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Baphomet is a pagan deity, revived in the 19th century as a figure of Satanism and worshipped in baphomeries. In the 19th century the name came into popular English-speaking consciousness with the publication of various works of pseudo-history that tried to link the Knights Templar with conspiracy theories elaborating on their suppression. The name Baphomet then became associated with a "Sabbatic Goat" image drawn by occult author Eliphas Lévi.

History

The name Baphomet first appears around 1195 in the Occitan poem "Senhors, per los nostres peccatz" by the troubadour Gavaudan. Around 1250 in a poem bewailing the defeat of the Seventh Crusade, Austorc d'Aorlhac refers to "Bafomet". De Bafomet is also the title of one of four surviving chapters of an Occitan translation of Ramon Llull's earliest known work, the Libre de la doctrina pueril.

When the medieval order of the Knights Templar was suppressed by King Philip IV of France, on October 13, 1307, Philip had many French Templars simultaneously arrested, and then tortured into confessions. The name Baphomet comes up in several of these confessions, in reference to an idol of some type that the Templars were alleged to have worshipped. The description of the object changed from confession to confession. Some Templars denied any knowledge of it. Others, under torture, described it as being either a severed head, a cat, or a head with three faces.

Von Hammer-Purgstall associated a series of carved or engraved figures found on a number of supposed 13th century Templar artifacts (such as cups, bowls and coffers) with the Baphometic idol.


Over 100 different charges had been leveled against the Templars. Most of them were clearly false, as they were the same charges that were leveled against many of King Philip's enemies. For example, he had earlier kidnapped Pope Boniface VIII and charged him with near identical offenses of heresy, spitting and urinating on the cross, and sodomy. However, the claims of an idol named Baphomet were unique to the Inquisition of the Templars. As Karen Ralls, author of Knights Templar Encyclopedia argues that this is significant: "There is no mention of Baphomet either in the Templar Rule or in other medieval period Templar documents".

Centuries later, the name Baphomet appeared in the essay by the Viennese Orientalist Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, Mysterium Baphometis revelatum as The Mystery of Baphomet Revealed, which presented an elaborate pseudohistory constructed to discredit the Freemasons by linking them with "Templar masons". He argued, using as archaeological evidence "Baphomets" faked by earlier scholars and literary evidence such as the Grail romances, that the Templars were Gnostics and the 'Templars' head' was a Gnostic idol called Baphomet. In the 19th century some European museums acquired such pseudo-Egyptian objects, which were catalogued as "Baphomets" and credulously thought to have been idols of the Templars.

Some modern scholars such as Peter Partner and Malcolm Barber agree that the name of Baphomet was an Old French corruption of the name Muhammad, with the interpretation being that some of the Templars, through their long military occupation of the Outremer, had begun incorporating Islamic ideas into their belief system, and that this was seen and documented by the Inquisitors as heresy. Peter Partner's 1987 book The Knights Templar and their Myth says, "In the trial of the Templars one of their main charges was their supposed worship of a heathen idol-head known as a 'Baphomet' ('Baphomet' = Mahomet)." Partner's book also provides a quote from a poem written in a Provencal dialect by a troubadour who is thought to have been a Templar. The poem is in reference to some battles in 1265 that were not going well for the Crusaders: "And daily they impose new defeats on us: for God, who used to watch on our behalf, is now asleep, and Bafometz puts forth his power to support the Sultan."

Eliphas Levi

In the 19th century, the name of Baphomet became associated with the occult. In 1854, Eliphas Levi published Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie ("Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic"), in which he included an image he had drawn himself which he described as Baphomet and "The Sabbatic Goat", showing a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on its head between its horns (illustration, top). This image has become the best-known representation of Baphomet.

Levi's depiction is similar to that of the Devil in early tarot cards, but it may also have been partly inspired by grotesque carvings on the Templar churches of Lanleff in Brittany and St. Merri in Parismarker, which depict squatting bearded men with bat wings, female breasts, horns and the shaggy hindquarters of a beast.

Lévi considered the Baphomet to be a depiction of the absolute in symbolic form and explicated in detail his symbolism in the drawing that served as the frontispiece:
"The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of hermetism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyn of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast's head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyn arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences."


Levi called his image “the Baphomet of Mendesmarker”, presumably following Herodotus' account that the god of Mendes — the Greek name for Djedet, Egypt — was depicted with a goat's face and legs. Herodotus relates how all male goats were held in great reverence by the Mendesians, and how in his time a woman publicly copulated with a goat. However the deity that was venerated at Egyptian Mendes was actually a ram deity Banebdjed (literally Ba of the lord of djed, and titled "the Lord of Mendes"), who was the soul of Osiris. Levi combined the images of the Tarot of Marseilles Devil card and refigured the ram Banebdjed as a he-goat, further imagined by him as "copulator in Anep and inseminator in the district of Mendes".

Egyptian connections aside, Lévi's depiction, for all its modern fame, does not match the historical descriptions from the Templar trials, although it is akin to some grotesques found on Templar churches, or, more specifically, to Viollet-le-Duc's vivid gargoyles that were added to Notre Dame de Parismarker about the same time as Lévi's illustration.

Levi's now-familiar image of a "Sabbatic Goat" shows parallels with works by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, who more than once painted a "Witch's Sabbath"; in the version ca 1821-23, El gran cabrón now at the Prado], a group of seated women offer their dead infant children to a seated goat.

Aleister Crowley

The Baphomet of Lévi was to become an important figure within the cosmology of Thelema, the mystical system established by Aleister Crowley in the early twentieth century. Baphomet features in the Creed of the Gnostic Catholic Church recited by the congregation in The Gnostic Mass, in the sentence: "And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET."

In Magick , Crowley asserted that Baphomet was a divine androgyne and "the hieroglyph of arcane perfection":

For Crowley, Baphomet is further a representative of the spiritual nature of the spermatozoa while also being symbolic of the "magical child" produced as a result of sex magic. As such, Baphomet represents the Union of Opposites, especially as mystically personified in Chaos and Babalon combined and biologically manifested with the sperm and egg united in the zygote.

As a demon

Baphomet, as Lévi's illustration suggests, has occasionally been portrayed as a synonym of Satan or a demon, a member of the hierarchy of Hell. Baphomet appears in that guise as a character in James Blish's The Day After Judgment. Christian evangelist Jack Chick claims that Baphomet is a demon worshipped by Freemasons, a claim that apparently originated with the Taxil hoax.. Léo Taxil's elaborate hoax employed a version of Lévi's Baphomet on the cover of Les Mystères de la franc-maçonnerie dévoilés, his lurid paperback "exposé" of Freemasonry, which in 1897 he revealed as a hoax satirizing ultra-Catholic anti-Masonic propaganda. The downward-pointing pentagram on its forehead is enlarged upon by Lévi in his illustration of a goat's head arranged within such a pentagram, which he contrasts with the microcosmic man arranged within a similar but upright pentagram.

Lévi's Baphomet is clearly the source as well of the later Tarot image of the Devil, in the Rider-Waite design. The symbol of the goat in the downward-pointed pentagram was adopted as the official symbol — called the Sigil of Baphomet — of the Church of Satan, and continues to be used among Satanists.


Alternative etymologies

While modern scholars such as Peter Partner, Dr. Malcolm Barber, and the Oxford English Dictionary, state that the origin of the name Baphomet was a probable French version of "Phahomet" . alternative etymologies have also been proposed:

  • Emile Littré (1801–1881) in Dictionnaire de la langue francaise asserted that the word was cabalistically formed by writing backward tem. o. h. p. ab an abbreviation of templi omnium hominum pacis abbas, 'abbot' or 'father of the temple of peace of all men.' His source is the "Abbé Constant", which is to say, Alphonse-Louis Constant, the real name of Eliphas Lévi.


  • Arkon Daraul proposed that "Baphomet" may derive from the Arabic word أبو فهمة Abu fihama(t), meaning "The Father of Understanding". "Arkon Daraul" is widely thought to be a pseudonym of Idries Shah.


  • Dr Hugh J. Schonfield, one of the scholars who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in his book The Essene Odyssey that the word "Baphomet" was created with knowledge of the Atbash substitution cipher, which substitutes the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the last, the second for the second last, and so on. "Baphomet" rendered in Hebrew is בפומת; interpreted using Atbash, it becomes שופיא, which can be interpreted as the Greek word "Sophia", or wisdom. This theory is an important part of the plot of The Da Vinci Code. Professor Schonfield's theory however cannot be independently corroborated.


  • Montague Summers (1880–1948), a self-proclaimed Catholic priest who wrote The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) and The Geography of Witchcraft (1927), claimed that "Baphomet" was formed from the Greek words baphe and Metis to mean "Baptism of Wisdom".




See also



Notes

  1. LES TEMPLIERS
  2. The relevant lines are translated in Michael Routledge (1999), "The Later Troubadours", in The Troubadours: An Introduction, Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay, edd. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 112: ab Luy venseretz totz lo cas / Cuy Bafometz a escarnitz / e·ls renegatz outrasalhitz (with his [i.e. Jesus'] help you will defeat all the dogs whom Mahomet has led astray and the impudent renegades).
  3. The other chapters are De la ley nova, De caritat, and De iustitia. The three folios of the Occitan fragment were reunited on 21 April 1887 and the work was then "discovered". Today it can be found in BnF fr. 6182. Clovis Brunel dated it to the thirteenth century, and it was probably made in the Quercy. The work was originally Latin, but medieval Catalan translation exists, as does a complete Occitan one. THe Occitan fragment has been translated by Diego Zorzi (1954), "Un frammento provenzale della Doctrina Pueril di Raimondo Lull", Aevum, 28(4), 345–49.
  4. Read, p. 266
  5. National Geographic Channel. Knights Templar, February 22, 2006, video documentary written by Jesse Evans
  6. Martin, p. 119
  7. Karen Ralls, Knights Templar Encyclopedia: The Essential Guide to the People, Places, Events, and Symbols of the Order of the Temple (New Page Books, 2007).
  8. Hammer-Purgstall, "Mysterium Baphometis revelatum", Fundgruben des Orients 6 (Vienna 1818:1-120; 445-99. Hammer-Purgstall's essay did not pass unchallenged: F.J.M. Reynouard published an "Etude sur 'Mysterium Baphometi revelatum", in Journal des savants 1819:151-61; 221-29 (noted by Barber 393 note 13.)
  9. The OED reports "Baphomet" as a medieval form of Mahomet, but does not find a first appearance in English until Henry Hallam, The View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, which also appeared in 1818.
  10. Hans Tietze illustrated one, in the Kunshistorisches Museum, Vienna, in "The Psychology and Aesthetics of Forgery in Art" Metropolitan Museum Studies 5.1 (August 1934:1-19) p. 1.
  11. Malcolm Barber, p. 321
  12. (previously titled The Murdered Magicians)
  13. Jackson, Nigel & Michael Howard (2003). The Pillars of Tubal Cain. Milverton, Somerset: Capall Bann Publishing. p. 223.; Comparison of these images from about.com.
  14. Herodotus, Histories ii. 42, 46 and 166.
  15. Herodotus, Histories ii. 156.
  16. Goya, El gran cabrón
  17. "Leo Taxil's confession".
  18. What do the symbols hide? Retrieved 28 June 2006.
  19. .
  20. Hugh J. Schonfield, The Essene Odyssey. Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8BP, England: Element Books Ltd., 1984; 1998 paperback reissue, p.164.


References

  • Martin, Sean (2005), The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order. ISBN 1-56025-645-1.
  • Read, Piers Paul (1999), The Templars. Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-81071-9.
  • Franz Spunda. Baphomet: Der geheime Gott der Templer : ein alchimistischer Roman. ISBN 3-8655-2073-1


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