Alternatively Belhor, Baalial, Beliar, Beliall and Beliel.
From the Hebrew 'Bliol', meaning Wicked One, in demonology Belial is one of Satan's most venerable demons. In fact, before the New Testament firmly established Satan as the leader of the forces of evil, Belial was the one in charge. In the Old Testament the word had the meaning of worthlessness or wickedness, but it later came to be used as a proper noun for the Devil or Satan.
According to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls (The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness) he was the uncontested ruler of the dark side:
"But for corruption thou hast made Belial, an angel of hostility. All his dominion is in darkness, and his purpose is to bring about wickedness and guilt."
The demon of lies, he was acknowledged in the Bible as a source of great evil, and even as the lord of all demons. Some apocrypha declare that Belial was created next to Lucifer, and that he was a king of Hell governing 80 Infernal Legions. Others credit Belial as being the father of Lucifer and the angel that convinced him to wage a rebellion in Heaven against God, and that as such he was the first of the fallen angels to be expelled.
Deceitful and evil-hearted, Belial was once considered Beelzebub's equal, but by medieval times he had been relegated to one of the lesser demons of Hell. In the apocryphal the Martyrdom of Isaiah and in the Gospel of Bartholomew, he is labeled as the demon of lawlessness:
"And Manasseh turned aside his heart to serve Beliar; for the angel of lawlessness, who is the ruler of this world, is Beliar, whose name is Matanbuchus."
Belial was immortalized in Milton's Paradise Lost, being referred to as the "false-titled son of God." When Belial first appears, Milton declares:
"A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed
For dignity composed and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to noble deeds
Timorous and slothful."
In Das Buch Belial, by Jacobus de Terano, Belial presented himself to and danced before King Solomon (he is the sixty-eighth spirit listed in Solomon's Goetia). In the Bible, he is identified as Satan when Paul of Tarsus asks how Christ and Belial can agree (2 Corinthians 6:15). He is also referred by Victor Hugo as Hell's ambassador to Turkey.
When summoned, Belial appears as two angels (sometimes only one) sitting in a chariot of fire, and he is believed to provide good familiars and to cause favors of friends and foes, but offerings and sacrifices must be made in his honor. Notorious mass murderer Gilles de Rais is thought to have attempted to raise Belial and Beelzebub using the severed body parts of his sacrificial children victims.
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Sources: (1) Pickering, David, Cassell's Dictionary of Witchcraft, Cassell Academic; (2) Masello, Robert, Fallen Angels. . . and Spirits of the Dark, The Berkley Publishing Group; (3) van der Toorn, Karel (editor), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; (4) Lewis, James R., Angels A to Z, Visible Ink Press.
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