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(băf`əmĕt), idol or mystical figure that the Knights TemplarsKnights Templars
, in medieval history, members of the military and religious order of the Poor Knights of Christ, called the Knights of the Temple of Solomon from their house in Jerusalem.
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 were accused of worshiping in the 14th cent. Apparently the name was unknown before that time in Western demonology. Its origin is disputed: it may have been a distorted form of Mahomet (MuhammadMuhammad
[Arab.,=praised], 570?–632, the name of the Prophet of Islam, one of the great figures of history, b. Mecca. Early Life

Muhammad was the son of Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his wife Amina, both of the Hashim clan of the dominant Kuraish (Quraysh)
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); it may have been of Greek origin.
Enlarge picture
Image of a Baphomet, with a pentagram on his forehead, 1896. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1307, one of the accusations leveled by Philip IV of France against the Knights Templar, in an effort to lay his hands on their enormous wealth, was that they worshiped an image in the form of a human skull named Baphomet. Supposedly there were a number of these skulls, or even whole human heads, one kept at each of the Templar centers.

The name Baphomet is of unknown origin. It has been suggested by Montague Summers that it comes from the Greek words baphe and metis, meaning "absorption into wisdom." Others see it as a corruption of the name Mahomet (Mohammed) to Bahomet in Provence, home of the Cathars, or Albigenses, with whom the Templars are sometimes linked.

As a result of the attacks on the Knights Templar, their leader and Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake. He was accused of worshiping the devil, of heresy, and of homosexuality. Under torture, only twelve of the 231 knights examined admitted to knowing anything of the head or skull. Some described it as simply a skull, some said it was a head made of wood, some a head made of metal. It was also variously described as having feet or breasts, or being bearded. However described, the consensus seems to have been that it was worshiped and regarded as a bringer of fertility and abundance.

Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall believed that the Knights Templar were, in reality, "Gnostics," or secret heretics. He referred to objects of thirteenth century art, consisting of various statues, goblets, and coffers, depicting androgynous figures, often with a skull at the feet, and displaying the symbol of the pentagram. As drawn by the nineteenth century French magician Eliphas Levi, Baphomet was a humanlike figure with a goat's horned head and hind legs, and with bat's wings. A torch stood between the horns, a caduceus rose as the phallus, and a pentagram was inscribed on the goat's forehead.

Doreen Valiente points out that there were similarities between these depictions, descriptions of the Templars' Baphomet, and deities acknowledged in Witchcraft. For example, Wiccan deities are thought of as fertility figures, or bringers of life. They are associated with a horned god and with a goddess. In addition, the pentagram is used by Witches.

Valiente goes on to point out that there are frequently "inner circles" to magical orders. Such may have been the case with the Templars, judging from statements like that of one of the accused, Stephen de Staplebridge, who admitted to there being "two professions in the order of the Temple, the first lawful and good, the second contrary to the faith." He was admitted to the inner "profession" a year or so after his original initiation into the Templars.

It was not unusual for deities to be thought of as androgynous. One of Dionysus's titles was Diphues, or "double-sexed." Mithras was sometimes so presented. The Syrian god Baal was also sometimes presented as androgynous.

Aleister Crowley took the name Baphomet, as a member of the Ordo Templis Orientalis, a secret society focused on sexual practices, formed in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century.

Although the Eliphas Levi drawing is popularly reproduced and often associated with Witchcraft, through the symbolism mentioned above, it actually is not a part of Witchcraft per se. Some individual Witches acknowledge it as a representation of a Wiccan fertility deity, while others abhor it.


fabled image; allegedly a Templar fetish. [Medieval Legend: Walsh Classical, 46]
References in periodicals archive ?
Readers will learn of the relationship of John the Baptist and the Mandean from Sri Lanka; the mystery of Baphomet (the Templar "Demon"); the gnostic and sexual tantric rites practiced by the Knights Templar; the alchemy and mystery of the Black Madonna; secrets of the Rosslyn Chapel and the Sinclairs of Scotland; the mysteries of the Freemasons and Johannites; and the Knight Templars of today.
His chief picture of reference is Baphomet represented in the nineteenth century by the occult figure of Eliphas Levi, alias Alphonse Louis Constant.
The pentagram of Levi's Baphomet is no longer confined to its forehead, as it is reiterated three times in the picture: the spread-eagled female figure is pinned against a pentagram, a geometric figure which reappears symmetrically on each side of the picture, parodying the contrast between the black and the white moon crescents in Levi's Baphomet.
The details must remain a secret between myself and my colleague Baphomet, who befriended the Templars.
Which is fortuitous, because it just happens that although the demon Baphomet was bound by King Solomon, under instruction from Archangel Michael, in a headshaped receptacle and kept safe for several millennia, the bounds are weakening and only a human can reinstate them.
As far as what the heresy was, all sorts of wild tales were adduced -- that Templars spit on the crucifix during their rituals, that they worshipped a demon named Baphomet, that they practiced witchcraft, that homosexuality among members was approved, even that during the initiation rite new members were required to kiss the presiding officer in an obscene place.
When this convoluted medieval fantasy, in which a Grand Master (the Baphomet of the title) abuses an androgynous adolescent in a series of stiffly described tableaux, won a French critics' prize, the distinguished essayist Roger Caillois resigned from the jury in protest, citing the book's "shoddy elegance" and incorrect language.