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