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In Au­gust 2017, a con­glom­er­a­tion of far-right and neo-Nazi groups gath­ered in Charlottesville, Vir­ginia, os­ten­si­bly to protest the re­moval of a statue of Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral Robert E Lee. In­fa­mously, this ‘Unite the Right’ march left one per­son dead and 19 in­jured, demon­strat­ing the very real power of sym­bol and rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Two years ear­lier, in an­other part of the United States, a more un­con­ven­tional statue was the fo­cus of con­tro­versy and protest, for­tu­nately not re­sult­ing in vi­o­lence.

At a se­cret lo­ca­tion in Detroit, Michi­gan, in July 2015, The Satanic Tem­ple (a USbased or­gan­i­sa­tion whose HQ is lo­cated in Salem, Mas­sachusetts) erected a 9ft (2.7m)tall bronze statue of a winged, goat-headed, cloven-hoofed fig­ure, with two ador­ing chil­dren be­side him (see FT331:4). Although the Satanic Tem­ple has been com­pared to An­ton LaVey’s Church of Satan, the Tem­ple is more po­lit­i­cal in its aims, and with­out LaVey’s be­lief in the ef­fi­cacy of magic.

The Detroit statue has the right arm raised, with two fin­gers of the right hand form­ing a pa­pal ges­ture of bene­dic­tion. The left hand sim­i­larly gives a bless­ing, but with the arm rest­ing out­ward at waist height. The Satanic Tem­ple de­clared that their statue specif­i­cally rep­re­sented ‘Baphomet,’ as a dis­tinct form of Satan (for the Tem­ple, Satan rep­re­sents re­bel­lion, the re­jec­tion of all au­thor­ity, a re­fusal to ac­cept bound­aries or lim­its, the pri­macy of per­sonal sovereignty, and hu­mankind’s spirit of en­quiry).

Else­where, in some con­tem­po­rary Neo­pa­gan and Wic­can cir­cles, Baphomet has come to rep­re­sent un­tamed nature, a Panor Diony­sus-like fig­ure, the em­bod­i­ment of the life force. Trance, body magic, dance and sa­cred sex­u­al­ity were all fea­tures of Eu­pho­ria, an Aus­tralian Neo­pa­gan fes­ti­val that be­gan in 2000, tak­ing place in a ru­ral lo­ca­tion some­where out­side Mel­bourne, over a four-day pe­riod. Eu­pho­ria’s pre­sid­ing de­ity is Baphomet, and the erotic Baphomet Rite is at the heart of the fes­ti­val. 1 Here, Baphomet is un­am­bigu­ously ‘Other,’ be­yond ei­ther/or norms. Both male and fe­male, ter­ri­fy­ing and arous­ing, an en­emy and a friend. S/he is also, by virtue of her/his her­maph­ro­ditic at­tributes, a ‘gen­derqueer’ fig­ure op­pos­ing and chal­leng­ing het­eronor­ma­tive sex­ual or­tho­doxy. This Baphomet ap­pears to be de­rived at least in part from the goat-like Devil of the leg­endary mediæ­val Witches’ Sab­bat.

But what, orig­i­nally, did the name Baphomet de­note? And whence does the goat-headed fig­ure orig­i­nate? LEFT: The iconic Baphomet en­grav­ing from Éliphas Lévi’s Tran­scen­den­tal Magic. FAC­ING PAGE: The Satanic Tem­ple’s Baphomet statue, which was un­veiled in Detroit in 2015.

The im­agery of the Detroit sculp­ture is closely based upon an en­grav­ing that ap­pears in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute

Magie (1854-56, trans­lated by AE Waite

as Tran­scen­den­tal Magic: Its Doc­trine and

Rit­ual) by the sem­i­nal French es­o­teric writer Éliphas Lévi (real name Alphonse Louis Con­stant). Here it is cap­tioned: “The Sab­batic Goat: The Baphomet of Men­des.” Men­des was the Greek name for the an­cient Egyp­tian city of Djedet, whose in­hab­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to Herodotus, “con­sider all goats sa­cred, the male even more than the fe­male... one he-goat is most sa­cred of all; when he dies, it is or­dained that there should be great mourn­ing in all the Men­de­sian district. In the Egyp­tian lan­guage Men­des is the name both for the he-goat and for Pan.” 2

One of the city’s pa­tron deities was the ram god Baneb­d­jedet, some­times rep­re­sented as a goat. Djedet was also as­so­ci­ated with the wor­ship of Pan: “The Egyp­tians of whom I have spo­ken sac­ri­fice no goats, male or fe­male: the Men­de­sians reckon Pan among the eight gods who, they say, were be­fore the 12 gods.” 3

Lévi’s de­pic­tion of Baphomet dif­fers from that of the Satanic Tem­ple in that his is her­maph­ro­ditic, with a pair of fe­male breasts. It also has the al­chem­i­cal SOLVE (sep­a­rate, dis­solve) and COAGULA (unite, join to­gether) upon the right and left fore­arms re­spec­tively, and fea­tures two cres­cent Moons, one light and one dark, be­hind each hand. Both Baphomets fea­ture a pen­ta­gram be­tween their horns, a torch atop their heads, and both have a ca­duceus aris­ing from their groin ar­eas. In­ter­pre­ta­tions of Lévi’s de­sign tend to em­pha­sise its uni­fi­ca­tion of op­po­sites, male-

Baphomet is un­am­bigu­ously ‘Other’, be­yond ei­ther/or norms

fe­male, good-evil, day-night: a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of to­tal­ity, the Uni­ver­sal. Lévi him­self de­scribed it as a “pan­the­is­tic and mag­i­cal fig­ure of the Ab­so­lute”. The goat’s head rep­re­sents mat­ter and the phys­i­cal body, whilst the fig­ure’s wings sig­nify its heav­enly as­pi­ra­tion or nature. The four el­e­ments are present: two hooves are placed on a globe (earth); fish scales adorn the belly (wa­ter); its wings de­note air, and a fiery torch blazes be­tween its two horns.

Else­where in Tran­scen­den­tal Magic, Lévi re­it­er­ates his be­lief that the fig­ure of Baphomet is em­blem­atic of oc­cult phi­los­o­phy as a whole, that which lay con­cealed in the myths of pre-Clas­si­cal Greece, in Kab­balah, the

Cor­pus Her­meticum and the Great Work of the al­chemists, for “they are ex­pres­sions of the dif­fer­ent applications of one same se­cret”. 4 Of the Great Work specif­i­cally, he says: “The Gnos­tics rep­re­sented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit; it was the ob­ject of ado­ra­tion in the se­cret rites of the Sab­bath and the Tem­ple, un­der the hiero­glyphic fig­ure of Baphomet or the An­drog­yne of Men­des.” 5

It has some­times been sug­gested that Lévi’s in­spi­ra­tion for his en­grav­ing was a carved head on the fa­cade of the Tem­plar Com­man­dery build­ing in Saint Bris-le-Vineux, roughly 150km (93 miles) south-east of Paris. 6 How­ever, in the present au­thor’s opin­ion, Lévi, a Parisian, is more likely to have been in­spired by an­other carv­ing that ap­pears on the ex­te­rior of the 16th-cen­tury Gothic church of Saint-Merri, near the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre in Paris. It re­sem­bles Lévi’s Baphomet in sev­eral re­spects: a winged, horned, de­monic fig­ure with fe­male breasts, squat­ting on a pedestal or plinth. Goya’s haunt­ing, dream-like paint­ing El

Aque­larre (The Witches’ Sab­bath, 1798), where an enor­mous goat pre­sides over the coven, may well have been an­other in­flu­ence. Like Lévi’s Baphomet, the goat sits up­right, el­e­vated upon a mound, arms aloft. A cres­cent moon ap­pears in the back­ground. An­other pos­si­ble source or in­spi­ra­tion is the goat-headed, winged Devil who ap­pears in sev­eral il­lus­tra­tions in Francesco Maria Guazzo’s 1608 Com­pen­dium Malefi­carum, with hu­mans mak­ing obei­sance in each one.


The Knights Tem­plar (whose full ti­tle was the Poor Fel­low-Sol­diers of Christ and of the Tem­ple of Solomon; see FT193:38-41) are, of course, in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with Baphomet. Lévi ap­pears to have con­flated Baneb­d­jedet, the goat or ram de­ity of Men­des, with Baphomet, the al­leged ob­ject of wor­ship of the Tem­plars. In early 14th­cen­tury records of Tem­plar in­ter­ro­ga­tions and tri­als, the name ‘Baphomet’ some­times ap­pears; ‘Ma­homet’ is also recorded. It is be­lieved by many that the name ‘Baphomet’ was orig­i­nally de­rived from ‘Ma­homet’ (i.e. the prophet Mo­hammed), with the sug­ges­tion that dur­ing the Cru­sades, the Tem­plars had come into too close contact with the Sara­cen foe, and had adopted some of their re­li­gious prac­tices.

Doc­u­men­ta­tion of in­ter­ro­ga­tions and trial tes­ti­mony cer­tainly make men­tion of Tem­plar wor­ship of an idol, some­times de­scribed as a head. But there was no con­sen­sus re­gard­ing its phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance; the de­scrip­tions (many de­rived through tor­ture) of the idol are var­ied, and do not re­sem­ble Lévi’s goat-headed fig­ure. The pa­pal

Ar­ti­cles of Ac­cu­sa­tion is­sued in Au­gust 1308, de­tail­ing the charges against the Knights Tem­plar, stated: Item, that in each prov­ince they had idols, namely heads, of which some had three faces, and some one, and oth­ers had a hu­man skull. Item, that they adored th­ese idols or that idol, and es­pe­cially in their great chap­ters and assem­blies. Item, that they ven­er­ated [them]. Item, that [they ven­er­ated them] as God.

Item, that [they ven­er­ated them] as their Saviour.

Item, that they said that that head could save them. Item, that [it could] make riches. Item, that it gave them all the riches of the Or­der. Item, that it made the trees flower. Item, that [it made] the land ger­mi­nate. 7

Else­where, one reads of the Tem­plars’ idol as: a gilded or brazen head or other reli­quary; a paint­ing on a wall or beam of wood; hav­ing two faces; hav­ing four faces; a long-bearded man’s head; “a face of flesh… with the hairs of a dog… very bluish in colour and stained”. 8 Fre­quently, too, a cat (long as­so­ci­ated, of course, with witch­craft and the Devil) is men­tioned as an ob­ject of wor­ship. Nowhere, how­ever, is the idol de­scribed as re­sem­bling a goat, although one Tem­plar de­scribed it as a head with “two small horns and pos­sess­ing the abil­ity to re­ply to ques­tions put to it.” 9

It should be noted that de­spite our fo­cus upon th­ese al­le­ga­tions of idol-wor­ship, the ma­jor­ity of Tem­plar con­fes­sions were con­cerned with the de­nial and refu­ta­tion of Je­sus Christ as Saviour and Son of God. Thus, of 231 Tem­plars ex­am­ined dur­ing the Paris in­qui­si­tions, the ma­jor­ity ad­mit­ted to hav­ing de­nied Christ and to hav­ing defiled the Cross, but only a very few con­fessed to the idol­a­trous wor­ship of a head. Re­nun­ci­a­tion of Christ was the pri­mary ac­cu­sa­tion, from which the oth­ers sprang.

Whether or not the Tem­plars were gen­uine heretics, with re­li­gious and mys­ti­cal views far re­moved from main­stream Chris­tian­ity, is still a mat­ter for de­bate. One per­sua­sive school of thought has it that the sus­pects, many of whom were sub­jected to tor­ture, were merely re­gur­gi­tat­ing the fan­tasies of the in­quisi­tors. Nor­man Cohn, in his Europe’s In­ner Demons (Sus­sex Univer­sity Press, 1975) notes that sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions that had been lev­elled at Jews, witches and sim­i­lar ‘oth­ered’ groups were also aimed at the Tem­plars. 10 Thus, they were ac­cused of con­sort­ing with beau­ti­ful fe­male demons, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, spit­ting on cru­ci­fixes, the wor­ship of idols (th­ese idols some­times anointed with the fat of burnt chil­dren), and us­ing the ashes of burnt Tem­plar bod­ies to make a po­tent mag­i­cal pow­der.

Any at­tempt to dis­en­tan­gle this con­vo­luted his­tory must first es­tab­lish whether the name ‘Baphomet’ re­ally was used by mediæ­val Chris­tian writ­ers in place of ‘Ma­homet’ (Mo­hammed). And there are in­deed sev­eral ex­am­ples of this. Thus, a song com­posed by the trou­ba­dour Aus­torc d’Aorl­hac, lament­ing the de­feat of the Sev­enth Cru­sade in 1250, con­tains the lines:

Chris­tian­ity has been given a very great blow,

Such a great loss I be­lieve us not to have suf­fered [be­fore];

For this rea­son that we may as well aban­don our be­lief in God, And [in­stead] wor­ship Bafomet [Mo­hammed] right there… 11

An­other Trou­ba­dour song (at­trib­uted to one Ri­caut Bonomel, be­lieved to have been a Tem­plar) takes as its theme the se­ries of de­feats that be­fell the Cru­sader king­dom in 1265. It con­tains the fol­low­ing lines:

And we are de­feated ev­ery day Be­cause God sleeps, who once stood watch, And Bafometz [Mo­hammed] acts with all his power… 12

An Old French epic poem, the Chan­son

de Geste de Si­mon de Pouille, writ­ten circa 1235, takes as its theme a Frank­ish cru­sade against the Sara­cens at the time of Charle­magne. Here, the name ‘Ba­fumetz’ ap­pears to be one of sev­eral pa­gan gods be­lieved by mediæ­val Chris­tians to be wor­shipped by Mus­lims, the oth­ers be­ing Ter­ma­gant, Jupiter and Apol­lyon. 13

Note that all the above ref­er­ences to Baphomet pre­ceded by sev­eral decades those which ap­pear in the Tem­plars’ in­ter­ro­ga­tions and tri­als, demon­strat­ing that the name was in ex­is­tence well be­fore.

It is some­thing of an irony that, due to a pro­found ig­no­rance of Is­lam by much of Western Chris­ten­dom, many in mediæ­val Europe viewed Mus­lims as idol­aters who wor­shipped Mo­hammed. Ironic, con­sid­er­ing Is­lam’s ab­hor­rence of ‘graven images’, a func­tion of its un­com­pro­mis­ing monothe­ism. So strong was this mis­taken as­so­ci­a­tion that the words ‘Ma­homet’ and ‘Baphomet’ be­came syn­ony­mous with idols; ‘ma­homet’ mor­phed into ‘mam­met’ or ‘mom­met,’ mean­ing a false god, a life­less pup­pet or ef­figy; al­ter­na­tively, a witch’s pop­pet or doll, used to work sym­pa­thetic magic.

It is im­por­tant to em­pha­sise that, prior to the Tem­plar in­qui­si­tions and tri­als, there had been no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that the Knights were as­so­ci­ated with an idol in the form of a head (whether named Baphomet or not), just ru­mour. More­over, de­spite thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tions and searches, no such head was ever found in any Tem­plar build­ings through­out Europe. It’s been pro­posed that the cult of relics (which was not with­out its crit­ics at the time) may have led to th­ese charges of idol­a­try; Holy relics were pop­u­lar through­out the Chris­tian world; they might be the ac­tual skull of a saint, or a jew­elled, gilded replica. As for the Tem­plars, it has been ar­gued that their rev­er­ence for the skulls of two mar­tyrs (Saints Euphemia and Ur­sula) had been de­lib­er­ately mis­un­der­stood.

An­other ru­mour, the sus­pi­cion that the Knights Tem­plar had, dur­ing their long so­journ in the Mid­dle East, ‘gone na­tive’ and adopted Sara­cen cus­toms and re­li­gion, was ex­plic­itly given voice in in­ter­ro­ga­tion tes­ti­mony, which had the newly ini­ti­ated Knight spit­ting and tram­pling upon a

There was a sus­pi­cion that the Knights Tem­plar had gone na­tive in the Mid­dle East

cru­ci­fix, then be­ing led to the Baphomet idol ac­com­pa­nied by cries of “Yalla” – very sim­i­lar to the Ara­bic “Ya Al­lah”. Again, it is quite prob­a­ble that the sleep-and food­de­prived, dis­ori­en­tated and in some cases tor­tured pris­on­ers were merely echo­ing the in­ter­roga­tors’ own be­liefs and fan­tasies.

It has also been sug­gested that the blas­phe­mous el­e­ments of the ini­ti­a­tion did ac­tu­ally take place, but were a form of train­ing whereby the novice war­rior-monk was shown what he might ex­pect were he to be cap­tured by the Sara­cens (much as the train­ing of an SAS man prior to be­ing posted to North­ern Ire­land dur­ing the ‘Trou­bles’ would sim­u­late cap­ture and in­ter­ro­ga­tion by the IRA). It was per­mis­si­ble for him to re­nounce Christ by such out­ward demon­stra­tion, pro­vided that he re­mained faith­ful in his heart, re­cant­ing and re­pent­ing at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity.

Leav­ing aside the ques­tion of whether the Knights had ever de­nied Christ as the true God, it seems most likely that their wor­ship of Baphomet, the idol­a­trous head, was an in­ven­tion of their in­quisi­tors, per­haps based in part upon a grow­ing an­tipa­thy to­wards the cult of relics, and in part in­spired by mediæ­val tra­di­tions of orac­u­lar heads, Roger Ba­con (c1220-1292) and his fa­bled brazen head be­ing the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple.


Lévi’s Baphomet was ev­i­dently the model for artist Pamela Col­man Smith’s de­sign for the 15th Tarot Trump, the Devil, in the cel­e­brated Rider-Waite Tarot deck, first pub­lished in 1910. How­ever, an­other cel­e­brated deck (or rather, a se­ries of decks), the Tarot de Mar­seilles, was in ex­is­tence around 200 years be­fore that; here, Le Di­able bears a marked sim­i­lar­ity to Lévi’s 1850s en­grav­ing, with its horns, wings and fe­male breasts. Again, one arm ges­tures heav­en­wards, whilst the other points to­wards Earth, or to Hell. In his

Tran­scen­den­tal Magic, Lévi men­tions the “Ital­ian Tarot” (then a syn­onym for the Tarot de Mar­seilles) sev­eral times. How­ever, com­pare th­ese with the Devil of the far older-Vis­conti-Sforza Tarot, dat­ing from the mid-15th cen­tury, the artist Boni­fa­cio Bembo hav­ing been com­mis­sioned by the Vis­conti and Sforza ducal fam­i­lies of Mi­lan.

From this, it ap­pears prob­a­ble that early Tarot designs had in­flu­enced Lévi, just as his own Sab­batic Goat was to be the in­spi­ra­tion for so many sub­se­quent de­pic­tions that helped to dis­sem­i­nate the im­age among a wider pub­lic. The RiderWaite Tarot is thought to be the best-sell­ing and ar­guably best-known Tarot deck in the world. And, cir­cu­lat­ing the im­age still fur­ther, the no­to­ri­ous but suc­cess­ful late-19th cen­tury anti-Ma­sonic hoaxes of French jour­nal­ist and au­thor Léo Taxil (real name Gabriel Jo­gand-Pagès) utilised Lévi’s Baphomet in their ef­forts to smear Freema­sonry as a Satanic con­spir­acy.


Taxil’s ac­cu­sa­tions were not new. Around 80 years be­fore his spu­ri­ous claims were pub­lished, and around 50 years be­fore Lévi’s sem­i­nal Baphomet il­lus­tra­tion first saw the light of day, an­other text was pub­lished, one that is sig­nif­i­cant in the con­struc­tion of the Baphomet myth. This was Baron Joseph von Ham­mer-Pürgstall’s Mys­terium Baphome­tis

Reve­la­tum (a sec­tion from his larger Fund­gruben des Ori­ents (Trea­sures of the

East, 1818), in which the Aus­trian his­to­rian adopted a dis­tinctly hos­tile po­si­tion to­wards the Knights Tem­plar. Von Ham­mer re­garded the Tem­plars as one of a long line of heretics, be­gin­ning with Gnos­tic sects, specif­i­cally the Ophites, through the Al­bi­gen­sians, by way of Has­san i Sab­bah’s As­sas­sins, lead­ing ul­ti­mately to En­light­en­ment Freema­sonry. A fer­vent re­ac­tionary, he sought to por­tray the rad­i­cals of the French Rev­o­lu­tion as heirs to cer­tain blas­phe­mous and evil ide­olo­gies of the past. He was, in ef­fect, an early con­spir­acy the­o­rist, with a Fou­cault’s

Pen­du­lum- style ‘grand uni­fied’ the­ory – nu­mer­ous se­cret so­ci­eties through­out the cen­turies as in­car­na­tions of a sin­gle body ded­i­cated to the achieve­ment of their ul­ti­mate goals of power and dom­i­na­tion.

In sup­port of his ar­gu­ment that Baphomet had not been a mere in­ven­tion of the Tem­plars’ in­quisi­tors, von Ham­mer of­fered

as ev­i­dence var­i­ous carved and en­graved arte­facts from the late Clas­si­cal to mediæ­val pe­ri­ods. Th­ese sup­pos­edly de­picted Baphomet amidst hereti­cal, or­gias­tic and sac­ri­fi­cial rites, and were, he claimed, il­lus­tra­tive of sur­viv­ing Gnos­tic be­liefs which were en­thu­si­as­ti­cally con­tin­ued by the Knights Tem­plar. Line draw­ings of many of th­ese ob­jects ap­pear in Mys­terium

Baphome­tis Reve­la­tum. It should be noted that, today, the gen­eral con­sen­sus among con­tem­po­rary his­to­ri­ans holds th­ese arte­facts to have been forg­eries. 14 Some years prior to writ­ing his Mys­terium

Baphome­tis Reve­la­tum, von Ham­mer had also

trans­lated An­cient Al­pha­bets and Hiero­glyphic Char­ac­ters Ex­plained, a mys­te­ri­ous text by the 9th- or 10th- cen­tury Ara­bic his­to­rian and al­chemist Ibn Wahshiyya the Na­batean, who is be­lieved to have (at least par­tially) de­ci­phered the an­cient Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyph writ­ing sys­tem, some 800 years be­fore the French philol­o­gist Cham­pol­lion. In An­cient

Al­pha­bets, af­ter sev­eral pages of hi­ero­glyphs and their mean­ings (said by Ibn Wahshiyya to rep­re­sent the ‘Her­me­sian lan­guage’) is a cu­ri­ous beetle-bod­ied, winged fig­ure named as ‘Bahumed.’ “This fig­ure,” writes Ibn Wahshiyya, “is ex­pres­sive of the most sub­lime se­cret, called orig­i­nally Bahumed and Kharuf (or calf) viz. The Se­cret of the nature of the world, or The Se­cret of Se­crets, or The Be­gin­ning and Re­turn of ev­ery thing.” 15

Von Ham­mer of­fered his own et­y­mol­ogy for the name Baphomet, sug­gest­ing that it was de­rived from the Greek βαφη ( bafo) and

μητεοϛ ( meti), that is, “the Gnos­tic bap­tism, which was not per­formed by the wa­ter of re­demp­tion, but was a spir­i­tual lus­tra­tion by fire: BAFOMET there­fore sig­ni­fies il­lu­mi­na­tion of the spirit.” 16

150 years later, Idries Shah pro­posed an alternative deriva­tion. Writ­ing as ‘Arkon Da­raul’ in his Se­cret So­ci­eties (Fred­er­ick Muller, 1961), he sug­gests ‘Baphomet’ to be a cor­rup­tion of the Ara­bic abu fi­hamat (fa­ther of un­der­stand­ing). Else­where, Lévi had ar­gued that the name was com­posed of three abbreviations, TEM. OHP. AB., that is, Tem­pli

om­nium hominum pacis ab­bas (‘the fa­ther of the tem­ple of uni­ver­sal peace among men’). Why it should have been in re­verse or­der Lévi did not ex­plain; per­haps it was an echo of the back­ward liturgy of the Satanic Black Mass. 17

Whether von Ham­mer’s the­sis has any va­lid­ity or not (and most modern his­to­ri­ans give him short shrift), it is prob­a­ble that Mys­terium Baphome­tis Reve­la­tum, par­tic­u­larly the im­agery of the line draw­ings, was a ma­jor in­flu­ence upon Lévi’s con­cep­tion of Baphomet.


Nine­teenth-cen­tury Ro­man­tic au­thors helped keep the leg­end of the Knights Tem­plar alive; but more than that, the Ro­man­tics are in large part re­spon­si­ble for the mys­tique in which the Tem­plars are now cloaked. Much pop­u­lar be­lief now views them as repos­i­to­ries of an­cient wis­dom, of pow­er­ful mag­i­cal knowl­edge, rather than sim­ple Cru­sad­ing war­riors or bankers. A neg­a­tive ver­sion of this sees them as an Il­lu­mi­nati-style se­cret society bent on world dom­i­na­tion. Balzac por­trayed them as the guardians of es­o­teric se­crets passed down from Chaldea, In­dia, Per­sia, Egypt and Morocco. In con­trast, Wal­ter Raleigh’s Tem­plars are ruth­less and fa­nat­i­cal, with­out re­li­gion or moral val­ues, in­tent only on ac­cu­mu­lat­ing and con­sol­i­dat­ing their power. The poet Gérard de Ner­val saw the cru­sad­ing Tem­plars as a se­cret and mys­ti­cal society that had sought to syn­the­sise Catholi­cism with the ideas of Mid­dle Eastern sects like the Druze, Gnos­tics and Essenes. The Druze, he wrote in his Voy­ages en Ori­ent, “have been com­pared to the Pythagore­ans, the Essenes, the Gnos­tics, and it ap­pears that the Tem­plars, the Rouge-Croix and the modern Freema­sons bor­rowed many of their ideas.” 18 He also claimed that the Druze em­ploy a black stone as a means of recog­nis­ing one an­other, and that “this Stone must be the bo­homet (lit­tle idol) which is re­ferred to in the trial of the Tem­plars.” 19 Pre­sum­ably this black stone is a lit­er­ary echo of the sa­cred Kaaba of Mecca, but, in the sense of a mys­te­ri­ous stone with its own re­con­dite name, it is also pe­cu­liarly rem­i­nis­cent of Ken­neth Grant’s Cult of the Black Stone, Ix­ax­aar (by way of Arthur Machen’s Novel of the Black Seal. 20


Men­tion of Ken­neth Grant in­evitably leads us on to Aleis­ter Crow­ley; in­deed, a dis­cus­sion of Baphomet would be in­com­plete with­out men­tion of the Beast. At the start of the 20th cen­tury, a group of high­rank­ing Ger­man and Aus­trian Freema­sons es­tab­lished the Or­der of Ori­en­tal Tem­plars, or Ordo Tem­pli Ori­en­tis (OTO). It dif­fered from other Ma­sonic or­ders in that it placed sex­ual magic, teach­ings ap­par­ently de­rived from In­dian yo­gins, at its core. The tri­als of the 14th cen­tury hav­ing linked the Knights Tem­plar with un­usual sex­ual prac­tices in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion meant that the name of the or­der was ap­po­site. Just over 10 years later, in 1912, Theodor Reuss, then head of the OTO, ap­pointed Crow­ley to be the Or­der’s head in Great Britain, his full ti­tle be­ing Supreme and Holy King of Ire­land, Iona

and all the Bri­tains within the Sanc­tu­ary of

the Gno­sis. Crow­ley took the mag­i­cal name of Baphomet. By so do­ing, he was as­so­ci­at­ing him­self not only with the es­o­teric and proto-Ma­sonic wis­dom of the Tem­plars, but also, per­haps, with Satanism, by way of the blas­phe­mous, sex­u­alised im­age of Lévi’s Men­des goat. “This ser­pent, SATAN,” Crow­ley wrote, “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 [i.e. the Tarot], and his em­blem is BAPHOMET, the An­drog­yne who is the hi­ero­glyph of ar­cane per­fec­tion.” 21 This is Satan or Lu­cifer as Light-bringer, teacher of hu­mankind, en­cour­ag­ing us child­like, timid hu­mans to be­come free-think­ing and in­de­pen­dent. This benev­o­lent Devil was por­trayed by the sculp­tor of The Satanic Tem­ple’s Detroit Baphomet, who keeps a kindly watch over his two wards, the ador­ing boy and girl; whereas the Devil in the RiderWaite Tarot shows the man and woman in chains, enslaved to him by their phys­i­cal de­sires.

Dur­ing the 1918 Amalantrah Work­ing, Rod­die Mi­nor, one of Crow­ley’s Scar­let Women, acted as a medium and com­mu­ni­cated (whilst in an opium trance) with an en­tity known as the Wiz­ard Amalantrah. Crow­ley en­quired of the Wiz­ard the cor­rect way to spell Baphomet (us­ing He­brew let­ters). He was in­formed that there was an ad­di­tional ‘R’ at the end – BAFVMIThR – which name he as­so­ci­ated with Mithras. And, by gema­tria, this spell­ing yielded the num­ber 729 (9 x 9 x 9). Crow­ley wrote: “This num­ber had never ap­peared in my Ca­bal­is­tic work­ing and there­fore meant noth­ing to me. It how­ever jus­ti­fied it­self as the cube of nine. The word Κηφᾶς [kephas], 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… 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.” 22

Per­haps the cube upon which Baphomet sits in the fa­mous en­grav­ing by Lévi (who, in­ci­den­tally, was claimed by Crow­ley as a pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion) may be in­ter­preted as the Tem­ple’s cor­ner­stone, a sym­bol of Ma­sonry as well as of Christ (“the stone which the builders re­jected is be­come the head of the cor­ner” – Mark 12:10). Whilst Lévi de­nied that his Baphomet was to be equated with the Devil, propos­ing that the fig­ure be re­garded as a sym­bol of ini­ti­a­tion, such a link had been made else­where. The 18th-cen­tury Ger­man the­olo­gian and Freema­son Jo­hann Au­gust Starck ap­pears to have been the first to have made this sug­ges­tion, in his 1766 Canon of the Tem­ple. This iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Baphomet with Satan has proved to be a per­sis­tent one. The so-called Sigil of Baphomet (a goat’s head within a pen­ta­gram), a vari­ant im­age on the Baphomet theme, has be­come pop­u­lar in re­cent years ow­ing to its adop­tion by var­i­ous heavy metal groups (see, for ex­am­ple, Ge­ordie proto-black­metal bandVenom’s 1981 de­but al­bum Wel­come to Hell). In fact, the de­sign had ap­peared on an ear­lier al­bum cover: the Church of Satan’s Satanic Mass LP from 1968. As well as a record­ing of a Satanic Mass it­self, the LP in­cluded some spo­ken-word ma­te­rial that was sub­se­quently pub­lished in the Satanic Bible, whose cover also fea­tured the Sigil. The Church of Satan’s founder An­ton LaVey is cred­ited with hav­ing cre­ated the Sigil; how­ever, it does have a 19th-cen­tury an­tecedent. Stanis­las de Guaita, the fin-de-siè­cle French poet, mys­tic, cab­bal­ist and Rosi­cru­cian pub­lished his La Clef de la Magie Noire in 1897; 23 an il­lus­tra­tion on page 387 shows two pen­ta­grams, one of which is in­verted. This lat­ter has a goat’s

head within the pen­ta­gram, sur­rounded by five He­brew let­ters at each of its points. Th­ese spell LVYTN or Le­viathan, the mon­strous sea beast from the Old Tes­ta­ment and the Apocrypha; and as de Guaita’s de­sign also bears the names of Sa­mael and Lilith. 24 It’s clear why this pen­ta­gram is re­versed, point­ing down­wards to­wards Earth or to Hell (in con­trast to the up­ward-point­ing pen­ta­gram with the names of Adam, Eve and a Cab­bal­is­tic spell­ing of Christ in He­brew let­ters) and why LaVey co-opted it.

This ‘Le­viathan’ Sigil is be­lieved to have been de­signed for de Guaita by Oswald Wirth, who later pro­duced his own Tarot deck. 25 More re­cently, the im­age was re­pro­duced in Mau­rice Bessy’s 1962 His­toire

en 1000 Images de la Magie. 26 Bessy’s book was LaVey’s source for the im­age, but whilst the Church of Satan’s im­age kept the He­brew let­ters, it dropped the names of Lilith and Sa­mael. Per­haps the He­brew ap­peared more es­o­teric, but more im­por­tantly, LaVey wished to re­tain the name Le­viathan, who (ac­cord­ing to the 15th-cen­tury Book of

Abramelin) is one of the four Crown Princes of Hell; he rep­re­sents the el­e­ment of wa­ter and the West quar­ter.

As the of­fi­cial sym­bol of the Church of Satan and of LaVeyan Satanism, the Sigil of Baphomet is avail­able in nu­mer­ous forms world­wide (check eBay for em­broi­dered Baphomet patches, T-shirts, hood­ies and the like). This, of course, has helped to spread aware­ness and recog­ni­tion of the name Baphomet.


Baphomet is ar­guably now more pop­u­lar than ever be­fore. In 2003, nov­el­ist Dan Brown brought the name to the at­ten­tion of mil­lions who would pre­vi­ously have been un­aware of the goat-headed one. In The Da Vinci Code, Brown pro­poses that ‘Baphomet’ is sim­ply an en­coded form of the Greek word sophia (wis­dom), us­ing, some­what tor­tu­ously, the

At­bash sub­sti­tu­tion ci­pher. 27 Prior to Brown was Baigent, Leigh and Lin­coln’s best-sell­ing

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982). Here, the Tem­plars are on a top-se­cret archæo­log­i­cal dig be­neath Jerusalem’s Tem­ple Mount at the end of the 11th cen­tury, where they ap­par­ently find proof of Je­sus’s mar­riage to Mary Mag­da­lene, their chil­dren, and the con­tin­u­ing blood­line. Keith Lai­dler went one bet­ter in his The Head of God: The Lost Trea­sure of the Tem­plars (1998), in which the Tem­plars dig up the em­balmed head of Je­sus; this clearly ref­er­ences the Tem­plar in­ter­ro­ga­tions and tri­als and the al­le­ga­tions of idol­a­try cen­tred on a head they called Baphomet.

The fig­ure of Baphomet is, whether named as such or not, an en­dur­ing one; an im­age and a char­ac­ter that speaks to our un­con­scious de­sires, the al­lure of trans­gres­sion and of blurred de­mar­ca­tion lines. Baphomet­themed T-shirts, hood­ies, stat­uettes, mo­bile phone cases and more are of­fered on eBay and Ama­zon; even a tra­di­tional Baphomet Christ­mas knit­ted jumper is avail­able.

Has the com­mod­i­fied re­bel­lion and con­sumer trans­gres­sion of late cap­i­tal­ism kept Baphomet in the pub­lic eye, and in the bas­kets of on­line shop­ping web­sites? Some of the afore­men­tioned Baphomet prod­ucts bear no re­sem­blance to Lévi’s de­sign, in­stead fea­tur­ing up­side-down pen­ta­grams, the num­ber ‘666’ and so on: generic shop­ping-mall Satanist trin­kets. Clearly the name is a fa­mil­iar one, and thus suc­cess­ful as a mar­ket­ing tool. No doubt, Crow­ley’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Baphomet helped keep the name, if noth­ing else, in the spot­light. Might one ar­gue that Crow­ley’s bi­sex­u­al­ity was a pre­cur­sor to the sex­ual lib­er­a­tion of the last 50 years? Or that his plac­ing sex and sex­u­al­ity at the heart of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence pre­fig­ured its cen­tral­ity in today’s pop­u­lar cul­ture? Baphomet, as a vari­ant of Satan, may be said to rep­re­sent unashamed sex­u­al­ity and the plea­sures of bod­ily ex­pe­ri­ence. Per­haps that is one rea­son for her/his con­tin­ued pop­u­lar­ity today.

Un­like Detroit, the United King­dom does not yet boast its own Baphomet statue. Surely that time has come, and, just as Lon­don’s ICA re­cently dis­played a giant Pazuzu on its roof, I look for­ward to see­ing a winged, horned, goat-headed her­maph­ro­dite stand­ing tall and proud upon Trafal­gar Square’s Fourth Plinth.

ABOVE LEFT: Carv­ings on the Tem­plar Com­man­dery build­ing in Saint Bris-le-Vineux in­clude a Baphomet-like head. ABOVE RIGHT: An­other carv­ing, on the church of Saint-Merri in Paris, bears an even closer re­sem­blance to Lévi’s Baphomet. BE­LOW: Goya’s 1798 paint­ing El Aquel­lare might have been an­other in­flu­ence on Lévi.

ABOVE: An­other pos­si­ble source for Lévi’s Baphomet is the goat-headed, winged Devil seen in nu­mer­ous il­lus­tra­tions in Guazzo’s Com­pen­dium Malefi­carum of 1608.

ABOVE: Freema­sons dressed as Knights Tem­plar wor­ship Baphomet in an en­grav­ing from Les Mys­teres de la Franc-ma­con­nerie by Leo Taxil.

ABOVE: Var­i­ous Tarot decks ei­ther pre­fig­ure or echo Lévi’s Baphomet: (left to right) The Rider-Waite Tarot, the Tarot de Mar­seilles and the Vis­conti-Sforza Tarot. LEFT: One of von Ham­mer’s prob­a­bly forged an­cient rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Baphomet. BE­LOW: The beetle-bod­ied, winged fig­ure of ‘Bahumed’ in An­cient Al­pha­bets.

BE­LOW: The Sigil also ap­peared on the Church’s 1968 Satanic Mass LP, and th­ese days adorns T-shirts, hood­ies and even sea­sonal knitwear.

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