Gods and Goddesses

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Goddess figurine, Gloucester, England. Courtesy Raymond Buckland.

Gods and Goddesses

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Deities worshiped by humankind. In early days there was a belief in many gods and goddesses, associated with such things as wind, thunder, lightning, water, sky, and earth. These forces were powerful, so it was believed that they were controlled by supernatural beings. Of these, two were especially important: the God of Hunting and the Goddess of Fertility.

The God of Hunting was of special significance if only because success in the hunt was necessary to ensure continued life. Many of the animals hunted were horned or antlered, so the God of Hunting was usually depicted in cave art as horned or antlered. Later, as agriculture developed and humankind learned not only to grow food but also to store it for the winter months, hunting became less important. The horns of the god gave way to leaves and foliage (see Foliate Mask).

Similarly, the Goddess of Fertility was important since the fertility of animals and humans—and, later, crops—was equally important for continued existence. The Goddess was usually depicted with the feminine attributes greatly emphasized (see Cave Art).

In different countries, and even in different areas within one country, the gods and goddesses were given different names. Mostly they were thought to be in human form (anthropomorphic), but they were also represented, wholly or in part, in animal form (theriomorphic) or even in tree form (dendromorphic).

Where deity is concerned, within Witchcraft most Wiccans believe in a powerful, incomprehensible power of the universe that is totally beyond human comprehension. Although such a power must be genderless, in order to relate to it—to pray, to ask for that which is desired, to give thanks for that which is received—this power is pictured in human (or animal) form. Since males and females are found throughout nature, it seems logical to think of that deity in terms of both male and female, God and Goddess. The principle deities of Witchcraft are, therefore, the Horned God (originally of the hunt) and the Goddess (originally of fertility). Different traditions choose to use different names for these entities, usually based upon that tradition's background. (For example, the Saxon tradition uses the names Woden and Freya for its deities.) Occasionally a tradition chooses the name of its god from one pantheon and its goddess from an entirely different pantheon, for example, Pan (Greek—Arcadia) and Kerridwen (Celtic). This is sometimes done for good reason, but more often occurs out of ignorance.

Many Witches think of themselves as polytheistic, believing in many gods, although most seem to be essentially duotheistic, with just one God and one Goddess named and worshiped. A few groups are strictly monotheistic, worshiping the Goddess to the total exclusion of the God. Although there is no written theology for Witchcraft, the general consensus is that there should be balance between the male and female deities, as it is found between the sexes throughout Nature.

The Goddess is seen by many Witches in three aspects: Virgin, Mother, and Crone. Triple goddesses have been found in many cultures since ancient times. The three aspects often found in Wicca are the Greek dieties Artemis, Selene, and

Hecate—all three are associated with the Moon. (Some mix Roman with Greek and use Diana instead of Artemis.)

Some of the many names used for the god by modern day Witches are: Anu, Anubis, Apollo, Arawn, Balor, Cerne, Cernunnos, Daghda, Dionysus, Eros, Hermes, Herne, Hugh, Janicot, Lugh, Mabon, Manannán, Manawyddan, Odin, Osiris, Pan, Poseidon, Ra, Set(h), Shiva, Tammuz, Thoth, Wayland, and Woden. For the goddess, some of the many names used are: Aphrodite, Aradia, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Athena, Brighid, Britannia, Ceres, Circe, Danu, Diana, Demeter, Epona, Freya, Gaia, Gana, Hathor, Hecate, Inanna, Ishtar, Isis, Kali, Kerridwen, Kwan-Yin, Lilith, Ma'at, Melusine, Morrigan, Persephone, Rhiannon, and Selene.