Alternatively Beelphegor and Baalpeor.
Originally the Assyrian form of 'Baal-Poer', the Moabitish god to whom the Israelites became attached in Shittim (Numbers 25:3), which was associated with licentiousness and orgies, and it was worshipped in the form of a phallus. The name was later applied by medieval demonologists to a devil.
As demon, he is described in Kabbalistic writings as the 'disputer', an enemy of the sixth Sephiroth 'beauty'. When summoned, he can grant riches, the power of discovery and ingenious invention. His role as a demon was to sowed discord among men and seduced them to evil through the apportionment of wealth. He is difficult to conjure, perhaps because his sacrificial offering is excrement.
In their unrelenting attempts to codify the demonic order and to determine how the most infamous demons related to the best-known sins, scholars and clerics often made handy lists for quick demonic reference. One such list was the one associating evil spirits with each of the 7 'deadly' or 'mortal' sins. In this list Belphegor is depicted as Sloth incarnate, which is a sin of the flesh, usually represented by scenes of falling asleep on the job, especially if the job was done by a monk. Correspondently bishop and witch-hunter Peter Binsfeld believed that Belphegor tempted mortals by means of laziness, and Thomas Aquinas wrote that all sins that are due to ignorance are due to Sloth. Some of the same demonologists also claimed that Belphegor's powers are stronger in the month of April.
Belphegor ('Lord of the Opening') was pictured in two quite different fashions as a beautiful naked woman and as a monstrous, bearded demon with a open mouth, horns, and sharply pointed nails. According to De Plancy's 'Dictionnaire Infernal', he was Hell's ambassador to France. Belphegor also figures in Milton's 'Paradise Lost' and in Victor Hugo's 'The Toilers of the Sea'.
According to legend, Belphegor was sent from Hell by the other demons to find out if there really was such a thing on earth as married happiness. Rumor of such had reached the demons but they knew that people were not designed to live in harmony. Belphegor's experiences in the world soon convinced him that the rumor was groundless. The story is found in various works of early modern literature, hence the use of the name to apply to a misanthrope or a licentious person.
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Sources: (1) Masello, Robert, Fallen Angels. . . and Spirits of the Dark, The Berkley Publishing Group; (2) Doniger, Wendy (editor), Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, Merriam-Webster; (3) Mack, Carol and Dinah, A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits, Arcade Publishing.
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