Baphomet is a part of popular culture today. You can buy figures and pendants with it. It is impossible to go to any heavy metal concert without seeing people who wear it on the necklace.
But where did it come from? Is it really an ancient figure as some claim?
Here is a short history of Baphomet taken from “Hexagradior, the bible of magic” accompanied by additional illustrations and photos:
Most scholars agree that the word originated as an unintended distortion of the name “Mohammed”. Although some prefer other explanations, the fact remains that first documented appearance of this word takes place in a poem ” Ir’e dolors s’es dins mon cor asseza” (1256) by Templar Knight Ricaut Bonomel where he refers to Muslim prophet as “Bafometz”.
Medieval Christians unused to Arab names spelled “Mohammed” as “Mahomet” which later became “Baphomet”. At that time it was only a Muslim name and the name of the founder of Islam. Nothing demonic was associated with it.
Entry for “Mahomet” from Dictionnaire Infernal ( 1818 edition)
Situation changed during the persecution and trial of Templar Knights in the early 14th century.
One of the main accusations was that their order was worshipping an idol named “Baphomet”. Out of 231 Templars interrogated by the commission of Catholic Church in Paris, only 12 of them, under torture, admitted knowing something about this, which casts a shadow of doubt on that allegation.
In the end some knights escaped, some were executed, the Templar order was banned and the story of Baphomet was, for all practical purposes, forgotten for the next 500 years.
Then in 1818 Henry Hallam publishes “The View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages” in which he explains the French permutation of Mohammad to Baphomet. This book is considered to hold the first appearance of the word “Baphomet” in English language. That same year Baron Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall publishes “Mines de l’Orient, vol. VI” with a treatise Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum (Mystery of Baphomet revealed) in which he links Templars to Freemasons.
Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum by J. v. Hammer-Purgstall
Finally, in 1854 Eliphas Levi published a book “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic also appearing under English translation of Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual). In that book he published his drawing of Baphomet with the text “The Sabbatic Goat” underneath it.
From that moment on, this image has been permanently linked with the term “Baphomet” even though they were created over 500 years apart and Levi, based his writings and drawings primarily on fantasy and less on facts. Still, from then on, most images of Baphomet and Devil in general were based on Levi’s drawing.
Levi called his drawing “The Baphomet of Mendes”. He based this on the writings of Herodotus who reported the worship of a Goat-headed deity Banebdjed in the ancient Egyptian city of Mendes. Hence the term “The Goat of Mendes”.
Later on, many occultists, either unaware of Hallam’s interpretation or simply not accepting it, theorized about the origins of the term “Baphomet”. Crowley explained it as BAFOMIThR-Father Mithra and Kenneth Grant of Ordo Templi Orientis drew a similar conclusion, namely that it originated from “Bapho Mithras” – son of Mithras. There are numerous other theories, but none of them can be substantiated.
The next important moment in the history of Baphomet is the year 1897 when French Marquess Stanislas de Guaita published a book ” La Clef de la Magie Noire” (The Key of Black Magic) containing the drawing of a pentagram with a goat’s head.
He greatly admired Levi and it was only natural that he continued building upon his ideas and descriptions. This image was an early version of what would later develop into the (in)famous “Sigil of Baphomet” – an inverted pentagram containing a goat’s head encircled with Hebrew letters spelling L V Y T N – Leviathan. The next small step occured in 1964 with English edition of Maurice Bessy’s “A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural”.
“A pictorial history of magic and the supernatural” by M. Bessy
The image on the hardcover of his book was adapted from Guaita’s illustration. The names “Samael” and “Lilith” were omitted (fig. 8.4) but no reference to Baphomet was made.
This book came into the hands of Anton Szandor La Vey who was impressed by the drawing and when he was transforming his initial circle “The Order of the Trapezoid” into “The Church of Satan” he felt that this symbol would perfectly match his new organization and so it was used on the altar, medallions and membership cards. When he was writing “The Satanic Bible” he decided that the symbol should be enhanced by making the pentagram and circles perfect, the letters a bit stylized and goat face improved. In 1969 The Satanic Bible became widely available with the updated image decorating the covers. The book referred to it as “Symbol of Baphomet”. Few years later, in 1972, La Vey published “The Satanic Rituals” and it was in this book that the symbol was first called “The Sigil of Baphomet”.
The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals by A.S. LaVey
End of quote from “Hexagradior”.
The story of Baphomet continued from there. Many modifications and versions of it can be seen today. Some even made connections between the Baphomet and the George Washington. To commemorate the centennial of Washington’s birth in 1832, Congress commissioned Horatio Greenough to create a statue to be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda. He finished it in 1840 but statue sparked criticism and in 1843 it was moved away from the Rotunda. See for yourself the comparison of the statue and Levi’s Baphomet.
Obviously the statue of Washington couldn’t have been a copy of the Levi’s Baphomet because, as stated previously, the statue was made in 1840 and Levi published his book in 1854. One could make an argument that they perhaps used the same symbolic gestures, whatever they may be, but that is a different story. Now we would be talking about symbolism, not Baphomet. It has been suggested that both Greenough and Levi based the position of their characters on the classical Greek statue of Zeus, but this is something that can’t be proven.
And just when you are ready to say “OK, this is all just a coincidence” you look up to the ceiling of the same Rotunda and see this fresco by Constantino Brumidi from 1865 standing right there where the Washington’s “Baphomet” statue was removed from:
Someone said to me in one chat “You see, that image just has to be there, and when the statue was removed, they still had it their way with the fresco.”
“Can’t prove it right, can’t prove it wrong” situation again, but at least now you have a few more solid facts about it. ( + few cool pics