In my previous article I discussed Baphomet’s possible origins in the Arabic names Bahumed or Bahamut, the latter of which takes its name from the biblical Behemoth and its form from a chymera of the biblical Behemoth and Leviathan, with the connection to the mysteries of the hippopotamus and the elephant that this implies. But more often we associate Baphomet with the goat. For this we have to thank Eliphas Levi, who made an association between Baphomet and the Egyptian god Banebdjedet in his book “ogmas and Rituals of High Magic”. It would seem that due to a translation error Levi called Banebdjedet ‘The goat of Mendes’. In fact Banebdjedet has the head of a ram. Ba is the ancient Egyptian word for both ‘ram’ and ‘soul’, and it seems that the soul of a god was often depicted with a Rams head. In this case Banebdjedet was supposedly the Ba of Osiris, although this varies between different texts, presumably in reflection of the ever changing political and religious climate of the ancient civilisation. In one text Banebdjedet is a form taken by Ptah, and in another concerning the trial of Set and Horus he initially remains neutral and later sides with Set, not actions one would credit with the ‘soul of Osiris’.
Levi’s thinking of Banebdjedet as a goat may well have been a result of a mistranslation of the account given by the Greek historian Herodotus. Herodotus also told a story about Zeus appearing to Heracles hiding behind the severed head of a ram so as not to reveal his true face, using it to explain why Egyptians depicted Zeus with a rams head. It seems the Greeks saw Banebdjedet as a form of Zeus. Certainly both gods were associated with prolific sexual verility. The sexual nature of the gods cult was such that it lead to early Christians to demonise him.
Interestingly, some conspiracy sites try to claim that the statue of George Washington by Horatio Greenough was modelled on Eliphas Levi’s famous depiction of Baphomet. However the statue was commissioned in 1832 and completed in 1840, whereas the Elpihas Levi’s book wasn’t published until 1855, fifteen years later. Greenough apparently modelled the statue of the first US president upon the statue of Zeus at Olympus by the ancient Greek scupltor Phidias. In some myths, the infant Zeus is said to have suckled from the breast of the goat Amalthea, whose name is Greek for ‘tender goddess’, and in others he was raised by Melissa on goats milk and honey. Melissa is Greek for ‘Honey Bee’.
Ask people for a god associated with goats and I suspect many would answer ‘an’. Whilst the Greek word pan means ‘all’, the name of the god most likely originates in the word ‘paein’ which means ‘to pasture’. Like Baphomet, Pan has the legs of of a goat, although facially he is depicted as a bearded man with goat horns. Generally Pan is depicted in the manner of a faun. His father is said to be either Zeus, Hermes or Dionysus. The latter two being sons of Zeus themselves would make Pan a grandson of Zeus if they were the father. Either way, the theme of highly sexual virile gods is maintained. In some Hellenistic mystery cults however, Zeus, Phanes, Dionysus, Pan and Eros were all considered cognate.
So what mysteries do these goat deities reveal to us about the significance of Baphomet’s goat head and legs? Well the theme of sexual potency is very strong from many of the male gods associated with goats, so this would definitely be a part of Baphomet in that regard. Of course Levi depicts Baphomet as Hermaphrodite so goddesses associated with goats also come into the picture, the most significant of which seems to be Amalthea, the tender goddess who nursed the infant Zeus. According to some versions ambrosia, the food of the gods, came forth from her horns to feed him. This brings to mind the cornucopia, the horn of plenty. So the the divine goat also manifests a strong nurturing aspect.
The goat forms a strong part of Baphomet’s symbolic heritage since Levi, in the same way the elephant and hippopotamus connections via the BHMT link in the name. All this sets the stage for some fantastic symbols in Baphomet’s heritage that I will be tying together in my next article on this fascination deity.