Baphomet  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Baphometis an imagined pagan deity (i.e., a product of Christian folklore concerning pagans), revived in the 19th century as a figure of Satanism. It first appeared in a late 12th-century Provençal poem as a corruption of "Muhammad", but later it appeared as a term for a pagan idol in trial transcripts of the Inquisition of the Knights Templar in the early 14th century. 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 Eliphas Lévi.

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 Paris, 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 Goat of Mendes", 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 Paris 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.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Baphomet" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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