Lately, I’ve been coming across the question a lot, “I feel drawn to X god/dess, but Wicca worships the Horned God and the Triple Goddess. Can I still be Wiccan and be a devotee of X?”
Wicca is strongly associated with the Horned God and the Triple Goddess. But who are they? What does that mean? And are you limited, as a Wiccan, to them, or are you free to explore other deities as well, whatever that means to you?
Let’s clarify some terms:
There is no “Horned God” nor “Triple Goddess”. These are titles or composites. They aren’t proper names. They represent something.
Wicca has seen itself under the patronage of the Horned God since its beginnings. A good example of the feelings of Wiccans towards the Horned God can be found here:
There are multiple gods represented with horns. Pan, Cernunnos, Dionysus, Osiris (in some depictions), and more. They are visibly similar, and they even have similar areas of patronage a lot of the time (for example, both Pan and Cernunnos are patrons over wild areas) but not perfectly consistent by any means (Dionysus, instead of being patron over wild areas, was patron over orchards and fruit/vegetation. Similar? Yes, in some ways, but not synonymous.) And there are many non-horned gods who Wiccans acknowledge whose area of patronage has worked its way under the “Horned God” title. For example, in the Greek pantheon, it is Hades who is Lord of the Underworld, and yet that is a title given to the Horned God. The mythology of the God throughout the Wheel of the Year shows the God consistently associated with the sun, something that is not attributed to the horned gods named but is associated with Ra, Lugh, Horus, Helios, and more.
So what, then, is the purpose of naming the “Horned God” at all? Is it just an artificial construct? There are several different ways Wiccans look at the Horned God:
- All gods are one God. In this belief, all gods are facets or manifestations of the one God, who is given the title “the Horned God”. You are free to relate to him under one of these manifestations, but it isn’t necessary. You are free to just call him “God” or a similar name/title.
- All these gods are all different gods. In which case the belief in the “Horned God” usually comes from the fact that there are a lot of similarities of patronage between these gods and/or that the Horned God is a help for understanding these various deities. Often someone who believes this will have a particular Horned God as their patron deity.
- The Horned God is a symbol or Jungian archetype of the God of the Wicca. For those who are unfamiliar with this, here is an explanation:
- “Jungian archetypes are defined as images and themes that derive from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung. Archetypes have universal meanings across cultures and may show up in dreams, literature, art or religion. Jung believed symbols from different cultures are often very similar because they have emerged from archetypes shared by the whole human race which are part of our collective unconscious….The collective unconscious is is a universal version of the personal unconscious, holding mental patterns, or memory traces, which are shared with other members of human species (https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-jung.html#arc).”
Like many things in Wicca, people may believe all of these, one of them, or ones I haven’t thought of.
The Triple Goddess:
The Triple Goddess is also a title. There are three aspects to the Triple Goddess, meant to represent the three phrases of a woman’s life: Maiden (young/unpartnered state), Mother, Crone (older, past childbearing, etc.). There is no one Goddess who represents all of these. There are goddesses who present in a triple format, and I’ll get to a couple of those descriptions in a minute, but there is not one Goddess who is the female equivalent of the Christian Trinity, because if she were all three states, that is essentially what she would be. You will find deities who are presented as both maiden and mother, or both maiden and crone , or maiden and mother, but not all three.
There are some very well known examples of triplicate goddesses that I want to address:
- Hecate- Hecate is very consistently portrayed as a goddess in triplicate, absolutely. But she is portrayed as a maiden (or a crone, but I personally feel the evidence is strongest towards the maiden). There is little evidence that Hecate ever had children and none that she was married. Hecate was represented as the maiden earliest, and it was only later on that she began to be represented as the crone, particularly as Christianity rose. It is true that there are titles that refer to Hecate’s motherhood: Geneteria, Kalligenia (Mother and Bearing Beautiful Offspring, respectively), but these titles could just as easily refer to her relationship to her worshippers- that seems the most likely explanation to me, considering the highly scanty evidence that she was ever a biological mother. Her threefold presentation can refer to many things: her rule over the domains of land, sky, and sea; her domain over crossroads, particularly three way ones, her link with life, death, and rebirth; and more.
- The Morrigan- This one is tricky because people do not consistently agree on who the Morrigan is. Some say Badb, Macha and Nemain, and others say the Morrigan is one of the three goddesses instead of Nemain, and still others say Badb, Macha, and Anand. Macha is portrayed in her mythology as a mother, true, but the other two are usually portrayed as the crone. There is no evidence that any of the goddesses that are the Morrigan are made up of a maiden, mother, crone format.
- Brigid- A goddess like Hecate who is often presented in triple form, Brigid is definitely both a maiden and a mother. But the crone aspect is missing. She is not worshipped in that way. It is believed that her triple presentation refers to the categories she was patron over.
Again, the question arises, why then come up with the name “the Triple Goddess”? Well, for several reasons. For one, like the Horned God, to unite all the manifestations of the various goddesses under one Goddess. A good example of this is this quote from “The Charge of the Goddess”. While it is not true that every goddess or any goddesses were ever “maiden, mother, and crone” all at once it remains true that most goddesses do fit into either maiden, mother, crone or some combination of the three.
Also, it was not unheard of for goddesses to be linked in some sort of “trinity”. We see this with the Morrigan, and also with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate, who sometimes were linked in a kind of “maiden, mother and crone” format. Persephone is another example of a goddess who is in two roles at once- being both the spring maiden and the Queen of the Underworld.
And, of course, the same applies to the Triple Goddess as did the Horned God. Some would say the title comes from the similarities, and they believe all the goddesses are different goddesses. And the explanation of Jungian archetypes applies just as much here as it did to the Horned God.
Great, so I’ve thoroughly confused everyone. So there is no “Horned God”, and there is no “Triple Goddess”, but they are names of representations for the reality of the God and the Goddess. What does that mean for me as a Wiccan?
Wicca honors the Horned God and the Triple Goddess in the Wheel of the Year, this is true. The mythology of the God’s birth, life, sacrificial death, descent to the Underworld, and eventual rebirth is embedded in the Wheel of the Year. The Goddess’s giving birth, life, and descent into the Underworld in search of the God is embedded as well. On the Sabbats, it is appropriate to honor the Horned God and the Triple Goddess, realizing that they are meant to represent the Divine Reality of more than just one God and Goddess. Even if you see them just as Jungian archetypes (the Horned God and the Triple Goddess, not the reality of the God and the Goddess- their existence in some sort of reality is part of Wicca), it is still appropriate to meditate on those archetypes and their related mythologies on the holidays of your chosen religion.
The fact that these are several god/desses, yet one under these titles, is a great mystery that is a good material for meditation if you so choose. Everyone has to come to their own belief on this. What is important is that you recognize the existence of the God and the Goddess, that you worship/revere them, and that you work with them to better yourself and the world around you. That is what Wicca doesn’t allow for debate on.
But outside of that, how you relate to the God and the Goddess is completely your choice. If you wish to relate to them as the God and the Goddess, meaning the Horned God and the Triple Goddess, that is certainly fine! If that is how you best relate to the God and the Goddess, then, by all means, do so. When I first came to Wicca that is what I did. I worked with just “God” and “Goddess” for a while. I worshipped them, did rituals in their honor, and did not worry about narrowing down whether I was a duotheist, polytheist, or whatever. Then I started feeling called to a certain goddess and at that point, I switched to naming the Goddess by that name primarily. Same with the God.
If you’re feeling called to a specific deity, respond! You are still Wiccan. If you are still willing to celebrate the Sabbats and still willing to follow the Wheel of the Year, then you are still following the Wiccan spirituality.