Hand gestures on Levi's Baphomet are different


In Levi's Baphomet, I noticed the thumb on the left hand is extended but the one on the right hand is lowered like the Hierophant's. What's Levi trying to illustrate by this? Could this be where Waite got his inspiration for making the Hierophant's palm concealed but the Devil's open?


Thanks for posting that link Sam, a lotta good stuff there.

I was studying the image yesterday and stumbled upon some pretty amazing stuff; not to toot my own horn, I just got lucky. :)

Levi appears to have reversed the orientation so it's not easy to see exactly what's going on. But with a quick horizontal flip it all becomes a lot clearer. Here are some observations:

1. The waxing moon is on the side of the white pillar and mercy, as it should be; and the waning moon is on the side of the black pillar and severity.

2. The Latin solve, from solvo, means loosen, release, relax, etc.; and coagula, from coagular, means coalesce, bring together, solidify, etc.

3. Solve is written on Baphomet's left arm [right in the original], but the thumb is tight against the palm; one would expect to see just the opposite since solve means loosen or relax. But if you imagine the hand moving clockwise with the waxing moon, it will gradually open and become the open gesture seen in the right [original left] hand. Likewise, the right hand [original left] starts out open but as it moves with the waning moon it gradually "coagulates" and closes again.

Flipping horizontally switches the arms though. To get a better idea of what I think Levi was getting at you have to mentally put yourself behind Baphomet looking at its back. This keeps everything oriented as in the flipped imaged but solve and coagula are still on the right and left arms respectively.

Here's an illustration, Baphomet.


Levi Baphomet's

right hand = right hand side - solve - chesed side - pillar of mercy - waxing moon;

left hand = left hand side - coagula - gevurah side - pillar of severity - waning moon.

By reversing image Baphomet appears then as image in mirror (to match standard ToL diagram), rather than a figure facing you.

aBy flipping you are viewing Baphomet as in a mirror, the arm on the right is still the right solve arm (not the left), the arm on left is the left coagula arm (not the right)

I am not sure about the position of the thumbs, because the right hand is at an angle to the viewer and the left is palm facing the viewer, it may be the hand shapes are the same, the right may look closed but because it is at an angle the extended thumb is pointing towards you, may appear closed but is a trick of perspective ? Levi says that both hands form the same sign, the sign of occultism.

That the Devil's/Baphomet's right hand (pointing upwards) belongs to the Chesed and the right-hand side, pillar of mercy, and the left hand (pointing downwards) belongs to the sphere of Gevurah and the left hand side, pillar of severity, is clear from Levi's own description:

“The goat which is represented in our frontispiece bears upon its forehead the Sign of the Pentagram with one point in the ascendant, which is sufficient to distinguish it as a symbol of the light. Moreover, the sign of occultism is made with both hands, pointing upward to the white moon of CHESED, and downward to the black moon of GEBURAH. This sign expresses the perfect concord between mercy and justice. One of the arms is feminine and the other masculine, as in the androgyne of Khunrath, whose attributes we have combined with those of our goat, since they are one and the same symbol. The torch of intelligence burning between the horns is the magical light of universal equilibrium; it is also a type of the soul exalted above matter, even while cleaving to matter, as the flame cleaves to the torch. … The caduceus, which replaces the generative organ, represents eternal life; the scale-covered belly typifies water; the circle above it is the atmosphere, the feathers still higher up signify the volatile; lastly, humanity is depicted by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences. … The dread Baphomet henceforth, like all monstrous idols, enigmas of antique science and its dreams, is only an innocent and even pious hieroglyph.”

Of Solve and Coagula:

"To have control over the Great Magical Agent there are two operations necessary--to concentrate and project, or, in other words, to fix and to move.”


Great stuff kwaw, it's good to know what Levi himself actually says about it.

I never thought about it but it's true, when you flip the image the actual arms don't change, they only appear different.

To me the hands look totally different. Levi seems to deliberately side-step the issue by simply referring to them both as the "sign of occultism." Here's a magnified pic, Hand Comparison.


I think the differences in the hands must be related to masculine and a feminine. Levi himself says, "One of the arms is feminine and the other masculine, as in the androgyne of Khunrath. . ." Here's a picture of Khunrath's androgyne. The left side is female and virtually every other alchemical picture of androgynes I've seen has the same arrangement. Wirth's Devil also has the female on the left; the little female demon has her palm up as in Levi's Baphomet. The left side of the Tree is also female. Baphomet's left arm actually looks more masculine to me but I don't think it's supposed to be. Baphomet.

kwaw, thanks again for posting that quote from Levi. The masculine and feminine part seems to be the key I was missing. :)


To me the hands look totally different. Levi seems to deliberately side-step the issue by simply referring to them both as the "sign of occultism." Here's a magnified pic, Hand Comparison.

To me the hands look like they are supposed to be the same gesture, but viewed from a different angle/perspective - however on closer look I think Levi has screwed-up the right (upward pointing) hand. The thumb of the hand in that position would be pointing away from the viewer, not towards. The folded little finger and ring finger would be towards the viewer, the upright and thumb behind them away from the viewer. Thumb and two upright fingers towards the viewer is impossible at that angle. The right (solve) arm and hand would only be correct if you were looking at the figure from behind.... (?)


As far as Waite's Devil goes, I noticed a few things:

1. The Coagula arm is raised [opposite of Levi]; the open palm is on the female side [same as Levi].

2. It looks like Waite could have drawn inspiration from Wirth. Wirth's Devil has the Coagula arm raised and the Solve side lowered. The Solve arm also holds a flaming torch as does Waite's. The raised and lowered arms are reversed in these two images but the male and female correspondences are the same.

3. The Hindu symbol that Wirth's Devil holds in the upraised hand might be a key to what the symbol is in Waite's Devil's right palm. Here's Wirth in 1927:

"By borrowing the left arm of Baphomet, we can draw towards us the surrounding and invisibly vaporized vitality and condense it into mist which is more or less opaque in its fluorescence. It is 'coagulation' which operates to the advantages of the phallus as is indicated by the Hindu symbol of the union of the sexes, which the Devil raises in his left hand."​

It's just speculation, but the similarities between Wirth and Waite is pretty interesting.


I made a panorama to make it easier to see the differences and similarities. The only constant between them all looks like Coagula on the female side. I'm guessing with Waite; it's just my personal opinion.

Levi, Waite and Wirth Comparison


Just realized it would've been Wirth's 1889 tarot that Waite would've known when he was making his deck. I added the 1889 Devil to the panorama above. Solve and Coagula are on different arms; perhaps Wirth had time to think about it and decided he like the 1927 version better.