“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-they consider it a concept peculiar to Christianity. The God of the Witches is sexual-but sexuality is seen as sacred, not as obscene or blasphemous.
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. The mermaids, who are the Goddess, would sing to him.
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.
For men, 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.
In our culture, men are taught that masculinity demands a lack of feeling. They are conditioned to function in a military mode; to cut off their emotions and ignore the messages of their bodies; to deny physical discomfort, pain, and fear, in order to fight and conquer most efficiently. This holds true whether the field of conquest is the battlefield, the bedroom, or the business office.
It has become something of a cliche to say that men have been trained to be aggressive and dominant and women have been taught to be passive and submissive, that men are allowed to be angry and women are not. In patriarchal culture, both women and men learn to function within a hierarchy, in which those at the top dominate those below. One aspect of that dominance is the privilege of expressing anger. The general chews out the sergeant; the private cannot. The boss is free to blow his stack, but not his assistant. The boss’s wife yells at her maid, not vice versa. Because women have usually been at the bottom of hierarchies, from the business world to the traditional family, they have borne the brunt of a great deal of male anger, and been the ultimate victims of violence. Anger can be seen as a response to an attack; very few men are in positions where they can afford to directly confront their attackers.
Men’s anger, then, becomes twisted and perverted. It is threatening to recognize the true source of his rage, because he would then be forced to recognize the helplessness, powerlessness, and humiliation of his position. Instead, he may turn his anger on safer targets-women, children, or still less powerful men. Or his anger may turn to self-destruction: disease, depression, alcoholism, or any of a smorgasbord of readily available addictions.
Patriarchy literally means “rule of the fathers,” but in a patriarchy, very few men are allowed to enact the role of “father” outside the limited family sphere. The structure of hierarchical institutions is pyramidal: One man at the top controls many below. Men compete for money and power over others; the majority, who do not reach the top of the chain of command, are forced to remain immature, enacting the roles of either dutiful or rebel sons. The good sons eternally seek to please the father by obedience; the bad sons seek to overthrow him and take his place. Either way, they are cut off from their own true desires and feelings.
And so our religions reflect a cosmos in which Father God exhorts his “children” to obey the rules and do what they are told, lest they align them-selves with the Great Rebel. Our psychology is one of war between sons and fathers who eternally vie for exclusive possession of the mother, who, like all women under patriarchy, is the ultimate prize for success. And progressive politics are reduced to alignments of rebel sons, who overthrow the father only to institute their own hierarchies.
The Horned God, however, is born of a Virgin mother. He is a model of male power that is free from father-son rivalry or oedipal conflicts. He has no father; He is his own father and as He grows and passes through his changes on the Wheel, He remains in relationship to the prime nurturing force. His power is drawn directly from the Goddess: He participates in Her.
The God embodies the power of feeling. His animal horns represent the truth of undisguised emotion, which seeks to please no masters. He is untamed. But untamed feelings are very different from enacted violence. The God is the life force, the life cycle. He remains within the orbit of the Goddess; his power is always directed toward the service of life.
The God of the Witches is the God of love. This love includes sexuality, which is also wild and untamed as well as gentle and tender. His sexuality is fully felt, in a context in which sexual desire is sacred, not only because it is the means by which life is procreated but also because it is the means by which our own lives are most deeply and ecstatically realized. In Witchcraft, sex is a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward grace. That grace is the deep connection and recognition of the wholeness of another person. In its essence, it is not limited to the physical act-it is an exchange of energy, of subtle nourishment, between people. Through connection with another, we connect with all.“
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess
Image Credit: Amdhuscias @ Deviantart