About Baphomet: Information & Insipration from Mythology

Excerpt from Hermaphrodeities

Baphomet is a mysterious figure, and perhaps that is appropriate. Although revered by many mystics and ceremonial magicians, everyone seems to have a different idea of who s/he is. The Knights Templar were burned for worshiping this hermaphroditic phallic god. In the desert near their Spanish castle, strange figures are carved into the rock that have three faces in one, symbolizing past, present, and future. Local legend casts them as yet another symbol for Baphomet's all-encompassing power. The traditional figure of Baphomet, however, is of a goat-footed, goat-horned, winged hermaphrodite, much like an androgyne Pan. Medieval woodcut Tarot decks showed Baphomet as the Devil card, in all hir bisexual glory, since transgression of gender symbolized evil in those days.

This form of Baphomet's is rather suspicious in some pictures, especially the presence of breasts and the large, outsize phallus, often a different color than Baphomet's body. In Thomas Wright's The Worship of the Generative Powers in the Middle Ages in Western Europe, written in 1866, drawings are shown of the carvings on several coffers and bowls associated with clandestine worship of Baphomet. On one such carving, a statue of Baphomet is kissed by worshipers. On another, a robed and crowned figure figure holding two twisted serpents (reminiscent of Ariadne) stands with robe open to display hir body. The body is female, with breasts and vulva, but the face is heavily bearded. Is this one of Baphomet's priest/esses, or is it another form of Baphomet hirself?

Baphomet's form may be related to the legend of the Jack-A-Roe, a figure who appears in several folk songs as a woman who cross-dresses, often to be a soldier. The original Jack-A-Roe figure goes back much farther, to a tale of medieval German and English witch covens who worshipped the Goddess and the Horned God - Pan, Cernunnos, or Herne. These parts were played by actual coven members, the real faces of whom were often known only to a few in the coven for reasons of security. Apparently it was of the utmost importance that the "Man in Black", or the avatar of the Horned One, who witch-hunters assumed was the devil, never be found out to be a human being. According to legend, one way a coven got around this was to have the Horned God played by a woman wearing a horned mask and an artificial phallus, which s/he presumably used to have intercourse with the coven, providing them with a taste of sexual ecstasy. S/he was referred to in some English legends as the Jack-A-Roe, and the hermaphroditic Devil card may still bear her visage.

The name Baphomet may come from the Greek Baphe Metis, meaning "baptized in wisdom", showing the Gnostic roots of the vanished Baphomet cult which may be an offshoot of the Orphic mysteries; or it may stem from the medieval Arabic abu-fihamet, with the similar meaning "father of wisdom". However, unlike other androgynous deities whose worship is documented, most of what is accepted as Baphomet's rites are fairly contemporary, created inspirationally by individuals and groups who seem to see the enigmatic roots of this deity as an opportunity for new revelation.

As explained before, this book does not attempt to separate ancient and therefore "legitimate" myths from "illegitimate" ones borne of personal revelation, since I believe that any myth and symbol that is associated with a transgendered deity or archetype has something to tell us, if only about the society we transgendered people have to survive in, or the value in which we are held in varying cultures. Why has this half-animal hermaphrodite figure become a muse for so many in the modern magical community? What can we learn from the new myths that have sprung up around Baphomet, Rex Mundi?

First is the aforementioned title, Rex Mundi - king of the world, referring to the fact that Baphomet is poweful only on this material plane of earth. S/he is half animal, like Lilith, Pan, and may other deities whose shapeshifting appearance links them with the natural world. As a primal androgyne, s/he is reminiscent of Zurvan, the ancient Persian deity of Infinite Time who is pictured as intersex and bore of hirself the twins Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. Like Lilith, Baphomet is a highly sexual deity, an avatar of sacred sexuality. Indeed sex magic is one of the traditional ways of invoking and appeasing hir - but Baphomet puts a strange twist on it.

Baphomet is known also as the Lord of Perversions. This can be seen as society's horror of transgendered figures, especially those who are openly sexual. It can also be used to point out another uncomfortable fact, one that many in the gender community would rather not look at, and that is the real and unbanishable connection between genderfuck and kinky sex.

There is certainly such a connection for fetishistic transvestites (people whose gender identities are squarely that of their birth gender, but who find that dressing and acting like the opposite gender is erotically stimulating), and a huge amount of literature and visual porn has grown up to satisfy their needs. In the SM/fetish community, there are also quite a few who wouldn't exactly call themsevles transvestites, but who enjoy "genderplay" as a fun sexual activity. Examples are the proliferation of "daddy-boy" relationships among butch dykes, which mimic similar relationships in the gay male leather community, right down to the uniforms, mannerisms, and sometimes at least during sexplay, the pronouns.

Demographically, the percentage of people in the gender community who experiment with unusual sexual practices (such as consensual SM, fetish play, and other sexual theatre), is higher than anyone wants to admit. I was interviewing a noted psychiatrist who handles many gender people, and he commented on the sizeable number of transgendered patients who practice SM or have multiple fetishes.

There may, of course, be purely social reasons for this. The SM/fetish community, such as it is, can be very tolerant of anyone of any gender expression due to the number of people experimenting with genderfuck on their own. There is also the fact that SM can be a way for people uncomfortable with genital contact to get hours of erotic activity without the expectation that genitals will be involved. Another explanation might be that when your feelings about your genitalia and your social gender - which is supposed to determine your sexual role - are mixed and ambiguous, it might not be so hard for your sexual "template", as it were, to miss the traditional heterosexual or even homosexual target, and instead settle on something nonstandard, and possibly not even focused on other human beings. Or it might - who knows? - be another biological sexual preference.

However it comes about, Baphomet the sexual pervert is part of hirstory whether we like it or not. One of the attributes of the Lord of Perversion is the ability to use that which is shocking and disgusting to the repressed masses as a tool of magic. Where there's fear, there's power, says Baphomet. Where the thing is that you were taught you shouldn't do (often for no good reason), there lies that which will set you free.

The ancient Tantric sages, recruiting for their religion which competed with the newer Brahmanic Hinduism, created a "love-feast" which included meat, fish, and wine for the (heretofore vegetarian) initiates. Later, in the inner circles, "meat" was shown to be symbolic of fellatio, "fish' for cunnilingus, and "wine" for various body fluids; the "love-feast" of the inner circles was ritual sex. The first "blasphemy" was designed to shake the complacency of the initiates so that they would better be able to question their beliefs, and it prepared them for the second one. Similarly, unconventional sexual techniques frequently open people up to the possibility of experimenting with gender roles.

Gender bending is, in many ways, the ultimate sin in this culture. Even may gays and lesbians leap to assure the masses that they are just completely normal men or women who happen to be attracted to other perfectly normal men or women. Gender is rigidly legislated in our culture, and so is the distribution of power. Gender bending turns sex role rigidity on its head, and SM does the same for power relationships with its implications that power can be given, taken or swapped at will.

SM as a form of pain infliction can also be yet another way to achieve a shamanic altered state. Ceratinly the gallae of ancient Europe and the Near East used ritual flagellation to the point of maximum endorphin release to create an alteration of consciousness (see Chapter 9, "The Gallae of Cybele"). At the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, where the initiatory rites of Dionysus and Ariadne are illustrated, flogging with a switch is part of the ceremony. Baphomet is sometimes shown with a handful of birch switches for flagellation of the worshipers, reminiscent of this tradition.

Baphomet is sometimes associated with a female (or femme) lover/consort who is supposedly the archetypal Whore of Babylon, and she is often referred to as Babalon (why they changed the spelling, I don't know) symbolizing the power of sacred sexuality that was demonized by later religions. As a sacred whore, she is associated with Aphrodite (see Chapter 5 on Aphrodite and sacred prostitution). However, she is the special protector of those who make their living from selling perversion in particular, such as professional dominatrixes, transgendered sex workers, etc.

Baphomet and Babalon are both characterized by an utter and complete lack of shame and an abundant amount of self-confidence in themselves, their effectiveness, and their sexuality. As Rex Mundi, Baphomet is invoked in order to gain enough "chutzpah", if you will, to get one through a trial ahead. Because s/he is androgynous and comfortable with that, s/he can be invoked to give a temporary relief from pervasive body discomfort. However, s/he is impatient with those who refuse to take action to deal with their problems, and may find ways to "push" someone into action, possibly through dire circumstances. Invoke at your own risk, but the rewards can be great.