The Goddess and The God
The Goddess has been worshipped as a Triple Deity -Maiden, Mother, and Crone (Dark Mother, Wise Woman, The Hag) – from the beginning of religion. The numbers three, and multiples of three, are sacred in many ancient cultures. The priests of Babylon taught that three was a lucky number as well. In the writings of Pythagoras, we find that the philosopher called three a “triple Word, ” meaning that using the number three in particular circumstances, such as repeating spells and rituals three times, can create whatever is held in the mind of the user.
Later in history, the alchemist Paracelsus associated the number three with gold; to alchemists, gold was not so much a physical metal as a symbol for spiritual enlightenment. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tsu said that three is the perfect number, for it engenders all things. In numerology, the number three represents creativity, activity, and knowledge.
Ancient Mystery Schools always had three main steps or degrees through which the student must pass. Today, we still find this idea of three degrees of knowledge used to designate a Witch’s progress in a coven.
We can understand this trinity better if we compare it to the three stages of human life: youth and puberty, adulthood, and old age. Since the Goddess’s power is all encompassing She will present aspects that speak to all humans, regardless of their age. These esoteric ideas cover and comfort from birth to death and beyond.
The first Goddess aspect is the Maiden. This phase holds the matrix of creation, which will produce and create when the time is ripe. She is matter and energy held in suspension until the right time arrives. The Maiden, sometimes called the Virgin or the Huntress, represents the Spring of the year, the dawn, fresh beginnings of all life, the repeating cycle of birth and rebirth, the waxing moon and the crescent moon, enchantment, and seduction. Her traditional color is white. She is the Way-Shower, the Guide through the inner labyrinth to the Divine Center where the greatest of spiritual Mysteries lie.
The second Goddess aspect is the Mother. This is the matrix in motion, the archetype involved in active creation. In humans, the physical desire, the mental will and concentration, and the spiritual balance and understanding are all necessary to produce a desired result. It is easy for humans to identify with the Mother aspect, for they see the Mother around them in all human and animal mothers. The Mother aspect of the Goddess represents the Summer, blazing noon, reproduction, and fertility, the ripeness of life, the Full Moon, and high point in all cycles. Her traditional color is red, the color of blood and life itself. She is the Great Teacher of the Mysteries.
The last aspect is the crone, also called the Dark Mother, the Old Wise One, or the Hag. Since this aspect symbolizes death and dissolution, it is frightening to many people. Everything in the universe has a life cycle, at the end of which they malfunction, decay, and transform into a different set of materials, elements that are recycled and reformed into something new. In humans, the soul is recycled by the Crone and her cauldron into a new incarnation. The Crone represents winter, the night, the universal abyss where life rests before rebirth, the gateway to death and reincarnation, the waning moon and the New Moon, and the deepest of Mysteries and prophecies. Her traditional color is black, and sometimes the deepest of purples or dark blue. She is the Initiator into the Mysteries.
The fact that She is a single archetype plus a trinity of aspects makes Her very complex. It is impossible to reduce the Goddess’s spiritual form and meaning to words on paper. She is the beginning, the ending, and everything in between.
The Horned God has been recognized and worshipped as far back as the Stone Age, where we find paintings of horned, ithyphallic men. The Horned God is not the Christian devil. We find the image of the Pagan God in the Egyptian god Amun-Ra, with his ram’s horns and in the Greek Great God Pan, with his goat horns and hooves. Among the Celts, the Horned God was called Cernunnos. This deity was sometimes linked with the Otherworld, particularly the Underworld section, and reincarnation.
In the original myths concerning the God, one finds him as the co-creator, vital companion, and mystical priest of the Goddess. His prime purpose is to join with Her to create order out of chaos, substance of spiritual matter, and life from universal energies swirling in the dark abyss. His next purpose is to carry out Her will and see that Her laws are obeyed.
The God is also frequently seen in trinity form, although, like the Goddess, His more complex that this simple definition. The three aspects are the Divine Child, the Son/Lover, and the Sacrificed Savior/Lord of Death. Even though these three aspects are the most important, the God has many others: Sky-Father and Ruler of the Heavens, Lord of the Forest and Animals, the Supreme Healer, the Trickster, God of Judgment, the Great Magus or Magician, God of the Waters, and the Hero-Warrior.
As the Divine Child, the God represents beginnings and the start of new cycles. This includes new hope and new opportunities, physical as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual. His traditional color is the dark green of plant life. The Divine Child is the signpost of the inner spiritual journey we each must take, the sign that says, “begin here.” We begin as a child, taking the first tentative steps along an unknown and unfamiliar path that leads to a mystical destination that is difficult to understand until we reach the end.
The Son/Lover aspect symbolizes maturity and responsibility, the desire to take into account the needs of others more than oneself. The God in this aspect balances sexual desire and need with companionship and tenderness. His traditional color is red, the color of the life force and the birth fluids. Combined with the powers of the Goddess, He shows us that there must be a blending of different energies to create. This creation includes ideas, inventions, and the arts. He is the Companion on our spiritual journey, the one who points out the path if we start to go astray.
The Great Rite of Wicca is connected with the Mother aspect of the Goddess and the Son/Lover aspect of the God. Those outside the Wiccan religion can misunderstand this Rite. The Great Rite has its roots in the ancient Sacred Marriage between priestess and King, which dates back to the Neolithic era. Originally, a king or tribal ruler could not hold the office unless he wed the Goddess. He had to be a Chosen One, either appointed by the High Priestess of the tribe’s religion, or have passed certain stringent tests. This esoteric, spiritual marriage was symbolized by actual nuptials between the would-be king and the High Priestess of the Goddess or the land, which included sexual rites.
Today, Wiccan groups usually practice this Rite in symbolic form, rather than in actuality. The symbolic act is the dipping of the athame into a cup of wine or juice during a ritual (the cup symbolizes the womb of the Goddess and the athame the phallus of the God) . Some Witches believe that the priestess should dip the athame into a cup of wine or juice held by the priest. However, you can reverse this, with the priestess holding the cup and the priest using the athame. If the Great Rite is physically performed, it is in private and between a husband and wife, high priestess and priest.
The Sacrificed Savior/Lord of Death aspect of the God can be difficult to understand as the dark aspect of the Crone. Mystery Religions frequently were connected with the Sacrificed Savior, who gave his life so that spiritual knowledge and enlightenment could come into the world. This aspect of the God always resurrected and lived again, reminding us that everything is recycled and that human life reincarnates. The Greeks used the word soter for Savior; soter means “one who sows the seed.” In mythology, the Sacrificed Savior was reborn of the Earth Mother aspect of the Goddess.
The Lord of Death was originally the Lord of Comfort for the souls who rest in the abyss before rebirth. At the will of the Goddess, He gathers souls at the proper time and guides them to the afterlife, while comforting those who fear or are in pain. Under His Celtic guise of Lord or the Wild Hunt, the God sees that karmic debts are paid and that destiny is fulfilled. In this, He is the equivalent of the Greek goddesses, the Erinyes. However, unlike the Erinyes, who relentlessly and mercilessly hunted down those guilty of the breaking of blood laws, the Lord of the Hunt makes certain that the souls He seeks are ready for the transition, that they are in the right place at the right time to meet their destiny.
Although His appearance and actions are fearsome, this aspect of the God is actually one of great compassion. His traditional color is the black of the abyss in the Underworld, the temporary black of death that absorbs and erases pain and suffering. He is the Gate-Keeper, who tests our worth before we are allowed to enter the deepest Mysteries.