Photo: Alessio / Flickr Creative Commons

Did You Know You’re Honoring One Of Hell’s Seven Princes Every Time You Use The Toilet?

As if going to the bathroom weren't stressful enough - pooping at work, anyone? - now you can worry about sacrificing to a demon. Belphegor, one of Hell's Seven Princes, is the demon of sloth... and excrement. Lighting a candle in his name apparently just wasn't enough. 

Belphegor comes from Baal-Peor, seen multiple times in the Old Testament as the god of the Moabites. Hundreds of years later, Baal-Peor was Latinized into Belphegor and reappropriated into a demon to populate the Christian hell. A book on demonology from the early 1800s got the ball rolling, and Belphegor soon developed an entire mythology of his own, only loosely based in Biblical roots. Today, Belphegor is associated with Belphegor's Prime, a prime number with "666" in the center that is supposedly demonic. And, of course, we know him as the demon of feces. 

Photo: Alessio / Flickr Creative Commons

  • Belphegor Prefers Offerings Of Feces

    Belphegor Prefers Offerings Of Feces
    Photo: H - - J / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Some gods want virgins or lambs or goats, some gods want excrement. Such is the case with Belphegor, whose preferred offering is feces. "Pe'or," as in the Hebrew root of Baal-Peor or Belphegor, is usually translated as "opening." Rashi, a French rabbi who wrote commentary on the Old Testament said: "Peor was so named because before it they bared their anus... and relieved themselves. This was the manner of its worship." Quite the visual image there, Rashi. 

  • Pretty Much Everything We Know About Belphegor Comes From An 1818 Book

    Pretty Much Everything We Know About Belphegor Comes From An 1818 Book
    Photo: J.A.S. Collin de Plancy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Belphegor wasn't always a meaningful demon, or even in the forefront of anyone's mind, until Jacques August Simon Collin de Plancy wrote Dictionnaire Infernal in 1818. In it, he only briefly mentioned Belphegor (three lines!). However, he revised the text in 1863, and included the woodcut of Belphegor on a toilet as elegantly depicted here. Every reference to Belphegor borrows heavily or blatantly plagiarizes de Plancy, who took what the Bible set about Moab and Baal/Baalphegor and tied it into other mythologies.

  • Belphegor's Prime Is Associated With A Mysterious Manuscript

    Belphegor's Prime Is Associated With A Mysterious Manuscript
    Photo: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Belphegor's Prime is not only a prime number, but also a palindrome. It begins and ends with 1, and 666 is in the middle: 1000000000000066600000000000001.

    The symbol for this demonic number is an upside-down Pi. It's not so much that the prime number itself is mysterious, but its symbol definitely is. It was first seen in the Voynich Manuscript, which is a large book written entirely in a code that appears to be one of a kind and has kept historians and scientists stumped for years. It includes astrology, plants, naked women, and plenty of other weirdness. The 600-year-old tome is understood by absolutely no one - even the most elite Voynich scholars don't even know what language it was written in before it was put into a cipher - and recent attempts to crack the code using artificial intelligence haven't worked.

  • Of The Seven Deadly Sins, He's Usually Sloth

    Of The Seven Deadly Sins, He's Usually Sloth
    Photo: Pieter van der Heyden / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Though Belphegor has taken many forms throughout history and been associated with many different sins, he is most often seen as the demon of sloth. This could mean that he tempts mankind to be lazy, but one church father, Thomas Aquinas, felt that sloth was the root of other sins as well. Ignorance, in Aquinas's mind, was a result of laziness.

  • Belphegor Came To Earth In The First Place For A Strangely Simple Reason

    Though he may be a fearsome demon and one of the Seven Princes of Hell, Belphegor originally came to Earth for a simple and somewhat bucolic reason. Hades sent Belphegor up from Hell to learn if married happiness was a real thing. Yes, the Prince of Hell and guardian of Sloth simply wanted to know if people could be happily married. The demons in Hell had heard that married happiness was possible, but knowing what they did about the dark side of human nature, it seemed rather unlikely to them. 

    And perhaps not surprisingly, Belphegor discovered that no, married happiness was not a real thing. It was only a rumor.

  • Belphegor Comes From Baal-Peor In The Bible

    The Moabites worshipped Baal-Peor, which eventually became the name Baalphegor, and he is mentioned several times in the Bible. In the book of Numbers, the Israelites copulated with Moabite women and sacrificed to Baal-Peor, resulting in Moses ordering that all 24,000 of them be killed. Hosea 9:10 says: "...they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame, and they became as detestable as that which they loved."