Understanding Wicca: Part 2 – The Goddess and The God


Witches reject the masculine, patriarchal concept of God, in favor of older ideas. We do not see why a rigid monotheism should necessarily be a sign of human advancement, as it is generally taken to be. It seems more reasonable to us to conceive of divinity as being both masculine and feminine; and as evolving moreover a hierarchy of great beings, personified as Gods and Goddesses, who rule over the different departments of nature, and assist in the evolution of the cosmos.

The God and Goddess are primordial in nature. Both the Horned God and the naked Goddess, the latter sometimes alone and sometimes in triple form, are both found, in man’s oldest sacred art, in his most ancient sanctuaries, the caves of the Stone Age.

The triple form of the Goddess is related to the three phases of the moon, waxing, full and waning. Her relation to human fertility is a vital one, as the female menstrual cycle of twenty-eight days coincides with the duration of the lunar month, a fact which primitive people would undoubtedly have noted. Indeed, some archeologists believe that markings found to have been made by early Stone Age people are observations and reckonings of lunar phases, mankind’s first attempt at astronomy and the making of calendars.

The virility of the great horned beasts, the stag and the bison, upon which man in his hunting phase depended; the beauty and mystery of the light of the moon, the meter-out of time and ruler of the tides, both of water and of feminine life; these were fundamental, primitive things. The pagans, who worshiped the divine made manifest in nature, personified them as the first divinities known to us.

They saw, as the peoples of the East still do, the interplay of opposite yet complementary forces, without which no manifestation can take place. These fundamental powers are called in the ancient Chinese system known as the I Ching or Book of Change, the Yang and the Yin. The Yang is the active, masculine power (the God) and the Yin the passive, feminine one (the Goddess).

common symbol of the Triple Goddess

The Goddess

The Goddess is first of all earth, the dark, nurturing Mother who brings forth all life. She is the power of fertility and generation; the womb, and also the receptive tomb, the power of death. All proceeds from her; all returns to her. As earth, She is also plant life: trees, the herbs and grains that sustain life. She is the body, and the body is sacred. Womb, breast, belly, mouth, vagina, penis, bone and blood – no part of the body is unclean, no aspect of the life processes is stained by any concept of sin. Birth, death, and decay are equally sacred parts of the cycle. Whether we are eating, sleeping, making love, or eliminating body wastes, we are manifesting the Goddess.

The Earth Goddess is also air and sky, the Celestial Queen of Heaven, the Star Goddess, ruler of things felt but not seen, of knowledge, mind and intuition. She is the Muse who awakens all creations of the human spirit. She is the cosmic lover, the morning and evening star, Venus, who appears at times of lovemaking. Beautiful and glittering, She can never be grasped or penetrated; the mind is drawn ever further in the drive to know the unknowable, to speak the unspeakable. She is the inspiration that comes with an in drawn breath.

The Celestial Goddess is seen as the moon, who is linked to women’s monthly cycles of bleeding and fertility. Woman is the earthly moon. The moon is the celestial egg, drifting in the sky womb, whose menstrual blood is the fertilizing rain and the cool dew. She rules the tides of the oceans, the first womb of life on earth. So the moon is also Mistress of Waters: the waves of the sea, streams, springs, the rivers that are the arteries of Mother Earth, feelings and emotions, which wash over us like waves.

The Goddess is the universal Mother. She is the source of fertility, endless wisdom and loving caresses. As the Wicca know Her, she is often of three aspects: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, symbolized in the waxing, full and waning of the Moon. She is at once the unploughed field, the full harvest, and the dormant, frost-covered Earth. She gives birth to abundance, but as life is her gift, she lends it with the promise of death. This is not darkness and oblivion, but rest from the toils of physical existence. It is human existence between incarnations.

Since the Goddess is nature, all nature, She is both the Temptress and the Crone, the tornado and the fresh spring rain, the cradle and the grave.

She is possessed of both natures. Wiccans revere Her as the giver of fertility, love, and abundance through the light half of the year and they acknowledge Her darker side as well in the dark half. We see her in the Moon, the soundless, ever-moving sea, and in the green growth of the first spring. She is the embodiment of fertility and love.

The Goddess has been known as the Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods that made the Gods, the Divine Source, the Universal Matrix, the Great Mother, and by countless other titles.

Many symbols are used in Wicca to honor Her, such as the cauldron, cup, labrys, five-petalled flowers, the mirror, necklace, seashell, pearl, silver, emerald, to name a few.

As She has dominion over the Earth, Sea, and Moon. Her creatures are varied and numerous. A few include the rabbit, bear, owl, cat, dog, bat, goose, snake, cow, dolphin, lion, horse, wren, scorpion, spider and bee. All are sacred to the Goddess.

The Goddess has been depicted as a huntress running with Her hounds; a celestial deity striding across the sky with stardust falling from Her heels; the eternal Mother, heavy with child; the weaver of our lives and deaths; a Crone walking by waning moonlight seeking out the weak and forlorn, and as many other beings. But no matter how we envision Her, She is omnipresent, changeless, eternal.

 

common symbol for the Horned God
common symbol for the Horned God

The God

The image of the Horned God in Witchcraft is radically different from any other image of masculinity in our culture. He is difficult to understand, because He does not fit into any of the expected stereotypes, neither those of the “macho” male nor the reverse – images of those who deliberately seek effeminacy. He is gentle, tender and comforting, but He is also the Hunter. He is the Dying God – but his death is always in the service of the life force. He is untamed sexuality – but sexuality as a deep, holy, connecting power. He is the power of feeling, and the image of what men could be if they were liberated from the constraints of patriarchal culture.

The image of the Horned God was deliberately perverted by the medieval church into the image of the Christian Devil. Witches do not believe in or worship the Devil; we consider it a concept peculiar to Christianity. The God of the Witches is sexual – but sexuality as seen as sacred, not as obscene or blasphemous. Our God wears horns – but they are the waxing and waning crescents of the Goddess Moon and the symbol of animal vitality. In some aspects he is black, not because he is dreadful or fearful, but because darkness and the night are times of power, and part of the cycles of time.

The Horned God represents powerful, positive, male qualities that derive from deeper sources than the stereotypes and the violence and emotional crippling of men in our society. If man had been created in the Horned God’s image, he would be free to be wild without being cruel, angry without being violent, sexual without being coercive, spiritual without being unsexed, and able to truly love.

For Witches, the God is the image of inner power and of a potency that is more than merely sexual. He is the undivided Self, in which mind is not split from body, nor spirit from flesh. United, both can function at the peak of creative and emotional power.

The God has been revered for eons. He is neither the stern, all-powerful deity of Christianity and Judaism, nor is He simply the consort of the Goddess. God or Goddess, they are equal, One.

We typically see the God in the Sun, brilliantly shining overhead during the day, rising and setting in the endless cycle which governs our lives. With the warmth that bursts the dormant seeds into life and hastens the greening of the Earth after the cold snows of winter.

The God is also tender of the wild animals. As the Horned God, He is sometimes seen wearing horns or antlers on his head, symbolizing his connection with these beasts. In earlier times, hunting was one of the activities ruled by the God while the domestication of animals was seen to be Goddess-oriented.

The God’s domains include forests untouched by human hands, burning deserts, and towering mountains. The stars, since they are but distant suns, are sometimes thought to be under his domain.

The yearly cycle of greening, maturation, and harvest has long been associated with the sun, hence the solar festivals of Europe which are still observed in Wicca.

The God is the fully ripened harvest, intoxicating wine pressed from grapes, golden grain waving in a lone field, shimmering apples hanging from verdant boughs on October afternoons.

With the Goddess, He also celebrates and rules sex. Wiccans don’t avoid sex or speak of it in hushed words. It’s a part of nature and is accepted as such. Since it brings pleasure, shifts our awareness away from the everyday world and perpetuates our species, it is thought to be sacred. The God lustily imbues us with the urge that ensures our species’ biological future.

Symbols often used to depict or to worship the God include the sword, horns, spear, candle, gold, brass, diamond, the sickle, arrow, magical wand, trident, knife and others. Creatures sacred to him include the bull, dog, fish, stag, dragon, wolf, boar, eagle, falcon, shark, lizard and many others.

Of old, the God was the Sky Father, and the Goddess, the Earth Mother. The God of the Sky, of rain and lightning, descended upon and united with the Goddess, spreading seed upon the land, celebrating Her fertility.

The Goddess is the Encircler, the Ground of Being; the God is That-Which-Is-Brought-Forth, her mirror image, her other pole. She is the earth; He is the grain. She is the all-encompassing sky; He is the sun, her fireball. She is the Wheel; He is the Traveler. His is the sacrifice of life to death that life may go on. She is Mother and Destroyer; He is all that is born and is destroyed.

Relationships of the God and Goddess:

Dualistic Relationship – The God and Goddess relate to each other as brother-sister, or husband-wife. Ex. Zeus/Jupiter and Hera/Juno/Demeter or Diana/Lucifer and Diana/Apollo, bears resemblance to the Yin/Yang concept of duality.

Triadic Relationship – Father, Mother and Child. Ex. Osiris, Isis and Horus or Zeus, Demeter and Persephone or Zeus, Demeter and Dionysus. Also God, Mary and Jesus.

Triple Face of the Goddess – Maiden, Mother and Crone. Ex. Persephone, Demeter and Hecate or Diana, Selene and Hecate.

Dual Nature of the God as King of the Waxing Year and King of the Waning Year. In some cases this is developed into a triad, where the two gods are seen as brothers, one light, the other dark, contending for the hand of the Goddess and in other cases, there is a father – son relationship, where the child becomes the Divine King, only to wane with the coming winter and be succeeded by his son and rival. Ex. Set and Osiris, Prometheus and Epimetheus, Baal and Mat, or Lugh and Balor. Also the Oak and Holly Kings.

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