THE GOD AND GODDESS OF WITCHCRAFT
A general complaint about Christianity by Witches is that there is the worship of the male deity to the exclusion of the female. In fact this is one of the main reasons for people (women especially) leaving Christianity and returning to the Old Religion. And yet it’s a strange paradox that many—if not the majority—of Witchcraft traditions are guilty of this same crime of
Christianity, if in reverse … they laud the Goddess to the near, or even total, exclusion of the God!
Witchcraft is a religion of nature, as any Witch will tell you. Everywhere in nature there is male and female, and both are necessary (I have yet to meet anyone who does not have both a mother and a father). It follows, then, that both the God and the Goddess are important and
should be equally revered. There should be balance. But balance is as woefully missing in most traditions of the Craft as it is in Christianity.
We are all—every single one of us—made up of both masculine and feminine attributes. The toughest, most macho man has feminine aspects just as the most traditionally-feminine woman has male aspects. So it is with the deities. The God has feminine aspects as well as masculine, and the Goddess has masculine as well as feminine.
What names you use for your deities is a matter of personal preference. In Saxon Witchcraft the name Woden is given to the God; in Gardnerian the Latin term Cernunnos is used; in Scottish, Devla. Each tradition has its own name. But names are only labels; they are only a
means of identifying. You should identify, then, using a name with which you can feel completely comfortable. For, after all, religion is a most personal thing, at the core, and—to be of real purpose—should therefore be related to on the most personal level possible. Even if you join an established tradition this is still valid—find a tradition that seems right for you (as I spoke about in Lesson One) but… don’t be afraid to modify where necessary to make it totally right for you. If the name used to identify the God, in the tradition you have chosen, happens to be Cernunnos (for example) and you have difficulty relating to that name, then choose another for your own use. In other words, respect the name Cernunnos in group worship and all matters pertaining to the coven but, in your own mind—and in personal rites—don’t hesitate to substitute Pan or Mananna or Lief or whatever. A name, as I have said, is a label. The God himself knows you are “talking” to him; he’s not going to be confused! (This all
applies equally to the Goddess of course).
It may well be for the above reason that the name Cernunnos is found in so many branches of the Craft. As I’ve mentioned, it is simply the Latin word for “the Homed One”. To add your own personal identification, then, in no way conflicts.
Traditionally the “dark half” of the year is associated with the God. But this does not (or should not) mean that he is “dead”, or incommunicado, in the “light half” of the year (and vice versa with the Goddess). During the light half he is fully active in his feminine aspect; just as the
Goddess is active in the dark half in her masculine aspect. So, both deities are active throughout the year, even though deference may be given to one over the other at certain times.
There is a common theme of death and resurrection found in myths throughout the world. The symbolism is frequently furthered in a descent to the underworld with a later return. We find it with Ishtar’s descent and search for Tannaz; with Sif’s loss of her golden tresses; with Idunn’s loss of her golden apples; with Jesus’ death and resurrection; with Siva’s death and resurrection, and many more. Basically all represent the coming of fall and winter followed by the return of spring and summer; the lead figure represnting the spirit of vegetation. From Witchcraft here are “The Myth Of the Goddess” as found in (a) Gardnerian Wicca and (b)
“Now G* had never loved, but she would solve all the Mysteries, even the Mystery of Death; and so she journeyed to the Nether Lands. The Guardians of the Portals challenged her, ‘Strip off thy garments, lay aside thy jewels; for naught may ye bring with ye into this our land.’
So she laid down her garments and her jewels and was bound, as are all who enter the Realms of Death the Mighty One. Such was her beauty that Death himself knelt and kissed her feet,
saying, “Blessed be thy feet that have brought thee in these ways. Abide with me, let me place my cold hand on thy heart.’ She replied, ‘I love thee not. Why dost thou cause all things that I love and take delight in to fade and die?’
‘Lady/ replied Death, ‘it is Age and Fate, against which I am helpless. Age causes all things to wither; but when men die at the end of time I give them rest and peace, and strength so that
they may return. But thou, thou art lovely. Return not; abide with me.’
But she answered, 1 love thee not’.
Then said Death, ‘An’ thou receive not my hand on thy heart, thou must receive Death’s scourge’.
It is Fate; better so’, she said and she knelt; and Death scourged her and she cried, ‘I feel the pangs of love’.
And Death said, ‘Blessed be’ and gave her the Fivefold Kiss, saying, ‘Thus only may ye attain to joy and knowledge’.
And he taught her all the mysteries. And they loved and were one, and he taught her all the Magicks.
For there are three great events in the life of Man: Love, Death and Resurrection in a new body; and Magick controls them all.
For to fulfill love you must return again at the same time and place as the loved one, and you must remember and love them again. But to be reborn you must die, and be ready for a new
body; and to die you must be born; and without love you may not be born. And these be all the Magicks.”
–The Meaning of Witchcraft
Gerald B. Gardner, Aquarian Press, London 1959
“All day had Freya, most lovely of the goddesses, played and romped in the fields. Then did she lay down to rest. And while she slept deft Loki, the Prankster, the Mischief-Maker of the
Gods, did espy the glimmering oiBrosingamene, formed of Galdra, her constant companion. Silent as night did Loki move to the Goddess’ side and, with fingers formed over the ages in
lightness, did remove the silver circlet from about her snow-white neck.
Straightway did Freya arouse, on sensing its loss. Though he moved with the speed of the winds yet Loki she glimpsed as he passed swiftly from sight into the Barrow that leads to
Then was Freya in despair. Darkness descended all about her to hide her tears. Great was her anguish. All light, all life, all creatures joined in her doom. To all corners were sent the
Searchers, in quest of Loki; yet knew they, they would find him not. For who is there may descend into Dreun and return again from thence? Excepting the Gods themselves and, alack, mischievous Loki.
So it was that, still weak from grief, Freya herself elected to descend in search otBrosinga-mene. At the portals of the Barrow was she challenged yet recognized and passed. The
multitude of souls within cried joyfully to see her yet could she not tarry as she sought her stolen light. The infamous Loki left no trail to follow, yet was he everywhere past seen. Those to whom she spake held to Freya (that) Loki carried no jewel as he went by. Where, then, was it hid? In despair she searched an age. Hearhden, the mighty smith of the Gods, did arise from his rest to sense the bewailment of the souls to Freya’s sorrow. Striding from his smithy, to find the cause of the sorrow, did he espy the Silver Circlet where Loki Mischief-Maker had laid it:
upon the rock before his door.
Then was all clear. As Hearhden took hold of Brosingamene, (then did) Loki appear before him, his face wild with rage. Yet would Loki not attack Hearhden, this Mighty Smith whose strength was known even beyond Dreun.
By wiles and tricks did he strive to get his hands upon the silver circlet. He shape-shifted; he darted here and there; he was visible then invisible. Yet could he not sway the smith.
Tiring of the fight, Hearhden raised his mighty club. Then sped Loki away. Great was the joy of Freya when Hearhden placed Brosingamene once more about her snow-white neck.
Great were the cries of joy from Dreun and above.
Great were the thanks that Freya, and all Men, gave to the Gods for the return of Brosingamene.”
–The Tree: The Complete Book of
Raymond Buckland, Samuel Weiser, NY 1974
Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft