Thursday, October 28, 2010
Calling the Great God Pan: The Horned God in Witchcraft Today
“Hear me, Lord of the Stars.
For thee I have worshipped ever
Witch stains and sorrows and scars,
With joyful, joyful endeavour.
Hear me, O lilywhite goat
Crisp as the thicket of thorns
With a collar of gold for thy throat,
A scarlet bow for thy horns.”
“Our way is the way of the serpent in the underbrush,
Our knowledge is in the eyes of goats and of women.”
In the last decade or so Witchcraft’s membership has swelled considerably, making it one of the fastest growing spiritual paths in the Western world. Many of the new recruits are female and this has led the media and other outside observers to adopt a skewed image of just who Witches are. Witchcraft is frequently portrayed as a women’s religion: indeed, many people are surprised to learn that men can be Witches at all. Within the Craft itself there has also emerged a strong tendency to promote the Goddess over the God and to see the feminine as more worthy than the masculine. One of the reasons for this is to correct the imbalance incurred by thousands of years of women’s oppression by patriarchal society, and this is admirable. However, we need to take care that we don’t make men into second-class citizens in the Craft, or the Horned God into a scapegoat.
I asked prominent Pagan, Hawthorn, if he thought the Craft was too girly? “The relative lack of attention to the male aspect in some forms of modern Craft is unfortunate. When I got into the Craft there were a lot more men than women involved in the groups I was aware of, particularly in positions of responsibility. That situation has changed considerably since then. There are now many more active women facilitators and I think that is a good thing. However, the apparent perception that the Craft is women’s business is a worrying trend. The Craft has much to offer men and men have much to offer the Craft.”
One of the most attractive things about the Craft for women is undoubtedly the emphasis on a female deity, the Goddess. It is so empowering to discover God in our own image, a Goddess who actually understands us. Unlearning all the traditional taboos of femininity – submissiveness, silence, sin – and reclaiming menstruation and sexuality become spiritual journeys in themselves that Witchcraft actively encourages. It’s therefore no wonder that women feel like we’ve “come home.” Witchcraft can be a welcome respite from the “men’s world” so prevalent in contemporary society, and a haven for many women who, quite often, have been so turned off the idea of any sort of male Gods that they see no reason to include them in their practice.
Witchy woman, Briar, says that: “When I first came to realise my Path as a Witch, it was through discovering women’s spirituality and Goddess worship. I come from a particularly negative Christian church experience, which also involved an abusive marriage, and I didn’t want anything male in my sacred space... It’s only now, five years down the track, that I can even consider the thought of learning about and working with male Gods. I will always primarily work with Goddesses but I am in a place now where I am moving toward accepting God energy into my life.”
Many men also welcome the chance to see deity as female. Regional Pagan Alliance coordinator, Kim Robertson, explains that: “For the last year or so most of the magickal work I have done has been with Luna, the Moon Goddess in her raw and natural form, and also with Gaia, Mother Earth. Both of them are gentle. Luna is a wise teacher of those on the path to spiritual growth and is also a great deity to work with in ritual – she is like an older sister or young aunt. Gaia is more the one who is with me all the time, letting me know that I am loved as a person wherever I go, that I am the child of the Gods and will never be alone.” It can also be exhilarating for men to work in partnership with the Goddess’s priestesses – strong, assertive, intelligent women. Indeed, according to Hawthorn: “being surrounded by lots of powerful, self-confident women is a big turn-on for many Pagan men, myself included.”
Unlike many female Witches however, as much as Pagan men love and revere the Goddess, they are less likely to exclude her consort, the masculine aspect of deity known as the Horned God – and why would they? One of humanity’s most ancient deities, the Horned God of Witchcraft has a great deal to offer men, including a model of masculinity which rejects patriarchal “power-over.” In her ground-breaking book The Spiral Dance Starhawk describes the Horned God as “the power of feeling, and the image of what men could be if they were liberated from the constraints of patriarchal culture.”
Hawthorn explains that: “A lot of male Pagans are attracted to Paganism partly because the ideal of manliness doesn’t buy into a lot of the aggressive male stereotypes that mainstream society does.” Auld Hornie is strong but not violent, playful yet deep, sexual but not sleazy, loving without being possessive, and emotional without fearing disintegration. He is a God, a man, an animal, a plant, even a soil-bug, and is so connected to the Earth that if he lies down for too long he is likely to sprout leaves!
The Horned God also has a lot to give women. As a male paradigm which exists outside the cabal of stern father Gods and their sons, the Horned One offers a way for women to learn about, make peace with, and embrace masculinity if they choose to. Obviously no one should be coerced into acknowledging the traditional male aspects of the Witch Gods, and certainly within the Craft there are perfectly satisfying, exclusive women’s mysteries honouring the Great Goddess. But that is only half the story. In Traditional Craft, alongside the Goddess there is an equal presence of a male deity: he of many names and faces, Lord of Life and Death. Like the Chinese symbol of Yin and Yang, the Goddess and God of Witchcraft are complementary and inseparable, the two sides to the one coin.
Even if women choose to ignore male deities, and men in general, the masculine principle in nature is not simply going to disappear. Fathers, brothers, sons, the man in the local diner – men are unavoidable and the Horned God exists, whether we choose to acknowledge him or not. Maybe we are a bit scared of him? Pagan writer, Gavin Andrew, proposes that: “...a lot of women (and men) exploring the Craft are dealing with a great deal of cultural imprinting as it relates to the Horned God/Devil paradigm. I’d suggest that the reason why the Goddess is more appealing is that the fear factor, learned at Sunday School or other places very early in life, isn’t there. I think that men as well as women should look into the God of Witchcraft more, if only to help identify and alter this cultural imprinting within themselves.”
The Goddess image provides a divine personage for women who extol the special attributes of being female. Yet I feel that it is important to balance the feminine force with the masculine, as night is complemented by day and the moon by the sun. According to a Jungian interpretation of the Craft, for in individual to attain inner unity, unrealised aspects of our inner self must be acknowledged and embraced – for women the animus or inner male, and for men, the anima or inner female. So, for women, invoking the God is actually psychologically healthy, just as it is for men to invoke the Goddess. Meeting the divine opposite becomes a personal alchemical marriage. In Kim’s experience: “As a man and an active eclectic magickal practitioner, I have evoked and invoked Gods and Goddesses and played all parts in ritual. I find that playing either gender role in ritual is a journey where you learn, either about your own gender, or that of the opposite.”
Restricting the deities we work with to a single gender decreases the number of magickal experiences available to us by half. Why limit ourselves in this way? If we refuse to let biological gender determine the other aspects of our lives, why would we allow it in Witchcraft? Through familiarity with an energy which is dissimilar to our own, we grow and become wiser, our sphere of consciousness becomes broader – and connecting with the Horned God doesn’t have to mean abandoning the Goddess!Katherine, a Witch who is very much involved in women’s blood mysteries, says: “I relate to the Horned God as a lover mostly, the face of the primal, sexual masculine, erect, virile, powerful... He’s a big part of my pantheon. Him, the Green Man, Pan and Odin are the faces of the Gods that I relate to the most at present. The Gods don’t tend to have much to do with Menstrual Magick, although Odin has his own relationship with it, sly bugger.”
The Horned God can be approached in many ways and it might be more useful to meet up with him in trance, before going all out and invoking him. Environmental activist and Witch, Indigo, describes a vision she had in which she encountered a Hunter figure: “He stands to face the growing light of sunrise, and from behind I see that what I took to be a headdress is the mass of his own tangled hair with a small set of horns protruding from his skull. As I watch, the horns change from one form to another. They are the horns of a goat, the antlers of the elk, the curved horns of the ibex, the heavy burden of the buffalo. They are the weapons of the bull, the curled protection of the ram, the tines of the stag, and the pointed scimitars of the oryx. In this half light, he is all these things, the hunter, the hunted, prey and predator, poised to both flee and fight, the wild and free, and the beast of burden.”
Or he may come to you of his own volition. I love this description of an epiphany which Hawthorn had: “I’ve always felt a strong relationship with the God. The last time I was in England I went to see the Cerne Abbas Giant. Whilst wandering around the site I saw an amazing beech tree that was bent so that the upper trunk was at 90 degrees to the lower trunk and parallel with the ground. The top branches of the tree were brushing the top of a small earthen mound. I don’t know if it was natural or man-made, ancient or modern – it could have been a midden for all I know – but the tree drew me to it. I sat on the mound and closed my eyes. Within a short time the area around me as filled with the sounds of footsteps and rustling vegetation, but there was no wind. I heard and felt footsteps walk up behind me and felt an overwhelming presence. I opened my eyes and noticed my shadow – jutting out from my head were the shadow outlines of a pair of horns. The feeling was uncanny, I did not look around, but stayed there in a sort of trance for an indeterminable time.”
One of my own favourite manifestations of the Horned God is Pan who reminds me that we are all animals – smart ones, but animals nevertheless. The ancient Greeks represented Pan as having the legs and horns of a goat but his appearance can actually range from that of a real goat standing upright, through to a man with a goatish face, human torso and goat legs, to a wholly human form sporting curved horns upon his head. A very popular deity in antiquity, Pan survived in medieval Europe as the goat-footed God of the Witches. The Christian church turned him into the Devil and the cloven hoof, once the sign of fertility and abundance, was regarded as evil. Anyone who has had much to do with real goats will know why they have a reputation as consorts of Witches. A buck goat looks like a man with a beard and wants to hump anything – including human females! Female readers, you might try going up to the fence next time you spy a billy goat and see if he doesn’t curl his lip in an epicurean fashion whilst inhaling your woman scent! It can be quite confronting for a city-dweller, but that’s Nature in all her incomprehensible glory.
By Caroline Tully. This article is first appeared in Pop! Goes the Witch: The Disinformation Guide to 20th Century Witchcraft. By Fiona Horne (Ed). (New York. Disinformation. 2004). Available online from www.fionahorne.com