The False God



Baphomet head. Photography by: Alexis Jacinta.

Alexis Jacinta, Chief of Publicity and Student Engagement

Satan, Lucifer, Beezlebub, Mephistopheles, and Baphomet: the modern media has labeled these as the devil. While most of these hold merit for being different versions of the God of the Underworld, there is an imposter among them. Baphomet, who is represented as a ram– and without a doubt, the most used personification of the devil– is, in fact, a pagan god of balance. While it is easy to confuse Baphomet with the devil, deeper research into the breakdown and history of this deity reveals his benevolent and tolerant nature.

Centuries of Misconception:

Baphomet was first recorded in a letter in 1098 written by Anselm of Ribemont, which described how the Turks “called loudly upon Baphomet,” for help and guidance during the Siege of Antioch during the First Crusade. Even though the deity was introduced centuries before, it was not until the beginning of the 14th century that Baphomet began to be antagonized during Philip IV of France’s reign. The King charged the Knights’ Templar, a Catholic organization, with heresy for allegedly associating with Muslims. To further support the reason for confusion around Baphomet’s meaning, Latin scholars believe that the name “Baphomet” is the misinterpreted version of the Latinization of Islam’s prophet, Muhammed, which translated as “Mahomet.” In more recent years, since the 1800s, the Freemasons have been accused of worshipping Baphomet, which they later publicly denounced.

The Symbolism of Baphomet:

A deconstruction of his appearance is key to understanding what this god represents. While easily distracted by the predominant horns that rest on his head, there are many clues on the body of Baphomet to decode his meaning. Baphomet’s hermaphroditic appearance serves to represent the duality between male and female. Another clue in Baphomet’s appearance suggesting that he is a god of balance is the positioning of his arms. His left-hand points north, to represent the sun, and his right-hand points south, to represent the moon. This hand placement shows the duality and balance between the sun/the moon and night/day. Also, added on his arms are the words “Solve” and “Coagula,” which means to separate and join together. These words are often associated with Baphomet as, “as above so below,” which in summary, refers to the relationship between positive and negative energies. Essentially, this phrase discusses how an individual can incorporate the “above,” or positive energy, with the “below,” the negative energy, and the balance between them. This term closely relates to the Yin-Yang symbolism in Chinese philosophy, which demonstrates the duality between male/female, positive/negative, and the sun/the moon.

As Above, So Below symbol
This symbol is used to represent the “as above, so below” phrase explained above. Photography by: Alexis Jacinta.

The Satanic Temple:

There are many organizations who follow the motto of “as above, so below” and worship or associate with Baphomet, but the Satanic Temple displays Baphomet’s meaning most accurately. Although the name of the Satanic Temple highly suggests that they worship Satan, this organization uses Baphomet as their patron saint and does not believe in the devil. The core values and principles of the Satanic Temple are usually disregarded with the extreme controversy of their statue of Baphomet, but this organization often participates in peaceful protests and fights for justice for all. Baphomet’s appearance, which was previously discussed as a representation of the balance between male and female, has become a symbol for gender acceptance and nonconformity. The Satanic Temple’s 8.5-foot statue of Baphomet has only furthered their fight for LGBTQ+ rights and his statue has become an icon for those who resonate with a nonbinary identity. The unclear gender of Baphomet and his body containing both male and female parts has led many to refer to this deity with the pronouns they/them, but for current English grammatical accuracy, he/him pronouns are used more frequently in texts and articles.

The “Church” of Satan:

As discussed previously, there is an extreme misconception of Baphomet’s purpose. In 2020, the culprit causing said confusion is the Church of Satan. Not only has the Church of Satan destroyed Baphomet’s reputation, but their definition of the word “church” is rather flimsy. Many can easily argue that the Church of Satan is no more than an elitist clique. To begin, as the Satanic Church fights for homosexual liberation, The Church of Satan, on the other hand, continues to have outdated and offensive beliefs. For example, Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, believes that ordering blue cheese on salad is only suitable for “wimps, homophiles, and submissive females.” LaVey regularly spewed other comically outrageous bigotry. While the Satanic Temple actively participates in social and political issues, Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan are openly authoritarian, but give no effort in contributing to their community’s politics. This clique requires a $250 entry fee, but there seems to be no reason behind this requirement but to exclude low-income economic classes from joining, considering that they do not hold regular meetings or events that would require a membership fee or donations. Due to the Church of Satan only following the writings of Anton LaVey, displaying elitist characteristics, being openly authoritarian, and discriminating — whether blatantly or not — against certain social and economic groups, this “church” more closely resembles a cult. Another reason why many pagans, Satanists, and atheists disagree with the Church of Satan is because while they use Baphomet’s image on their sigil, they are self proclaimed “I-Theists.” “I-Theists,” according to the Church of Satan’s definition, are individuals who believe that each person is their own god, thus leaving no room to worship Baphomet or any other gods/deities. Whether intentional or not, the Church of Satan taints the reputation of Baphomet by using his image without actually worshipping him. The modern confusion around Baphomet comes from the Church of Satan referring to Baphomet as Satan and using the names interchangeably, even though they do not worship either.

Neither the Satanic Temple or the Church of Satan believe in a singular higher being, but Baphomet is used by the Satanic Temple as a deity of balance and acceptance. Whether someone may associate with the Church of Satan or the Satanic Temple, this god has provided guidance during times of need and given a voice to those who individualize outside of society’s gender and social conformities. Due to the controversy over the meaning of Baphomet, the manner in which he is worshipped differs from person to person. As mentioned above, the Satanic Temple exercises their worship through advocacy and empathy for all communities; and during such difficult times, this activism is desperately needed. It is incredibly unfortunate that there has been extreme slander and misrepresentation of Baphomet and his followers; and hopefully, as society evolves, there will be more discussion about the true benevolent nature of this god.