Monday, February 22, 2010

Baphomet and his many associations

Baphomet is not commonly acknowledged within Wiccan tradition but is certainly an interesting subject.  What is intriguing about Baphomet is that he was originally a symbol of wisdom and balance, very much like the yin and yang and somehow became associated with several groups who were seen as morally bankrupt or even evil.  Many believe that this is where the image of the devil is derived from, rather than the Horned God which is worshipped in Wicca from Cernunnos and Pan.


The name Baphomet first appears around 1195 in the Occitan poem "Senhors, per los nostres peccatz" by the troubador Gavaudan Around 1250 in a poem bewailing the defeat of the Seventh Crusade, Austorc d'Ahorlac refers to "Bafomet". De Bafomet is also the title of one of four surviving chapters of an Occitan translation of Ramon Lull's earliest known work, the Libre de la doctrina pueril. (Wikipedia)

The origins of his name are not certain, and there are several concepts:
- It is Greek and combines ‘baphe’ with ‘metis’ meaning “absorption of knowledge”
- The Egyptians worhipped the he-goat Mendes, similarly to ‘metis’ above
- It is a derivation of Mohammed from ‘Mahomet’

I have been interested in the history of Baphomet whose head appears in the Satanic inverted pentagram and why it is that he’s is refered to as a ‘sigil’ by many rather than a God.  His image was only introduced to Satanism when Anton LaVey officially introduced the world to the religion in 1966.  Before that time, inverted crosses were a symbol of Satanism and LaVey had purely revived the image from its gaudy history.
 Eliphas Levi's image

As a ‘sigil’ he is a cluster of occult semiotics with symbols also seen in alchemical texts, such as the text written on his arms in Eliphas Levi’s drawing of him reading ‘SOLVE – COAGULA’ meaning: ‘solution and coagulation’ as the alchemical process becomes the spiritual path.  Levi had used the Tarot deck’s ‘Devil’ card along with images of Mendes: The Baphomet of Egypt, to create this image.  The Egyptian Baphomet would fornicate with his worshippers, hence this 'bad' or 'evil' association with Witches which Goya has depicted in his image as Witches are seen worshipping a he-goat - which could really be just a goat.
 
Goya
Witches Sabbath
Oil on canvas
1798


The Knights Templar (France, est. 1119-1188) were said to worship Baphomet and when asked about it, only 12 out of the 251 knights – who had been interrogated by the Church – actually knew who the God was and acknowledged the worship.  They were also known as The Order of the Temple.  The Knights Templar were accused of homosexuality, urinating on the cross, of heresy and worshipping a god which they would cover in the fat of murdered children.  Whether any of that is true is hard to say.  The official symbol of the knights was a white flag with a crimson cross to symbolise the Christian war against the infidels.  The Templars were astute businessmen who managed to raise funds very well to support their holy mission.  This in combination with their intense secrecy and their transactions with the enemy during times of truce which was not a wise idea.  Some believe that the Templars took on some Gnostic rituals which could have included homosexuality, but there is no evidence to prove this, and it is more likely that their business transactions and secrecy were a deadly combination to see many of them killed under trial in 1310.  It is believed that their deaths were brought on by a King who could not pay them back and made them confess to heresy.  Many were killed on Friday the 13th and some say that that is where the belief in it being an unlucky day comes from.

Aleister Crowley had once joined the ‘Ordo Templis Orientis’ or ‘Order of Oriental Templars’ which was modelled after Freemasonry – which is also said to have a history with the sigil of Baphomet.  If you ever wondered about the cult depicted in the film Eyes Wide Shut, this group is most likely the reality of the film, although the rituals are very secret and there are seven stages to pass through.  Founded in Germany in 1896, the group practice sex magick as a form of spiritual enlightenment but they are not associated with Satanism or Wicca and the higher members of the order practice the sex magick whilst the others are trained spiritually. The ‘O.T.O’ still exists today, and on the Australian website they carry Crowley’s most famous rede from The Book of the Law: ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ along with ‘love is the law, love under will.’  As many know, the first half had been interpreted by Gerald Gardener, the founder of modern Wicca in 1953 when he used a great deal of information from Crowley, including this, to create the Witch’s rede ‘Do what thou wilt, but harm ye none’ which combines with the Threefold Law of ‘Whatever you send you, you will get back times three.’  No wonder so many people are confused about Witchcraft and its other associations!

On the OTO website for Australia, there is no reference of sex:
Ordo Templi Orientis
Grand Lodge of
Australia

"Ordo Templi Orientis Australia (O.T.O.) is the subsidiary national Association for Australia of Ordo Templis Orientalis Headquarters. We are a religious Order that teaches and promotes the doctrines and practices of the philosophical and religious system known as Thelema, with a particular emphasis on cultivating the ideals of individual liberty, self-discipline, self-knowledge, and universal brotherhood. We do this through sacramental and initiatory rites, guidance and instruction, social and cultural events, and educational and community service activities. Please click the following link to view O.T.O. Australia's Statement of Objects"

SO after all of that, we can see that the only association that relates to Wicca is the Wiccan rede: ‘Do what thou wilt, but harm ye none.’  It is incredible to see how particular references and semiotics are juggled within the occult itself and land in the most perculiar of places!  I have to admit, I feel unsettled by some of the information that I’ve come across here in a strange way, not that I ought to be!

 
Mark Riddick's contemporary interpretation of Baphomet


Blessed Be,
)O( Elspeth

References:
The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
An A to Z of the Occult by Simon Cox and Mark Foster
Church of Satan - The History of the Origin of The Sigil of Baphomet and its use in the Church of Satan http://www.churchofsatan.com/Pages/BaphometSigil.html

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