Baphomet is part man and part animal. The goat-headed Satanic symbol is often shown with one arm pointing upward and the other pointing down. He is even sometimes depicted with female breasts. The icon means different things to different people, but for the Satanic Temple, Baphomet's dualities make him the perfect symbol of reconciling opposites and plurality. That's why the group (who describe themselves as "non-theistic Satanists") decided to build a one-ton, 9-foot-tall bronze monument of Baphomet with the hopes of getting it installed next to the Ten Commandments monument on Oklahoma's state Capitol.
Before then, a stop in Detroit, where the Satanic Temple has established its first national chapterhouse, to officially unveil the monument. And that's when all hell broke loose. In Detroit, the group has faced violent threats, which caused them to relocate the event to a secret, private location. And possibly in an effort avoid any further conflict, Oklahoma's Supreme Court recently declared the Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional — which means for now, Baphomet is looking for a new home.
We spoke with Jex Blackmore, a member of the Satanic Temple's executive ministry, to learn about the devil in the details — and why the unveiling will still go on.
Metro Times: When did the idea for this sculpture originate?
Jex Blackmore: It feels like so long ago now. It was the winter two years ago, I think. The idea of it was more of [TST spokesman Doug Mesner's]. In terms of my involvement, I was called and he said "we have this idea. We're going to put a monument up and we don't know what it is yet." Then we went through a series of brainstorm sessions of how it would look.
MT: So you guys designed it?
Blackmore: Yes, the Satanic Temple designed it. We did the first sketches and then we passed it off to an artist. We had a conversation with the executive ministry at the Satanic Temple about what kind of monument it would be. We played around with a few different ideas and finally came to Baphomet, and from there fleshed out all the details of whether or not it would be the historic Baphomet or our interpretation.
The sculptor's name is Mark Porter. He's traveling with the monument. I just had a long conversation with him today about transport. We have a trailer but we can't have Baphomet on the back for all to see as it goes down the highway. We need to construct something to try to seal it.
MT: Why Detroit for the unveiling? You guys have established the chapterhouse here.
Blackmore: We have roots here and I live here, and we have our first chapter here. We have a really strong local chapter that is really active and involved and helpful. Doug is from Detroit as well. So we have a lot of support here.
MT: We're sure you've seen the comments online. A lot of people are upset about the statue's mere existence. Are you worried about anyone creating a scene at the unveiling party or vandalizing it?
Blackmore: It's an incredibly charged object — even the idea of it is just charged. It's a really amazing thing to witness the kind of connotations important people place on it on both sides. We have purchased excellent insurance for the object. We will have an ample amount of security at the event. Of course we respect and even encourage people to express their opinions on either side because it's healthy and it's part of democracy. So it doesn't surprise me that potentially people could come and protest. We will have security in place that ensure everyone is safe who attends and that the object is safe. And even people who want to speak out against it are also safe.
MT: Are there any concerns that people will take it the wrong way — that they don't understand the Satan that you guys evoke is a metaphor of and not literally the Christian Satan?
Blackmore: All the time. I mean we try to be as transparent as possible about what we believe and our practices. We have a very informative website. We do interviews. We write essays. There is a wealth of information about who we are. We can't obviously control people's assumptions about us, especially when they have no interest in learning or understanding. The best we can do is be transparent and honest about who we are.
MT: Probably every religious group has been misunderstood by others since the dawn of time.
Blackmore: Even to be fair there are people within the Satanic community that demonize all Christians for being opposed to things like gay marriage. That's not the case about all Christians. So, making generalizations about any group and their beliefs is not a wise thing for us to do as a community.
MT: Anything else you think people should know about the event?
Blackmore: With the announcement of the private Unveiling event, many have launched a crusade against the Satanic Temple, irresponsibly mischaracterizing and disparaging the group due to willful speculation. We have been told that the Satanic Temple is the “last thing Detroit needs,” while it is not us, but many leaders from the traditional Detroit religious community who intentionally provoke discontent, violence, outrage and misunderstanding. We firmly believe that all should have the freedom to practice their faith or lack thereof without harassment, that the majority does not have the right to define what’s acceptable for all and that we should support our neighbors despite our differences. The kind of slander and intolerance perpetuated by this vocal faction is precisely why we remain a proactive community and why our event will proceed as a celebration of free expression. Those who are offended simply need not attend. Let us remember that Detroit has been a majority Christian community for decades. If the prayers of a single voice haven’t saved us yet, perhaps it is time to embrace the diversity of our great community and seek commonalities because one might argue that is what Detroit truly needs.
The Unveiling starts at 8 p.m., with musical performances by Sadist, Wolf Eyes, and William Morrison (of Skinny Puppy); location to be revealed to ticket-holders on day of event; tickets are $25 or $75 VIP, sales end on July 24.
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