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Baphomet

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As performed by
Tim the Enchanter

 Magic 
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By the powers of woo


Baphomet, by Eliphas Lévi. The arms bear the Latin words SOLVE (dissolve) and COAGULA (congeal).
Le Diable, from the 1889 Oswald Wirth Tarot.
The Satanic sigil of Baphomet, emblem of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan.
Freemasons gather to worship Baphomet; illustration from a book by "Leo Taxil".

Baphomet is a deity, demon and/or symbolic icon which originated in the 14th century as a supposed figure of worship of the Knights Templar. In those accounts, Baphomet was described as an inscribed head or human skull. The name "Baphomet" originally was a deformation of the name of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Claims that the Templars were worshipping "Baphomet" meant, in fact, that they were secret Muslims. Medieval European folklore did not recognize that Islam was a monotheistic faith, and imagined instead that Muslims prayed and sacrificed to a number of terrifying and evil imaginary deities.

In the 19th century, French occultist Eliphas Lévi formulated the modern conception of the figure via an illustration portraying it with wings, a horned goat's head and an emblazoned pentagram...and, oddly, breasts (though that might be unsurprising since it was drawn by a Frenchman). The Freemasons were thereafter accused of worshipping it, after which it was incorporated into the theology of Thelema, and in turn into the iconography of LaVeyan Satanism.

Owing to Levi's drawing and these associations, the figure, in a similar manner to Baal and Moloch, has (mistakenly) become virtually synonymous with Satan in popular consciousness, and it continues to be brought up in the present day by conspiracy theorists as the claimed god of whomever their boogeyman of choice is.

In the Templar confessions[edit]

In 1307, King Philip IV of France owed a lot of money to the Templars (and was furthermore angry at them because they wouldn’t let him become a member) and figured he could weasel out of it and take revenge on his creditors by slandering them into oblivion. On October 13, he ordered the arrest of hundreds within France on charges of all the usual suspects (heresy, apostasy, idolatry, devil worship, homosexual orgies, money laundering, etc.), and had them tortured until they confessed to anything he wanted to hear.

The worship of Baphomet was not, unto itself, one of the charges; however, a handful of the internees brought the name up on their own accord. It should be noted that the Templars' account of the figure offered at this point was different from that of the modern conception, described variously as: an idol with a human skull, a head with two faces, a cat idol or a bearded head. Whatever the case, the figure supposedly served a role in the Templars' initiation ceremonies.

Eliphas Levi and Baphomet[edit]

The image that everyone envisions when they hear the name "Baphomet" - that of a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on his head between his horns gesturing towards two crescent moons - did not appear until over 500 years after the business with the Templars. This image comes from Eliphas Lévi's 1854 Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (in English known as Transcendental Magic).

Lévi's depiction, for all its fame, is not particularly authentic to the historical description from the Templar trials, although it is not unlike gargoyles found on several Templar-built churches— or Viollet-le-Duc's vivid gargoyles added to Notre Dame de Paris about the same time as Lévi's illustration. Lévi's Baphomet also appears to be strongly influenced by the depiction of the Devil in the Tarot de Marseille. In turn, Levi's Baphomet image influenced the design of Devil cards in later Tarot decks made for the occult market.

Le Diable, from the Tarot de Marseille, ca. 1650.

Lévi explains the significance of his image of Baphomet as follows:

A pantheistic and magical figure of the Absolute. The torch placed between the two horns represents the equilibrating intelligence of the triad. The goat's head, which is synthetic, and unites some characteristics of the dog, bull, and ass, represents the exclusive responsibility of matter and the expiation of bodily sins in the body. The hands are human, to exhibit the sanctity of labour ; they make the sign of esotericism above and below, to impress mystery on initiates, and they point at two lunar crescents, the upper being white and the lower black, to explain the correspondences of good and evil, mercy and justice. The lower part of the body is veiled, portraying the mysteries of universal generation, which is expressed solely by the symbol of the caduceus. The belly of the goat is scaled, and should be coloured green ; the semi-circle above should be blue ; the plumage, reaching to the breast, should be of various hues. The goat has female breasts, and thus its only human characteristics are those of maternity and toil, otherwise the signs of redemption. On its forehead, between the horns and beneath the torch, is the sign of the microcosm, or the pentagram with one beam in the ascendant, symbol of human intelligence, which, placed thus below the torch, makes the flame of the latter an image of divine revelation. This Pantheos should be seated on a cube, and its footstool should be a single ball, or a ball and a triangular stool. In our design we have given the former only to avoid complicating the figure.
—Eliphas Levi, Transcendental magic, its doctrine and ritual

This seems rather lofty and abstract for a picture of a goat with human teats.

Baphomet as a demon[edit]

Baphomet, as Lévi's illustration suggests, has occasionally been misunderstood as a synonym of Satan or a demon, a member of the hierarchy of Hell. Jack Chick claims that he is a demon worshipped by Freemasons, a claim that apparently originated with the Taxil hoax. The head of Lévi's Baphomet was inscribed with a pentagram which is a symbol occasionally adopted by Wiccans and other students of the occult.

A goat head inscribed within an inverted pentagram, the upper points filled by the horns, the side points by the ears, and the bottom by the bearded chin, is a symbol occasionally adopted by Satanists and other followers of a "left hand path".

The Baphonument[edit]

In 2014 a Satanist group calling itself the Satanic Temple planned to install a monument featuring Baphomet at the Oklahoma state capitol (promoting "compassion and empathy among all living creatures"). This was in response to a Ten Commandments monument being approved on the same site, which had been seen as going against the separation of church and state.[1] The plan was put on hold when the Ten Commandments monument was destroyed by vandals later that year, but the group said that the Baphomet statue would be erected if the Ten Commandments monument was restored. [2] The Oklahoma Supreme Court controversally[3] banned all religious displays at the capitol and the controversial statue was later erected amid protests and emotional scenes in Detroit.[4]

The statue may be taken to Arkansas where another 10 Commandments monument has been authorised.[5] Formal requests have been made to put up monuments to the Big Ten and to Baphomet[6] and representatives for both proposals have held discussions.[7] An atheist group has applied to put up a brick wall called a, 'wall of separation' with quotes from the founding fathers and others about the importance of keeping religion and secular government separate. If the Ten Commandments monument is allowed and either of the other two are denied there will be a court case.[8] Legislation has been passed making erection of the wall and the Baphomet monument more difficult and the courts could get involved.[9]

Etymology of the name "Baphomet"[edit]

All non-occult scholars consider the name "Baphomet" to be a deformation of the Latinised "Mahomet", a mediæval European rendering of Muhammad, the name of the Prophet of Islam. Accusations of worshipping Baphomet therefore meant that the Templars were being accused of being secret Muslims. In medieval European folklore, Muslims were fancied to be "pagans" worshipping Muhammad as a deity, in addition to other fictional deities such as TermagantWikipedia's W.svg.[10] This seems clear from the accounts of the Templar trials, which mention Allah and Muhammad in addition to Baphomet:

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."[11]

Similarly, Austorc d'Aorlhac, a thirteenth century troubador, in Ai! Dieus! Per qu'as facha tan gran maleza[12], mentions Baphomet and Termagant in the same passage, as deities allegedly worshipped by Muslims:

...per qu'es razos qu'hom hueymais Dieu descreza
e qu'azorem Bafomet, lai on es,
Tervagan e sa companhia....
"So now it's reasonable that we abandon God, and that we worship Baphomet there where he stands, and Termagant and his companions."[13]

D'Aorlhac's poem was a lament for the defeat of the Seventh Crusade.

Occultists don't like to keep things this straightforward, though. A variety of other explanations have been proposed:

  • Montague Summers proposed that the word represents the Greek words 'Baphe' and 'Metis'. The two words together would mean "Baptism of Wisdom".
  • Atbash cipher for the Goddess Sophia. Dr Hugh Schonfield, one of the scholars who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed 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 becomes בפומת; interpreted using Atbash, it becomes שופיא, which can be interpreted as the Greek word "Sophia", or wisdom.
  • Idries Shah, writing as "Arkon Daraul" in his book on secret societies, proposed that "Baphomet" may actually derive from the Arabic word ابو فهمة Abufihamat, meaning "The Father of Understanding," and associated with Sufism.
  • Lévi proposed that the name was composed from a series of abbreviations: 'Temp. ohp. Ab.' which originates from Latin 'Templi omnium hominum pacis abhas,' meaning "the father of universal peace among men." An alternative reading could be tem. o. h. p. ab. for templi omnium hominum pacis abbas. The translation in this case is abbot of the temple of peace of all mankind, perhaps referring to the Templars themselves.

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