“All the gods died of laughter to hear one among them proclaim himself unique!”
Pierre Klossowski, The Baphomet
“A sexual being of no fixed gender, In constant flux: growing and changing shape like plants do. more like a habitat in bodily form; the embodiment of vegetal sensuality. In my representation, ………appears almost female but the features are ephemeral and transforming: the breasts are becoming phallic; the cleavage vulval and who knows what’s going on down below or behind? The humanesque appearance is for our benefit; a form we can identify with. being immortal, procreation (an intrinsically mortal function) is totally irrelevant to ……….. whose senso-sexuality is absolute……………. but …………is far from infertile, quite the opposite; however, this fertility is that of lush and mouldering, exuberant bounty.”
Z*qhyoegm, quoted in Lou Hart, Magic is a many-gendered thing
My on-off affair with Baphomet began in 1983, when I thought of myself more or less as a Wiccan, although that self-ascription was already slightly fuzzy at the edges. I’d bought a statuette of Baphomet at an occult bookshop and placed it on my altar without quite knowing why. I often used to meditate, aping the position of the statue. By that time I was giving myself strong doses of Kenneth Grant, backed up with whatever I could find in occult texts about Baphomet – Levi, Crowley – that kind of thing. But I didn’t really “know” Baphomet.
I was living in York when I first tried a ritual aimed towards Baphomet. Unfortunately, my diary entry for the event (9th June 1983) is fragmentary, but it would have been “wiccan” in structure, and my High Priestess (who was from Macclesfield) was present, as was one other woman. My diary records: “Baphomet appeared at the edge of the circle and wanted to come in. We denied him this and he began to mess about, first slowly peeling a large art poster (appropriately enough, a depiction of a witches’ sabbath) off the wall, then causing a stack of milk crates to rock back and forth.” The ritual was (hurriedly) closed and we left the room.” I didn’t actually see “Baphomet” standing in the room doing these things, note, it was more of a communal “psychic” apperception of events – we’d invoked the force of Baphomet – therefore these events were down to Baphomet – q.e.d. That was pretty much how I thought of things at that time.
By the early 1990s, I’d come back to Baphomet again, this time through a magical order called the IOT, for whom the “Mass of Chaos B” – a rather minimalist ritual which focused on one person becoming “possessed” by Baphomet was a favourite ritual. Throughout this period I saw many instances of Baphomet: fierce Baphomets who screamed abuse at those present; prophetic Baphomets who spoke in tongues and made absurd promises of future greatness; inspired Baphomets who poured their essence into a chalice for sharing. By then I was beginning to think of Baphomet as unfinished. Usually, with deities, one can get a sense of them with recourse to myth. If say, you are interested in Pan, you can, by trawling through the Greek myths or other texts in which Pan figures, get a “sense” of what he is, what he is “about” as it were. This was, by that time, very much the approach I had taken to working with deities for invocation or possession. But there was also another strand here – possession by “unknown” beings which I’d come at through experimental dance-drama & mask-work: entities who only came into existence during an event; who had “unformed personas” that only developed or “grew” over time and repeated performance. Unlike the “classical” deities of familiar mythologies, they had no role, no place in a pantheon, no easily-assigned “function”. This was how I began to think of Baphomet – something that lived beyond the boundaries and routes through which I normally thought of entities in terms of magical work. I became less interested in occult analyses of what Baphomet “symbolised”, rather to what Baphomet might “hint” towards. Less mask, more of a masque.
Having participated in a fair number of Baphomet possession-events – either as “horse” or celebrant, I began to think about how many different “Baphomets” presented themselves. It seemed to me that the Baphomet we “got” at any one event was very much a “product” of that event. By that time I’d moved away from a perspective that held deities to be singular and entirely seperate from the participants/events in which they “came through” to a much more interactive perspective – that these possession events shaped the way in which the focus of the ritual – the person(s) who were possessed by Baphomet – behaved. In the Chaos Mass B, Baphomet is portrayed as a kind of examplar spirit – the driving force – through the progression of Aeons:
“In the first Aeon, I was the Great Spirit,
In the second Aeon, men knew me as the Horned God, Pangenitor Panphage
In the third Aeon, I was the dark one, the Devil
In the fourth Aeon, men knew me not, for I am the hidden one
In this new Aeon, I stand before you as Baphomet, the God before all Gods who shall endure to the end of the earth.”
(The Baphomet in this litany is presented as predominantly masculine rather than poly-gendered.)
Possession is the dominant route through which I have engaged-fused-danced with Baphomet. Possession – with its long association with “the primitive”; with the popular representations of Voudun, Santeria and the like, as well as films such as The Exorcist with its excesses of bodily substances and forbidden sexualities – has something of a strange position within occulture. It’s a practice that moves diametrically away from the ordered ritual universe of the magus; towards play and performance, the blurring of boundaries and distinctions, and the surrender of control to a panoply of powers who have their own desires and agencies. When I first began to experiment with group possession in the late 1980s, I couldn’t get many of the magicians I knew interested; instead I hung out with a motley collection of improv performancers, and we played with masks and sheets instead, producing a series of peformances to “unformed gods” through mask-trance. Possession is often difficult to approach as, by its very nature, it collapses boundaries between the self-as-agent and that which has been “invited in”. In an essay giving my reflections on being fucked for the first time I likened the experience of being fucked to that of being possessed. Possession, in this sense, undermines self-possession. Possession is linked to queerness, in some people’s minds, it seems – as a form of demonic possession.
In 2004 I had my first queer experience of Baphomet, at a possession-event at Queer Pagan Camp. This brought me into a different perspective on Baphomet, and a rather different approach to possession. This was in the context of a ritual that was being facilitated by some friends, who asked me if I’d volunteer to “carry” Baphomet. I’d spent pretty much the whole day preparing for this ritual, invoking the preliminary deities (Pan and Eris) with whose power I inflame myself prior to offering myself to Baphomet, so by the time that the formal ritual proceedings opened, I was very much in a state of semi-possession anyway. This was, without a doubt, the most intense possession I’ve experienced so far. This was the first time I’d done a possession on grass rather than the floor of a room or concrete. This was one of the few times I’ve had someone act as an “anchor” – someone I trusted to pull me back, as it were – which allowed me to “go deeper” – to unresist the flood of alien presences. Also, there were “safekeepers” who managed the ritual space during the proceedings. It took nearly a day to “dive in” towards Baphomet; it took several days to come back to the surface.
Snatches of memory persist: I had a fairly clear post-ritual memory of being surrounded by trees. Gradually, this became clearer, and I recalled that at one point, a couple of the safekeepers had moved very close to me whilst “I/Baphomet” was crawling around on all fours. I also have ‘flashes’ of moving towards the altar at one point, but not of picking up a hot incense burner or of stroking my arm with a very sharp blade – both of which “I/Baphomet” did.
“Becoming Baphomet, Baphomet-becoming. It was a multitude which tried to speak in many voices, which could not walk or slither, but staggered and crawled across grass, which cried continuously, wailing to be unchained, stuttering grief and fear. Drawn towards the bright objects flickering in compound eyes; reeling with the impacts of eyes which wanted it to be a singular thing. Wonder at the bright blade that unfolds flesh and wells warm blood; terror of being confined, we felt, by trees; ancient and newly-born. None of us wanted to be seperated from each other; we all fought the leaving.”
“…the god of this world is not the monotheistic one; he is rather the Baphomet, the “prince of modifications.” As Klossowski explains, the Baphomet presides over an unstable and polycentric universe, an anarchy of metamorphosis and metempsychosis. William Burroughs maintains the regulative principle that we must regard every event as being willed by some agency, as being the expression of an intention. Klossowski proposes a complementary principle: he suggests that every intention is an external event, a modification of my being, and hence a sort of demonic possession. Each thought or desire is an alteration of my previous state; it is an intrusion of the outside, a whispering in my ear, a breath that I inhale and exhale, an alien spirit prompting me from offstage or insinuating itself within me. Of course, not all intentions are carried through to their conclusions; but any intention is already in itself a kind of action, a tribute paid to the Baphomet…” Steven Shaviro, Doom Patrols
How then, to Queer Baphomet?
“Queer theory might better remind us that we are inhabited always by states of desire that exceed our capacity to name them. Every name only gives those desires – conflictual, contradictory, inconsistent, undefined – a fictive border.” Lee Edelman, Queer Theory: Unstating Desire
I return to my earlier thought – that Baphomet is “unfinished” a becoming in Deleuzian terms: Baphomet is a monstrous body; an assemblage with no real-world referent (images of carnival monsters); an excess of signs – goat-breasted-horned-fire-winged-phallus; a surface from which multiple abjects – woman-satan-sabbat – bubble and froth. Between goat-horns blazes a fire; not the managed alchemical fire of science, more the fecund moist heat of the compost heap. Snake-entwined cock, hidden cunt. Implosion of possibilities; surfaces; sufferances. Baphomet pulses – is a pulsation of life unbound; the mystery at the heart of the sabbat; a blurred image at the edge of the firelight; an offering to the unspeakable. The heresies of the templars made momentarily manifest. The “spectre” of sodomy and all unmentionable acts; witch-trial given form. Not hermaphrodite; most definitely not the accepted ephebe-androgyne of the western imagination; a multiplicity of shifting planes and horizons: Baphomet as animal-elemental-fusion. Baphomet does not mean anything; cannot be chained by regimes of symbolic order. Baphomet calls to free-roaming desire as excess; polymorphous perversion without goal, purpose, product. Baphomet wears human bodies as a drag act; lingers on in fading trails of glitter and snail-tracks of secretions. In amorphous longings and moanings. Out there in the darkness, something emerges….
Update: visit Kris Littlesun’s The Bent Pentacle Blog for two accounts of a Baphomet ritual performed at Queer Pagan Camp 2011.