The Horned God (and why he’s surprisingly relevant to me)

It has been a long time since I posted about paganism. So I figure I’d remedy this by talking about a deity or archetype who is surprisingly relevent to me. The Horned God.

A statue of a horned deity from Cyprus.

I consider the Horned God as more an archetype than an actual entity. While the Horned God usually refers to a specific god in Neopaganism and Wicca, the image of a horned god recurs throughout history. Since ancient times, horns were a symbol of power, strength and virility/fertility, and to an extent they still are today. Gods with horns are thus associated with fertility and seen as strong, virile gods. In Neopaganism, the Horned God is a symbol of not just male power and virility, but nature, wilderness, the hunt, and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

The concept of a horned god is very old, one might say it goes as far back as human history, down to the first depiction of a god of the hunt or fertility. It is embodied by many gods in the pre-Christian world. In Greece, there was the god Pan, who was depicted with horns, and was associated with lust and the wilderness. In Egypt, there was the gods Khnum and Banebdjedet, who were ram-headed gods, and some depictions of Set shown him as having horns and a large erect phallus. This makes sense considering Set was seen as a strong and virile god. In Canaan, the god Hadad, also known as Ba’al Hadad (commonly mistaken as just Ba’al), had horns and was associated with fertility, storms, and the rain, thus a giver of life for the crops. In the Indus Valley, there was a lord of the animals called Pashupati (in Hinduism, this is an epithet for the god Shiva, and in Vedic times was an epithet for Rudra), who some speculate was an early form of Rudra, lord of the hunt, who would then become Shiva, who was a wild god. The Celts may have recognized a god called Cernunnos who was associated with nature and fertility.

The seal of Pashupati, discovered in Mohenjodaro in the early 20th century.

The concept of a horned deity would be expressed in Christianity as well, but as tool to scare people away from the sexual freedom he stood for, and to trick people into following the dogma of the Christian church, who believed that sex was bad unless it was for procreation. Yes, I am actually saying that Satan is just another expression of the Horned God,  only stripped of his divinity, and this expression was aimed at vilifying paganism and its values. I am even lead to think Christianity is against power and strength, considering one of the chief attributes of the devil is his horns, and remember, before we saw horns as the appendage of evil, we saw them as the appendage of power. Funny enough, one of the names of Satan is Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies), who was derived from Ba’al Zebul, and we tend to think of Ba’al as a horned sky god. The diabolical horned god image would spill into occultism and the Tarot, where the image of the devil card, and the Egyptian god Banebdjedet, would later influence the design of a demonic horned entity called Baphomet, who would later become associated with Satanism. In the 20th century, the Horned God would be expressed again in gentler Neopaganism and Wicca, and once again considered divine rather than evil.

The image of the devil on the Devil Card. This was back in the 19th century when occultism was apparently a craze.

So, why is the horned god important to me? Well, I’ve gained an interest in horns lately, preferrebly devil or pagan god horns that resembled those of a goat or bull, possibly coming from playing the Chaos in Shin Megami Tensei games. But as for proper meaning, let’s go back to what I said about horns earlier. They were an archetypal symbol of power, strength, and virility. This is very compatible with my philosophy of sexual liberty and the ideal that freedom comes from liberating oneself by one’s own power. Thus horns also fit in my artistic imagery, to symbolize power and strength (I usually paint or draw the horns red to add power symbolism). He is also seems like a god that is so typically pagan, or quite pagan in quality, in the sense that it is quite an animalistic god and a god symbolic of sexual liberty, not repression. Added to that, there’s a kind of masculine importance, being aware of my masculinity, and what I want out of it, or rather what I want to do with it. The horned god archetype, and its Christian expression as Satan, are thus important to me and what I stand for.

Thanks for reading, it’s nice for me to talk about anything pagan again.

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