For months, I’ve been intending to write a post on that enigmatic Goat-God, Baphomet. Everything I wrote seemed either too long or too glib, or so weird that I worried my meaning would be obscured. The fact that I’ve failed thus far may be the best illustration for how enigmatic this Deity can be.
There is a great deal of theorization available online to the interested reader regarding the historical origin of Baphomet. I advise a great deal of skepticism and cross-referencing of sources, and I may write more concerning Hir history later, but there’s a lot of conspiracy rubbish, Satanic Panic nonsense, and no small degree of religious paranoia to sift through. Even then, Hir origins are poorly understood and arguably unknown.
Besides, Baphomet seems pretty enthused by self-propelled explorers and seekers of understanding. Curiosity, a prying intellect, and an awareness of one’s instinctual nature seem to be hallmarks of the Black Goat.
Regardless of Hir true origins, there isn’t anything explicitly Satanic about Baphomet, even though the Goat has been adopted as a symbol of such. Don’t assume that someone who deals with Baphomet is a Satanist (some would be quite offended at this assertion)- or that they aren’t. Best not to make assumptions at all, really, but Ze makes a lot of people uncomfortable, including, curiously enough, no small number of Pagans.
The familiar image of Baphomet as the goat-headed, eagle-winged androgyne can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when the name was applied to an illustration by French magician Eliphas Levi titled “The Sabbatic Goat.” Although the supposed historical justification for Levi’s drawing is lacking, the symbolism in it is still potent. Levi’s Baphomet symbolizes that which is: male, female, both and neither; composition and decomposition; the dark and the light. Baphomet teaches that what we think of as opposites are really part of the same whole.
You have a left side and a right side; both sides are still you, no? A top to your head and a bottom end, too. Still you. So what we humans often think of as this or that is really the same thing.
The following consists almost entirely of UPG: “unverified personal gnosis.” That is to say- basically- personal mythology. This information may or may not be of use to others, and should be differentiated from historical practice and not assumed to apply to others’ beliefs. That being said, in my experience:
As mentioned earlier, Baphomet is male and female, both and neither; this is why I deliberately use third-gender pronouns when referring to Hir. (Plus, using “Hir” in reference to Baphomet is a bit of a pun, “hircus” being Latin for “goat”…) Baphomet is the frenzy of existence, the instinct of being. Baphomet is the rut, and the decay of dry bone. Baphomet is metamorphosis, the death-throes of stars and the fission of atoms within suns.
As always, I find looking to a Deity’s totem animals tells us a great deal about the Deity Itself. Goat is vitality, wary intelligence, willfulness, and, frequently, no small degree of licentiousness. Goat digs life. Goat likes to eat tasty-smelling flowers, jump on stuff, to chew cud and doze and chase other goats of its preferred sex(es) about. Goat is also smart enough to keep an eye out for eagles, wolves, leopards, and other creatures in its environment who would like to feast upon it. Goat wants you to convince it why it should (or should not) do something, and even if it takes your opinion into consideration, it’ll only listen to its own judgment. Goat doesn’t follow placidly along like a sheep; Goat will butt its horns right up against your head and say: “Why should I?”
It’s little wonder they’re besmirched in the Bible and other Abrahamic texts, beside the fact that there was near-constant conflict over grazing rights between goat-herding families and sheep-herding families when most of them were written. Goats tend to display many traits explicitly condemned (likely because combined they form someone who isn’t terribly suggestible and a pain to control): they are prideful, indulgent, mischievous, skeptical animals. They’re also absolutely hilarious and roguishly charming.
(I have had the privilege of keeping goats before. They’re like huge cats with hooves and horns. They will frequently attempt to destroy anything and everything, but are affectionate and friendly when the mood strikes. Some will converse with you in the same way cats will “chat” back and forth with you, only with much bleating in place of meowing. They almost certainly have a sense of humor. Have I mentioned I adore them?)
So all of this that could be said of goats, can also be said of Baphomet. For all the earthy goatishness (which, by itself, is all very Pan, another Deity demonized by Christianity…) there’s an airy human side as well, for Baphomet is about balance, including that between the feral instinctiveness and cold calculatory intelligence. In typically anthropocentric fashion, correctly or incorrectly, humans have fashioned themselves the symbols of intellect, the ability to take responsibility for one’s actions, will over matter, and self-control over one’s baser impulses.
Baphomet reminds us that we are both the goat and the man. We are instinct and intellect; the heat of ecstasy and rational consideration; both animal and human. There is no difference; human is animal.
Regarding Baphomet as Ze appears in Levi’s illustration, some additional notes/UPG:
Wings indicate ascension; we are our own salvation. Also represent the Air element.
An upright pentacle, with one point upward, is said to represent spirit (traditionally a trait ascribed to humans, although I would argue that it is in no way unique to humans) over carnality (or the right-hand path); an inverted pentacle, with the point down, is said to represent carnality over spirituality (or the left-hand path.) In actuality, these are simply two means to the same end: another false dichotomy. I personally utilize both, with the upright pentacle as symbolizing Will rather than Spirit, and don’t recognize either variation as inherently “right-hand” or “left-hand.”
Baphomet may also resonate with queer folks. For straight types who may not understand why some of us are so invested in our sexuality and/or gender identity: being a statistical outlier can be, to put it bluntly, a mindfuck. Finding a reflection of one’s self in a Deity can be intense, especially when that Deity teaches “Know Thyself,” something many of us have been practicing for a very long time. Baphomet is represented as an androgyne, possessing both breasts and an erect phallus; while I do not believe that Baphomet gives much of a care for gender or sex in reference to Hirself, the overlapping of traditional “masculine” and “feminine” archetypes is nonetheless significant.
“Solve”-Dissolution. “Coagula”-Coagulation. An old alchemical concept which suggests both intellectual analysis and synthesis as well as the crude explanation that decay is necessary for growth.
Baphomet has, in my experience, been quite reachable via practices that could be described as ecstatic in nature. A little pomp and circumstance- anything that engages the senses as well as childlike wonder, curiosity, and intrigue- does exceptionally well. Self-awareness is best of all.
I’m sure there is more, and it’s difficult to really summarize a Deity. I’ve tried to go over some key points based on the experience (for lack of a better word) of Baphomet. I fear that no amount of explanation can really suffice, and that the Goat really has to be experienced to even begin to explain.
Baphomet says, “Look within, and know Thyself.”