point even been treated as a leader deity similar to Ba’al Hadad until the latter deity became more popular in the Levant. Some have speculated that Athtar may have been an androgynous deity, merging features of a male deity of the morning star and a female deity of the evening star (most likely Astarte), and there are male and female names referencing “Estar”, but the deity remains a very male figure historically.

Besides this, however, it is acknowledged that there is not much historical data concerning the Canaanite/Ugaritic Athtar, and there is certainly less information about him than there is about Ba’al Hadad. What little information we are left with, however, gives us a picture of what might have been a powerful deity, possibly an equal to Ba’al Hadad in stature (besides height of course) and in at least some of his abilities, a being who not only rules the underworld, having rejected the throne given to him by his fellow gods in Zaphon, but is free to move between the underworld and Zaphon, and a mysterious personality, one that is sadly not as exposed within the myths as Ba’al Hadad or other deities. A powerful, intelligent cosmic force, yet to be understood in the way Ba’al is, who dwells in the underworld after deciding the heavenly throne unworthy or out of his league. That is the morning star of Canaanite myth. And, if you ask me, he strikes me as a very Luciferian figure, in a way that almost seems like it’s too good to be true and yet all too fitting for the deity whose myth was the original inspiration for what would come to be taken as the modern Lucifer (that is, the prophecy against Nebuchadnezzar II in the Book of Isaiah where the idea of a fallen morning star is first referenced). He may not have all the hallmarks of a Luciferian archetype (would it kill him to share the knowledge of the gods to us lowly humans in his myths?), but he is certainly a powerful and rebellious figure, having defied the gods to take his own path and all, let alone in the netherworld, still shining on as a force of light in that region.

Of course there is the issue of Athtar’s relation to the Helel ben Shahar referred to in the Book of Isaiah. Well, if you look at the character of Athtar, there isn’t much. Hell, the only thin you know about the morning star of the Book of Isaiah is that he supposedly was once in heaven before being cast down to the earth, and that was actually supposed to be referring to Nebuchadnezzar II. In contrast, Athtar was never cast down by the gods, he just spurned them, and there is no evidence of him usurping the throne of Ba’al Hadad or El and in fact El ultimately approved of Asherah’s request to make Athtar king of the gods in the first place. The primary relation is probably limited to an allusion to the original myth. The Jews probably decided to interpret the morning star’s descent to the underworld as a banishment from heaven or fall from grace, and it could be assessed that this might be caused by ignorance of the source material, or possibly them interpreting the myths in a manner that suits the Yahwist slant.

Jebel Aqra, better known as Mount Zaphon, the mythological seat of the throne of Ba’al Hadad, and (for a time) Athtar (sorry there really are no good images of Athtar)

The fly ritual

As I make an effort to be more conscious of ritual, I’d like to talk about a small ritual I have planned involving a clay idol of a fly. This idol was made in art college last year in ceramics classes, where it was made outside the brief. The fly represents Baal, particularly as Baal-berith.

baalberith
The fly idol of Baal-berith.

The idea was inspired by a form of Baal-worship that, according to the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, prevailed in the land of Israel, especially after the death of the judge Gideon, as well as the idol’s description as having the shape of a fly. The Rabbis considered the idol Baal-berith to be associated with Baal-zebub, or Beelzebub, who was known as the deity of Ekron. Jewish tradition apparently states that some of the Israelites were so addicted to the cult of this idol that they would carry an image of the idol in their pockets, even kissing it from time to time.

My plan is not to kiss the idol, mostly because there’s something a little too strange about the idea of kissing the idol of the fly. So instead, I plan on a more modern take, and instead press the idol against my chest, preferably in a way that I’m hugging it in a devotional manner. The idea of this ritual is an obvious subversion of the Judeo-Christian covenant, a metaphor for personal covenant with Baal, or Satan/Beelzebub, which itself is primarily allegorical, not literally theistic. The allegory is my association with paganism (albeit represented in a Biblical form) and with Satanism, my link to them through my own ideals, and the true covenant, my commitment to my ideals.

At some point in Halloween, I chanted a chant of my own with the idol close to my chest, I said “Satan guide me, Satan be my heart, my soul; I am my heart, I am my will, I am my soul, and I want to be in my perfect form. A fire that cannot be stopped.” This is by no means a theistic chant. I consider it a chant for confidence and survival, and should be taken as a daily chant. It represents my connection with the prince of darkness, the god of liberty, my personal identification with the entity, and my admiration for the figure.

Was Baal ever a sun deity?

I’ve heard from various sources, all of them likely Christian, that Baal was linked to sun worship (then again some of those some sources claim Baal and Nimrod are the same entity). Aside from that, I’ve found no evidence that Baal was ever a sun god.

And keep in mind, in ancient Canaan, Baal was often worshiped in the form of many deities bearing the title Baal, though we was still often thought of as the great and mighty fertility deity (though to be fair, this might have been to do with the fact that only priests were allowed to utter the name Hadad; and it’s possible Baal became a distinct deity later). There’s also Bel from Mesopotamia (not to be confused with the Celtic Bel, or Belenus), who was also believed to have been a sun deity, though I have heard nothing linking Bel to the sun. Bel was associated with Marduk, who was not a solar deity. There’s a deity called Malakbel who is a sun deity, but that is a separate deity that has Bel as part of its name.

My only theory is that Baal became identified with the sun at a much later point, or that Baal’s association with the sun is merely from a Jewish or Christian point of view. Or perhaps, it might just be another wacky conspiracy theory invention.

My Christmas altar

A week ago, I finished a pagan Christmas altar project. It incorporates many themes pertaining to Canaanite polytheism and is inspired by American Christian conspiracy theories surrounding Christmas and paganism. I don’t care if they’re true, they’re fun.

Below is the altar.

Let me take you through what makes the altar whole. For starters, the obelisk.

The obelisk represents Baal (or Bel), and is decorated like a Christmas tree. There is a wreath or ring of ivy encircling the base of the obelisk. This represents the yoni of the goddess who is his lover.

Next is the box.

The big symbol at the center is a solar symbol, meant to represent the return of the sun. The hexagrams represent the union of male and female (thus sexual union), the moon is a common pagan symbol often associated with Baal, and the serpents pertain to carnal desire and serpent energies. One side has a bull, representative of Bel/Baal, the other has a lioness, representative of Ishtar. The Satanic pentagram is there mainly for show. Each of the side walls contains two more hexagrams and a depiction of Bel on one side and a depiction of the goddess on the other, both lifted from Canaanite and Mesopotamian artwork. And the lights? Well what’s a Christmas piece without lights?

Thinking about it, I believe one can also connect to Hindu symbolism. The obelisk is also the lingam, and thus the god Shiva, and the ring of ivy is a yoni, thus associated with Shakti. Also, the bull is associated with Shiva, and the lion or tigress is associated with Shakti.

And now, here’s the whole altar with the lights on.

Shiva, Bel, Satan, Set, and Typhon

There is an interesting idea I’ve been interacting with lately. The idea that Shiva is related to Bel/Baal and Set, and by extension Satan and Typhon.

Set is among the earliest deities in the Egyptian pantheon. He is associated with virility, fertility, storms, and power, and also destruction. The Greeks refer to him as Typhon, an agent of Chaos.

Baal/Bel is said to be the principal deity in the pre-Christian Middle East, associated with fertility, storms, power, and even the sun. He would later come to be Beelzebub, a.k.a. Satan.

Shiva is said to be the oldest known deity, and in the pan-Hindu tradition, worship of Shiva (or more or less his older forms), is the oldest in the tradition. Idols have been discovered dating back many thousands of years. Among his domains are creation, destruction, power, sexuality, spirituality, truth, and the raw and primal force. He also destroys evil and ignorance and proclaims justice, and heavily associated with serpents, the symbols of chthonic force and primal power that would later be commonly linked with Satan.

Worship of Baal involved phallic objects and sexuality, and Set is sometimes depicted with a large phallus. In the case of Shiva, honoring the Lingam (a symbol of Shiva) couldn’t possibly not be phallic, or similar by extension.

Also, Shiva’s wife is a essentially female manifestation of his qualities, while Bel’s wife (Ishtar) is a female to Bel.

But, let’s not forget Rudra, the howler, the fierce storm and hunter god both feared and revered by ancient Vedic Indians. Rudra and Shiva are pretty much the same as each other, if you really think about it. They at least share so much in common. Same with Pashupati.

In a way, the worship of Shiva, or the worship of the horned god of power and fertility, is among the oldest sacred practices or forms of worship in the world, or the oldest manifestation of the timeless pagan veneration of nature.

You know, I’m thinking, I’m probably something of a Hindu Pagan by now. That alongside Satanism, and ultimately in a Left Hand Path spirit sounds sweet, and it could still justify a Satanic Pagan label.

The King of Hell

After looking into Lucifer, Satanael, and Samael, and eventually Beelzebub again, I eventually came to the idea that that all the famous devils are actually avatars or extensions of a greater “dark” force. A King of Hell, or highest Satan, if you will. After deliberating, I concluded that this force, this King of Hell, this highest Satan, is Beelzebub, a.k.a. Bel, or Baal.

Truth be told, King of Hell is merely a way of saying a high deity or representation of Chaos, and referring to being a powerful raw, primal, chthonic, Chaotic, some would say Dark force.

Part of the background behind this is that, because Bel was associated with the rival tribes who opposed the Israelites, he became representative of heathen power and the arch enemy. Bel was also a supreme god in the world before Christianity, and very powerful, thus a potent rival to the Abrahamic God, El (a.k.a. Yahweh). And since El advocates Order, Beelzebub will advocate Chaos, and the freedom and power it offers. He is also identified as the “prince of demons”. It’s actually king, but the Christians don’t like to elevate him to the same rank as Jesus.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories that believe that symbols of the god Baal (or Bel), and/or his power, is everywhere. I don’t care if it’s true or false, but it’s a cool idea, and it’d probably make sense. Thus, Bel being the prime pagan power or force, as opposed to the force of sublimation and oppression embodied by El.

He is truly the great horned one, this hidden horned god (or perhaps, not so hidden).

Bel and the Dragon

The name Satan can still be used, if only because it’s a great name and cool to say, and it can be used as a title for Bel/Beelzebub. Perhaps by praising Satan, one is praising the horned one Beelzebub.

Being the prime pagan force, I’m not sure what this means for other pagan gods, though they might be of the same force, though not necessarily extensions of his power, like the devils. It should be noted that Bel/Baal was worshipped in many forms (like Baal Zephon, Baal Shamin,  Baal Hadad, and others). Marduk is even a form of him.

Bel himself is a powerful god, associated with fertility, carnal power, storms, the sun, and power.

Through all this, I establish Beelzebub/Bel/Baal as that supreme “Dark” force behind all the devils, and probably a prime pagan force, at least within my system.

My six Ishta-devas

Earlier, I talked about the concept of Ishta-devas, deities who you relate to and connect with your personality. I would like, then, to talk about the deities from various mythologies that I have taken up as personal deities. I had this in the works since March, initially as an art project where deities would serve as metaphors for aspects of my personality. Listed below are those deities.

Chi You – Chi You is my stubbornness, resistance, and rebellion, which I treasure dearly. In Chinese mythology, he was a deity of war and weapons who lead the Hmong and Li tribes in battle against Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, who ruled from heaven. Years later he would be worshiped by warlords such as Qin Shi Huang (founder of the first dynasty) and Liu Bang (founder of the Han dynasty), and he is attributed to the success of their military campaigns. The background of being worshipped by notable warlords kinda adds some awe to it (despite Qin Shi Huang being a tyrant). I relate to his backstory of opposing the emperor from heaven as like the ideal of refusing external authority, and his belligerent nature to my own.

Dairokuten Maou (a.k.a. Mara) – Dairokuten Maou, or Mara, is my desire, lust, and questing for pleasure, and maybe my emphasis on it. The name means “Demon King of the Sixth Heaven” and comes from a demon lord who appears in the Gohonzon Mandala in Japanese Buddhism. The deity resides in the highest of the six desire, or lust, realms and is the personification of lust, desire, and worldly pleasures and pursuits. This obviously relates to my embracing of desire, lust, and worldly passions rather than denying them. But, he’s also tender, because love relates to desire, and love is tender.

Asura Matsuda (a.k.a. Asura) – Asura is my quest for strength and power, and valuing of it, and also confident, strong will. You probably know Asura comes from Hinduism and Buddhism, and refers to power-hungry divinities. But the name Asura Matsuda is of my own thinking, a version of the name Ahura Mazda, whose name comes from Asura, thus bringing Asura and Ahura Mazda together. This brings an association with fire, which Ahura Mazda was associated with, and a righteous flame against evil. Thus he is a god of power, might, fire, light, strong will, and righteous flame. Like Chi You, he represents a warrior’s spirit.

Shiva – Shiva is my pursuit of Chaos, of rawness, of primal ecstasy, and of creation, and also energy. We all know Shiva is from Hinduism. He is a free spirit. His power is pretty much without equal. He is creation and destruction. He is very potent, and sexual. Passionate and spiritual. I detach Shiva from whatever ascetic associations he has to envision the life-filled, passionate, wild, yet noble deity he is, aligned with both spiritual and material ecstasy. He is my fascination with creation, and destruction, and my fixation on the raw, primal, and energetic, though as an energetic person I can relate to Asura Matsuda as well as Shiva.

Beelzebub (a.k.a. Ba’al, Bel) – He is my alignment towards Chaos, and the freedom and individuality it represents. This Beelzebub is the bringing to together of Baal/Bel, Satan, Lucifer, and Beelzebub. Before Satan was the name of the Christian devil, Rabbinical texts mention a entity named Baal-Zebub (Beelzebub) as the chief rival of “God”, or Yahweh. Thus, Beelzebub is the original adversary of Order and oppression, and the advocate of Chaos and freedom. Since he is Baal, he is a god of power and fertility. He is the pagan in me, and the Satanist. He is pride, ego, selfhood, and individualism. He is the closest thing to the Satan ideal. The supreme advocate of Chaos, save only for Lucifer himself. He shares some traits with Dairokuten Maou, but in a more unique flair. He has an occult flair, and thus represents occult/mystic pursuits.

Kartikeya (a.k.a. Murugan) – He is youth, and the will that it never die. In Hinduism, Kartikeya is a son of Shiva and a young deity of war and youth. In my envisioning of him, he is removed of the ascetic associations he sometimes receives, and is like a younger Shiva. Energetic, heroic, adventurous, and ever young, he represents the ideal of the freedom of the spirit. Even if the body should age, my soul will remain strong and youthful, the ideal of Sanat Kumara (another name for him, it means eternal youth).

I must mention Agni. I don’t know if he counts, but he has symbolic importance, as I already talked about.

So there you have it. The six deities who I take up personally as meaningful to me.

Beelzebub in Egypt

Why is the image of Set here? Because I’m talking about him in this post. And because I couldn’t find another image of Seth-Baal.

For some reason yesterday I can’t help but think of Egypt, possibly brought on by listening to “Curse of the Pharaohs”. Man, Mercyful Fate are good. In any case, I also noticed a search criteria for “beelzebub egyptian god”. Curious, I googled it myself, and found something interesting.

According to a book called “The Egyptian Origin of Christianity” by Lisa Ann Bargeman, the Egyptian god Set, or Seth, was identified with Baal, or Baal-Seth (Seth-Baal), who became known as Baal-zebub, or Beelzebub. OK, to be honest, this does sound kinda like something I’ve posted about before. There is also, however, something interesting, as after it says that, it says “Therefore doubly foreboding is the claim that the Bible’s greatest evil, Satan, was the word for God”. I have since looked through the book and found no explanation for that.

There’s another interesting thing I read, which comes earlier. It said that Set is “the great Wild Bull” and “the soul of Geb”, who was the Egyptian god of the earth.  Apparently the explanation is the Set is primarily a negative god, and Geb was a primarily positive one, and Set is properly understood as the wild, untamed desert earth. An aspect of Geb perhaps? I’ve also heard of some associated with the name Set and Satan, but that’s not the main interest.

All-in-all, I admit this sounds like something I’ve said before, but I’ll think of it as an extension. Besides, I’ll probably talk more about Baal/Beelzebub/Bel in later posts, because I have in interest in that god lately.

Satan’s origins in the god Baal

We’ve all heard of the Christian Satan (a.k.a. Lucifer, Beelzebub, etc. yada yada yada I’ve said this before), and thus you may have noticed his appearance throughout culture. You may also have heard that Satan’s design is a composite of pagan gods. Baal is one of those gods, and his role in the birth of the devil is a large and important one.

Let’s first start with Baal himself. While the word Baal (or Ba’al) itself simply means “lord”, and was also used as a title for a number of gods in the Canaanite religion, it is also a common way of referring to Baal Hadad, who for the purpose of this post we’ll refer to simply as Baal. He was a god of storms, thunder, rain, weather, and fertility. Among his notable features includes horns (or a horned headdress) and a thunderbolt, usually three-pronged, the latter of which would later appear as a weapon wielded by gods like Zeus and Indra. Baal was also equated with the Egyptian god Set, who, like Baal, was a strong and virile god of storms, but he was also a god of deserts who was also associated with foreigners and worshipped by Egyptian armies and soldiers, until later myths were he was a god of evil, darkness, and chaos (Egyptians really didn’t like chaos).

An ancient coin featuring a bull-headed deity. Notice he looks a lot like Set and with features of Baal.

Now we move on to Baal in Judaism. While there is no concept of the devil within Judaism, let alone as a being who opposes God, a similar kind of being is found in Ba’al Zebub. In Rabbinical texts, the name Ba’al Zebub (meaning “lord of the flies”) was the Jewish way of mocking the religion of Baal that surrounded them, and its followers, and it may have been a way of referring to Baal as a pile of dung and his followers as flies. They saw Baal as a false god, unworthy of worship. Does that sound familiar? Of course,  it’s a lot like the later Christian concept of Satan. The term Ba’al Zebub is the source of the name Beelzebub, and may have come from a Philistine deity named Baal Zebul.

In Christianity, we have Satan (who the Jewish Beelzebub is now synonymous with), who is most commonly shown as a horned male figure with a trident or pitchfork, along with other features like wings and a tail. The horned devil with a trident actually calls back to the god Baal with his horns and thunderbolt. It should be noted that Baal, or more or less the religion of Baal, was the biggest rival to the Jewish and Christian religions, so it seemed only natural for them to vilify him, and for the Christians to co-opt him into the design of the devil. Images of Baphomet may also be similar, being a horned entity holding objects.

A standard depiction of the devil.

So there you have it, Satan’s primary origins lie in the Canaanite god Baal, and in the Jewish (and later Christian) transformation of him (Beelzebub). There’s the traditional devil in Christianity, then before that a mockery/vilification of Baal in Judaism, and before that, Baal in the pre-Christian world. Baal does seem to me like the archetypal (male) pagan god, and that would probably make sense with regards to his vilification.