This enigmatic figure, known as Baphomet, was first described during the trials of the Templars, a medieval order of Crusader Monks accused of Heresy, witchcraft, and other crimes. The Order, founded in 1118 by nobleman Hughes de Payens, was the first of a number of “Military Orders.”
Originally conceived as a means of protecting Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem, the new order excited the public imagination, and they became extraordinarily popular. They were exempted from taxation, and had amassed great wealth and property by the 13th century.
Eventually, with all this money and power, the Templars became a political threat to the Church and especially King Phillip of France, who issued secret orders (using contrived information) to have all of the Templars in France arrested. Torture elicited hundreds of confessions of various crimes and heresies. The laundry list of unlikely crimes included spitting on the cross, denying Christ, and worshiping an idol; namely, a grotesque bearded head (other descriptions conflicted) called Baphomet.
Indeed, a number of supposedly Templar artifacts have surfaced which bear an image of an unusual male/female hybrid which resembles alchemical drawings of the soul of the world. Historians over the years have debated the possibility that the Baphomet rumor was true or an artifact of torture, and many suggestions about the origin of the word have been put forward. Some have proposed that the name is a corruption of the name Mohammed, or from the Greek, a phrase meaning “baptism of wisdom,” or “Bufihimat,” Moorish-Spanish for “father of wisdom”. Others have suggested more intriguing possibilities- that baphomet is a kabbalistic cipher for the Gnostic Goddess Sophia, or a variant name for the Greek Titan Goddess of wisdom “Metis.”
The interpretation of Baphomet pictured above was drawn by the nineteenth century occultist Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Constant), using elements from various descriptions. It was drawn with the head of a Goat, a human body with cloven feet and wings. According to Levi, it was a revelatory figure, requiring study to understand. This particular drawing is quite popular with Satanists and Ritual magicians, for varying reasons. However, save for a few details, Levi’s connection between his version of Baphomet, and the legendary idol of the Templars is mostly nonexistent. Levi’s description of the figure:
“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 hermeticism, the one pointing up to the white moon of the Quabbalic Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyn 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 ugly 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.”