Saturday, February 10, 2018

Belphegor: Lord of the Opening

Devils of darkness, servants unto hell
Yea, king and queen of Sheol, terrible
Above all fiends and furies, hating more
The high Jehovah, loving Baal Peor,
Our father and our lover and our god!
Yea, though he lift his adamantine rod
And pierce us through, how shall his anger tame
Fire that glows fiercer for the brand of shame
Thrust in it; so, we who are all of fire,
One dull red flare of devilish desire,
The God of Israel shall not quench with tears,
Nor blood of martyrs drawn from myriad spheres,
Nor watery blood of Christ; that blood shall boil
With all the fury of our hellish toil . . .
                                                                          - Aleister Crowley

The name Belphegor is the Latin version of the Hebrew Baal-Peor, which means “Lord of the Opening.” A god of the Moabites, his worship was centered at Mount Peor and it is speculated that this mountain was known as “Peor” because of some sort of opening or crevice in it, into which offerings to Belphegor may have been thrown. The word “Peor” is also used in Hebrew to signify the “openings” in the human body: the mouth and anus. As Belphegor’s pagan rites were said to be of an exceptionally lascivious and sexual nature, it is possible that the name “Peor” had a double significance and denoted something more than the place he was worshipped or how his offerings were disposed of. As further evidence of his sexual nature, many early sources say that the image of Belphegor was like that of the god Priapus, whose defining visual characteristic was a massive erect phallus.

It is said by the Rabbis that his rites were particularly revolting and that sacrificial offerings to him consisted of human excrement. The Talmud states that Belphegor’s idol was sometimes situated at a latrine, where those relieving themselves could do so in honor of the god. The same source also states that consuming beets and strong alcoholic beverages before stripping naked were facets of his worship. In the Book of Psalms, it is mentioned that when some of the Israelites sinned by fornicating with prostitutes connected to Baal-Peor, and through them started to partake in the worship of this god, they also “ate the offerings of the dead.” This is often taken to merely mean that offerings made to pagan idols such as Belphegor were to “the dead” in the sense that the idols were mere lifeless things, but others have asserted that the passage suggests some sort of connection between the cult of Belphegor and the Underworld as the abode of the dead.

In medieval Demonology, Belphegor would become known as the Demon of the Deadly Sin of Sloth, and (somewhat paradoxically) also the Demon of invention. This seeming contradiction could perhaps be explained through the view that many inventions are created to make work easier for man, and hence can potentially lead to laziness. Demonologists also described Belphegor’s appearance in two very different ways: some record that he appeared in the form of a grotesque bearded Demon with long fingernails, while others said that he appeared in the form of an attractive and nude young woman.

Belphegor illustration by Louis Le Breton after an engraving by M. Jarrault
from the 1863 edition of Colin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal.
In Qabalistic literature, Belphegor is the Arch-Demon of the sixth sphere of the Qliphoth known as Thagirion (or Tagaririm), the evil and averse counterpart to the sphere of Tiphereth on the Tree of Life. In this connection, Belphegor is associated with the Sun and its mystical number in Qabalah, 666. It is interesting to note that there is perhaps an ancient precedent for Belphegor’s status as a Solar figure: Baal-Peor is sometimes identified with the god Chemosh, “the abomination of Moab” who King Solomon built a temple to (1 Kings 11:7), and Chemosh is in turn possibly a Moabite form of the Babylonian sun god Shamash.

While his ancient pagan cult in Moab may have ceased to exist long before his role in Demonology, Belphegor’s worship found new life through Devil Worshipers of the Middle Ages. Theologian Gerhoh of Reichersberg, in his work De investigatione Anti-Christi libri III (1162), chronicles the existence of a cult of Belphegor active in Germany in the mid 12th century. According to Gerhoh’s contemporary account, these medieval devotees of the letcherous “Devil” Belphegor worshipped their god with rites that included incestuous sexual orgies which took place in darkness. The officiating priest was kissed on the buttocks by the devotees in a manner similar to the “Kiss of Shame” bestowed on the Devil by witches at their Sabbat. The members of the cult offered worship and sacrifice to Belphegor in the morning, at noon, and at nightfall. Their sacrament contained human semen. The cult was a markedly anti-Christian one, where on Christmas Eve they were wont to engage in rituals that blasphemously parodied the Nativity of Christ. It is even reported that they had desecrated a Christian chapel in Regensburg with their rites. 
Sigil of Belphegor created by Frater V.I.M. using the Kamea of Sol.