From ancient art to contemporary cinema, the goat has been depicted as a Satanic animal. But how did the goat become associated with the devil? Like with any iconography, the history of the Satanic goat symbol is anything but simple.
Ancient Greeks worshipped a horned god named Pan who watched over shepherds and resided in nature. As Christianity took hold throughout Europe, pagans watched their peaceful deity warp into a sign of evil, sin, and punishable offenses. The Crusaders continued their imperialistic spread across the continent, and they claimed their enemies worshipped Baphomet, a goat-headed demon with nefarious intentions.
Throughout the centuries, the goat's evil identity has solidified - but after so many years, is it justified?
Not many people associate Pan with the Christian devil due to Pan's demeanor. The Greeks depicted him as half-man, half-goat, with hoofed feet and a horned head. His father was either Hermes or Zeus, depending on the source, and his mother was a nymph.
Pan, the god of the wild and the companion of nymphs, was believed to be anything but aggressive. He enjoyed lounging in fields, taking midday naps, and playing music in the evenings. He also looked over herders, flocks, and hunters.
Like other Greek gods and goddesses, Pan was a highly sensual being. Artists often depicted him chasing after nymphs or loafing around in a drunken haze, and naturally, this didn't sit well with the newly established Catholic Church.
In 325 AD, Emperor Constantine I spearheaded the First Council of Nicea. The council issued the Nicene Creed, which solidified the notion that Jesus was a divine being and an inseparable part of the one and only God. Any other deity was considered a false icon, and Christian theologians like Eusebius began morphing Pan's identity from the natural, free-wheeling guardian of shepherds into a demonic entity.
According to Greek historian Plutarch's De defectu oraculorum, Pan perished during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD). Although historians debate whether or not Plutarch was discussing the literal end of Pan, Christian apologist Eusebius took the idea and ran with it.
Eusebius explained that Jesus was alive when Pan passed - both religious figures allegedly lived during the reign of Tiberius. Eusebius gave Jesus the credit for casting away Pan and other pagan deities, referred to as daemons. He wrote in Demonstratio evangelica:
The final proof of [the daemons'] weak nature is shown by their extinction which can only be dated from the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ. For from the time when the word of the Gospel began to prevade all nations, the oracles began to fail, and the [ends] of the daemons are recorded.
As Christianity began spreading, pagan worship transformed from a religious practice into a cardinal sin.
The Knights Templar was the most powerful armed force in Medieval Europe. By the 13th century, the Crusaders, whose mission was to be soldiers of Christ, had turned their focus to business, namely banking. They lent a significant amount of money to King Philip IV of France as his country fought England.
When King Philip IV didn't have the means to pay the Knights Templar back, he came up with a different strategy to cancel his debt. Allegedly, the Knights Templar worshipped a deity known as Baphomet. Like Pan, he was half-goat, half-man, but Baphomet had a full goat's head. King Philip IV ruled this an act of heresy and had the Knights Templar taken into custody en masse.
The crusaders used ruthless tactics when interrogating the Knights Templar. Many admitted to worshipping this Baphomet, though these may have been false confessions meant to end the torment.
Word of this evil, demonic Baphomet spread, and depictions of the demon began morphing from the jovial Pan into the sinister adversary of God.