I’ll start with a few simple personal observations. Firstly Pagans have a complicated variety of beliefs about deity. Secondly for many pagans the male aspect of god seems to be rather in the shadow of the female aspect. Finally while pagans generally don’t worship the evil devil described in Christianity as some ignorant people seem to think, there are complicated connections between the Horned God of Paganism and the Christian idea of the devil. It’s not something we like to talk about openly for fear of being misunderstood.
There are some Pagans who are non-theistic, which is to say they don’t believe in God at all. Most Pagans however do strongly believe in deity; but the nature of their beliefs range from polytheistic to pantheistic with all sorts of other “theisms” in between. It would be misleading and wrong to try and generalize about pagan beliefs in deity other than to say they are often complicated and full of subtleties and nuances that may not be obvious to non pagans. My own belief in deity is based on the Wiccan idea of the Triple Goddess (Maiden, mother and crone) as the archetype of the female divinity and her consort The Horned God as the male aspect of divinity. However in essence I believe there is one God/Prime Mover/Creative force in the universe which can be expressed in many ways and forms. The idea of a complimentary duality of male and female rings more true to me than the more simplistic duality of good and evil. Within this overall belief we can find aspects of divinity that relate to us in the pantheons of many traditions. The aspect of the Goddess I most closely relate to is that expressed in the person of the Egyptian Goddess Het Hert. Yes, it’s complicated, but it makes sense to me. Other Pagans however might express their belief in deity quite differently.
In many Pagan traditions the female aspect of divinity tends to me emphasized above the male aspect in practice if not in theory. I think this is because the idea of divinity expressed in female form has been missing in the lives of many people for generations and it thus, once rediscovered, it becomes so life enhancing and refreshing that it is quite intoxicating. However, no matter how much we may seem to favor the female aspect of deity, most of us also acknowledge the equal status of the God, in principle at least. But while the symbols, myths, legends and images of the Goddess are fairly hard wired in many of us, those same aspects of the God seem to me to be a little more blurred and fuzzy. Moreover I think some of the principle characteristics and images of our God have been maligned, battered and besmirched over the ages by the all pervading Christian culture.
If you were to construct an identikit picture of the Pagan Horned God, it would be almost, if not entirely, identical to how Christians picture their “Devil”, “Satan” or personification of evil. There is of course a simple reason for that. Over the centuries the all powerful Christian church and culture has taken images of of the God of various pagan traditions and associated them with every type of evil they could imagine in order to prompt (or force) people to turn away from their pagan beliefs and submit instead to the “Kingdom” of their god. I don’t want this to appear as Christian-bashing. All cultures, including pagan ones have done things in history which with hindsight we might find wrong or objectionable. I am simply trying to point out the historical fact that Christian culture has demonized the image of the pagan Horned God and has falsely associated it with any expression of evil that came to their own minds. (Very little of which, in my own opinion, seems to have anything to do with what is actually written in the authorized cannon of their own scriptures). In other words, The Horned God has been badly and unjustly slandered.
Now not all Pagans identify The Horned God as their masculine deity. Some look to The Green Man, some identify more with the Sun God and others find images and archetypes of the male God from different traditions and in different psychological ways. The problem however is that these have also been misunderstood and slandered by Christianity and other religions over the years and are often lumped together with the same accusations of evil that the Horned God has suffered.
All of this makes it rather difficult for some of us Pagans to talk very openly about the male aspect of divinity we believe in and worship. We are very open to and sensitive about accusations of doing, worshiping or being “evil”. It is a frequent accusation in fact. Like most people we want to be seen and respected for the good that we do and the authenticity of our beliefs and lifestyle rather than constantly fending off suggestions that we are evil or being lead or mislead by somebody else’s personification of evil. Perhaps some Christians should meditate on some of their own scriptures, for example:- Luke 6:43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.Luke 6:44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, this year I have felt moved to explore areas of my path that may have been neglected to some degree previously. Part of that process has been to revisit my relationship with deity, and forming a closer bond with the male aspect and archetype of God. In doing this I have felt a calling from the Horned God. I feel as if he is wounded, not in the sense that his power is diminished but simply in the sense that he is pained by the slanders against him and the misunderstandings of what he is. My response to a wounded creature is to dress his wounds and help him to heal.
Weather he is called Pan or Herne or Cernunnos or any of the other names by which he is known, I worship and respect him as Lord of nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting and the whole of the life cycle. He is the Lord who completes and balances The Lady. He is an important part of the whole. He is the divinity we find in the rawness of nature and is a link between our own natural instincts and our spiritual aspirations. As a male archetype he represents the strengths and dignity of manhood, wild but intelligent, strong but gentle, hunter and provider, wise and protective. He is the man men aspire to be and the man women may aspire to be with.
It is time he was freed from the slanders that wound him and honored fully and equally with the Goddess. There is much we can learn from him if we look beyond the lies and the prejudice.