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Tarot card depicting Baphomet, detail

Baphomet: Was the Diabolical Demon Really Worshipped by Knights Templars?

Baphomet is perhaps best-known as the name of a deity supposedly worshipped by the Knights Templars. During the Inquisition of the Templars in the 14th century, the knights were falsely accused of worshipping this figure. The famous icon of Baphomet, i.e. as a goat-headed idol, however, only emerged much later on. This icon quickly became a symbol of the occult, specifically as a representation of evil and the Devil.

What is Baphomet?

The earliest known reference to Baphomet can be traced back to a letter written by a French crusader in 1098. According to the crusader, the Muslims in the Holy Land called upon a certain ‘Baphometh’ prior to battle. It is commonly accepted today that this name is a corruption of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. European Christians at the time perceived Islam as the worship of Muhammad, which they considered idolatry.

The evolution of Baphomet continued in 1307, when the powerful Knights Templars were being suppressed in France. The King of France, Philip IV, was in heavy financial debt to the order, as a result of a war with England. He was hoping to have his debt erased, but at the same time feared the military might of the Templars. Therefore, he decided to have the Templars arrested, and charged with heresy. Amongst other things, the Templars were accused of homosexuality, desecration of the cross, and the worship of Baphomet. Many Templars made false confessions after being subjected to the gruesome tortures of the Inquisition. The Templars recanted their confessions, however, after the torture ended, and were subsequently burned at the stake .

Detail of a miniature of the burning of the Grand Master of the Templars and another Templar. From the ‘Chroniques de France ou de St Denis.’ (Public Domain)

Detail of a miniature of the burning of the Grand Master of the Templars and another Templar. From the ‘Chroniques de France ou de St Denis.’ ( Public Domain )

Whilst some of the Templars admitted to worshipping an idol, it seems that their accounts were inconsistent. For instance, some claimed that the idol was the severed head of St. John the Baptist , whilst others claimed that it was the statue of a cat with three faces. The infamous figure of Baphomet as a goat-headed idol was not mentioned by any of the Templars under trial, and would only emerge at a much later date.

History of Baphomet as the Goat-Headed Figure

It was only in 1854 that Baphomet became the goat-headed figure that we are familiar with today. It was Eliphas Levi, a French ceremonial magician, who re-imagined Baphomet as a figure he called the ‘Sabbatic Goat’. Levi’s Baphomet was meant to represent the union of opposing forces. For instance, the figure is a hermaphrodite, having both male and female physical parts. Moreover, Levi’s Baphomet was intended to serve as a collective representation for all the magical icons from earlier polytheistic or animistic traditions that survived the spread of Christianity. For instance, the caprine elements were inspired by Banebdjedet, an ancient Egyptian goat-headed deity, as well as by Pan, a Greek deity.

Baphomet, also known as the Sabbatic Goat, ‘Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.’ (Public Domain)

Baphomet, also known as the Sabbatic Goat, ‘Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.’ ( Public Domain )

Levi’s Baphomet was also adopted by the famed occultist, Aleister Crowley . It was Crowley who connected Baphomet with Satan, and linked this icon with the idea of suppressed knowledge and secret worship. Thus, in opposition to traditional Christian thought, Crowley argued that Satan was not the enemy of mankind, but its ally.

Baphomet at a Freemason session. Picture from a book by Leo Taxil. (Public Domain)

Baphomet at a Freemason session. Picture from a book by Leo Taxil. ( Public Domain )

It was only in 1966, however, that Satanism became a serious religious movement when the Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey. The logo adopted by the Church of Satan is known as the Sigil of Baphomet, which depicts a goat’s head inside an inverted pentagram. This sign is also commonly used by Satanists around the world.

The original "Samael/Lilith" Pentagram. (Public Domain)

The original "Samael/Lilith" Pentagram. ( Public Domain )

Modern Baphomet Statues Create Controversy

More recently, in 2012, the Ten Commandments Monument was erected on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Satanic Temple planned to erect a statue of Baphomet beside the monument, though this came to a halt when the monument was vandalized.

In 2017, another Ten Commandments Monument was installed in at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock, and in the following year, a statue of Baphomet was unveiled by the Satanic Temple. This was meant to be a protest, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was cited by the protesters.

The Satanic Temple's "Baphomet" statue during its unveiling in Detroit in July of 2015 (photo taken by Matt Anderson). ( Fair Use )

The Satanic Temple's "Baphomet" statue during its unveiling in Detroit in July of 2015 (photo taken by Matt Anderson). ( Fair Use )

Top image: Tarot card depicting Baphomet, detail. Source: wimage72 / Fotolia

By Wu Mingren

References

Appel, D., 2016. The Shocking True History of Baphomet, the Sabbatic Goat. Available at: https://ultraculture.org/blog/2016/02/08/baphomet-sabbatic-goat/

Church of Satan, 2018. The History of the Origin of the Sigil of Baphomet and its Use in the Church of Satan. Available at: https://www.churchofsatan.com/history-sigil-of-baphomet/

Grabenstein, H., 2018. Satanic Temple Unveils Baphomet Statue at Arkansas Capitol. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/arkansas/articles/2018-08-16/satanic-temple-unveils-baphomet-statue-at-arkansas-capitol

Joy of Satan Ministries, 2005. A History of the Baphomet. Available at: http://www.angelfire.com/empire/serpentis666/Baphomet.html

Morgan, J., 2015. Decoding the symbols on Satan's statue. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33682878

Prof. Geller, 2018. Baphomet. Available at: https://mythology.net/others/concepts/baphomet/

www.crystalinks.com, 2018. The Baphomet. Available at: http://www.crystalinks.com/baphomet.html

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