First published in 1818, Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal is a sort of guidebook of demonology, documenting the many creatures residing in Hell in 19th Century Christian doctrine. Collin de Plancy claimed that his Dictionnaire Infernal was more a fruit of a ‘disordered imagination’ rather than a practical guide, but as time progressed and his faith in both Christianity and superstition grew, de Plancy became increasingly determined to affirm the existence of these grotesque and terrifying beasts. It is the 1863 edition of Dictionnaire Infernal, with accompanying illustrations by Louis Le Breton and engravings by M. Jarrault, that is perhaps the most fully realised attempt at depicting hell (it’s occupants, it’s chieftains and it’s overlords) for us earth-dwellers. There is something incredibly creative and fascinating about this particular attempt to catalogue, historicise, and present these marvellous demons. Past the evident obsession with judgement, damnation, salvation, heaven and hell – which is interesting in itself – the illustrations and engravings themselves are awesome. We’ve picked out 6 from this edition that range from the bizzarre to the brutal, from the monstrous to the straight up devilish. Take a look below:
Buer is a president of hell and a demon of the second order who commands 50 legions. His form is that of a five-branched star or wheel, and he moves by rolling himself. Buer teaches philosophy, logic, and herbal medicine He is also skilled in curing the sick and giving good servants
According to the le Grand Grimoire, Bael is the head of the infernal powers. He is also the first demon listed in Wierus’ Pseudomonarchia daemonum. According to Wierus, Bael is first king of hell with estates in the East. He has three heads: a toad, a man, and a cat. He also speaks in a raucous, but well formed voice, and commands 66 legions. Bael teaches the art of invisibility, and may be the equivalent of Baal.
Behemoth rules over the domain of gluttony, and is said to be butler and high cupbearer of hell. Bodin thought he was the Egyptian Pharaoh who persecuted the Israelites. There are disagreements about his appearance throughout commentaries. Some say he appears as a whale or elephant. Others believe he is a species that no longer exists. Urbain Brandier wrote that he was definitely a demon, whereas Delancre sees him as a monstrous animal, who can disguise himself as a dog, elephant, fox, or wolf. The Book of Job describes him as a monstrous creature. Behemoth is not listed in Wierus’ hierarchy of demons, though Wierus does admit that Behemoth could be Satan himself.
an-gant-y-tan (Jan gant y tan) is one of the lesser-known demons mentioned in Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal. De Plancy gives only a brief description – that Yan-gant-y-tan is a demon from Brittany who wanders the streets of Finistere at night holding five candles in hand – one on each of his five fingers – spinning them like a flaming wheel. Yan-gant-y-tan is cautious not to make abrupt or sudden turns, less he accidentally extinguish his flames. The accompanying illustration shows the demon as a troll-like creature covered in fur.
Andras, who commands thirty legions, has the body of an angel and the head of an owl. He rides a black wolf and carries a saber. He can give advice on how to kill, and he can escalate quarrels and discord.
Known as the demon of discoveries and of ingenious inventions, Belphegor is said to appear as a young girl and to give wealth. He was worshipped by the Moabites as Baalphegor on Mount Phegor. Some rabbis claim that he must be worshipped on a toilet, with offerings being the residue of ones’ digestion. This has led some to conclude that Belphegor is the god Pet (Fart) or “Crepitus,” while others believe that he is Praipus. Selden is cited by Bainier as reporting that human victims are to be offered to him, and that his priests partake of the flesh. Wierus wrote that he always has an open mouth, attributing it to the name Phegor, which according to Leloyer means “crevice” or “split,” and refers to when he was worshipped in caves and people threw him offerings through an air hole.
If you want to know more about demonology and the Dictionnaire Infernal in general, be sure to head over to deliriums realm – a complete guide that provided us with the info and descriptions for these gnarly beasts.