Netflix has become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry since it beagn pioneering streaming video in the late 2000's. With success has come controversy, much of which has been contrived by executives to increase presence in the media and to boost viewership. Truthfully, it's advertising 101 because there really is no such thing as "bad press." That said, the internet has been abuzz over the last week or so with the latest "controversy" surrounding the media giant, a lawsuit filed by The Satanic Temple regarding the use of a Baphomet statue used in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a student of the occult, horror fan, and editorialist I've spent a considerable amount of time researching the issue and have even reached out to parties involved seeking clarification on the issues at hand.
What follows is my editorial opinion of the matter based on the facts readily available through, literally, a 30 minute web search. I spent much more time researching it than that but, for those of you looking to kill some time on your lunch break, it's not something you'll have to hunt for on the Dark Web.
The Satanic Temple has sued Warner Brothers and Netflix over the use of a Baphomet statue used in an episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The Baphomet in question bares a striking resemblance to the statue that TST had commissioned several years ago as part of an ongoing legal battle with the state of Kansas over the placement of the Ten Commandments at the state legislature. The statue is of the goat headed deity in a state of seated repose with an arm raised as it offers enlightenment to to small children at its feet. While the Baphomet itself is a figure in religious and mythological texts, popular fiction, and any number of public domain images dating back centuries where almost identical representations of the being exist, this one in particular has caused a lot of legal turmoil and confusion.
The Satanic Temple's Baphomet (left) beside Sabrina's Baphoment (right) show many similarities and differences.
The Satanist View
With the lawsuit filed and outrage spreading, the angry eyes of the internet turned to The Church of Satan founded by Anton LeVey more than fifty years ago. The problem here is that The Church of Satan, an aesthetic organization of atheists using the representation of Satan as a sociological and ideological ideal for an individualist movement, has absolutely nothing to do with The Satanic Temple which is largely a political activist group known for such lawsuits. The Church of Satan provided several links to articles they have written over the years including their response to the current Sabrina "controversy."
What is Baphomet?
Sabbatic Goat, Eliphas Levi, 1854
The Baphomet is a deity being often depicted as a Sabbatic Goat as in the work of the same title by Eliphas Levi in the 1800's. Its descriptive use and name began during the Inquisition in the 1300's and was alleged to have been a deity worshipped by the Knights Templar during the Crusades. With the depiction of the Sabbatic Goat as Baphomet in the 19th century it became a pastiche for almost every occult and "Satanic" act, ritual, and panic inducing tell all book that has come after it as well as a symbol used in Freemasonry and by various religious orders and heavy metal bands. The Baphomet as depicted has elements of the male and female, notibly genitalia that blend together as both and form a Caduseus erecting upwards from its groin. It is meant to be a symbol of duality.
As you begin to read articles, review images, and start studying up and researching the issues, parties involved, and what exactly is going on you find that it's pretty clear. The Satanic Temple is alleging that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina deliberately infringed upon their copyright of the Baphomet statue that they had erected in Kansas and that has graced many products affiliated with TST's name and influence. Looking at their original concept, the final product, and the statue that appears on the show, there are some very definite similarities there. There are, however, blatant similarities to Levi's Sabbatic Goat, various tarot cards, advertisements, and other pop cultural references. The Satanic Temple has a definite claim on certain things but it feels like a real gray area when it comes to this. As for Sabrina, they could have easily created something new, different, and unique but what do you expect from people who are trying to make every member of the Archie Comics universe look dangerous and edgy in 2018.
The Satanic Temple could not offer comment pending their current legal suit with Warner.
The Church of Satan has absolutely nothing to do with any of this and, as such, felt no need to comment.
Warner and Netflix will likely come to some undisclosed financial settlement with TST now that headlines have been made and editorialists, journalists, and internet pundits have all weighed in and given their show so much more press than it really needs.
The Larger Issue
This brings me to my second opinion connected to this ongoing issue and, arguably, a much more important issue that fails to be addressed by society as a whole and within the varied ranks of horror fans and creators. Just because you are using a malignant character or force as a part of some occult ritual does not mean you need to drag Satanism (and vicariously Christianity, Islam, or Judaism) into the mix. Religios Satanism, i.e. Satan Worship, is a part of these faiths no different from separating out Catholics or Mormons. Like taking the "black magic" and animistic aspects of Voodoo and Paganism while ignoring the positive and uplifting elements of these rich, full mythologies. The Satanic Panic of the 80's generated so much fear and terror in the public over anything that wasn't one of the Semitic faiths that to this day people still believe that "Satanists" sacrifice children to the devil.
Baphomet's about to fuck somebody up!
Take a page from H.P. Lovecraft's playbook (preferably not one of the racist pages though) and create your own mythologies and deities. At the very least have some sense about you and fully depict a faith rather than just snipping it down to a soundbite or a statue and leaving it to the imaginations of audiences that will do zero research. In an age of instant knowledge readily available at your fingertips, depictions of the occult as violent, Satan worshiping witches and voodoo priests only creates real world fear and misunderstanding about the truth.
As for the continuing use of Archie Comics and affiliated characters from the 50's and 60's as edgy "new" material, that's another article for another time.