Who is the Horned God?
The Horned God is an unusual deity, in that he’s not really a deity at all. He is an archetype, a category of deity, or a name for the God of the Wicca, the God who contains all gods. We see him depicted in Celtic art, sometimes called Cernunnos – but know little of his history or worship. We see him as Pan, one specific Greek deity, a god of the forest, of nature, of all things wild and untame.
Court Card: The King of Wands
The Horned God is associated with the forest, the natural world, and in this way he taps into the energy of the King of Pentacles – which is a card I chose when talking about the Green Man, a figure closely related to the Horned God. But the King of Wands also reflects the wildness of the Horned God, his primal energy, and his association with the sun and the animal kingdom.
The creative-destructive nature of the fiery King of Wands reflects the cycle of life and death that the Horned God represents. Connected to the hunt, and depicted in Wiccan myth as dying every year in sacrifice to the Goddess, this god embodies the life-death-life cycle and reminds us of the ferocity and finite energy of the blazing flame. His association with the sun links him to life-giving force, but there is a strong underlying sense of death and sacrifice.
Minor Arcana: Five of Wands
One of the primary images associated with the Horned God is that of two stags clashing antlers. The Horned God is an archetype not only of wildness and virility, but of challenge and combat. In Wicca, the life-death-life cycle is depicted as being set in motion by an annual battle between two faces of the God. While the Horned God is a slightly different archetype, this battle is highly reminiscent of stags fighting over their mates, and the usually stag-shaped antlers of the Horned God suggest a link between these myths.
This card challenges you to take up those challenges that life presents you with strength and grace. While violence is never to be lauded, it is important to acknowledge that life is a cycle of give and take, and we must roll with the ups and downs and seasonal shifts and tides.
Major Arcana: The Devil
The conflation of the Devil or Satan with Pan is likely a relatively recent phenomenon, and I am not of the belief that the figure of Satan was based on Pan in order to convert Pagans in early Christendom. But modern images of the Devil are certainly highly reminiscent of Pan, and it is from this trend that the concept of the Horned God likely arose.
But there is an undeniable relationship between the Devil, Pan, and the Horned God – and much of this lies in their associations with debauchery and excess. Pan is a god of the wild and of fertility – as is the Horned God. The Devil in many ways represents the shadow of a society obsessed with the control and restriction of all things natural.
Major Arcana: The Lovers
As the primary depiction of the God of the Wicca, the Horned God is the consort of the Goddess. Here we see him as fertile Pan, in all the virile glory of his untamed sexuality. But this card also reminds us of the connectivity of everything, the reliance of each particle of cosmos on the next, and our own vulnerability and reliance on the All and each other.
Where the Devil warns of excess or relishes in the primal intoxication of sex, the Lovers speaks of the deep bond between the Horned God and his consort, and the sacrifice he makes as an innate part of that connectivity. This reminds us of our place as part of the web, and how we celebrate the wonder of our existence even as we gradually decline and return to the All. With our understanding of our oneness comes a knowledge of our inevitable return to the chaos of cosmos – and our celebration and our sacrifice are inextricably intertwined.
All images from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui Mun Law.