I call strong Pan, the substance of the whole,
Etherial, marine, earthly, general soul,
Immortal fire; for all the world is thine,
And all are parts of thee, O pow’r divine.
Come, blessed Pan, whom rural haunts delight,
Come, leaping, agile, wand’ring, starry light;
The Hours and Seasons, wait thy high command,
And round thy throne in graceful order stand.
Goat-footed, horned, Bacchanalian Pan,
Fanatic pow’r, from whom the world began,
Whose various parts by thee inspir’d, combine
In endless dance and melody divine.
— Orphic Hymn to Pan (2nd c. CE)
The monotheistic God of the Abrahamic religions is often portrayed as the hypostatization of independence, power (i.e., “power over”), hierarchy, and dualism. The Neo-Pagan Goddess, in contrast, is the embodiment of relationally, interdependence, “power with”, and wholeness. According to historians, the god of the ancient Hebrews, Yahweh, had a wife, named Asherah. However, over time, her cult was suppressed and memory of her worship erased by scribes, leaving the “bachelor God” that contemporary Christians, Jews, and Muslims are familiar with. Neo-Pagans seek to redeem the masculine deity by restoring him to his place as the consort of the Goddess.
The Neo-Pagan Horned God is a worthy consort of the Neo-Pagan Goddess. He is composite of several ancient pagan gods, including Pan and the Celtic Cernunnos. But the Horned God is a modern creation. He is an expression of embodied wisdom, strength, and love. He represents virility and physical love, symbolized by his animal attributes. But he is more than sexuality. He is Eros, the energy of life.
For Neo-Pagans, the Masculine Divine is beautiful, strong, and virile, burning with a deep passion calling out in the joy of creation, while respectful of female power. According to Starhawk,
“The image of the Horned God in Witchcraft is radically different from any other image of masculinity in our culture. 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 is always 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 a patriarchal culture. 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 Horned God is most often depicted with a stag’s antlers, symbolizing his connection with animals, wilderness, the hunt, and virility. But he takes other forms, including the solar Sun God, the vegetative Green Man, the perennial Dying and Reviving God of the harvest. Raven Grimassi has identified four archetypes of the “Men’s Mystery Tradition”. These can be understood as four aspects of the Horned God:
- Hero: embodies the mystery of the quest
- Satyr: embodies the mystery of the sexual nature of men
- Hunter/Warrior: embodies the mystery of the hunt and battle
- Divine King/Slain God: embodies the mystery of self-sacrifice
These archetypes correspond with the evolution of the God through the Wheel of the Year.
Mythologically, the Horned God is both the son and the consort of the Goddess. As her son, he symbolizes our dependence on our material and psychological Source, the Goddess. As her consort, the God symbolizes the complement to the Feminine Divine which creates a dynamic balance which turns the Wheel of the Year. The Horned God has both light and dark aspects, which are perpetually at war with each other for the favor of the capricious Goddess. They are called the Oak King and the Holly King, each reigning over half of the year, and represented symbolically as lion and unicorn or bull.