Wicca is famous, and rightly so, for its deep-felt veneration for the Goddess. The Earth is our Mother, and She was the first deity that humans acknowledged, as far as we can tell. Ancient religions were Goddess-centric (although some scholars dispute this).
When the patriarchal Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam came into power, the crackdown was extreme, and a quick tour through the Bible, the Torah and the Koran will show how much women were denigrated and devalued.
In many ways, the veneration of the Goddess by Wicca and many modern Pagan groups is a backlash to this patriarchal oppression. Some Goddess worshippers, especially followers of Dianic Wicca, refuse to honor any god at all.
I don’t want to criticize another person’s path, but to me, this is a profoundly unbalanced approach. Wicca and other Pagan faiths are fertility based, and fertility requires sexual generation, which requires both genders. Humans from the ancient priests to the psychiatrists of the modern age acknowledge that there are masculine and feminine aspects to all people.
Balance requires tension of opposites, and the only way that we can truly have balance is if we venerate the masculine as well as the feminine divine.
The Triple Goddess rules, but not alone. She must have her Consort at her side. This is the Horned God, the spirit of the wild and the protector of the animals and the woodland places. If the Goddess is the face of agriculture and domesticated animals and plants, then the God is the face of the animals and plants who exist without the benefit of humanity.
Like the Goddess, he was depicted thousands of years ago in prehistoric art. In the Cave of the Trois-Frères in Ariège, France, there is a depiction of a half-man, half-stag that is called The Sorcerer by modern scholars. It was painted on the cave wall 12,000 years ago. This is later than the first Venus figures depicting the Goddess, but it is so ancient that it predates every known society of humankind.
This is the first time that humanity attempted to capture the face of God.
As the Horned One, he is the Goddess’s equal and opposite. He is the energy of the wild world and untamed nature. As the Goddess is the moon, He is the sun. He carries the souls of the dead to the Underworld, and he sacrifices himself every winter so that the Goddess may renew him and thereby the world when spring comes again.
He is the leader of the Wild Hunt, where he leads a band of fairies, gods and dead heroes in a breakneck chase. The Wild Hunt, like all great forces of nature, can be good or bad; it is said that the God and His warband will accept gifts from human beings and will leave blessings and good fortune in return.
It is also said that seeing the Wild Hunt is an omen of war and catastrophe. This is just one example of how the God, like the Goddess Herself, can be both light and dark, creative and destructive – another expression of natural balance, which the world has to have.
Wicca’s Wheel of the Year charts the changes in the Goddess throughout the seasons, but it also marks the God in His cycles. He is born as the Goddess’s Child, the bringer of innocence and new life, on the longest night of the year, which we call Yule.
He comes to the world at its darkest time, bringing with him the light of the sun that has been waning since midsummer, promising that bright, warm days are still to come. He goes to the earth and the Goddess stays in the ground, sleeping and healing from His birth, while he begins to learn about the world.
He grows as the year goes on, and at Imbolc, he is a youth, aware of but not yet desiring the innocent Maiden Goddess at His side – for She has returned, dewy and fresh and just as new as He. This is when He begins to learn His arts and the strength of His limbs, and it is at Imbolc that He first begins to lead the Wild Hunt.
He continues to grow and strengthen, and He becomes a man at Beltane, when He goes to the Goddess in the light of the Beltane fires and lies with Her for the first time. When He arises, He is a father, and He “fills out” as youths do now, gaining in power until the Litha, the Summer Solstice, when He is at His peak. The sun blazes, and so does He, glorious in His power.
Then, inevitably, He begins to age. As summer gives way to Autumn, He realizes that His time is soon at hand. He prepares the Goddess and the people for the great sacrifice He will make.
At Lughnasadh, the only day on the Wheel that bears His name (Lugh), as the grain is cut, so too is He, and He gives His life so that His people will have grain to eat during the dark days when nothing grows. He is sacrificed, and when Samhain comes, he succumbs to his wounds and goes into the Underworld, where He waits to be reborn again at Yule.
Though the cycle of the Wheel of the Year depicts his birth and death, it is important to remember that He is eternal and always present in all of His forms. He is always in the Underworld, the last, best comforter of the deceased and the one who ensures their peaceful passage to the Summerlands, the afterlife, where human souls rest until they are ready to be born again.
He is always in the wildwood, strong and hale, the spirit of the stag that still runs the wood in the depth of winter, the ram who still protects His flock in the cold. He is always the young, bright face of the sun, forever lighting our world and bringing life to us in concert with the Goddess.
Through the turning of the year, we can see that as the Goddess is a triple deity, so too is the God. He begins at Yule as the Divine Child, the Young Lord who will be king. As He matures, He is the Warrior, the protector. He impregnates the Goddess and is the Father of us all, and when His strength is waning, He is the Sage, the Wizard, the wise old King who makes provision for His people and His kingdom and His child, who is growing even yet in the Goddess’s womb. Young Lord, Warrior and King, we call Him, or Child, Warrior and Sage.
In some circles, especially in Celtic-based Wicca, He is also worshipped as a duality. He is the Oak King, who rules the bright half of the year, and the Holly King, who rules the dark half. They are always in contention, these two mighty Kings, warring with one another and in constant battle as the Wheel turns. At the height of the summer, when the days are brightest and the night is shortest, the Holly King overpowers the Oak King, and he begins to shorten the days. He brings the longer nights of winter, but as He rules, the Oak King recovers and begins to mount his resistance. They struggle, light against dark, life against death, new against old, physical against spiritual, until at last, on the longest night of the year, the Holly King is defeated by the Oak King, who begins to rise again. This cycle continues eternally, and every day one King reigns, the other King is preparing His return.
Each day can be seen as the Triple God’s domain, for He is the sun, and his aspect is matched by the light. From dawn to mid-day, He is the Young Lord, new and full of promise, gaining in His strength. At noon, he becomes the Warrior King, blazing at His zenith and sending us His light and energy.
As He burns for us, though, His power diminishes, and at dusk He is the Sage, the old king whose wisdom and protection will see us through the darkness of the night, even while the Goddess is at Her greatest strength as the face of the moon.
Here, then, is another balance – the balance between light and dark, sun and moon, God and Goddess.
Like the Goddess before Him, He has been known by many names in many places. He has many aspects, facets of the same jewel, and He may be called upon by any of these names to come to our assistance. He will lend his special talents and the particular strengths of His various incarnations, and like the Goddess, if you call on Him by name, He will come.
This is not an exhaustive list of the faces of the God, but it is a start. Please use this as a starting point for your own experiences with Him. He is waiting for you to know Him.
Here, then, are his names:
Amaethon – Agriculture, farmers
Angus Mac Og – Love, youth, beauty, the harp
Arawn – death, the Underworld, revenge, terror, war
Beli Mawr – The Great God, the Ancestor God, kingship
Brân the Blessed – Music, poetry, leadership, the sun, prophecy, health, protection, war and writing
The Dagda – The Good God, endless abundance, kingship, fertility, knowledge, magic, all trades, death and rebirth
Cernunnos – The Horned God, nature, wild animals, fertility, virility, physical love, desire, reincarnation, crossroads, commerce, warriors, wine and wealth
Diancecht – Healing, medicine, regeneration, magic, silversmithing
Gwydion – Magic, heroes, poetry, art, trickery, war, “the Druid of the Gods”
Gwyn ap Nudd – The Underworld, the Wild Hunt, war, the god of the fairies
Lleu Llaw Gyffes – The sun, lightning, storms, war
Lludd Llaw Eraint – Health, healing, death and rivers
Llŷr (or Lir) – The sea, magic, healing
Lugh – Arts, crafts, skills (carpentry, masonry, etc.), music, poetry, Druidry, medicine, goldsmithing, war, magic, commerce, reincarnation, lightning, water, journeys, martial arts, history, healing, revenge, initiation, prophesy
Mabon ap Modron – The Divine Son, Son of light
Manannan Mac Lir – The sea, navigators, storms, fertility, weather at sea, weather forecasting, magic, arts, merchants, commerce, rebirth
Manawydan fab Llŷr – The sea, magic, healing (inherited from his father, Llŷr)
Math fab Mathonwy – Wit, wisdom, courage, trickery
Myrddin – Illusion, shape-shifting, herbs, healing, the woodlands, prophecy, protection, counseling, divination, psychic abilities, rituals, incantations, mysteries; may be the basis of the legend of Merlin
Nuada – Healing, water, the ocean, the sun, sailing, childbirth, dogs, youth, beauty, spears and slings, smiths, carpenters, harpers, poets, historians, sorcerers, writing, magic, warfare, incantations; may be the same as Nodens
Pryderi – The darkness that opposes the light, curses, death and destruction
Taliesin – The Great Bard, art, music, poetry, sorcery, magic, history
Alaunus – Healing, prophecy
Ambisagrus – The Ancestors, wind, rain, hail
Ankou – Death, the dead
Barinthus – Water, the sea
Belenus – The Sun, healing, science, hot springs, fire, success, prosperity, purification, crops, gold, vegetation, fertility, cattle
Camulos – War, boars, swords, fighting skill
Cernunnos – Fertility, life, animals, wealth, the Underworld
Dis Pater – Death, the Underworld, mining, caves
Esus – The Tree of Life, vegetation, passion, rebirth; part of the Gaulish Triple God
Grannus – Healing, mineral springs
Lugus – Healing, arts, crafts, creation, learning
Nodens – Healing, water, the ocean, the sun, sailing, childbirth, dogs, youth, beauty, spears and slings, smiths, carpenters, harpers, poets, historians, sorcerers, writing, magic, warfare, incantations
Ogmios – Strength, war, eloquence and oratory
Sucellus – Crafts, prosperity, domesticity, nature, wine, agriculture, the fields
Taranis – Thunder, the sky, storms, the Wheel of death and rebirth; part of the Gaulish Triple God
Teutates – The King, fertility, healing, wealth, protection; part of the Gaulish Triple God
Amun-Ra – The Creator God, the Great God, King of the Gods, the sun at midday
Anhur – Hunting and war
Anubis – Embalming, cemeteries, protector of tombs and of the dead
Apep – Personification of chaos
Aten – The sun disk
Atum – The un in the evening
Babi – Sexuality, aggression
Bes – Protector of children and women in childbirth
Geb – The earth
Horus – Kingship, protector of the king, healing, war, the sky
Khepri – Creativity, the sun in the morning
Khnum – Water, rivers, flood, especially the flooding of the Nile
Khonsu – The moon, time
Min – Virility, sexuality, masculinity
Osiris – Death, rebirth, resurrection, the sun at night
Ptah – Creativity, craftsmen
Set – Storms, violence, chaos, strength, the desert, forceful and indiscriminate sexuality
Shu – The air, wind
Thoth – The moon, writing, scribes
Anu – The Sky Father, King of the Gods, stars, spirits, demons
Enlil – Storms, breath, wind, loft/height and breadth/distance
Enki – Crafts, craftsmen, mischief, water, intelligence, creation
Shamash – The sun, justice
Baldur – Beauty, love, purity, peace, righteousness
Bragi – Knowledge, poetry, eloquence, patron of skalds
Forseti – Justice
Freyr – Agriculture, prosperity, life, fertility
Heimdal – Protection; Guardian of the gods
Loki – Magic, fire, trickery, chaos, shapeshifting
Mani – The moon
Njord – The sea, the wind, fertility, fishermen, sailors
Odin – Wisdom, war, magic, poetry, victory, death
Thor – Thunder, lightning, storms, strength, protection, war
Tyr – War, justice in battle, victory, heroic glory
Apollon – The sun, light, music, art, poetry, healing, medicine, oracles, prophecy, archery
Ares – War, destruction
Asclepius – Medicine, health
Dionysus – Wine, pleasure
Eros – Love, procreation, sexual desire
Hades – King of the Dead, King of the Underworld
Hephaestus – Fire, blacksmithing
Hermes – Commerce, travel, messenger of the gods
Kairos – Luck, opportunity
Kratos – Strength, power
Morpheus – Sleep, dreams
Pan – The woods, fields and flocks
Poseidon – The sea, earthquakes
Typhon – Monsters, storms, volcanoes
Uranus – The sky
Zeus – The King of the Gods, lightning, thunder, the sky, the heavens
Apollo – The sun, light, music, art, poetry, healing, medicine, oracles, prophecy, archery
Bacchus – Wine, merriment, parties, madness, agriculture, fertility
Cupid – Love and sexual desire
Janus – Doors, beginnings and endings, gates, transitions, time, duality
Jupiter – King of the Gods, lightning, the sky, thunder, government, law, solemn oaths
Mars – War, power through strength, peace through power, the military, defender, protector, masculine aggression
Mercury – Trade, commerce, trickery, financial gain, thieves, merchants, travelers; messenger of the gods
Neptune – The sea, water
Pluto – Underground riches, precious metals, king of the underworld
Saturn – Wealth, agriculture, time, the harvest
Vulcan – Fire, metalworking, blacksmiths, volcanoes
Kaishen – Wealth, business
Erh-Lang – Protection from evil
Fu Hai – Happiness, destiny, love, success
Kuan Ti – War, fortune telling, protection, valor, justice, death, dark magic, revenge
K’uei-Hsing – Students, tests, literature, travel
Lao-tien Yeh – The Jade Emperor, “Father Heaven”
Shang-Ti – The Supreme God
Shou-Hsing – Longevity, the elderly, life’s plan, date of death, reincarnation
Shui-Khan – Forgiveness of sins, protection from evil
Tam Kung – The sea
Tsai Shen – Abundance, success, wealth
Zhao Gongming – Prosperity
Brahma – The First God of the Hindu Triumverate; Creator of the universe
Ganesha – Success, knowledge, wealth
Hanuman – Loyalty, physical strength, perseverance, scholarly devotion
Krishna – Compassion, love, tenderness
Rama – Virtue, righteous action, truth, honor
Shiva – The Third God of the Hindu Triumverate; destruction of the old to make way for the new, dance, the journey inward to discover the true self (“the in-going path”)
Vishnu – The Second God of the Hindu Triumverate; preserver and sustainer of life, order, righteousness, truth, the journey to manifest the true self in the Universe (“the out-going path”)
ONE LAST NOTE: You are not obligated as a witch, Wiccan or Pagan to adopt any of these named gods, or to dedicate yourself solely to one pantheon. Do what your heart leads you to do. Honor the God in the way that is most meaningful to you, and He will honor you.