With the help of a massive, inanimate friend, the Satanic Temple has been waging a war against the religious right. The Temple, founded in 2012, is in many ways a political group. The FAQ section on the group's website explains that "the Satanic Temple eschews rigid, centralized authority," and that it is separate from other Satanist churches, like the LaVeyan church. In it's brief history, the group has been crusading for women’s reproductive rights, and against the creep of church into state.
This latter effort is one that has caused a national uproar, because in order to protest the placement of the Ten Commandments on government land, the Temple is asking for a spot for their very own, very massive, very Satanic religious statue: An 8.5 foot tall, $100,000, bronze-cast, one-ton statue of a Baphomet. It looks like this and, as of this writing, it is effectively homeless.
That is, in part, by design. In an email to Fusion, Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves noted that “It’s probably best if no religious displays are on public grounds at all,” adding that “but so long as there's one, it's best that there are many.”
The Temple's Baphomet was built in the tradition of the 19th century "Sabbatic Goat," which has been long associated with the occult. Greaves describes the Baphomet as "a goat-headed, angel-winged, androgynous creature," and explains that "our monument will stand in honor of those unjustly accused…so that we might pay respect to their memory and celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law."
The Temple’s goal, it seems, is to place the Baphomet beside any other religious monument that lives on public property. Most often, that means proposing to put the Satanic statue next to a large statue of the Decalogue, which tends to pop up everywhere. Greaves explained, “originally we wanted to donate the statue to the Oklahoma State Capitol to place it on display next to a Ten Commandments monument. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled the Ten Commandments monument illegal, and they've ordered that it be taken down. That being the case, we will not pursue placing Baphomet at the Oklahoma Capitol.”
Philosophically, it seems the Baphomet plan is working out gangbusters. But logistically, it seems problematic. How do you cart around an eight and a half foot, bronze cast devil?
Greaves said he’s not an expert on the matter, but that “it requires us to rent certain equipment, from trailers to forklifts.” Mark Porter, who built the Baphomet, told Fusion in a phone interview that a trailer has indeed been rented to transport the Baphomet, which is currently in Florida.
Porter explains that the Baphomet looks the way it does because, basically, it has to. “I knew Baphomet needed to be bigger than life-size for the scale, and the feel, in that classical sculpture approach,” adding that Baphomet required the type of “heroic scale” you would have seen during the Renaissance. Plus, the Satanic Temple knew exactly what they wanted. Porter said he received a drawing from a member of the group. Next came a 3D model, and after about a year—including five months in the studio, plus more time at a foundry—the Baphomet was born.
For now, the statue remains in limbo. It will be unveiled in Detroit, and then possibly to Arkansas, says Greaves, because the state may put a Decalogue on Capitol Grounds in Little Rock.
The statue is not for sale, and it is not for rent. Greaves said the Temple hopes the Baphomet will be used to fight the placement of religious objects on secular ground, as intended, but that it might otherwise end up at a gallery.
Porter wouldn’t mind seeing this statue in a museum. The sculptor says he has received some negative feedback—“a lot of emails of people sending me eternal curses and woe to you and all of those things”—but that he hopes people will view the statue not just as a political work. “It would be cool if some people could stand aside and see the skill and labor involved… I hope people can appreciate it as a work of art, and not just a spectacle.”
All images courtesy of Mark Porter.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.