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Who Are the Wiccan Horned God and Triple Goddess?

Updated on September 01, 2016
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A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

Who are the Goddess and God of Wicca?

The Horned God and Triple Goddess are generally the deities you’ll hear people associate with Wicca, but these very same concepts generate a lot of confusion. You’ll read a lot of books that will tell you the Horned God is like this, or the Triple Goddess is like that. There are a lot of oversimplifications and generalizations going on with these descriptions. Many Wiccan sources also refer to the Lord and Lady as well, or “The” God, and “The” Goddess (the article “the” implying they’re specific deities). This leaves people to wonder— to whom, exactly, are we referring when we use these terms?

Wicca, being a 20th century religion, is fairly unique in one way: we don’t actually have our own deities. That is, our religion wasn’t built around veneration of any specific deities of our own—we worship Pagan Gods and Goddesses of other ancient cultures in a new and modern world. We do not have our own unique pantheon, nor do we believe our religion was revealed to us by deities.

So, who are these characters, then, that you’ll find peppered throughout Wiccan books and websites? Who is the Horned God or the Lord or the God? Who is the Triple Goddess, the Lady or the Goddess? Let’s have a look.

Symbols of Triple Goddess and Horned God

Note:

I occasionally compare/contrast Wicca to Christianity in this article. I'm not implying one is better than the other, or that they are the same (not by a long shot). Since Christianity is the dominant religion in Western society, most people are familiar with it. As such, I use it only to make analogies as a frame of reference.

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Types and Titles - Not Names

One quick way to settle a lot of confusion is to remind people of this: these terms in question are types of deities or titles of respect. Horned God is a type of Godhead, not one specific God. Triple Goddess is a type of Goddesshead, not one specific Goddess, or a specific trio of Goddesses. These terms are merely descriptions, not deities in themselves.

Likewise, Lord and Lady are titles of respect by which we call any God or Goddess, respectively; Lord and Lady are not names. Zeus is one Wiccan’s Lord, Thor is another Wiccan’s Lord, Lugh is another's... just as a Christian's Lord is YHWH (Jehova) though they call him 'Lord' and 'God'.

“The God” and “The Goddess” are not specific deities that all Wiccans worship; they are simply the generic term for male deities and female deities, respectively. So my God that I worship may not be the same God another Wiccan worships. But I still refer to him as God, 'the' God, or Lord.

So why do Wiccans use all these titles and types instead of just using the name of their God/dess?

Originally in Wiccan covens, Wiccans didn't speak the names of the deities they worshiped outside the circle. This was to prevent others from defaming and disrespecting the deities.

This still holds today for a lot of Wiccans, though many eclectics are more relaxed on it. They might be willing to tell other Wiccans/Pagans, or close friends, who their specific God/desses are but not wish to divulge that information to just anyone.

For other Wiccans, the Horned God and Triple Goddess, or the Lord and Lady, or The God and The Goddess have taken on a persona of their own. Some would argue this is the result of watered-down eclectic Wicca and improperly trained practitioners who have failed to do any in-depth research. Others embrace the “All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess” theory1 which has become more prevalent with eclectics in the 1990s. These people would argue that all the various God/desses in mythology are either aspects or personifications of the same divine couple.

1 The “All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess” theory actually didn’t originate in Wicca; it was from Dion Fortune, a Christo-Pagan Ceremonial Magician. This kind of ‘soft polytheism’ is probably as common in Wicca now as ‘hard polytheism’ (the belief that deities of different cultures are all unique and distinct beings).

Ancient Roman Horned God

Horned Gods were found in many cultures.
Horned Gods were found in many cultures.

The Horned God

The very term “Horned God” is controversial, considering most of us grew up in a Christian-dominant society in which the only god-like being who had horns was 'the devil'. This is why the term 'Horned God' gets a lot of knee-jerk reactions.

There is no relationship, however, between the Wiccan view of Horned Gods and the Christian view of Satan. That would be like saying a pumpkin must be an orange in disguise because they have the same color skin. Horned Gods existed long before any concept of Satan did, and nowhere in the Bible was Satan described as having horns and hooves—those extra-biblical descriptions came from the Middle Ages.

Horned Gods were sometimes depicted as having curving, conical horns like the goat or ram, or sometimes the branched antlers like the stag. Sometimes they were animal-headed, and sometimes goat-footed. Some of the more well-known Horned Gods include Pan and Cernuous.

To ancient Pagans, Gods with horns were related to the wild and man’s primal nature. They represent mankind unencumbered by the trappings of civilization and living by his instincts in a natural state of being. Horned Gods were closely related to the forests—particularly the wild animals. They’re related to the hunt (both as hunter, the life-taker, and as hunted, the life-giver; thus, he perpetuates the cycles of life). They would often be associated with fertility— the virile male embracing his carnal desires without the imposition of social codes and mores guiding his behavior.

The Horned God made its way into Wicca due to the popular theories at the time by a handful of 19th century/early 20th century anthropologists who attempted to tie all of Pagandom together as if it were one universal pre-Christian set of beliefs that went underground to avoid persecution. Christianity had long painted Pagans as villains; in the age of enlightenment, many tried to look at history from a new and more open-minded perspective, and they romanticized antiquity. Some became desperate to turn the tables and paint Pagans as the victims. Ultimately, the attempts to oversimplify all the various Pagan religious from all over the world has been discredited, and the attempt to prove them going underground as a single surviving ancient cult has been debunked. Still, it was these oversimplified works that were prominent theories at about the time Wicca was forming, so it heavily influenced Wicca's formation.

To Wiccans, the Horned God motif fits in neatly in the Wheel of the Year, however it’s important to understand that just because many Wiccans worship a Horned God doesn’t mean they worship the same God.

Finally, not all Wiccans have a direct relationship with Horned Gods. Some Wiccans worship a Sun God, another god-type that fits neatly into the Wheel of the Year mythos and corresponds well to a Moon Goddess.

Remember also, that not all Gods are as easily “typecast”.

Ancient Hekate Triple Goddess Statue

Source

The Triple Goddess

The most commonly known triple deity form today is probably the trinity in Christianity. If one can understand how Christians see the father, the son and the holy spirit as three, distinct persons in one, then one can understand how Wiccans view the Triple Goddess. In Wicca, many Goddesses are seen as having three forms that mirror the stages of womanhood:

  • The Maiden, who is the young, innocent, often (but not always) virginal beauty. She is independent and idealistic, ready to take on the world and looking to the future possibilities, filled with all the promise of what can be. She’s associated with youth, the time of coming of age, new beginnings, the new moon and spring fertility festivals.
  • The Mother, who is mature, experienced lover and (often, but not always) parent. She is nurturing and protective, representing the selfless giving of oneself to sustain others. She's associated with family, children, domestic issues, growth, sexuality, the full moon, the summer (when she becomes pregnant) and winter (when she gives birth).
  • The Crone, who is the wise, guiding, respected elder (but not necessarily grandmother) of the trio. She is strong and pragmatic. She represents the "dark" side-- fears, decay, and destruction. Not that this makes her 'evil'; rather, she's someone who guides us through some of the biggest challenges in her infinite wisdom. She's associated with changes and transformations (particularly the biggest transformation-- death and rebirth).

It should be noted that not all Goddesses fit neatly into a trio of Maiden, Mother and Crone. Ancient Pagans were not monotheists; they did not believe all Goddesses to be an aspect of the same divine feminine. It was the work of Robert Graves – another heavy influence, now debunked -- at the forefront of the Pagan revival who popularized this concept that eventually made its way into Wicca.

In ancient Paganism, trio Goddesses would have more often been three Maidens, three Mothers or three Crones. Just because a culture has a Maiden does not mean that they automatically must have a Mother and Crone counterpart. Historically speaking, this was not common. Even if a culture had Goddesses that would fit neatly into the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone categories, it should not be automatically assumed that they had a connection to each other.

Think of it this way: if you walked into a waiting room and found a college girl, a middle-aged mom, and a retiree, would you automatically assume they must be related because they occupy the same time and place? Of course you wouldn’t—the same thing can be said for Goddesses.

Most Goddesses will fit in at least one of these categories, but that’s simply because these are very generalized attributes. Not every Goddess in history is so easily stuffed in a box—many Goddesses can fit into more than one category. Consider Hestia, who can be simultaneously considered a Maiden Goddess (due to her virginity and never having children), but also a Mother Goddess (due to her association with domestic life, as keeper of the sacred hearthfires).

While the model of the Triple Goddess is useful in Wiccan mythos, a Wiccan must always be careful not to pigeonhole ancient Goddesses in groups of three.

Who Is the Wiccan God?

Who Is the Triple Goddess

So Who Do We Worship Here?

I have been asked this by more new Wiccans (particularly the young ones) than I would like to remember: “Who is the Goddess? Is she the same as the Lady? Is the God’ the same one Christians worship? Is the Horned God Satan?”

So many Wicca books put so much emphasis on magic, herbs, crystals, runes, nature, etc., that deities for many people are sadly an afterthought. This baffles me, since anyone of any religion (or no religion) can love nature and be interested in magic. Wicca at its core has always been about relationship with deity. Why anyone feels they are ready to jump into a religion before they even understand who the religion worships—sorry, but it doesn't make much sense. That's putting the cart before the horse.

But the answer to that question is fairly straight-forward: we worship Pagan Gods.

Some Wiccans worship a Horned God, some a Maiden, some a Mother, some a Crone, some more than one. Most will refer to their Gods as “Lord” or simply “The God” at one time or another, and most will refer to their Goddess as “Lady” or simply “The Goddess” at one time or another. ]

Bottom line: everyone’s experience with deity is personal and subjective, and it’s only through your exploration of your relationship with them do you begin to learn about who they truly are.

How do you do that? Well… that’s a matter for another hub. In the meantime, I hope if you had any confusion over any of these phrases that I've cleared some things up for you.

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      Ellijuha 2 years ago

      We are our own gods. Everything is one and separate itself we are a self contained ecosystem of sorts....that ecosystem is our universe. Our god our universe chose to be alone it is the only one of its kind

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Interesting insights, Ellijuha, thanks for sharing your opinions, I appreciate the comments.

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      Dawn Wold 2 years ago

      I worship spirit, the lord and lady. But I also believe in other deities. Use them like the catholics use the saints. They are not on the same level as spirit. But they are used in specific rituals and spells.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Dawn, I've known others to have similar beliefs. I try not to think too hard about the nature of the divine, it just confuses me.

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      Tyler ___ 23 months ago

      I think of the aspects of the God and Goddess as the collective masculine and feminine energies of the universe, respectively. I do in fact see the pagan gods and goddesses as aspects of these deities, although this does not mean that I think they are all the same being. Think of it this way: on one particular level of reality, you are a completely different and distinct person from me. However, on some other higher level of reality, we are really just aspects of the same collective energy or being. This is, in my opinion, what connects the gods and goddesses to the singular God and Goddess, who, on an even higher level of reality, reflect the very same essence from which we ourselves stem.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 23 months ago

      Thanks for sharing your views, Tyler. I appreciate your comments.

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      Reagan 18 months ago

      I was asked to write a paper on Wicca. How exactly did men come into the world?

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 17 months ago

      Hi Reagan, sorry I'm getting back to your question a bit late; I probably missed your paper's deadline, but just in case, here's the answer: Wicca isn't a dogmatic religion. We don't have scripture with creation stories because we just don't know. Most Wiccans simply accept scientific theories on evolution, abiogenesis, etc.

      Hope that answers your question, thanks! ~Sage

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      lgoliath79@gmail.com 8 months ago

      Good Day

      I wanna know if I have the gift of a witch. I always pray with my candles and and thank the gods. lgoliath79@gmail.com lgoliath79@gmail.com

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      Tim 5 months ago

      I am a Shaman. I believe - first of all - that life itself is sacred, and every living being divine. I also believe that every living thing reflects the Divine - the Being the American First Nations would have referred to as 'Great Spirit'. Evolution is not a series of random events, but part of a plan, the end of which is Ascension. The 'gods' are merely ascended beings that, having gone before us, act as guides to aid us on our journey to our own Ascension and eventual Deification.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 5 months ago

      Hi Tim; thanks so much for your comment.

      I was under the understanding that First Nations have disavowed the term 'shaman,' particularly the few tribes that believed in Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit/Great Mystery).

      Always like hearing new perspectives, so thank you for sharing that.

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      Tim Begg 5 months ago from South Africa

      Okay - Personally, I am not a traditional Native American shaman. Some of my beliefs are based on theirs, but I have developed my own belief system. It includes aspects from various shamanic cultures as well. I live in South Africa, and have incorporated many of the African traditions as well. My reference to 'Great Spirit' was to illustrate the point that every living being - in its own way - reflects what William Blake would have referred to as the 'Creative Centre'.

      Thanks for the reply.

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      Jamie 4 months ago

      hi my name is jamie and i would like to know if you know who originated even just the idea of wicca and where or when? and what are the main beliefs?

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 months ago

      Hi Jamie... Wicca originated in the 1940s; it was developed by Gerald Gardner, but he had a lot of sources. Some were newer, some older; some were inaccurate (like Margaret Murray's 'Witch cult' theories) and some are more based on personal opinion than something that can be right/wrong.

      Wicca is a Pagan, polytheistic fertility religion. We honor Pagan Gods; we celebrate the cycles of nature, seeing them as reflections of the cycles of our lives; we follow certain tenets such as taking responsibility for oneself and finding a healthy balance in life.

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      SilverWillow 3 months ago

      Hello!

      I am about some of the best ways to meditate and channel my energy. Are there any good tips on what to do? I am also wondering what is the best "Pre-spell" ritual? I am slightly new to the community of Wicca And Pagan beliefs. I have studied on a lot of the factors, and I believe I am ready to practice the Craft.

      Blessed Be

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      Don Frew 3 months ago

      This essay is informative to the extent that you use "Wicca" as synonymous with "Witchcraft". "Wicca" originally meant the Tradition popularized by Gardner, now called "Gardnerian Wicca". The Gardnerians have had a particular God & Goddess, with unique names, from the beginning. Gardner refers to this in his published books. However, those names and identities are secret, so they are referred to in public as "the God" and "the Goddess". This does NOT mean that the God and Goddess of Gardnerian Wicca are some generic deities or mushy amalgams of everyone else's deities. Unfortunately, this has all gotten mixed up with Dion Fortune's maxim and left everyone confused.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 months ago

      Hi Don; glad you found the article informative but are you sure you read it? LOL, you just lectured me on many of the points I made above, including the mention of Dion Fortune's maxim.

      Also, Gardner's religion was actually Witchcraft; he never called it Wicca. He called magical people (any kind, coven or not), 'of the Wica,' but 'Wicca' was not the name he or his trad ever used... the term Wicca caught on later with eclectics. British Traditional Witches (BTWs) were not the only group to use the term Wicca. I expound upon this in many of my articles and NEVER use Wicca and Witch interchangeably. In fact, I frequently point out their differences.

      Thanks for your comments!

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 months ago

      Hi SilverWillow; meditation and energy work are definitely two things you're going to want to work on, whether you pursue Witchcraft, Wicca, or both. Have you gotten into a basic meditation and mindfulness daily routine yet? If not, I recommend that you do.

      If Wicca is your interest I recommend you put spells on the back burner for now and focus more on the religious aspects. You might want to check out some more of my beginner articles first; there is an article on exercises you can do to practice working with energy using crystals, but probably even more important than that is to start learning more about Wicca's tenets, ethics, ritual, etc.: https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Wicca-for...

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      FunFairyTales 3 months ago

      It's Cernunnos, not cernuous

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 months ago

      Thanks; totally overlooked the type-o.

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      Jessica 7 weeks ago

      I believe in the Lord and Lady yet I also belive that the other dieties exist. I believe the power of the moon and sun has been viewed in many different ways through which the gods and godesses were born. In short, the power of the lady and horned one exists in all gods,creatures,elements and spirits, though they may be separate dieties. I feel that they are not truly a god and godess but rather great energies of which everything is connected, including ourselves. This has always been difficult for me to explain to others so I apologize if it seems vague as I have explained it as best I could.

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      christopher 5 weeks ago

      i live in a city with an old abandoned, overgrown golf course that i walk around in. theres a herd of deer there and when i would get too close they would snort and scratch the ground with their front hooves so i would retreat sometimes quickly and walk far around them. one even came near and urinated like marking his territory. strong majestic creatures, i am sure those antlers would hurt. anyway being winter, i brought a bag of apples one night and left them there for them. a few nights later they approached me, no scratching or snorting. although i was still apprehensive and climbed up on a fallen tree. they came as close as maybe 10-15 feet, one put his head down and i heard him making a chewing crunching sound then we stared at each other for what seemed like eternity and they turned and walked up over the ridge. i think they had picked up my scent from the apples and found me by my scent again and came over to thank me for the apples and maybe see if i had anymore? have to get some more apples, maybe they'll invite me in?

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      christopher 4 weeks ago

      so would that be considered like the hunter- hunted? i've shot arrows, not at animals. and been chased by antlers. kinda reminiscent of that passage in the bible, the lion will lay down with the lamb? revelation, maybe? just sayin'

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      Violet 13 days ago

      HUGE ERROR! CERNUNNOS. Please spell my Gods name right!

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      6 days ago

      Can Satan be your God? I am a spiritual satanist (I know the stereotypes and shit that we get but don't knock it till you are educated about it) and I'm very interested in Wicca. But I have made my formal commitment to Satan and I would be interested in worshipping him as my Wiccan God as I have a spiritual relationship. Is that allowed? Because from what I can find it could be any God from any religion but I wanted to be sure.

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