The Full Wiki

Horned God: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sculpture of the Horned God of Wicca found in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall.

The Horned God is one of the two primary deities found in the Neopagan religion of Wicca. He is often given various names and epithets, and represents the male part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the other part being the female Triple Goddess. In common Wiccan belief, he is associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting and the life cycle.[1] Whilst depictions of the deity vary, he is always shown with either horns or antlers upon his head, in this way emphasising "the union of the divine and the animal", the latter of which includes humanity.[2] Many Wiccans connect him to earlier horned or bull-headed pagan deities, such as the ancient Greek Pan, Celtic Cernunnos, the Roman Faunus and the Harappan Pashupati, as well as folkloric entities such as the English Herne the Hunter and Puck,[3] although there is no direct historical connection between the Wiccan Horned God and earlier deities.

The term Horned God itself predates Wicca, and is an early 20th century syncretic term for a horned or antlered anthropomorphic god with pseudohistorical origins[4] who, according to Margaret Murray's 1921 The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, was the deity worshipped by a pan-European witchcraft-based cult, and was demonised into the form of the Devil by the Mediaeval Church.

The Horned God has been explored within several psychological theories, and it has also become a recurrent theme in fantasy literature since the 20th Century.[5]


Horned God of Wicca

In mainstream Wicca, the Horned God is viewed as the masculine side of divinity, being both equal and opposite to the Goddess. The Wiccan god himself can be represented in many forms, including as the Sun god, the Sacrificed god and the Vegetation god,[6] although the Horned God is the most popular representation, having been used by early Wiccan groups such as the New Forest coven during the 1930s. The pioneers of the various different Wiccan or Witchcraft traditions, such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente and Robert Cochrane, all claimed that their religion was a continuation of the pagan religion of the Witch-Cult following historians who had purported the Witch-Cult's existence, such as Jules Michelet and Margaret Murray.

For Wiccans, the Horned God is "the personification of the life force energy in animals and the wild" [7] and is associated with the wilderness, virility and the hunt.[8] Doreen Valiente writes that the Horned God also carries the souls of the dead to the underworld.[9]

Neopagans generally tend to polarise the universe into male and female energies, however in most groups the symbolism of the Horned God is less developed than that of the Goddess.[10] In Wicca the cycle of the seasons is imagined to follow the relationship between the Horned God and the Goddess.[8] The Horned God impregnates the Goddess and then dies during the autumn and winter months and is then reborn by the Goddess in spring.[11] The different relationships throughout the year are sometimes distinguished by splitting the god into aspects, the Oak King and the Holly King.[8] The relationships between the Goddess and the Horned God are mirrored by Wiccans in seasonal rituals. For example, the Horned God dies on October 31, which Wiccans call Samhain, the ritual of which is focused on death. He is then reborn on Winter Solstice, December 21. [12]

Other important dates for the Horned God include Imbolc when, according to Valiente, he leads a wild hunt.[9] In Gardnerian Wicca, the Dryghten prayer is recited at the end of every ritual meeting contains the lines referring to the Horned God:

In the name of the Lady of the Moon, and the Horned Lord of Death and Ressurection [13]

In 1959's The Meaning of Witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca says that The Horned God is an Under-god, a mediator between an unknowable supreme deity and the people.[13] Whilst the Horned God is the most common depiction of masculine divinity in Wicca, he is not the only representation. Other examples include the Green Man and the Sun God.[14]

Wiccans believe that The Horned God (as Lord of Death), rules the "Underworld" where the souls of the dead reside. Some, such as Joanne Pearson, believes that this is based on the Mesopotamian myth of Innana's decent into hell, though this has not been confirmed. [15]


Names of the Horned God

The Horned God is given different names and epithets by different Wiccan groups and traditions. Epithets for the Horned God include The Lord and the Old One. Another term used is Old Horny, in reference to the deity's horns and also to his sexual nature.[16]

Doreen Valiente, a former High Priestess of the Gardnerian tradition, claimed that Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood coven referred to the god as Cernunnos, or Kernunno, which is a Gallo-Celtic meaning "the Horned One". There is no evidence for ancient Cernnunos worship in Britain. Valiente claimed that the coven also referred to the God as Janicot (pronounced Jan-e-co), which she theorised was of Basque origin, and Gardner also used this name in his novel High Magic's Aid.[17]

Stewart Farrar, a High Priest of the Alexandrian tradition referred to the Horned God as Karnayna, which he believed was a corruption of the word Cernunnos[18]. The historian Ronald Hutton has suggested that it instead came from the Arabic term "Dhu'l Karnain" which meant "Horned One". This term had been used in the Qur'an to refer to Alexander the Great, who considered himself the son of the horned deity Ammon-Zeus, and wore horns as a part of his regalia. Margaret Murray had mentioned this information in her 1933 book The God of the Witches, and Hutton theorised that Alex Sanders had taken it from there, enjoying the fact that he shared his name with the ancient Macedonian emperor.[19]

In the writings of Charles Cardell and Raymond Howard, the God was referred to as Atho. Howard had a wooden statue of Atho's head which he claimed was 2200 years old, but the statue was stolen in April 1967. Howard's son later admitted that his father had carved the statue himself.[20]

In Cochrane's Craft, which was founded by Robert Cochrane, the Horned God was often referred to by a Biblical name; Tubal Cain, who, according to the Bible was the first blacksmith.[21] In this neopagan concept, the God is also referred to as Bran, a Welsh mythological figure, Wayland, the smith in Germanic mythology, and Herne, a horned figure from English folklore.[21]

Horned God in psychology

Jungian analysis

Sherry Salman considers the image of the Horned God in Jungian terms, as an archetypal protector and mediator of the outside world to the objective psyche. In her theory the male psyche's 'Horned God' frequently compensates for inadequate fathering.

When first encountered, the figure is a dangerous, 'hairy chthonic wildman' possessed of kindness and intelligence. If repressed, later in life The Horned God appears as the lord of the Otherworld, or Hades. If split off entirely, he leads to violence, substance abuse and sexual perversion. When integrated he gives the male an ego 'in possession of its own destructiveness' and for the female psyche gives an effective animus relating to both the physical body and the psyche.[22]

In considering the Horned God as a symbol recurring in women's literature, Richard Sugg suggests the Horned God represents the 'natural Eros', a masculine lover subjugating the social-conformist nature of the female shadow, thus encompassing a combination of the shadow and animus. One such example is Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Sugg goes on to note that female characters who are paired with this character usually end up socially ostracised, or worse - in an inverted ending to the male hero-story.[23]

Humanistic psychology

Following the work of Robert Bly in the Mythopoetic men's movement, John Rowan proposes the Horned God as a "Wild Man" be used as a fantasy image or 'sub-personality' [24] helpful to men in humanistic psychology, and escaping from 'narrow societal images of masculinity[25] encompassing deference to women and paraphillia.[26]

Theories of historical origins

Several theories have been created to establish historical roots for the worship of a Horned God.

Margaret Murray

Following the writings of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage [27] and others, Margaret Murray, in her 1921 book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, proposed the theory that the witches of the early-modern period were remnants of a pagan cult and that the Christian Church had declared the god of the witches was in fact the Devil. Without specific recourse to any specific representation of this deity Murray speculates that the head coverings common in inquisition-derived descriptions of the devil 'may throw light on one of the possible origins of the cult'. [28]

In 1931 Murray published a sequel, The God of the Witches, which tries to gather evidence in support of her witch-cult theory. In Chapter 1 "The Horned God"[29]. Murray attempts to claim that various depictions of humans with horns from European and Indian sources, ranging from the paleolithic French cave painting of "The Sorcerer" to the Indic Pashupati to the modern English Dorset Ooser, are evidence for an unbroken, Europe-wide tradition of worship of a singular Horned God. Murray derived this model of a horned god cult from James Frazer and Jules Michelet.[30]

In dealing with 'The Sorcerer",[31] the earliest evidence claimed, Murray based her observations on an drawing by Henri Breuil, which modern scholars such as Ronald Hutton claim is inaccurate. Hutton states that modern photographs show the original cave art lacks horns, a human torso or any other significant detail on its upper half. Breuil considered his drawing to represent a shaman or magician - an interpretation which gives the image its name. Murray having seen the drawing called Breuil's image 'the first depiction of a deity', an idea which Breuil and others later adopted. Hutton's theory led him to conclude that reliance on Bruiel's initial sketch resulted in many later scholars erroneously claiming that "The Sorcerer" was evidence that the concept of a Horned God dated back to Paleolithic times[32]

Murray also used an inaccurate drawing of a mesolithic rock-painting at Cogul in northeast Spain as evidence of group religious ceremony of the cult, although the central male figure is not horned.[33] The illustration she used of the Cogul painting leaves out a number of figures, human and animal, and the original is more likely a sequence of superimposed but unrelated illustrations, rather than a depiction of a single scene.[34]

The idea of a historical Horned God cult is widely regarded as being a fantasy. Despite widespread condemnation of her scholarship some minor aspects of her work continued to have supporters.[35][36]

Influences from literature

The popular image of the Greek god Pan was removed from its classical context in the writings of the Romantics of the 18th century and connected with their ideals of a pastoral England. This, along with the general public's increasing lack of familiarity of Greek mythology at the time led to the figure of Pan becoming generalised as a 'horned god', and applying connotations to the character, such as benevolence that were not evident in the original Greek myths which in turn gave rise to the popular acceptance of Murray's hypothetical horned god of the witches.[37]

Influences from occultism

Eliphas Levi's image of "Baphomet" serves as an example of the transformation of the Devil into a benevolent fertility deity and provided the prototype for Murray's horned god.[38] Murray's central thesis that images of the Devil were actually of deities and that Christianity had demonised these worshippers as following Satan, is first recorded in the work of Levi in the fashionable 19th-century Occultist circles of England and France.[38] Levi created his image of Baphomet, published in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1855), by combining symbolism from diverse traditions, including the Diable card of the 16th and 17th century Tarot of Marseille.

Gerald Gardner and Wicca

Murray's theory of the historical origins of the Horned God has been used by Wiccans to create a myth of historical origins for their religion.[39] There is no real evidence to support claims that the religion originates earlier than the mid-20th century.[40]

The "father of Wicca", Gerald Gardner, who adopted Margaret Murray's thesis, claimed Wicca was a modern survival of an ancient pan-European pagan religion.[41] Gardner states that he had reconstructed elements of the religion from fragments, incorporating elements from English folklore and contemporary influences such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,[42] as well as eastern philosophies.[citation needed] Gardner supposes that the Horned God and The Goddess were of the ancient tribal gods of the Wiccan religion he was trying to reconstruct.[42] These duo-theistic concepts have no evidence in ancient cultures and simply represent a projection of modern concepts of romantic love onto history.[43]

According to Jenny Gibbons some Wiccans have begun to accept the ahistoricity of their religion. [44]

Romano-Celtic fusion

Georg Luck, repeats part of Murray's theory, stating that the Horned God may have appeared in late antiquity, stemming from the merging of Cernunnos, a horned god of the Celts, with the Greco-Roman Pan/Faunus,[45] a combination of gods which he posits created a new deity, around which the remaining pagans, those refusing to convert to Christianity, rallied and that this deity provided the prototype for later Christian conceptions of the devil, and his worshippers were cast by the Church as witches.[45]

Fantasy and science fiction

In 1908's The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, in Chapter 7, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Ratty and Mole meet a mystical horned being, powerful, fearsome and kind.[46] Grahame's work was a significant part of the cultural milleu which stripped the Greek god Pan of his cultural identity in favour of an unnamed, generic horned deity which led to Murray's thesis of historical origins.

Outside of works that predate the publication of Murray's thesis, horned god motifs and characters appear in fantasy literature that draws upon her work and that of her followers.

In the critically acclaimed and influential 1950s TV series created by Nigel Kneale, Quatermass and the Pit, depictions of supernatural horned entities, with specific reference to prehistoric cave-art and shamanistic horned head-dress are revealed to be a "race-memory" of psychic Martian grasshoppers, manifested at the climax of the film by a fiery horned god.[47]

Murray's theories has been seen to have had influence on Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), where a murderous female-led cult worships a horned deity named Behemoth.[48]

Marion Zimmer Bradley, who acknowledges the influence of Murray, uses the figure of the "horned god" in her feminist fantasy transformation of Arthurinian myth, Mists of Avalon (1984) and portrays ritualistic incest between King Arthur as the representative of the horned god and his sister Morgaine as the "spring maiden".[49]

See also


  1. ^ Farrar, Janet; Farrar, Stewart (1989). The Witches' God: Lord of the Dance. London: Robert Hale. pp. 32–34. ISBN 0709033192. 
  2. ^ d'Este, Sorita (2008). Horns of Power. London: Avalonia. pp. 11. 
  3. ^ d'Este, Sorita (2008). Horns of Power. London: Avalonia. pp. 12. 
  4. ^ Michael D. Bailey Witchcraft Historiography (review) in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft - Volume 3, Number 1, Summer 2008, pp. 81-85
  5. ^ Clute, John The Encyclopedia of Fantasy p. 872
  6. ^ Farrar, Janet; Farrar, Stewart (1989). The Witches' God. Hale. 
  7. ^ "Starhawk" in News-Week On-faith [1] 2006
  8. ^ a b c Barbara Jane Davy, Introduction to Pagan Studies p. 16
  9. ^ a b Greenwood, Susan. The Nature of Magic p.191
  10. ^ Hanegraaff, Wouter J. New Age Religion and Western Culture p 154.
  11. ^ Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Bible.
  12. ^ Jone SalomonsenEnchanted Feminism p. 190
  13. ^ a b Magliocco, Sabina Witching Culture p.28
  14. ^ Janet and Stewart Farrar - (1989) - Hale
  15. ^ Joanne Pearson, A Popular Dictionary of Paganism p.147
  16. ^ Ryall, Rhiannon. West Country Wicca: A Journal of the Old Religion. Page 5. Capall Bann. 1993.
  17. ^ Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Page 52-53. Hale. 1989.
  18. ^ What Witches Do, Stewart Farrar
  19. ^ Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press. p. 331. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b Howard, Mike (2001). The Roebuck in the Thicket: An Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition. Capall Bann.  Chapter One.
  22. ^ Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma
  23. ^ Richard Sugg, Jungian Literary Theory P. 162
  24. ^ Rowan, John. Discover your sub-personalities (1993), p.38
  25. ^ Rowan, John. Healing the Male Psyche ()p. 249
  26. ^ Rowan, John. Healing the Male Psyche ()p.56-57
  27. ^ "Woman, Church and State"
  28. ^ Murray, Margaret (1921). The Witch-cult in Western Europe. 
  29. ^ Murray, Margaret (1931). The God of the Witches. 
  30. ^ Purkiss, Diane. The Witch in History, p. 36 Routledge, 1996
  31. ^ Murray, The God of the Witches pp. 23-4.
  32. ^ Hutton, Ronald Witches, Druids, Arthur. p.34
  33. ^ Murray, The God of the Witches p. 65
  34. ^ Hutton, Triumph of the Moon p. 197
  35. ^ Ginzburg, Carlo. Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath. pp. 9. 
  36. ^ "Other historians, like Byloff and Bonomo, have been willing to build upon the useful aspects of Murray's work without adopting its untenable elements, and the independent and careful researches of contemporary scholars have lent aspects of the Murray thesis considerable new strength." — J. B. Russell (1972) Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press. p. 37.
  37. ^ Hutton, Ronald (1999) Triumph of the Moon
  38. ^ a b Juliette Wood, "The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Traditions: A Study in Modern Legend Making": Folklore, Vol. 109, 1998
  39. ^ Barbara Jane Davy, Introduction to Pagan Studies p.110
  40. ^ Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. ISBN 0192854496. 
  41. ^ Pearson, Joanne; Roberts, Richard H; Samuel, Geoffrey (December 1998). Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 172. ISBN 0-748-61057-X. OCLC 39533917.,M1. 
  42. ^ a b Gardner, Gerald Witchcraft Today.
  43. ^ Salomonsen, Jone Enchanted Feminism, p.95
  44. ^ Jenny Gibbons Studying the Great European Witch Hunt The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies #5 Summer 1998
  45. ^ a b Luck, Georg (1985). Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts.. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 6–7. 
  46. ^ Chas S. Clifton, The Paganism Reader p.85
  47. ^ White, Eric "Once they were men: Now they're Landcrabs: Monsterous Becomings in Evolutionist Cinema" in Posthuman Bodies p.244
  48. ^ British Horror Cinema, Leon Hunt (Witchcraft and the Occult) p.94
  49. ^ Van Dyke, Annette Joy The Search for a Woman-centered Spirituality NYU Press, 1992. p.106


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address