Baphomet is a deity that the Knights Templar were accused of worshipping, and that subsequently was incorporated into occult and mystical traditions. The name Baphomet appeared in trial transcripts for the Inquisition of the Knights Templar starting in 1307. It first came into popular English usage in the 19th century during debate and speculation on the reasons for the suppression of the Templars.
Since 1856, the name Baphomet has been associated with the “Sabbatic Goat” image drawn by Éliphas Lévi, which contains binary elements representing the “symbolization of the equilibrium of opposites” (e.g. half-human and half-animal, male and female, good and evil, on and off, etc.). On one hand, Lévi’s intention was to symbolize his concept of balance that was essential to his magnetistic notion of the Astral Light; on the other hand, the Baphomet represents a tradition that should result in a perfect social order.
The name Baphomet appeared in July 1098 in a letter by the crusader Anselm of Ribemont:
Raymond of Aguilers, a chronicler of the First Crusade, reports that the troubadours used the term Bafomet for the Islamic prophet Muhammad and called the mosques Bafumarias. The name Bafometz later appeared around 1195 in the Occitan poems Senhors, per los nostres peccatz by the troubadour Gavaudan. Around 1250 a poem bewailing the defeat of the Seventh Crusade by Austorc d’Aorlhac refers to Bafomet. De Bafomet is also the title of one of four surviving chapters of an Occitan translation of Ramon Llull’s earliest known work, the Libre de la doctrina pueril.
The indictment (acte d’accusation) published by the court of Rome set forth … “that in all the provinces they had idols, that is to say, heads, some of which had three faces, others but one; sometimes, it was a human skull … That in their assemblies, and especially in their grand chapters, they worshipped the idol as a god, as their saviour, saying that this head could save them, that it bestowed on the order all its wealth, made the trees flower, and the plants of the earth to sprout forth.”— Michelet Jules, “History of France”
The name Baphomet comes up in several of these confessions. Peter Partner states in his 1987 book The Knights Templar and their Myth: “In the trial of the Templars one of their main charges was their supposed worship of a heathen idol-head known as a ‘Baphomet’ (‘Baphomet’ = Mahomet).” The description of the object changed from confession to confession. Some Templars denied any knowledge of it. Others, under torture, described it as being either a severed head, a cat, or a head with three faces. The Templars did possess several silver-gilt heads as reliquaries, including one marked capud lviiim, another said to be St. Euphemia, and possibly the actual head of Hugues de Payens. The claims of an idol named Baphomet were unique to the Inquisition of the Templars.Karen Ralls, author of the Knights Templar Encyclopedia, argues that it is significant that “no specific evidence [of Baphomet] appears in either the Templar Rule or in other medieval period Templar documents.”
Gauserand de Montpesant, a knight of Provence, said that their superior showed him an idol made in the form of Baffomet; another, named Raymond Rubei, described it as a wooden head, on which the figure of Baphomet was painted, and adds, “that he worshipped it by kissing its feet, and exclaiming, ‘Yalla’, which was”, he says, “verbum Saracenorum“, a word taken from the Saracens. A templar of Florence declared that, in the secret chapters of the order, one brother said to the other, showing the idol, “Adore this head—this head is your god and your Mahomet.”— Thomas Wright, “The Worship of the Generative Powers”
Modern scholars agree that the name of Baphomet was an Old French corruption of the name Muhammad, with the interpretation being that some of the Templars, through their long military occupation of the Outremer, had begun incorporating Islamic ideas into their belief system, and that this was seen and documented by the Inquisitors as heresy. Alain Demurger, however, rejects the idea that the Templars could have adopted the doctrines of their enemies. Helen Nicholson writes that the charges were essentially “manipulative”—the Templars “were accused of becoming fairy-tale Muslims”. Medieval Christians believed that Muslims were idolatrous and worshipped Muhammad as a god, with mahomet becoming mammet in English, meaning an idol or false god (see also Medieval Christian views on Muhammad). This idol-worship is attributed to Muslims in several chansons de geste. For example, one finds the gods Bafum e Travagan in a Provençal poem on the life of St. Honorat, completed in 1300. In the Chanson de Simon Pouille, written before 1235, a Saracen idol is called Bafumetz.
While modern scholars and the Oxford English Dictionary state that the origin of the name Baphomet was a probable Old French version of “Mahomet“, alternative etymologies have also been proposed.
According to Pierre Klossowski in Le Baphomet (1965, Editions Mercure de France, Paris; translated into English by Sophie Hawkes and published as The Baphomet in 1988 by Eridanos Press): “The Baphomet has diverse etymologies… the three phonemes that constitute the denomination are also said to signify, in coded fashion, Basileus philosophorum metaloricum: the sovereign of metallurgical philosophers, that is, of the alchemical laboratories that were supposedly established in various chapters of the Temple. The androgynous nature of the figure apparently goes back to the Adam Kadmon of the Chaldeans, which one finds in the Zohar” (pages 164–165).
In the 18th century, speculative theories arose that sought to tie the Knights Templar with the origins of Freemasonry. Bookseller, Freemason and Illuminatus Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (1733–1811), in Versuch über die Beschuldigungen welche dem Tempelherrenorden gemacht worden, und über dessen Geheimniß (1782), was the first to claim that the Templars were Gnostics, and that “Baphomet” was formed from the Greek words βαφη μητȢς, baphe metous, to mean Taufe der Weisheit, “Baptism of Wisdom”. Nicolai “attached to it the idea of the image of the supreme God, in the state of quietude attributed to him by the Manichaean Gnostics”, according to F. J. M. Raynouard, and “supposed that the Templars had a secret doctrine and initiations of several grades”, which “the Saracens had communicated … to them”. He further connected the figura Baffometi with the pentagram of Pythagoras:
What properly was the sign of the Baffomet, “figura Baffometi”, which was depicted on the breast of the bust representing the Creator, cannot be exactly determined … I believe it to have been the Pythagorean pentagon (Fünfeck) of health and prosperity: … It is well known how holy this figure was considered, and that the Gnostics had much in common with the Pythagoreans. From the prayers which the soul shall recite, according to the diagram of the Ophite-worshippers, when they on their return to God are stopped by the Archons, and their purity has to be examined, it appears that these serpent-worshippers believed they must produce a token that they had been clean on earth. I believe that this token was also the holy pentagon, the sign of their initiation (τελειας βαφης μετεος).— “Symbols and Symbolism” in “Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine”, 1854
Émile Littré (1801–1881) in Dictionnaire de la langue francaise asserted that the word was cabalistically formed by writing backward tem. o. h. p. ab, an abbreviation of templi omnium hominum pacis abbas, “abbot, or father of the temple of peace of all men”. His source is the “Abbé Constant”, which is to say, Alphonse-Louis Constant, the real name of Eliphas Levi.
Hugh J. Schonfield (1901–1988), one of the scholars who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in his book The Essene Odyssey that the word “Baphomet” was created with knowledge of the Atbash substitution cipher, which substitutes the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the last, the second for the second last, and so on. “Baphomet” rendered in Hebrew is בפומת (bpwmt); interpreted using Atbash, it becomes שופיא (šwpy‘, “Shofya'”), which can be interpreted as the Greek word “Sophia”, meaning wisdom. This theory is an important part of the plot of the novel The Da Vinci Code.
Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall
Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774–1856) associated a series of carved or engraved figures found on a number of supposed 13th-century Templar artifacts (such as cups, bowls and coffers) with the Baphometic idol.
In 1818, the name Baphomet appeared in the essay by the Viennese Orientalist Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, Mysterium Baphometis revelatum, seu Fratres Militiæ Templi, qua Gnostici et quidem Ophiani, Apostasiæ, Idoloduliæ et Impuritatis convicti, per ipsa eorum Monumenta (“Discovery of the Mystery of Baphomet, by which the Knights Templars, like the Gnostics and Ophites, are convicted of Apostasy, of Idolatry and of moral Impurity, by their own Monuments”), which presented an elaborate pseudohistory constructed to discredit Templarist Masonry and, by extension, Freemasonry. Following Nicolai, he argued, using as archaeological evidence “Baphomets” faked by earlier scholars and literary evidence such as the Grail romances, that the Templars were Gnostics and the “Templars’ head” was a Gnostic idol called Baphomet.
His chief subject is the images which are called Baphomet … found in several museums and collections of antiquities, as in Weimar … and in the imperial cabinet in Vienna. These little images are of stone, partly hermaphrodites, having, generally, two heads or two faces, with a beard, but, in other respects, female figures, most of them accompanied by serpents, the sun and moon, and other strange emblems, and bearing many inscriptions, mostly in Arabic … The inscriptions he reduces almost all to Mete[, which] … is, according to him, not the Μητις of the Greeks, but the Sophia, Achamot Prunikos of the Ophites, which was represented half man, half woman, as the symbol of wisdom, unnatural voluptuousness and the principle of sensuality … He asserts that those small figures are such as the Templars, according to the statement of a witness, carried with them in their coffers. Baphomet signifies Βαφη Μητεος, baptism of Metis, baptism of fire, or the Gnostic baptism, an enlightening of the mind, which, however, was interpreted by the Ophites, in an obscene sense, as fleshly union … the fundamental assertion, that those idols and cups came from the Templars, has been considered as unfounded, especially as the images known to have existed among the Templars seem rather to be images of saints.— “Baphomet” in “Encyclopedia Americana”, 1851
Hammer’s essay did not pass unchallenged, and F. J. M. Raynouard published an Etude sur ‘Mysterium Baphometi revelatum’ in Journal des savants the following year. Charles William King criticized Hammer, saying that he had been deceived by “the paraphernalia of … Rosicrucian or alchemical quacks”, and Peter Partner agreed that the images “may have been forgeries from the occultist workshops”. At the very least, there was little evidence to tie them to the Knights Templar—in the 19th century some European museums acquired such pseudo-Egyptian objects, which were cataloged as “Baphomets” and credulously thought to have been idols of the Templars.
Later in the 19th century, the name of Baphomet became further associated with the occult. Éliphas Lévi published Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (“Dogma and Rituals of High Magic”) as two volumes (Dogme 1854, Rituel 1856), in which he included an image he had drawn himself, which he described as Baphomet and “The Sabbatic Goat”, showing a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on its head between its horns (see the illustration). This image has become the best-known representation of Baphomet. Lévi considered the Baphomet to be a depiction of the absolute in symbolic form and explicated in detail his symbolism in the drawing that served as the frontispiece:
The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of occultism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.— Éliphas Lévi, “Dogme et rituel de la haute magie“
Lévi’s depiction of Baphomet is similar to that of The Devil in the early Tarot. Lévi, working with correspondences different from those later used by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, “equated the Devil Tarot key with Mercury”, giving “his figure Mercury’s caduceus, rising like a phallus from his groin”.
Lévi believed that the alleged devil worship of the medieval Witches’ Sabbath was a perpetuation of ancient pagan rites. A goat with a candle between its horns appears in medieval witchcraft records, and other pieces of lore are cited in Dogme et Rituel.
Below this figure we read a frank and simple inscription—THE DEVIL. Yes, we confront here that phantom of all terrors, the dragon of all theogenies, the Ahriman of the Persians, the Typhon of the Egyptians, the Python of the Greeks, the old serpent of the Hebrews, the fantastic monster, the nightmare, the Croquemitaine, the gargoyle, the great beast of the Middle Ages, and—worse than all these—the Baphomet of the Templars, the bearded idol of the alchemist, the obscene deity of Mendes, the goat of the Sabbath. The frontispiece to this ‘Ritual’ reproduces the exact figure of the terrible emperor of night, with all his attributes and all his characters…. Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of Templars worshipped the Baphomet, and caused it to be worshipped by their initiates; yes, there existed in the past, and there may be still in the present, assemblies which are presided over by this figure, seated on a throne and having a flaming torch between the horns. But the adorers of this sign do not consider, as do we, that it is a representation of the devil; on the contrary, for them it is that of the god Pan, the god of our modern schools of philosophy, the god of the Alexandrian theurgic school and of our own mystical Neoplatonists, the god of Lamartine and Victor Cousin, the god of Spinoza and Plato, the god of the primitive Gnostic schools; the Christ also of the dissident priesthood…. The mysteries of the Sabbath have been variously described, but they figure always in grimoires and in magical trials; the revelations made on the subject may be classified under three heads—1. those referring to a fantastic and imaginary Sabbath; 2. those which betray the secrets of the occult assemblies of veritable adepts; 3. revelations of foolish and criminal gatherings, having for their object the operations of black magic.— Lévi, “The Sabbath of the Sorcerers”
Lévi’s Baphomet, for all its modern fame, does not match the historical descriptions from the Templar trials, although it may also have been partly inspired by grotesque carvings on the Templar churches of Lanleff in Brittany and Saint-Merri in Paris, which depict squatting bearded men with bat wings, female breasts, horns and the shaggy hindquarters of a beast, as well as Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s vivid gargoyles that were added to Notre-Dame de Paris about the same time as Lévi’s illustration.
Lévi’s references to the School of Alexandria and the Templars can be explained against the background of debates about the origins and character of true Christianity. It has been pointed out that these debates included contemporary forms of Romantic socialism, or Utopian socialism, which were seen as the heirs of the Gnostics, Templars, and other mystics. Lévi, being himself an adherent of these schools since the 1840s, regarded the socialists and Romantics (such as Lamartine) as the successors of this alleged tradition of true religion. In fact, his narrative mirrors historiographies of socialism, including the Histoire des Montagnards (1847) by his best friend and political comrade Alphonse Esquiros. Consequently, the Baphomet is depicted by Lévi as the symbol of a revolutionary heretical tradition that would soon lead to the “emancipation of humanity” and the establishment of a perfect social order.
In Lévi’s writings, the Baphomet does not only express a historical-political tradition, but also occult natural forces that are explained by his magical theory of the Astral Light. He developed this notion in the context of what has been called “spiritualist magnetism”: theories that stressed the religious implications of magnetism. Often, their representatives were socialists that believed in the social consequences of a “synthesis” of religion and science that was to be achieved by the means of magnetism. Spiritualist magnetists with a socialist background include the Baron du Potet and Henri Delaage, who served as main sources for Lévi. At the same time, Lévi polemicized against famed Catholic authors such as Jules-Eudes de Mirville and Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux, who regarded magnetism as the workings of demons and other infernal powers. The paragraph just before the passage cited in the previous section has to be seen against this background:
Let us state now for the edification of the vulgar, for the satisfaction of M. le Comte de Mirville, for the justification of the demonologist Bodin, for the greater glory of the Church, which persecuted Templars, burnt magicians, excommunicated Freemasons, &c. let us state boldly and precisely that all the inferior initiates of the occult sciences and profaners of the great arcanum, not only did in the past, but do now, and will ever, adore what is signified by this alarming symbol.
Goat of Mendes
At several places in the Delta, e.g. Hermopolis, Lycopolis, and Mendes, the god Pan and a goat were worshipped; Strabo, quoting (xvii. 1, 19) Pindar, says that in these places goats had intercourse with women, and Herodotus (ii. 46) instances a case which was said to have taken place in the open day. The Mendisians, according to this last writer, paid reverence to all goats, and more to the males than to the females, and particularly to one he-goat, on the death of which public mourning is observed throughout the whole Mendesian district; they call both Pan and the goat Mendes, and both were worshipped as gods of generation and fecundity. Diodorus compares the cult of the goat of Mendes with that of Priapus, and groups the god with the Pans and the Satyrs. The goat referred to by all these writers is the famous Mendean Ram, or Ram of Mendes, the cult of which was, according to Manetho, established by Kakau, a king of the second dynasty.
Historically, the deity that was venerated at Egyptian Mendes was a ram deity, Banebdjedet (literally Ba of the lord of djed, and titled “the Lord of Mendes”), who was the soul of Osiris. Lévi combined the images of the Tarot of Marseilles Devil card and refigured the ram Banebdjed as a he-goat, further imagined by him as “copulator in Anep and inseminator in the district of Mendes”.
The Baphomet of Lévi was to become an important figure within the cosmology of Thelema, the mystical system established by Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century. Baphomet features in the Creed of the Gnostic Catholic Church recited by the congregation in The Gnostic Mass, in the sentence: “And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mysteries, in His name BAPHOMET.”
In Magick (Book 4), Crowley asserted that Baphomet was a divine androgyne and “the hieroglyph of arcane perfection”, seen as that which reflects: “What occurs above so reflects below, or As above so below”.
The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… “The Devil” is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade “Know Thyself!” and taught Initiation. He is “The Devil” of The Book of Thoth, and His emblem is baphomet, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.— “Magick: Liber ABA, Book Four, Parts I–IV”
For Crowley, Baphomet is further a representative of the spiritual nature of the spermatozoa, while also being symbolic of the “magical child” produced as a result of sex magic. As such, Baphomet represents the Union of Opposites, especially as mystically personified in Chaos and Babalon combined and biologically manifested with the sperm and egg united in the zygote.
Crowley proposed that Baphomet was derived from “Father Mithras”. In his Confessions he describes the circumstances that led to this etymology:
I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters, and also that the numerical and literal correspondences must be such as to express the meaning of the name in such a way as to confirm what scholarship had found out about it, and also to clear up those problems which archaeologists had so far failed to solve … One theory of the name is that it represents the words βαφὴ μήτεος, the baptism of wisdom; another, that it is a corruption of a title meaning “Father Mithras”. Needless to say, the suffix R supported the latter theory. I added up the word as spelt by the Wizard. It totalled 729. This number had never appeared in my Cabbalistic working and therefore meant nothing to me. It however justified itself as being the cube of nine. The word κηφας, the mystic title given by Christ to Peter as the cornerstone of the Church, has this same value. So far, the Wizard had shown great qualities! He had cleared up the etymological problem and shown why the Templars should have given the name Baphomet to their so-called idol. Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.
Modern interpretations and usage
In 2014 The Satanic Temple commissioned an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) statue of Baphomet to stand alongside a monument of the Ten Commandments at Oklahoma State Capitol, citing “respect for diversity and religious minorities” as reasons for erecting the monument. After the Ten Commandments monument was vandalized, plans to erect the Baphomet statue were put on hold, as the Satanic Temple did not want their statue to stand alone by the Oklahoma capitol. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared all religious displays illegal, and on 25 July 2015 the statue was erected near a warehouse in Detroit, as a symbol of the modern Satanist movement. On August 16, 2018 the Satanic Temple unveiled a Baphomet statue in Little Rock, Arkansas, where another 10 Commandments monument had been installed in 2017, citing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Baphomet appears in Dungeons & Dragons as a powerful demon lord and is also known as the “Horned King”, or the “Prince of Beasts”. Baphomet is followed by minotaurs and other savage creatures. He desires the end of civilizations so all creatures may embrace their most basic, brutal instincts. He is described as a massive, black minotaur, with blood around his mouth and red eyes. He wears an iron crown topped with the heads of his enemies, along with spiked armor. He wields a huge glaive, named “Heartcleaver”, but commonly fights with his hooves, claws, and horns. He rules of the 600th layer of The Abyss, known as the “Endless Maze”, and is the sworn enemy of Yeenoghu, another demon lord.
Baphomet also serves as the main antagonist in the PC game Tristania 3D and is the worshipped deity of the evil Courbée Dominate society. The game’s storyline describes in depth that in fact Philip IV of France was the one who had worshipped Baphomet, not the Knights Templar, and he deliberately eradicated the entire order to make sure that this secret would remain undiscovered. In the last level, the protagonist must enter the afterlife to seek out and defeat Baphomet, however, he is protected by the shadows of his fallen worshippers in the previous levels, along with the ghost of Evil Empress and the protagonist’s former accomplice, Evil Twirl. The game depicts Baphomet very close to the original, except that it has a male torso and dragon-like wings, as opposed to feathered ones. Baphomet’s main attack is a lethal wall of fire, which causes severe damage and can be manifested in rapid successions. Baphomet also can turn himself invisible during his attack periods. Successfully defeating him shall win the game, albeit it is noted that defeating him does not mean that he is killed.
An interpretation of Baphomet, referred to as The Sword of Baphomet, forms part of the main plot in the 1996 point-and-click adventure game Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars developed by Revolution Software. It is the first game in the Broken Sword series. The player assumes the role of George Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris, as he attempts to unravel a conspiracy, much of which is influenced by and includes factual and fictional references and narrative devices relating to the history of the Knights Templar.
In the popular PC video game Doom II: Hell on Earth, in the final mission “Icon of Sin”, the titular antagonist has a look similar to that of early depictions of Baphomet.
In July 2015 YouTube star and singer Poppy depicted the deity in the music video for her single “Lowlife”. Poppy can be seen imitating the famous pose of Baphomet.
The 2018 Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a large statue of Baphomet displayed at the Academy of Unseen Arts. The Satanic Temple has accused the show of plagiarizing their depiction of Baphomet, though later settled out of court.
In the video game Doom Eternal, in the final mission “Final Sin”, the Icon of Sin has a resemblance to early depictions of Baphomet.
Iannis Stamatakos has pointed out that the name Baphomet, when interpreted through the universal transliteration of the letters with the Greek, is a basic atbash crypt, which splits the word in the middle and places the last part to the beginning of the word, spelling the word “Metapho(R)”, with the letter B inserted to add complexity. This would be consistent with occultists like Alistair Crowley, whose entire corpus of works is an extended joke.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia