From the Knights Templar of the Middle-Ages and the Freemasons of the 19th century to modern currents of occultism, Baphomet never fails to create controversy. But where does Baphomet originate from and, most importantly, what is the true meaning of this symbolic figure? This article looks at the origins of Baphomet, the esoteric meaning of Baphomet and its occurrence in popular culture.
Throughout the history of Western occultism, the name of the mysterious Baphomet is often invoked. Although it became commonly know name in the twentieth century, mentions of Baphomet can be found in documents dating from as early as the 11th century. Today, the symbol is associated with anything relating to occultism, ritual magic, witchcraft, Satanism and esoterica. Baphomet often pops up in popular culture to identify anything occult.
The most famous depiction of Baphomet is found in Eliphas Levi’s “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie“, a 1897 book that became a standard reference for modern occultism. What does this creature represent? What is the meaning of the symbols around it? Why is it so important in occultism? To answer some of these questions, we must first look at its origins. We’ll first look at the history of Baphomet and several examples of references to Baphomet in popular culture.
There are several theories concerning the origins of the name of Baphomet. The most common explanation claims that it is an Old French corruption of the name of Mohammed (which was Latin-ized to “Mahomet”) – the Prophet of Islam. During the Crusades, the Knights Templar stayed for during extended periods of time in Middle-Eastern countries where they became acquainted with the teachings of Arabian mysticism. This contact with Eastern civilizations allowed them to bring back to Europe the basics of what would become western occultism, including Gnosticism, alchemy, Kabbalah and Hermetism. The Templars’ affinity with the Muslims led the Church to accuse them of the worship of an idol named Baphomet, so there are some plausible links between Baphomet and Mahomet. However, there are other theories concerning the origins of the name.
Eliphas Levi, the French occultist who drew the famous depiction of Baphomet argued that the name had been derived from Kabbalistic coding:
“The name of the Templar Baphomet, which should be spelt kabalistically backwards, is composed of three abbreviations: Tem. ohp. AB., Templi omnium hominum pacts abbas, “the father of the temple of peace of all men”. Eliphas Levi, Dogmes et Rituels de la Haute Magie
Arkon Daraul, an author and teacher of Sufi tradition and magic argued that Baphomet came from the Arabic word Abu fihama(t), meaning “The Father of Understanding”.. Arkon Daraul, A History of Secret Societies
Dr. Hugh Schonfield, whose work on the Dead Sea Scrolls is well-known, developed one of the more interesting theories. Schonfield, who had studied a Jewish cipher called the Atbash cipher, which was used in translating some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, claimed that when one applied the cipher to the word Baphomet, it transposed into the Greek word “Sophia”, which means ” knowledge” and is also synonymous with “goddess”.
The modern depiction of Baphomet appears to take its roots from several ancient sources, but primarily from pagan gods. Baphomet bears resemblances to gods all over the globe, including Egypt, Northern Europe and India. In fact, the mythologies of a great number of ancient civilizations include some kind of horned deity. In Jungian theory, Baphomet is a continuation of the horned-god archetype, as the concept of a deity bearing horns is universally present in individual psyches. Do Cernunnos, Pan, Hathor, the Devil (as depicted by Christianity) and Baphomet have a common origin? Some of their attributes are strikingly similar.