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Wiccan Religion Gods & Goddesses Video

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  • 0:04 Wicca
  • 0:58 The Horned God of the Forest
  • 2:10 The Goddess
  • 3:45 Global Traditions &…
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Benjamin Olson
This lesson introduces readers to the primary god and goddess worshiped by Wiccans. In addition, it covers the controversy over the use of non-Western gods and goddesses by Wiccans.

Wicca

Wicca is a neo-pagan religion that emphasizes love and respect for nature. Nature is invariably personified in Wicca in the form of a god or goddess. The two most common deities in the Wicca pantheon are the Horned God of the Forest and a three-part fertility goddess, often referred to collectively as the Goddess. In addition to these two primary categories of worship, Wiccans often evoke deities from a wide variety of polytheistic and pantheistic religious traditions.

Wicca has no official doctrine or centralized authority. Although it was officially founded during the 1950s by Gerald Gardner in England, Wicca as a movement has expanded far beyond Gardner's original teachings. Today, Wicca is a highly eclectic, decentralized religious framework with a handful of characteristics that remain consistent.

The Horned God of the Forest

A depiction of Cernunnos, an inspiration for the Horned God of the Forest, from about the 1st century CE.
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The Horned God of the Forest is typically seen as the masculine element of nature. Wiccans frequently perceive the Horned God as abiding outside the realm of human civilization, in the forest or some other natural landscape. As a distinctly masculine god, he is often depicted with a large phallus, a common feature of male fertility gods across the world. Wiccans often understand the Horned God of the Forest as the consort and lover of the Goddess.

The origins of the Horned God of the Forest are uncertain, but he certainly has analogs in ancient European pagan deities. The Celtic fertility god Cernunnos is often depicted in ancient artwork as having deer antlers and was probably understood as a fertility god. We know very little about pre-Christian Celtic religions, however, because no written texts survive. Artistic renderings from Gaul during the first millennium CE are all that we know of Cernunnos. The Greco-Roman wilderness god Pan, who has similar associations, is also a likely inspiration for the Horned God of the Forest. The Norse fertility god Freyr is also a possible connection; he lacks horns, but does frequently display a large phallus.

The Goddess

There is some debate within Wicca regarding the nature of the Goddess. Some Wiccans see her as the all-encompassing divine force, that which brings all other gods and goddesses into existence. This interpretation calls into question the polytheistic nature of Wicca. Many other Wiccans see the Goddess, or several individual goddesses, as being equal to and independent from the gods; this interpretation is distinctly polytheistic.

Wicca's emphasis on feminine power and on the primacy of the Goddess in religious devotion is perhaps its most distinctive feature. The Goddess is often understood as being of three parts, representing the three phases of the moon. In another sense, the Goddess is seen as a universal who has been known by many different names throughout time. Wicca often describes the Goddess as being both one and many; in this sense, the Goddess resembles the pantheistic tendencies of Hinduism. In all of her forms, the Goddess is seen as benevolent and closely connected with the female capacity to bring life into the world.

A 17th century Icelandic depiction of Freyja, an inspiration for the Wiccan Goddess.
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