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Horned God

The Horned God is a term used to describe an archetype of God found in several religions and mythologies. Examples include the Celtic Cernunnos, the Welsh[?] Caerwiden[?], the British[?] Herne the Hunter[?], the Hindu Pashupati[?], and the Greek Pan. There are a number of related figures as well, such as the satyr, Puck, Robin Goodfellow, and the Green Man[?]. "The Horned God" can refer to any of these individually, or to the archetype they represent.

In each culture, the Horned God is associated with woods, wild animals, and hunting. He is often associated with sexuality or male virility as well. As a symbol of sexuality, the Horned God represents one of the most elemental forces in Nature, and is therefore complementary to female fertility deities known collectively as the Great Mother. In this context He is sometimes referred to as the Great God or the Great Father. He impregnates the Goddess, and then dies during the autumn and winter months and is reborn gloriously in spring, while the Goddess lives on always as Mother Earth, giving life to the Horned God as he goes through the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

The Horned God is always portrayed with horns, which are his distinguishing feature. The God's horns are considered symbols of male potency, strength and protection. Sometimes they are seen in a sense as phallic symbols[?]. The horn has been a religious symbol for thousands of years. An altar made entirely of stag[?] horns was build in the temple of Apollo at Delos, and temples to the Goddess Diana usually contained horns as well. The horn is also seen as a symbol of fruitfulness and bounty, as in the Horn of Plenty.

He is sometimes portrayed with an erect phallus. The phallus is itself a symbol of the power to create life, a power exercised only in concert with the Great Mother, who is the nurturer of life. Another symbol of his sexual prowess and virility is the occasional presence of cloven hoofs or the hindquarters of a goat. The goat itself is considered a symbol of sexuality.

But the God has a darker side, as well. Another name for the Horned God is The Hunter. The Great God is a symbol not only of the giving of life, but the taking of life too, in what is seen as a great and eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. He sometimes carries a bow.

During the rise of Christianity, Christians apparently adopted the image of the Horned God in the form of Satan, whose physical description includes the cloven feet and horns of the Great God. By adopting this holistic image and transforming it into the well known image of the Devil, the Christian church was using another way to convince people that paganism was evil. However, Satan is wholly Evil, while the Horned God is not. The Horned God is a force of nature, not entirely beneficent nor malificent. In his role as Father, He gives life, but in His role as Hunter He takes life as well.

Belief in and worship of the Horned God waned almost to extinction by the 19th century, although vestiges remained in local customs, particularly in the countryside. Then Gerald Gardner began Wicca in England as a revival of ancient Pagan worship, focused on the duality of the Great God and the Great Mother. Today Wicca and other Neopagan religions claim about 1,000,000 adherents.

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