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Baphomet – we’ve all heard this dreaded name at least once in our lifetime, so it might seem that there’s no need for an introduction. Although this mysterious being is notorious, its definition is very elusive and its terrifying portrayal is seen across many cultures ─ from books and songs to paintings and movies.
When we hear the word Baphomet, most of us will associate it with Satan. This is due to public opinion, as the layman will undoubtedly equate Baphomet with Satan. After all, the gruesome vivid imagery depicting Baphomet in popular culture is unmistakably demonic. However, from the conventional point of view, both Satan and Baphomet are just nicknames for the devil.
The mainstream opinion is often at odds with that of the experts. The public opinion is only partially true ─ Baphomet does have demonic properties. On the other hand, most occult practitioners would disagree. To them, Baphomet is a being of light, representing equality, social order, the union of opposites, and even utopia.
In this article, we’re going to delve deeper into the mystery of Baphomet ─ the being dreaded by many and worshiped by few. Some sources even argue this entity is the reason for the tragic downfall of the Knights Templar.
Let’s take a closer look.
Where Does the Name Baphomet Come From?
Baphomet has always been a polarizing figure, so it’s no surprise that there’s no proper consensus about the origin of this entity’s name, and even the experts are divided on this topic.
Nonetheless, we’re going to list the most prominent theories behind it.
1. Corruption of the Word “Muhammad”
The word Baphomet was first mentioned in July 1098, during the siege of Antioch. Namely, the crusader Anselm of Ribemont, a great hero of the siege, wrote a letter describing the events of the siege. In it, he mentions that the residents of Antioch cried to Baphomet for help, while the crusaders prayed to God before seizing the city.
Although the city of Antioch had a Christian majority at the time, it was held by the Seljuk Empire which mostly consisted of Muslims. This is what lead many experts to believe that Baphomet was just a French misinterpretation of the word Muhammad.
Since Mahomet is the French transliteration of Muhammad, this theory does have some reason behind it. However, Muslims pray to Allah directly, instead of intermediaries such as saints and prophets. As Muslims wouldn’t cry to Muhammad for help, this theory doesn’t hold much ground, although it does sound plausible.
The greatest argument for this theory is that the medieval troubadours continued to equate Baphomet with Muhammad in their poems. Since we can’t know whether this was by mistake, the mystery still remains unsolved.
2. The Idol of the Knights Templar
The next important mention of Baphomet comes from none other than the Inquisition. In 1307, King Philip IV of France captured nearly all members of the Templar Knights ─ the most formidable and well-organized order of crusaders.
King Philip brought the whole order to trial under charges of heresy. He accused the Templars of worshiping an idol figure named Baphomet. Since this topic is too complex, we’re going to deal with it in a separate chapter of this article.
The “Sophia theory” is as intriguing as that of the templars. Some of the leading experts in the field came to a seemingly outrageous, yet ingenious explanation for the origins of the word Baphomet.
According to these scholars, Baphomet is a word coined by the use of Atbash. Atbash is a Hebrew cipher used for encoding words by substituting the letters of the Hebrew alphabet with one another.
If we apply the Atbash encryption system to the word Baphomet, we get the word Sophia ─ meaning wisdom in ancient Greek.
However, wisdom isn’t the only meaning of the word Sophia ─ it is also one of the central figures in Gnosticism. Gnosticism is the early-Christian sect that claimed that the Old Testament God was actually the devil, while the snake from the Garden of Eden was the real God.
Both Gnostics and the Knights Templar were accused of devil worship. So, could it be that the Baphomet of the Knights Templar was actually the Gnostic Sophia? Something to think about.
Baphomet and the Knights Templar
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Knights Templar was the most powerful and renowned order active in the Crusades. Although they’ve sworn poverty, they’re also said to be the world’s first bankers.
Apart from their military power and lucrative financial endeavors, they’ve also gained a reputation for seizing some of the most important holy relics during the Crusades.
Having all this power, it’s no wonder they gained enemies among other Christians. This is what led many to speculate that the accusations of Baphomet worship were just an excuse for stripping the Templars of their wealth and influence.
However, given the scale of this event, many scholars agree that there has to be some degree of truth to the allegations. According to the Inquisition, the Templars worship the idol of Baphomet in many forms. Some of these feature an old man with a long beard, a man with three faces, and even a wooden face attached to a dead cat’s body!
According to the allegations, the Templars were required to renounce Christ, spit on the cross, and kiss the feet of the Baphomet idol. From this point of view, the shunning of traditional Christianity is what links the Templar order to the aforementioned Gnostics.
The continuity between Gnostics and Templars inspires fiction and non-fiction writers to this day as these are considered to be the roots of the “satanic” aspect of Baphomet.
Eliphas Levi and His Depictions of Baphomet
Since we’ve dealt with theories equating Baphomet with the devil, it’s time to play the devil’s advocate. Who would be a better ally in this than Eliphas Levi? After all, he’s one of the most prominent occultists of all time. It was Éliphas Lévi who drew the most iconic depiction of Baphomet – featured above.
We’ll analyze his famous drawing to gain a better understanding of what Baphomet stands for in the world of the occult.
The goat-head of Baphomet represents the ancient Greek god Pan. Pan is the god of nature, sexuality, and fertility. He is credited with bestowing wealth and making trees and plants flower. Conveniently, according to some medieval accounts, the Templars related these qualities to Baphomet with a terrifying expression of the goat head representing the sinner’s horror and bestiality.
The pentagram signifies the imperative of the soul ruling over the body and not vice versa. Contrary to popular belief, this doctrine happens to align with most traditional religious views.
Usually, there’s a point at the top of the pentagram which is used to signify the victory of the spirit over the material.
One hand pointing upward and the other downward refers to the Hermetic principle of “As above, so below”. This principle claims that our inner world (microcosm) reflects the outer world (macrocosm) and vice versa. In other words, it accounts for the perfect balance in nature.
4. The Torch, the Rod, and the Crescent Moons
The torch stands for the flame of intelligence bringing the light of universal balance to the world. The rod, standing in place of the genitals, symbolizes eternal life prevailing over the transient material world.
The breasts symbolize humanity, fertility, and the androgynous nature of Baphomet. The arms, one being female and the other male, also point to its androgyny. Bear in mind that the female arm points to the white moon (loving-kindness), whereas the male one directs us to the black moon (strength).
Since Baphomet has the qualities of both sexes, he represents the union of opposites.
Wrapping Up – Baphomet in Contemporary Culture
The image of Baphomet has had a significant impact on Western culture. This entity is instrumental in the plots of famous books (The Da Vinci Code), role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons), and video games (Devil May Cry), to name a few.
Baphomet is the official symbol of two religious movements ─ The Church of Satan, and The Satanic Temple. The latter even erected an 8.5 feet tall statue of Baphomet, sparking public outrage worldwide.
To some, this entity personifies evil. To others, it’s a symbol of universal balance and wisdom. Even if it’s just a figment of the imagination, you can’t deny that it has some amount of influence in the real world.