Baphomet

Fortean Times - - Lettes -

I en­joyed Christo­pher Josiffe’s ar­ti­cle on Baphomet [ FT365:28

35], but I would like to make a few com­ments. Only 74 cards sur­vive from theVis­conti-Sforza Tarot, and these do not in­clude a Devil. The card re­pro­duced on page 33 is a mod­ern artist’s con­cep­tion of what it might have looked like (as­sum­ing that the pack ever pos­sessed one).

Lévi may have taken the de­tail of a torch be­tween the Devil’s horns from the en­grav­ing of the witches’ sab­bat in Lau­rent Borde­lon, His­toire des imag­i­na­tions ex­trav­a­gantes de Mon­sieur Ou­fle, 1710. (This was re­pro­duced in Pen­nethorne Hughes, Witchcraft, where it was wrongly at­trib­uted to Spranger; in fact, it was a par­ody of the en­grav­ing that Spranger made for the 1613 edi­tion of Pierre de Lan­cre’s Tableau de l’in­con­stance des mavais anges et de­mons.) On page 168 of Tran­scen

den­tal Magic, Lévi him­self cited another source for his im­age, the al­chem­i­cal fig­ure shown in the fron­tispiece of Sieur de Nuise­ment, Traitez du vray Sel, 1621, from which he took the idea of Baphomet hav­ing a ca­duceus (a wand with in­ter­twined ser­pents) in­stead of a phal­lus. The gen­eral opin­ion now is that

An­cient Al­pha­bets was not by Ibn Wahshiyya, but that his name was put on the book by a slightly later au­thor, whose at­tempts to ex­plain Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyphs were com­pletely wrong.

‘Baphomet’ prob­a­bly be­gan as a ca­cophemism for Ma­homet, in the same way that an early critic of Nostradamus dubbed him ‘Mon­stradamus’. The name may then have in­cor­po­rated a pun in mediæ­val Cata­lan or Provençal whose point is now en­tirely lost. Gareth J Med­way London

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