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Sigil of Baphomet Origin; A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural by Maurice Bessy

The first appearance of what we now know of as the Sigil of Baphomet appeared on the cover of A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural by Maurice Bessy and was edited down from an earlier version by Stanislas de Guaita that appeared in La Clef de la Magie Noire. First published in French in 1961 Maurice Bessy’s book was translated and printed into English in 1964. the book was quite popular as it went through multiple reprints as late as the early/mid 70s. As with other popular easily referenced or obtained material that Anton borrowed, plagiarized, and cobbled together while founding the Church of Satan the current CoS leadership up-sells how he changed or altered it to make use of it on publications. Here is a scan of the symbol from the cover of the book;

Cover scan of a 1972 print. We also have a print from 1968 with the same image

Here is a CoS entry on the origin in which it is presented thus;

While The Satanic Bible was being written, it was decided that a unique version of this symbol must be rendered to be identified exclusively with the Church of Satan. The pentagram was made geometrically precise, the two circles perfect, the Hebrew characters were distorted to make them look more sharply serpentine and “corrupted with time,” while the goat face was redrawn with particular attention paid toward the eyes.

Which is essentially a long-winded self-congratulatory way of saying that a line drawing/tracing was produced for smaller print visibility on The Satanic Bible and subsequent publications…

It is certainly thematic that Satanists would appropriate imagery that reflects the demonization of older horned gods to express a positive assertion of our own beliefs and values as opposed to exclusively inverting or blaspheming Abrahamic religions. However as I’ve expressed before ad nauseam, I find irony in the ability of CoS to exaggerate the creative and intellectual abilities of Anton LaVey while claiming that he “created something new” that is Satanism and laying sole claim to the identity while downplaying that he simply picked from widely available materials and milieus which resonated with him personally and reflected his hatred of San Francisco hippy culture.

A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural is a reference book for those interested in the occult. Before the internet or Wikipedia most of us relied on books such as this for a quick overview of topics we could then selectively pick and choose to look deeper into. 1960’s interest in things Satanic, demonic, and counter-cultural is clearly and heavily represented within it minus the requisite association and fascination with evil that we find in similar materials from the 80’s and 90’s. Put more simply, it is a relic from a time when a coffee-table book frankly discussing Satanic topics didn’t have to pander to Evangelically inspired superstition and hyperbole in order to sell copies.

While perusing the pictures and captions in A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural with an understanding of how popular it seems to have been it is easy to imagine the widespread influence that it may have had on quite a bit of familiar art and culture that followed. For instance, I cannot help but wonder if William Peter Blatty chose Pazuzu as the demon in The Exorcist after it being featured here;

Pazuzu in the 1968 edition. The Exorcist was written in 1971.

A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural also spends quite a few pages on one of The Satanic Temple’s favorite topics, witches and witch hunts;

The copy of A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural that I’ve owned for years was acquired as a gift from The Brown Elephant, a non-profit thrift store in Chicago. For years it was little but decoration on my bookshelf, (much in the way it served CoS and LaVey by their own admissions) while I wondered at why it had the Sigil on it’s cover. I had incorrectly assumed that the publishers had placed it there to cash in on the popularity of CoS in the late 60s. I know now that in actuality it was likely the other way around with LaVey picking it for his organization from a popular and widely circulated publication. You will never find me denying that LaVey was adept at successful branding and marketing in his day even if he wasn’t as innovative at new content or ideas as some would have us believe…

*insert side-eye

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Sigil of Baphomet Origin; A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural by Maurice Bessy”

  1. Interesting article. I saw this book in a film called All The Colours of The Dark. Never knew there was a such an opposition towards the CoS among other satanists. I never really cared much about Satanism, but always assumed LaVey is very respected among you. Now, that you pointed out his usage of demonized imagery of the originally neutral deities, I wonder, how I didn’t notice it before. I’ve always considered CoS as merely a reaction to christianity, but now I can’t even take them seriously anymore. Thanks.

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