It had occurred to me that in the entire course of my blog, let alone as a Satanist, I have never devoted a single page to Baphomet, easily one of the most iconic symbols of Satanism or the Left Hand Path. So for this post I would like to write about the history and symbolism of the Baphomet, and some of my own thoughts on the figure.
First the history, which in retrospect I’m sure some of you know. Baphomet was originally an idol that the Knights Templar were accused of worshipping. His name was a corruption of the name Mohammed, the prophet of the Islamic faith. By this time, the Crusades were happening and Christian Europe was engaged in war with the Muslims who had ruled Jerusalem at the time, so it was only natural that the name of Mohammed would be distorted into the name of a heretical idol. In reality, Baphomet was never worshiped by the Knights, and the accusation was an effort to suppress the Templars, who by then were gaining power and wealth to rival the papacy (the latter of which was likely highly desired by the French king Phillip IV). In the 19th century, the occultist Eliphas Levi created the image of Baphomet we know today, as demonstrated in the image above (sans the modern Satanic pentagram). His design, which was also known as The Sabbatic Goat or the Goat of Mendes (the latter possibly referring to the Egyptian deity Banebdjedet as described by the Greek historian Herodotus), was an expression of harmony between opposing forces such as light and darkness or mercy and justice, and Levi himself saw Baphomet as a symbolic expression of the absolute. It was noted to be similar to the Devil as he appears in the early Tarot cards, and Levi believed that the devil worship said to In 1966, Anton LaVey started the Church of Satan, the world’s first formal and organized expression of the ideals we refer to as Satanism, and he chose the head of the goat, or the Baphomet, as a symbol for this new tradition. The first appearance of a goat in an inverted pentagram was actually in a book titled La Clef de la Magie Noire, which was written by Stanislas de Guaita in 1897, and Anton LeVay simply adopted the symbol. Nevertheless, from then on, the goat and the goat pentagram would become a prominent symbol associated with Satan, Satanism, and the Left Hand Path in general.
Next, the symbolism of the Baphomet, which is quite rich, and every detail seems to point to some symbolic attribute. You have the iconic goat head with two horns with a torch between them, a female human torso, two feathered wings, two arms with one pointing up and one pointing down and one with the word Solve on it and the other with the word Coaglia on it, goat legs, and a disk with caduceus sitting between its legs. The presence of both female breasts and the caduceus between his legs marks harmony and duality of the forces of the male and female genders. His goat head and human torso and arms point to Baphomet as both human and beast. Each arm points towards light and towards darkness, and if you look closely at the caduceus between its legs, you’ll notice that one of the snakes is white and the other is black, also representative of light and darkness or shadow respectively. The words Solve and Coaglia that appear on each respective arm refers to the alchemical motto “Solve et Coaglia”, which refers to the dual forces of dissolution and coagulation, separation and joining together, and the breaking down of elements and their coming back together. You may also notice fish scales. It might appear to be a meaningless detail, but if you refer back to the lit torch between his horns, you might see that the fish scales are water in contrast to fire. His wings also represent the element of air, and he sits upon the globe representing earth. Thus, he brings together the four classical elements (though some might say the Baphomet sitting upon the globe fits into the idea of Satan as the lord of this world, with the globe being the world as a throne). In full, the Baphomet seems to represent the all the forces of the cosmos, the harmony between them, and the duality (or plurality) of this forces. In essence, he is actually more of an equivalent to the Taoist precepts of yin and yang, much unlike common non-traditional depictions of Baphomet which emphasize on his connection to Satan.
And now for some personal thoughts. Some might see the Baphomet as analogous to deities such as Cernunnos and other horned deities. I can see why that may be the case, but the more I think about the Baphomet and the full details of its symbolism, comparison to horned gods seems all too superficial. The figure of Baphomet reminds me more of deities such as Ometeotl (the lord of duality in Aztec lore), Quetzalcoatl (being a feathered serpent, he represents the powers of both heaven and earth), Shiva, particularly in the form of Ardhanarishvara (a fusion of Shiva and his wife Parvati/Shakti), and Phanes (primordial Greek deity of light who was both male and female). Though neither of those deities fit the description of a horned deity, they relate to the Baphomet’s deeper meaning, in that they all represent duality and harmony between various forces. That being the case, it now seems somewhat strange that the Baphomet is commonly depicted as a very dark and evil entity, likely from a typical Christian perception of Satanism. Many modern Baphomet depictions are simply too dark, they decry from the proper symbolism and focus only on the association with Satan. And yet, somehow the Baphomet’s association with Satan and Satanism makes the Baphomet that much stronger an image, and symbol, perhaps of a greater occult power, perhaps associated with Satan. But hey, that’s just my opinion.