The Book of Baphomet by Nikki Wyrd and Julian Vayne.
(Mandrake Press 2012 ISBN 9781906958466)
In many ways this book does exactly what it says on the label. If you want to know anything about Baphomet, then this is your book, as it covers the historical origins of the name, cowled and candled in ceremonial magic, from the persecution of the Templars, through Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley and Death Metal to current-day Chaos Magic. The book begins with a chemical creation myth that places the human in sobering perspective within the web of the scientifically perceived natural world, in this way, the book firmly establishes Baphomet’s environmental credentials and role as nature-spirit of life.
The Book of Baphomet is co-written by Nikki Wyrd and Julian Vayne, two authors with proven track records in the IOT – the Illuminati of Thanateros – the seminal Chaos Magic group, so the book specifically explores the significance of and contact with Baphomet within that particular magical paradigm. Weaving visionary tracts, personal anecdote and transcribed ritual with common neo-pagan memes – Margaret Murray, the horned god, Bran, Wicca, Druidry and Pan, throwing the net wide and inclusive in true Chaos fashion, a grand thumping monograph of Baphomet is created.
Two things decisively distinguish The Book of Baphomet from run-of-the-mill deity compendiums/hagiographies (and they are legion, mainly bad or boring. Believe me, I was once a bookseller). The first are the authors’ unswerving honesty to their magical heritage and intentions. This is not a vague fluffy flaccid anthology of Baphomet-lore shove it back on the shelf please, but an explicitly Chaos Magic manual for working within the Baphometic paradigm. This is not the last word on Baphomet, just the Discordian one. Such clear focussed intent is very unusual in the genre of neo-pagan hagiography, and this is much to the books credit. Secondly, most books in this genre are about goddesses, a few concern gods and the search for sacred masculinity, but Baphomet is determinedly androgyne, both masculine and feminine. The dual-aspect is acknowledged in the authors’ use of the non-gender specific terms ‘hir’ and ‘sHe’, and appears as a central gnosis of the deity, underpinning the philosophy of the book, “this idea of unification of opposites, male and female, first and last matter, as above so below – this is the key to Levi’s glyph”, even the chosen writing technique of joint authorship is in accordance with this view. The text was written and repeatedly re-written by both of the authors “this palimpsest of many years’ work, overwritten by our two hands until we cannot tell ourselves who wrote which part for the other”, here the male and female voices merge into a voice between the genders, a voice of all, neither and both. “Baphomet is the All in the same way that Pan is the All, bisexual, chimerical, twirling the twin caduceus serpents”
As you may have guessed by now, The Book of Baphomet is no beginners guide, moreover, it is a serious, complicated and thought-provoking read. I found it necessary to keep pen and notepad to hand while reading, because this is a text that asks to be studied, with note-taking, re-reading, re-checking and follow-up research of references, and to aid this there is an impressive bibliography. Such an in-depth book is a rare and satisfying find.
Nikki Wyrd is the Head of the IOT in Britain, while Julian Vayne has published a number of books on Chaos Magic, most recently a collection of articles – Magic Works – concerning Vayne’s experiential work, it includes “Magic With a K” which I think is the first written account of the ritual use of Ketamine.
Review first printed in Pentacle Magazine (Issue 36) Autumn 2012