The first in this series on Satanic images looked at the Tarot Devil. This post examines Baphomet, another powerful image with an intriguing history. The Wikipedia article at the link explains possible meanings and origins of the name and includes the image. Baphomet has associations with the Knights Templar, the Inquisition, magic, Satanism, and occultism generally. When Philip IV of France began in 1307 to disband the Templars, whom he accused of “apostasy, idolatry, heresy, obscene rituals and homosexuality, financial corruption and fraud, and secrecy” according to the Wikipedia Templars article, the Baphomet emerged as a Templar symbol in the accusations. (Philip no doubt figured with a wide enough range of behaviors, something would have to stick …)
Baphomet is an androgynous figure, incorporating both male and female attributes — breasts and a stylized penis. The pentagram on the forehead, the crescent moons by either hand, the magical gestures of both hands, the light and dark imagery, the blend of human and animal features all point to a highly symbolic image of balanced forces. The Latin words on the forearms, solve and coagula, can be understood as “dissolve” or “break down,” and “concentrate” or “come together,” two paired alchemical operations that lead to the philosopher’s stone, the union of opposing forces, and the higher octave of energy that results.
Many versions of the Baphomet image exist. This one comes from French occultist and magician Eliphas Levi, who included the image as the frontispiece in his book Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic), published in the mid-1800s. Levi explains its significance (p. 211):
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 occultism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah [chesed and geburah are two sephiroth on the Qabbalistic Tree of Life -- CV]. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne 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 androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.
Here in Levi’s interpretation we have a curious mix of (Christian) Hermetic and Satanic magical symbolism. Levi’s original text is available from Googlebooks; the above passage (in French) is here. A. E. Waite translated the book into English in 1896 as Transcendental Magic; you can find that version here.
Some Satanists find the image of Baphomet useful in ritual, worship, meditation and magic. A version of the goat head inside a pentagram enclosed in a circle appears as the official sigil of the Church of Satan, with the Hebrew letters for l-v-y-t-n (starting at the bottom and reading counter-clockwise). It signifies “leviathan” which means simply “whale” in Modern Hebrew, but more generally a large sea creature or monster, an earlier Biblical and occult reference to a chthonic or earthly (demonic) entity. The Church of Satan article about the sigil is useful for its insight into LaVeyan perspectives on the symbol and its history.
Updated 2 December 2013