The history of Baphomet is a bit murky, as it is a symbol that has been co-opted in to may various different occult mythologies. It’s first appearance was in 1098, mentioned by a crusader Anselm of Ribemont:
Sequenti die aurora apparente, altis vocibus Baphometh invocaverunt; et nos Deum nostrum in cordibus nostris deprecantes, impetum facientes in eos, de muris civitatis omnes expulimus.
(As the next day dawned, they called loudly upon Baphometh; and we prayed silently in our hearts to God, then we attacked and forced all of them outside the city walls.)
Mosques were also referred to by the Crusader chroniclers at the time as Bafumarias. So it appears there is a correlation being made between Baphomet and Islam, ie, ‘Baphomet’ = Mahomet = Muhammad. The name would later come up in confessions of the persecuted the Knights Templar, who were accused by King Philip IV of France in 1307 of idol worship and apostasy, among other things. Several few of the Templars confessed under torture to worshipping the idol known as Baphoment, and various of their accounts referred to it as being either a severed head, a cat, or a head with three faces, though the majority of them claimed no knowledge of it. It is significant to note that no specific evidence of Baphomet appears in either the Templar Rule or in other medieval period Templar documents, however, it has been reported by Gauserand de Montpesant, a knight of Provence, that
his Templar superior showed him an idol made in the form of Baffomet; another, named Raymond Rubei, described it as a wooden head, on which the figure of Baphomet was painted, and adds, “that he worshipped it by kissing its feet, and exclaiming, ‘Yalla,’ which was,” he says, “verbum Saracenorum,” a word taken from the Saracens. A templar of Florence declared that, in the secret chapters of the order, one brother said to the other, showing the idol, “Adore this head—this head is your god and your Mahomet.”
Therefor, one interpretation of the name of Baphomet is that it is an Old French corruption of the name Muhammad, as mentioned above, with the insinuation being that some of the Templars, through their long military occupation of the Outremer, had begun incorporating Islamic ideas into their belief system, and that this was seen and documented by the Inquisitors as heresy.
Another interpretation is that the word Baphomet comes from the Greek βαφη μητȢς, baphe metous, “Baptism of Metis (Wisdom).” There are also various other connections to Wisdom that have been made. 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.” One occultist, Eliphas Levi, argued in his work “Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic” 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.”
It is from the book by Elphas Levi where we get the most familiar depiction of Baphomet,, drawn himself which he described as Baphomet and “The Sabbatic Goat”, showing a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on its head between its horns. Lévi called his image “The Goat of Mendes,” a diety who, according to Herodotus was depicted with a goat’s face and legs. Combinding this image with the images of the Devil card from the Tarot of Marseilles tarot deck, an image itself which draws heavily on various pagan imagery, he arrived with an image that for him, was culmination of the alchemical process—the union of opposing forces to create Astral Light—the basis of magic and, ultimately, enlightenment (wisdom). You will note that each symbol in the image is paired with it’s antitheses. Male and female, light and dark, sun and moon, heaven and earth. According to Levi, all of this is symbolic of the quest for unity, and becoming ‘one with God.’ It served as an allegory for profound esoteric concepts. (interestingly enough, the later Rider-Waite tarot design would draw on Levi’s depiction of Baphomet as the source material for the Devil card. The actual image of a goat inscribed withing a downward-pointing pentagram first appeared in the 1897 book “La Clef de la Magie Noire” (the Key to Black Magic) by Stanislas de Guaita. It was this image that was later adopted as the official symbol—called the Sigil of Baphomet—of the Church of Satan, and continues to be used among Satanists)
Shortly after Levi released his book, a fellow french writer and journalist Léo Taxil released a series of pamphlets and books denouncing Freemasonry, charging lodges with worshiping the devil. At the center of his accusations was Baphomet, which was described as the Mason’s object of worship. However in 1897, he would call a press conference to announce that many of his revelations were in fact fabrications. Interestlying enough, Christian evangelist Jack Chick, author of the esteemed Chick Tracts, stills claims that Baphomet is a demon worshipped by Freemasons, despite the originator of this assertion recanting his accusation.
Later, famed occultist and muse for Led Zeppelin Guitarist Jimmy Page, Aleister Crowley would incorporate the image of Baphoment into his Gnostic Mass. Believing himself to be the reincarnation of Levi, Crowley asserted that Baphomet was “a divine androgyne and the hieroglyph of arcane perfection”:
The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… ‘The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘The Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.
In conclusion, Baphomet is a composite creation, initially used as a symbol of alchemical realization through the union of opposite forces. Eliphas Levi’s depiction of Baphomet included several symbols alluding to the raising of the kundalini – serpentine power – which ultimately leads to the activation so-called “third eye.” So, from an esoteric point of view, Baphomet represents this occult process of seeking and attaining elightenment. However, over time the symbol has come to signify much more than its esoteric meaning. Through controversies, Baphomet became, depending of the point of view, a representation of everything that is good in occultism or everything that is evil in occultism. (“As Above, So Below”) It is, in fact, the ultimate ahem “scapegoat”, the face of witchcraft, black magick and Satanism, and is now used as a symbol for anything regarding occultism and ritualism.