BAPHOMET, the imaginary symbol or idol which the Knights Templars were accused of worshipping in their secret rites. The term is supposed to be a corruption of Mahomet, who in several medieval Latin poems seems to be called by this name. J. von Hammer-Purgstall, in his Mysterium Baphometis relevatum, etc., and Die Schuld der Templer, revived the old charge against the Templars. The word, according to his interpretation, signifies the baptism of Metis, or of fire, and is, therefore, connected with the impurities of the Gnostic Ophites (q.v.). Additional evidence of this, according to Hammer-Purgstall, is to be found in the architectural decorations of the Templars' churches.
An elaborate criticism of Hammer-Purgstall's arguments was made in the Journal des Savans, March and April 1819, by M. Raynouard, a well-known defender of the Templars. (See also Hallam, Middle Ages, c. i. note 15.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)