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queering Baphomet

“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….

Baphomet statue by Maria Strutz

Update: visit Kris Littlesun’s The Bent Pentacle Blog for two accounts of a Baphomet ritual performed at Queer Pagan Camp 2011.


  1. Steve Davies
    Posted January 18th 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Phil- great article, brought to mind the whole idea of liminality that seems to pervade tantra and the best of the chaos impulse- the idea of flow between states and an acknowledgement of not knowing “neti,neti”.

    as someone whose also worked with the Pact and the Amookos material, I’ve found myself (when I’ve been receptive!) allowing me to let go of the desire to cling to labels and identity- gay/straight, top/bottom, magician/mystic- and embracing all and none of these.

    So big up to Baphomet and Ardhanari! Jai!

  2. Gyrus
    Posted January 19th 2010 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    Blimey, great post. I’m currently immersed in Islamic cosmology, which is fascinating, and an interesting non-Christian way to learn about the “archaic cosmos” that is such a fundamental backdrop to most occult systems. This is a really seductive amorphous breathing space between all those ordered planetary spheres.

    And “unresist” is one of the best coinages I’ve heard in yonks!

  3. Julian Vayne
    Posted January 19th 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    nice one Phil – Io Baphomet! x

  4. Phil Hine
    Posted January 19th 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    gay/straight, top/bottom, magician/mystic…

    My aim was rather, to get right away from this kind of binary regime of established subject-positions, with its implied hierarchies and oppositions, and instead, point towards something which is inherently metamorphic and unfixable. Baphomet as a zoomorphic multiplicity of intensities and yes, flows – as opposed to how “hir” has often been represented, primarily in gendered terms, and subjected to anthropomorphic capture and singularised as a being. Hence my reinterpretation of Baphomet as monstrous – in order to suggest qualities of ambivalence (fascination & abberance) – Levi’s Baphomet is reminiscient of the freakshow monster or Frankenstein’s creation – unnatural and excessive hybridity. In a way, this is a continuation of some of my remarks in The Pseudonomicon regarding the Great Old Ones as not so much “entities” but events/event-horizons into which the individual slips – a form of delirium/seduction of which Baphomet-as-image (freeze-frame) is but a glimpse, a foreshadowing.

    • Steve Davies
      Posted January 20th 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      I like that alot- the idea of Baphomet as a potentiality, an event horizon- interesting that rites like the Chaos vortex and Nema’s “cosmic vision,vortex ritual” might represent that sense of becoming. Reminded me of the systemic psychotherapist Barry Mason who contrasts “unsafe cetainty” and “unsafe uncertainty” with “safe uncertainty”- in the latter the not knowing or the yet to be born is held via relationship and flow rather than dogma and/or outdated scripts.

  5. Phil Hine
    Posted January 20th 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I’m using becoming here in a primarily Deleuzian sense in order to highlight the idea of an amorphous alliance which changes all participants within it. For example, becoming-animal (one of Deleuze & Guattari’s examples) is not an imitation; it is, they aver, not a matter of playing at being an animal, imitating animal or projecting human signifiers onto an animal. It is not a relationship where animal is an incomplete subject dominated by the human perspective. Becoming as a process allows human-animal to enter into a proximity which dissolves both identities and the boundaries set up – both are changed by this proximity and what emerges is novelty and creations that are byproducts of the event itself, rather than the property of say, the human element.

    This concept probably requires further elaboration by someone more acclimatised to Deleuze & Guattari than I, but it’s a concept I’ll be returning to in due course as I believe it could be useful in rethinking experiences such as possession, for example.

  6. Chris Wood
    Posted January 20th 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Phil You sent my head a racing with that one –
    ‘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 …and so I pay tribute….

    I was initiated young the Bucca spirit in traditional witchcraft evokes this (Bliss/HISS!) also – this was my first mouthfull of ‘Baphomet’ if you will
    My first rite involving fucking myself with the shealth of the sword i was using!
    Alowing oneself to be fucked – propper ridden – ragged! Is as the experience of possesion. To give yoursef over in Tust and Fear, pleaseure and pain a merging of opposites into one.
    Several possesions accross the years have left me realing for days at the infiniate that I had gorged on and yet NOWT also! Belly full yet aching and empty!

    In my early twentys I made the decision to carry Baphomet as a witch name much to my (then) very wiccan covens horror! (intresting to see the pagan layers peel back from them revealing Christianized programs buried deep in there phyces shaping there ‘Craft” understanding and forggoings) But I digress………..

    The name was not as a label or a torch betwix my horns but the only way at that age i could attempt to explain my queerness magickally – to give rise to the spunk bubble popping candy inner cunt twitching seeping musk, dusk dawn,, hoof, horn……… forever entwined enshrined flesh ribbioned by thorns, screaming ,whispering………..

    I was quickly expelled from my group as they ‘ no longer had what i needed’

    And there at the edge of the abyss i took a deep breath and dived in horns first!

    As for the Levi image – or ‘sphinx of ocullt science’ as its been called is truley but a snapshot-
    All our experiences of ‘Baphomet’ are but snap shots are they not?


    oh yes totally fucking MONSTEROUS
    and totally fucking BEAUTIFULL!

    Baphomet IS queer we ALL are deep down in that place where the flesh and body become canvas and clay and blood and teeth and hearts beat like drums thudering our souls desires

    so SWALLOW

    Let it Be……

  7. Iavolusan
    Posted January 31st 2010 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Phil Hine
    Did you have any problems with your health after the possession-works with Baphomet?
    I also use possessions in the triangle for my magical work with Lam, Baphomet, Aiwaz, Sphinx etc. They are not like voodoo spirits, which are functional. Secret Chiefs are unfinished, they have many variative names, numbers, images, functions.

    Chris Wood
    Sphinx is a snapshot of Baphomet. Sphinx is Malkuth and Binah, Baphomet is the whole Tree.

  8. Phil Hine
    Posted February 1st 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Health problems? Not really. I find that full possession can be exhausting and emotionally draining, particularly if it’s been an intense event. I sometimes get very weepy afterwards, and want to have only close friends around me, but equally, I’ve known it to be very energising and life-affirming. I’ve occasionally come away from it with bruises and scrapes, or been so tired that I have to spend the next day or so in bed recovering, but I’d say that was part of the course.

  9. Ven
    Posted February 10th 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    i place Baphomet pic and meditate with him/her as my HGA. Then, something happens…
    Anyway, i’m sure He/she improves your charming ability and handling the force(Star Warz??) of nature.
    take care 😉


  10. Jenny Peacock
    Posted February 14th 2010 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    As someone else party to the queer Baphomet ritual Phil describes, and speaking in relation to possession, I would say this. Watching him prepare to be ridden – a small few of us sitting quietly, knitting together the fabric of the coming evening, talking gently but traveling towards something momentous, taught me something valuable about emotional commitment and possession that has stayed with me. Another friend and experienced practitioner was there, an unspoken guardian specifically for the one-to-be-possessed, and watching the trust between them, one holding the space, the other preparing to strip down psychologically and offer themselves wholly to be “eaten” by the ritual, well, that took me further along the path of one of the things I find most valuable in magic – profound connection.

    Possession is an intense altered state, but different people “do” it differently and, of course, do it differently in different contexts and cultures. Baphomet is today associated with an occultist strain of contemporary paganism, via a narrative chain from the Templars (supposedly) through Levi and Crowley. I have found that whilst Baphomet is represented as having both male and female sexual characteristics, often, within occultist circles, Baphomet is more strongly coded and understood as male than as female. That Baphomet can, I think, be an appropriation of the female-as-strange and the animal-as-strange in the production of fear-power – a kind of “Baphomet is badass, and morphologically weird, but I can handle it” machismo. So, for me, queering Baphomet means counter-balancing and over-turning that – a queering situated within historical formations of Baphomet. That ritual of 2004, spiralling out from a male possessee prepared to be ritually deeply vulnerable, worked as an over-turning for me, and charged the night with a punch which turned into a hell of a party.

  11. Roy
    Posted March 10th 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    “this is a continuation of some of my remarks in The Pseudonomicon regarding the Great Old Ones as not so much “entities” but events/event-horizons into which the individual slips.”

    This sort of fits in with recent notebook entries of mine in which I try to explain that for all intents and purposes, “Earth” and “the Universe” are not places, they are activities. “Self” is more like a place…

    Thanks for a great article Phil.

  12. Simon
    Posted March 11th 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    “I find that full possession can be exhausting and emotionally draining, particularly if it’s been an intense event. I sometimes get very weepy afterwards…”

    That brings to mind the traditional description of how werewolves in folklore felt on returning to their human form. “Melancholia canina” as they (apparently) called it in the 10th century.