THERE IS NO BAPHOMET, AND THAT’S WONDERFUL
Speaking of Baphomet, we should probably discuss the fact that there really is no such thing.
While some Modern Satanists will talk your ear off about what Baphomet is and what it “really” means and how the statue should look, the truth is that even on an academic and conceptual level, there is no Baphomet. It’s a historical allusion illusion.
And that’s fine. In fact, it’s a liberating thing–not just liberating from the perspective of other people’s dogma, but from the very idea of doctrine and dogma to begin with.
Both of these things are true: There is no Baphomet, and Baphomet will set you free.
I put this blog off last week so that our most recent Black Mass Appeal episode all about the history of Baphomet could land.
Much of the information in this blog is also part of that show. The show also includes testimony about the use of a mechanical goat in 19th century hazing rituals. It’s got it all, is what I’m saying.
But we don’t have time for all that just now, we’ve got nothing to talk about.
The earliest extant reference to “Baphometh” appears in an 11th century letter from a crusading knight. Eighteenth century German novelist and critic Friedrich Nicolai records other variations from the period like “Bas Humet,” “Bao Humet,” “Mabumet,” “Bafumaria,” and “Babumes”–improbably, not the names of Wuzzles characters, but instead seemingly just variations on Mohammed, or “Mahomet.”
(Standardized spelling was not really a thing in those days. And judging from the comments we sometimes get from easily provoked fundamentalist types, neither is it many places now.)
As pretty much every Satanist knows, a few centuries later the late Knights Templar stood trial on trumped up heresy charges (those being pretty much the only kind of heresy charges) that included worship of “Baphomet.”
Journalist Frank Sanello writes that under torture, Templars confessed that Baphomet was everything from “the head of a cat” to “a bearded man or woman,” sometimes made of gold or glass or wood, sometimes a fertility idol or guardian of treasures.
Unless you’re a Baptist, it probably seems a little odd that nobody seemed to agree exactly what they were worshiping. In his book Historical Monuments, French scholar Francois Raynouard goes so far as to suggest “Baphomet” was just a misspelling in trial records for, again, Mohammed.
Now, I’m not an accomplished medievalist (no, really, it’s true), but it seems like nobody should really have to spell out what was going on here: Nobody described “Baphomet” (the idol or the name) the same way because there was no such thing.
In the words of the world’s leading scholar in McConaughieval studies, “It’s a whazy. It’s a woozie. It’s fairy dust. It doesn’t exist. It’s never landed. It is no matter. It’s not on the elemental chart. It’s not fucking real.”
Despite this, Austrian historian and 19th century David Straitharn doppelgänger Joseph Von Hammer-Purgstall’s book Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum alleged that Hammer had finally nailed down this problem by identifying dozens of supposed “Baphomets” recovered from Templar treasuries.
None of these images resembled those described in the trial records, or for that matter each other. But that was fine, because Hammer contended “Baphomet” was actually the name of a SYMBOL, or rather, several symbols, “secret and mysterious formulas,” an idea Nicolai previously pitched.
Now rather than secret Muslims, the knights were supposedly secret Gnostics, and Baphomet a symbol of “homosexual practice, androgynous love, […] and hermaphrodism,” as Zrinka Stahuljak describes in her incredibly titled 2012 book Pornographic Archaeology, since “sodomy, impure pratices, and Gnostic heresy go hand in hand,” and presumably some other parts in hand as well.
If all this is causing you to rub your own Temples then you have the right idea, because of course none of this was ever true either. As Stahuljak describes it, all this “symbolic archeology merely contributed to the forming of a ghost.”
It was that ghost that Eliphas Levi channeled into his Sabbatic Goat, the mismatched alchemical mascot that we call Baphomet today.
After nearly 800 years, this is the first solid bit of Baphomet we actually have; but even this is founded on sand, as Levi persisted in his High Magic books that “the Grand Masters of the Order of the Templars worshiped the Baphomet, and caused it to be worshiped by their adepts,” although he likened Baphomet not to Mohammed or Satan but now Pan.
That idea doesn’t pan out either; the Templars didn’t worship anything except very boring Catholic dominionism, and possibly also all of that Christlike gold they had lying around.
Baphomet was never an idol, demon, god, cult, religion, prophet, or artifact. Baphomet was never anything, beyond a typo and a bugbear. Except, maybe, a prejudice.
Stahuljak writes that obsessives associated Baphomet with practices they considered corrupt and disdainful: androgyny, gender queerness, homosexuality, licentiousness, decadence, materialism, heresy, and above all foreignness.
They labored under “a general memory of the corruption of Templar morals by cohabitaiton with Muslims and a fear of assimilation that would lead to sexual and religious deviance,” and of “listless and delicious life” that leads to “degeneracy.”
Orthodox minds shiver at the thought of crossing lines, blurring boundaries, diluting concentrates, and mixing things. In a world of black-and-white, nothing is more dangerous than shades of gray.
The grayness had a name: “Baphomet,” the god of imaginary fears and tangible prejudices. Ironically, they created a diverse host of ideas, images, and sources for this word, spread over the centuries like a creeping stain.
Baphomet is the foreigner in the closet; the queer under the bed; the heretic in the crowd. There is no one correct Baphomet, because Baphomet is all things that dull minds deem incorrect.
And how can you not love that?
There is no Baphomet; and so, Baphomet will set you free.