The title of the album originates from a line in Hermann Hesse's book, Demian, quoted on the album's back cover: "We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas...."
The album cover features the 1961 painting Annunciation by German-French painter Mati Klarwein. According to the artist, it was one of the first paintings he did after relocating to New York City. Carlos Santana reportedly noticed it in a magazine and asked that it be on the cover of the band's upcoming album. The cover is now considered a classic of rock album covers.
Rock critic Robert Christgau, in one of his capsule reviews in The Village Voice, at the time of the album's release, gave it a rating of only C+, which denotes "a not disreputable performance, most likely a failed experiment or a pleasant piece of hackwork."
It was used in the UK as the background music for TV ads for Marks & Spencer food in 2006. It featured as the ending song in the Cold Case episode, "Dead Heat", which aired November 8, 2009 and in the soundtrack of the 2009 Coen Brothers film A Serious Man.
In 1997, ARS (Audiophile record service Joerg Kessler) of Germany, released a 180 gram 100% virgin vinyl pressing mastered from the original analog tape. It is (Pallas) Germany pressed. Catalog # Ars 32032.
In 1998, Sony published a remastered version, which included three previously unreleased live tracks: "Se A Cabo", "Toussaint L'Overture" and "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen," recorded at the Royal Albert Hall on April 18, 1970.
In 1998, SME records in Japan, part of Sony Music, also released the remastered version as an SACD. This disc is stereo only, and furthermore, it is a single layer SACD, which means that ordinary CD players will not play it. This disc contains the same bonus tracks as the ordinary 1998 remastered CD.
In 2008, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a remastered version on their Ultradisc II (24K) Gold CD (UDCD 775) & GAIN 2™ Ultra Analog LP 180g Series (MFSL305).
In 2016 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a new, limited edition, 45 rpm 2 lp box set of Abraxas called the 1 step (UD1S). The set was limited to 2500 copies worldwide and involved a process where several of the traditional steps in making a vinyl record were bypassed in order to get a more original sound. It is mastered from the original analog tape.