Where did the weird illustrations of hellish creatures found in the French ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’ (1836) come from?
When it comes to demons, you might think that the sort of artist who set the standard in depicting the demons of Hell would have a chequered, mysterious past. Louis Le Breton’s illustrations for Jacques Collin de Plancy’s famous Dictionnaire Infernal became the main source of inspiration for how demons, monsters and fantastical beasts have been represented since the 19th Century. But oddly enough, Le Breton began a sensible career as a medical student and soon became a naval surgeon. He then went on to spend most of his life as a draftsman for the French Navy, painting completely innocuous maritime art without a sea serpent, mermaid or Kraken in sight.
A peculiar change in direction
But towards the end of his life he dramatically changed course. He set about drawing Hell’s hierarchy of demons for Collin de Plancy, who himself was initially an occultist liberal, but became an enthusiastic Catholic later in life. Who knows, maybe they started to fear what lay in store for their souls beyond the veil of death.
An A-Z of the Occult
In any case, the Infernal Dictionary describes itself as Universal Library on the beings, characters, books, deeds, and causes which pertain to the manifestations and magic of trafficking with Hell – basically it’s an A-Z of demonology and occult.
It’s richly illustrated with the depictions of 69 demonic dukes, minions and presidents that govern Hell, most of which I’ve collected with brief descriptions below – take a look!
ABIGOR – Knows of the secrets of warfare, of the future, and can instruct leaders of the ways to earn their soldiers’ respect.
ABRAXAS – Has the head of a king and demon’s feet. He was seen by the Basilidians (a group of twelfth century heretics) as the supreme god because the Greek letters that formed his name added up to 365, the number of days in a year.
ADRAMELECH – Can take the shape of a mule or peacock, and in ancient times, the people of the Assyrian city, Sepharvaim, sacrificed children to him.
AGUARES – Appears riding a crocodile and carrying a sparrowhawk. He is said to make deserters return and can cause enemies to flee. He can exalt people, teach all languages, and make the earth spirits dance.
ALASTOR – Known as the Executioner. In the infernal hierarchy, he is the Nemesis. The ancients called evil spirits “alastores.”
ALOCER – Dresses as a knight and rides a horse. His face is characteristic of a lion, with an inflamed complexion and fervent eyes. He is said to teach astronomy and liberal arts.
AMDUSCIAS – Will give concerts if commanded and is accompanied by the sound of trumpets and other musical instruments. Trees also bend to his command.
AMON – Was the supreme diety of the Egyptians and had blue skin in human form. Amon can tell of the past and the future, and reconcile the differences between friends.
ANDRAS – Rides a black wolf and carries a saber. He can give advice on how to kill, and he can escalate quarrels and discord.
ASMODEE – The destroying demon and superintendent of the gaming houses. He gives rings influenced by astronomical bodies, advises men on making themselves invisible, and instructs men in the art of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and the mechanical arts. He also knows of treasures.
ASTAROTH – Knows of past and future events, secret things, liberal arts, and the story of creation and the fall of the angels. He procures the goodwill of great lords and can be summoned on Wednesday. He is said to emit a powerful fetid odor.
AZAZEL – Guardian of goats. A high priest would place both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess both his sins and the sins of the people. The goat (“scapegoat”) was then led into the desert and set free. Azazel then returned the goat.
BAEL – Head of the infernal powers and first king of hell. Speaks in a raucous, but well formed voice, and teaches the art of invisibility.
BALAN – Can tell of past/present/future events. Teaches cunning, finesse, and the easy way to see without being seen. He was once in the heavenly order.
BARBATOS – Teaches how to decipher what animals speak of, knows of buried treasures, can reconcile disagreements between friends, and knows of past and future events.
BEHEMOTH – Rules over Gluttony. He has eaten the hay of a 1000 mountains since the beginning of the world. He never leaves these mountains, for if he did, time would be disrupted.
BELPHEGOR – Demon of discoveries and of ingenious inventions. Some claim he must be worshipped on a toilet, with offerings being the residue of ones’ digestion.
BELZEBUTH – Lord of the Flies and Supreme Chief of Hell.
BERITH – Great Duke of Hell. One must have a magic ring to control him. He knows of past/present/future events, gives dignities, aids in singing ability, and is often known as the demon of the alchemists for his avidity to change metals into gold.
BUER – A president of hell. He moves by rolling himself. Buer teaches philosophy, logic, and herbal medicine He is also skilled in curing the sick and giving good servants.
CAACRINOLAAS – Teaches liberal arts, inspires murder, makes men invisible, and predicts the future.
CAYM – The most wise occupant of hell, and that he could outwit even the most seasoned logician. He teaches communication with animals and waves and knows of the future.
CERBERE – Or ‘Cerberus’ was the three-headed watchdog with a serpent body that guarded the entrance to Hades in Greek/Roman mythology.
DEUMUS – Wears a crown, has 4 horns head and 4 hooked yet strong teeth, with a pointed and hooked nose, feet are like a rooster, and holds a soul between sharp claws ready to devour it.
EURYNOME – superior demon and prince of death. He wears a fox skin to cover the sores on his body, and he has huge teeth. Said to feed on carrion and dead bodies.
FLAGA – A Scandinavian fairy, though some claim she was only a magician who rode on an eagle.
FLAUROS – Appeared as a leopard. In human form, he had a frightful face with burning eyes. He knows of the past/present/future, can turn demons and spirits against the exorcists.
FORCAS – Teaches the virtues of herbs and precious stones, logic, esthetics, chiromancy, pyromancy, and rhetoric. He can make one invisible, ingenious, and articulate. He also can find lost things and discover treasures.
FURFUR – Appears as an angel or a stag with a flaming tail and speaks only lies unless enclosed in a triangle. He speaks in a raucous voice. Furfur sustains marriage, can cause thunderstorms, and speaks on abstract things.
GAAP – Appears in human form at noon, and is said to intensify the passions of love and hatred. He can transport men to different countries.
GOMORY – Appears as a woman with a ducal crown on his head and riding a camel. He knows of the past/present/future and can discover hidden treasures.
HABORYM – A fire demon and a duke of hell. He appears holding a torch and riding a viper and he has 3 heads: a serpent, a man, and a cat.
IPES – Appears as an angel or lion with the head and feet of a goose and a short hair’s tail. Ipes knows of the past and future, gives men intellect and courage, and can tell of hidden treasures.
LAMIA – Queen of Libya. She splits open pregnant women to devour the children developing inside. Her name is derived from lamias, the evil female demons with dragon heads at the end of their feet found in deserts. They are also known to haunt cemeteries, devouring the corpses and leaving nothing but bones.
LECHIES – Russian demons that lived in the woods. They would shrink themselves to the height of the grass when marching through fields, but would grow to the size of the tallest trees when they ran through the forest. They had horrible cries, but could imitate voices familiar to wanderers & could lure them back to their caves, where they would tickle them almost to death.
LEONARD – Chief of the subaltern demons, and inspector general of sorcery, black magic and witchcraft. From the waist up, Leonard has a goat’s body with 3 horns on his head, a goat’s beard, hair-like bristles, 2 ears like foxes, and inflamed eyes. He also has a face on his butt, which witches kiss while holding a green candle to adore him. Leonard’s attitude is reserved and melancholic, but when he appears at witch and devil assemblies, he is commanding and uses situations to his advantage.
LUCIFER – King of hell, and according to some demonologists superior to Satan. He is facetious, and he often pulls witches off brooms on their journey to the Sabbath and gives them a ride on his shoulders. Lucifer has the face of a beautiful young child, which changes to monstrous and inflamed when he is angry. According to some demonologists, he is a lover of justice in hell.
MALPHAS – Builds citadels and impregnable towers, breaks down enemy barricades, finds good workers, gives familiars, and will receive sacrifices but deceive the sacrificers.
MAMMON – Demon of avarice. He taught men to rend the breast of the earth to wrest away her treasures.
MARCHOCIAS – Appears as a she-wolf with griffin wings and a serpent’s tail, and spit flames. In human form, Marchocias appears as a grand soldier. He obeys exorcists and the domination of angels.
MELCHOM – The paymaster of civil servants in hell. He is known as the demon who carries the purse.
MOLOCH – Portrayed as a bronze statue with a calf’s head, adorned with a royal crown and seated on a throne, his arms were extended to receive the child victims sacrificed to him. When a child was sacrificed to Moloch, a fire was lit inside his statue. The priests would then beat loudly on drums and other objects so that the cries would not be heard.
NICKAR – Malignant Scandinavian water monsters who drown people. Odin takes on the name of Nickar when he acts as one of these destroyers, frequenting the lakes & rivers where he causes tempests, hurricanes, & hailstorms.
OROBAS – Appears in the form of a beautiful horse or as a man, who speaks of the divine essence. He knows of the past/present/future, can discover falsehoods, grants favors and help, and can reconcile enemies.
PAYMON – A king of hell who governs 200 legions, half of them from the Angelic Order, and half from the Order of Powers. He appears as a man with a woman’s face riding a dromedary, and is crowned with a headdress made with precious stones.
PRUFLAS – Facilitates quarrels and wars, provokes discord, and generates poverty. He will respond to all he is asked to do.
RONWE – As marquis and count of hell, he controls 19 legions. He appears in the form of a monster and teaches languages.
SALLOS – Grand-count of Hell and sweet of character. He appears as a good soldier with a ducal crown on his head and rides a crocodile.
SCOX – Appears as a stork with a raucous voice, and is known to be deceitful. He steals horses, and takes the silver in the houses he possesses only to return it 1200 years later if everything is still in order. If he is confined to a triangle, he will speak truth on supernatural matters, point out hidden treasures not guarded by evil spirits, and obey the exorcist. If he is not confined, he will lie and not always obey the exorcist.
STOLAS – Appears as an owl or as a man who teaches astronomy, the properties of plants, and the worth of precious stones.
UVALL – Once of the order of Powers, Wall is a great and powerful duke, who commands 36 legions. He appears as a tall and terrible dromedary or as a human who speaks Egyptian. He knows of the past/present/future.
VOLAC – Appears as a child with angel’s wings and riding on a two-headed dragon. He tells of the positions of the planets and where to find serpents.
XAPHAN – One of the fallen angels who rebelled with Satan. He is now a demon of the 2nd rank. He has a reputation for an inventive mind and came up with the idea to set fire to Heaven before he and the others were thrown out.
Although they’re supposed to be demonic, to me the illustrations seem kind of funny and whimsical, and I guess I’m not the only one – illustrator James Turner has made a fab comic starring the crazy characters of hell.Click here to view it online or click to here buy Rebel Angels #1