The ram and the devil

Goat of Mendes by BlackRoseImmortal666 on Deviantart

Last year (well almost) I wrote a post about the archetype of the ram and its potential symbolism, but there’s one thing I missed out on: is the ram associated with Satan? Since then I have encountered artwork that features ram heads in Satanic pentagrams and ram-headed devils, but all of them are modern and with no formal attachment to any esoteric or occult tradition (with one possible exception). People also seem to mistake the image of Baphomet’s goat head with a ram, even when it the image is still ostensibly that of a goat’s head and not a ram’s head. Some people even say the sign of Aries is the sign of Satan, likely with no basis other than the fact that Aries has horns. So, is the ram really an image of Satan? The answer might actually be yes and no. The icon of the Baphomet was called the Goat of Mendes, a title borrowed from that of the Egyptian deity Banebdjedet. But Banebdjedet was a ram-headed deity, not a goat-headed one. He was the lord of the ancient Egyptian city of Djedet, which the Greeks referred to as Mendes. He was considered a god of fertility, but he was also also considered to embody the soul of the sun god (though the Book of the Heavenly Cow attributes him to be the soul of the god Osiris). The Greek historian Herodotus incorrectly referred to Banebdjedet as a goat-headed deity, and Eliphas Levi, who created the modern icon of Baphomet, used the term Goat of Mendes to refer to the Baphomet, though Baphomet does not appear to have a lot of association with Banebdjedet. Other than that, there is the Devil that appears in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, which actually derives from Levi’s Baphomet, and he has ram horns and a reversed pentagram. It’s my assumption that the Tarot devil was meant to portray Baphomet as a devil or god of lust and desires, but this has no real connection to Baphomet, but is it realted to the ram? Possibly, but it might have been attempted as a he-goat.

There’s something I feel must be mentioned. Levi did believe that the goat was the symbol of lust who threatened heaven and upheld evil (as he describes in page 386 of Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual), but it’s important to remember that the Baphomet’s pentagram, which points upwards, is meant to be a symbol of light. Not Satan, not evil, not darkness, but light. And the intent of Levi’s Baphomet was not to create the goat of evil, but the embodiment of harmony between opposites in the cosmos (such as light and darkness or mercy with justice), independent of any association with Satan. The connection between Baphomet and Satan comes from the goat’s medieval connection with lust, and Satan’s own connection with the horned deities of old, and the goat was perfect for Anton LaVey’s own spiritual philosophy which was meant to be purely carnal. But while the goat on its own was associated with Satan, subversion, evil, lust, and matter over the spirit by Levi and other occultists before but the Baphomet has no actual connection with Satan. I don’t think therefore that it is the Baphomet that is the satanic symbol, but the goat.

Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet, in color.

I don’t know if my talk of Baphomet was going off on a tangent or not, though it was enlightening for me to think of and write and it does have its place in this topic. Nonetheless, let’s get back to talking about the ram, not the goat. Now last year I mentioned the association of Baal (as the demon Bael) with the sign of Aries. Here’s the funny thing: Baal had bull horns, not ram horns. Although Baal-Hammon had ram horns, the chief Baal, which would later become the demon Bael and Beelzebub, had the horns of the bull and not the ram.

Now I know I have associated Baal with Beelzebub and Beelzebub with Satan, but I must mention that as I have written this article, my ideas of what Satan is are beginning to change. Sadly, the bit about Banebdjedet and the bit about Baal are the only things I can immediately think of when I think of the ram in conjunction with Satan. As I said, most satanic associations with the ram come from modern artwork, and how often people confuse rams with goat, even when the difference between rams and goats should be obvious. So, I’ll return to the question I posed earlier. Is the ram an image of Satan? My answer is that, traditionally the ram is not an image of Satan, but I personally think that it can be an image of Satan, but that all depends on how you choose to view Satan. Remember, Satan or The Devil is actually an amalgamation of all pagan gods. Since the Christians intended Satan to be the symbol of all they thought was evil, he also represented paganism itself, which the Christians believed was evil and so they vilified it and turned it into a devil. I actually plan to write more about a new personal perspective on Satan/Beelzebub/The Devil later on, in a post slated for my 21st birthday. But I will say this in closing, perhaps Satan is flexible enough that, depending on your idea of him and your personal spiritual philosophy, you can represent Satan as a ram or use the ram to represent to represent your spiritual philosophy which Satan can be a part of, much like Anton LaVey chose the goat to represent his philosophy.

About the Baphomet

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.

The Sigil of Baphomet, official symbol of the Church of Satan.

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.

Light, darkness, the light in darkness, the darkness in light, and the harmony and duality between them.

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.