This post is about the evolution of the devil, and the concept of the Horned One, or more or less my analysis of it.
Before the rise of Judeo-Christian ideas, there was no concept of a lord of evil, no cosmic enemy, no Satan. There were gods of darkness, fertility, the underworld, and other things that we may associate with the Christian devil, but no embodiment of evil, or “the enemy” to be more truthful. The only time there was a concept of an enemy god was from the point of view of various peoples and tribes, who might have considered the gods of enemy or hostile tribes as evil. In the pagan world, every deity out there was capable of both good AND evil, and could inflict fortune or harm depending on whether you were on their good side or their bad side.
Then Zoroastrianism arrived onto the scene and introduced religious dualism to the world, with the conflict between the god Ahura Mazda and the devil Angra Mainyu as its central myth. Ahura Mazda symbolized order and morality from the heavens, as well as (from their viewpoint) truth, while Angra Mainyu represented chaos, evil, and destruction. They battled against each other, and were believed to be equal in power, but it was believed that Ahura Mazda would end the world and judge all of mankind. It was the first time any belief system that used a god to make people demand conformity to a religious morality had been created, and it would survive the modern age as the basis of the Christian faith.
In the Jewish faith, there was no embodiment of evil, though Jehovah did have an enemy: the pagan Baal, who was often identified as Beelzebul or Baal-zebub. Beelzebub as the lord of the flies, was Baal himself, a way of mocking the followers of Baal. In the Old Testament, Baal is frequently mentioned as the chief rival of their religion, and this likely signified Baal as the greatest heathen power, and the god of the Israelites frequently calls for the death of his worshipers and his prophets. He would be identified as Bel in a story involving Daniel, who you may remember from the Biblical story of the lion’s den.
Satan, on the other hand, was not the enemy of Jehovah, but was very much in service of him. In fact, the Jewish term “Satan” meant adversary, an agent of opposition, and could refer to anyone, supernatural or no (for example, King David was suggested by Saul that should be a Satan to the Philistines). The term “ha-Satan” refers to “the adversary”, and did refer to an angel under Jehovah’s command who tested and accused individuals in his name, basically acting as a prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner for him when he wasn’t interested in doing it himself.
Christianity would alter the Jewish concept of Satan, the adversary. For them, Satan was the symbol of everything evil, and for the Christians, pagan meant godlessness and godlessness meant evil. He was also the god of this world, which to them was also evil. But for them, this lord of demons was still called Beelzebub. In the New Testament, the devil is actively identified as “Beelzebul, the prince of demons”, thus Beelzebub is the Satan of the Christian faith, whose symbol is the serpent (like the serpent of Eden), or the dragon. And Beelzebub’s old form as Baal, along with the appearance of other pagan gods, all of whom were believed to be Satan in disguise, would become his standard depiction from the Dark Ages onwards. The Jewish and Christian traditions created a new form for Baal, the embodiment of carnal spirituality and pagan worship they opposed so long ago and transformed into evil.
For some reason, the Christians have identified him as Lucifer since medieval times, but Lucifer has nothing to with the devil. The name Lucifer means “light-bringer” and refers to the morning star, or Venus. Jesus was actually referred to by that title in the Bible. Lucifer was also the name of a Roman god, but it is mainly a title, with no connection to the devil save for the modern age. Lucifer may also have been the Latin name of a minor Canaanite deity named Helel ben Shahar, who challenged the authority of the deity El.
The devil archetype would eventually take on form of Baphomet as described by the occultist Eliphas Levi, and years later the pagan form of The Horned God. In Wicca and Neopaganism, the Horned God is a modern symbol of the male side of the pagan divinity and is associated with nature, sexuality, wildness, and life and death, and often the underworld. Although the Horned God is not really the same as the Christian devil figure, some believe the Horned God was around about the same time as the Dark Ages and was the source of the Christian depiction of the devil (though this theory is usually dismissed by scholars). In a way, neopagan The Horned God was a reaction to Christianity, a syncretism of all the horned gods to create a male symbol of the pagan divinity, though it appears to be a mostly vernacular European archetype.
Satanism and its offshoots have imparted a new way of understanding the devil; an emblem of our carnal self, a symbol of, or even a spiritual guide for, the path of self-godhood, and spiritual individualism, absolute power to take control of ones own destiny, being slave to no one. This Satan is a reaction to Christianity as well, but far more defiantly against Christianity than the neopagan Horned God. For Satanists such as myself, Satan is the symbolic antidote to Christian programming and authoritarianism.
I myself identify as both a Satanist and a pagan, though I have little interest in the soft, gentle ideas of The Horned God (which while romantic to some isn’t very romantic to me). I take the Baal of the Bible, Beelzebub, a symbol of the pagan power and spirituality and the enemy of Judeo-Christian religion, as my Horned God, thus playing on the evolution of the devil, Baal, and the horned god, thus I have my satanic Horned God. Beelzebub is his name, Baal is also his name, The Horned God is his title as the symbol of the primordial force and elements, Satan is his title as the enemy of Abrahamism, and Lucifer is his title as the serpentine liberator, the dragon is also his title, thus I still feel free to use those names (though I’ll probably use the Lucifer name less), but the ancient metaphor for carnal spirituality lives on, but I am taking him to the modern age as the god of Pagan Satanism.