In maybe the most memorable scene in 2015's The Witch, the goat known as Black Phillip speaks to Thomasin, urging her to sign the Devil's book. Up until then, Phillip was nothing more than a goat — sure, a murderous, sinister goat, but just a goat. But this moment confirms what we've known to be true from the start: The goat is a stand-in for Satan Himself.
Of course, Black Phillip is just the most recent iteration of popular culture's longstanding tradition of depicting the Devil as a goat. The most popular image of the Satanic goat dates back to the ever-mysterious Knights of Templar, who were accused of worshipping an idol known as Baphomet. Roman Catholic society decried it as a demon that demanded human sacrifice — but it would take a few more centuries before the goat became a truly occult symbol.
In 1854, occultist and magician Eliphas Levi sketched Baphomet as a winged man with the head of a black goat. He wrote that it was an amalgamation of the supposed Templar idol, plus "the infernal goat" found in depictions of witches' sabbats, the ancient Egyptian "phallic goat" god Banebdjedet, and the Devil tarot card. In his writings, Levi described his drawing as "the nightmare," "the fantastic monster," and "that phantom of all terrors." His image of Baphomet (which would become the default) represented pure immorality, and it was inspired by base, unfeeling, and demanding deities.
It's also believed that early Christians, seeking to demonize preexisting Pagan traditions, drew comparisons between the Devil and the Greek god Pan, who happened to resemble a goat. And goats get a bad rap in the Bible itself, when Jesus appears on Judgment Day to separate the lambs from the goats. The "goats" here stand in for the selfish, cold, and uncaring people who defied God's word. Spoiler alert: They do not escape the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."