Horned God

Horned God

Horned gods, with horns or antlers, appear in various cultures. The "Horned God" is a modern syncretic term for a god of disputed historical origins.

Ancient religion and folklore

Various pagan gods and figures from folklore are depicted as having horns and animalistic, goat or stag-like features.

"The sorcerer"

A Paleolithic cave painting called The Sorceror was found in France depicting a half man, half stag figure.


Pashupati is an epithet of the Hindu deity Shiva. In Vedic times it was used as an epithet of Rudra. The Rigveda has the related "pashupa" "protector of cattle" as a name of Pushan. The Pashupatinath Temple is the most important Hindu shrine for all Hindus in Nepal and also for many Hindus in India and rest of the world. The name has also been applied to a figure, probably a deity, depicted as sitting among animals, on a seal discovered in the context of the Indus Valley Civilization.


Cernunnos is a Celtic god whose representations were widespread in Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos, is depicted with antlers and with other horned male animals, especially stags and a ram-headed snake.

Pan and Faunus

Pan is the Greek god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music: "paein" means to pasture. He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. He is recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and season of spring.

In Roman mythology, Pan's counterpart Faunus is one of the oldest Roman deities, the di indigetes, who was a good spirit of the forest, plains, and fields; when he made cattle fertile he was called Inuus. He was a legendary king of the Latins whose shade was consulted as a god of prophecy, under the name of Fatuus, with oracles


Dionysus was sometimes portrayed as a bull (particularly when identified with the Orphic deity Zagreus) or as a goat. In Euripides' "Bacchae" he is the "bull-horned god", and elsewhere he is portrayed with bull's horns, with bull's head, or as a bull, a creature of proverbial sexuality. [Segal, Charles (1997) "Dionysiac Poetics and Euripides' Bacchae". Princeton University Press. pp. 11, 32.] [Otto, Walter F. (1995) "Dionysus: Myth and Cult". Indiana University Press. p. 166.] [Frazer, James (2007) "The Golden Bough" BiblioBazaar. Vol. 2 p. 76] [Kerényi, Karl (1996) "Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life" Princeton University Press. p. 114] [Robertson, Noel (2003) "Orphic Mysteries and Dionysiac Ritual" in Cosmopoulos, Michael B. "Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults". Routledge. p. 232] Diodorus Siculus identifies his mother as the goat-nymph Amalthea, [Akenside, Mark (1975) "From 'Hymn to the Naiads'" in Feldman, B. & Richardson, R. "The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680-1860" Indiana University Press. p. 142.] and Robert Graves proposes that this account of his birth related to his goat form. [Graves, Robert (2000) "The White Goddess" Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 195.]

Herne the Hunter

In English mythology, Herne the Hunter is an equestrian ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. Herne is said to have been a huntsman in the employ of King Richard II (reigned 1377-1399) in and around Windsor Forest. Herne saved the King's life when he was attacked by a cornered white hart, but was mortally wounded in the process. A local wizard brought him back to health using his magical powers, which entailed tying the dead animal's antlers on Herne's head. In return, however, Herne had to give up his hunting skills. The other king's huntsmen framed him as a thief. As a result he lost the favour of the king. He was found the next day, hanging dead from a lone oak tree. That same oak tree is in the Home Park at Windsor Castle.

ingular "horned god"


The idea that all such horned images were of deities and that they represented manifestations of a single Horned God, and that Christianity had attempted to suppress his worship by associating him with Satan, originally developed in the fashionable 19th-century Occultist circles of England and France.Juliette Wood, " [http://www.juliettewood.com/papers/Tarot.pdf The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Traditions: A Study in Modern Legend Making] ": "Folklore", Vol. 109, 1998] Eliphas Levi's famous illustration of Baphomet, in his "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie" (1855) (based on Goya's Witches Sabbath painting, 1789) accompanied the first suggestions to this effect. Levi's image of "Baphomet" is reflected in most depictions of the Devil made since. Symbolism is drawn from the "Diable" card of the 17th and 18th century Tarot of Marseille: the bat-winged, horned and hoofed figure with female breasts, perched upon a globe; Levi added the caduceus of Mercury at his groin, moved the flaming torch to crown his head and had him gesture towards lunar crescents above and below.

The figure named "The Horned God", central to a cult of witches (or the remnants of european paganism), was first promoted by Margaret Murray, in "The Witch-cult in Western Europe" (1921).cite book |authorlink=Margaret Murray |last=Murray |first=Margaret |title=The Witch-cult in Western Europe |year=1921] Since then the central premise of Murray's thesis has been discredited, and the idea of a highly organised pagan underground resistance persisting into the early modern period is widely regarded as a fantasy. Despite widespread condemnation of her scholarship some minor aspects of her work continued to have supporters [cite book |last=Ginzburg |first=Carlo |authorlink=Carlo Ginzburg |title=Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath |pages=p. 9] [ "Other historians, like Byloff and Bonomo, have been willing to build upon the useful aspects of Murray's work without adopting its untenable elements, and the independent and careful researches of contemporary scholars have lent aspects of the Murray thesis considerable new strength." — J. B. Russell (1972) "Witchcraft in the Middle Ages". Cornell University Press. p. 37.] . Whilst the central figure of a Horned God is totally absent, most historians agree that some beliefs and practices originating in paganism survived into the Early Modern period, and that the conflict between these beliefs and Christianity helped precipitate the European witch-hunts. [Monter, E. William (1976) "Witchcraft in France and Switzerland". London: Cornell University Press. p. 112.] [Midelfort, Erik (1972) "Witch-hunting in South-Western Germany". pp. 15-19; Henningsen, Gustav (1993) "'The Ladies from Outside': An Archaic Pattern of the Witches' Sabbath", in Ankarloo & Henningsen (eds.) "Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries". Oxford University Press; Ankarloo, Bengt (2002) "Witch Trials in Northern Europe 1450–1700" in Ankarloo, B., Clark, S. & Monter, E. W., "Witchcraft and Magic in Europe". Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 60; Thomas, Keith (1971) "Religion and the Decline of Magic". Weidenfeld and Nicholson; Wilby, Emma (2005). "Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic". Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. pp. 14-16; Pócs, Éva (1999) "Between the Living and the Dead: A Perspective on Witches and Seers in the Early Modern Age". Central European University Press.; J. B. Russell (1995) "A History of Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans". Thames and Hudson.]

Georg Luck theorises that The Horned God may have appeared in late antiquity, stemming from the merging of Cernunnos, a horned god of the Celts, with the Greco-Roman Pan.cite book |authorlink=Gerog Luck |last=Luck |first=Georg |year=1985 |title=Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts. |location=Baltimore, MD |publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press |pages=pp. 6-7] a combination of gods which he posits produced a powerful deity, around which the "pagani", those refusing to convert to Christianity, rallied and that this deity provided the prototype for later Christian conceptions of the devil, and his worshippers were cast by the Church as witches. This is the same discredited theory as espoused by Murray.

One notable historian who opposes a historical origin for a Horned God associated with witchcraft or remnants of a pre-christian cult is Ronald Hutton, who maintains that pagan beliefs had died out long before the era of the witch trials, and states that the Horned God figure is a modern invention originating with Murray. [Hutton, Ronald (1999) "Triumph of the Moon"]


The image of Satan as a horned and hoofed goat-like monster is common throughout depictions of Witches Sabbaths from the Middle Ages (see illustration) to the 17th century (e.g., in the illustrated "Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges et demons" by Pierre de Lancre of 1612), alongside other more varied depictions of the Devil where he was often described as a man dressed in black, a dog or sinister goat. When depicted as a composite animal/human figure, the Devil often had bat's wings, the talons of a bird of prey, and so on.. The addition of the trident which often accompanies modern images of the Devil did not become popular until the 19th century.cite book |last=Hutton |first=Ronald |authorlink=Ronald Hutton |title=The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft |isbn=0192854496]

According to Murray, after the reign of Henry VIII it was a common accusation against political enemies that they were in league with "the foul fiend" who appeared to them in human form horned like a bull or a stag.Murray, Margaret, " [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20411 Witch-Cult in Western Europe] " 1921]


In Wicca, the Horned God and his counterpart the Triple Goddess are the main gods worshiped. The "Horned God" is worshipped by some modern Neopagans, particularly Wiccans, who have linked him with a wide variety of male nature gods from various mythologies, including the English Herne the Hunter, the Egyptian Ammon, the Hindu Pashupati and the Roman Faunus. All of these male deities are seen as having horns and an association with nature. A number of figures from British folklore, though normally depicted without horns, are nonetheless considered related: Puck, Robin Goodfellow and the Green Man.

In the religion of Wicca, first publicised in 1954, the Horned God is revered as the partner and/or child of the Goddess (commonly described as the Great Mother or the Triple Goddess). According to Gerald Gardner Wicca is a modern survival of an ancient pan-European pagan religion that was driven underground during the witch trials. As such the Goddess and Horned God (the "Lady" and "Lord") of Wicca are the supposed ancient tribal gods of this faith.Gardner, Gerald "Witchcraft Today".] However, there is little evidence to support claims that the religion originates earlier than the mid-20th century, and Gardner himself states that he had reconstructed the rites from fragments, incorporating elements from English folklore such as Murray (see above) and contemporary influences such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In Wicca, "The Horned God" may refer individually to any of a multitude of localized gods of different cultures (such as Cernunnos or Pan), or to the universal archetype many Wiccans believe such gods represent. In the latter context, he is sometimes referred to as the "Great God" or the "Great Father", who impregnates the Goddess and then dies during the autumn and winter months and is reborn in spring [Janet and Stewart Farrar, "The Witches' Bible".] .

Some Wiccans have attempted to reconcile the lack of historical precedence of their beliefs, as scholar and Medieval history professor, Jenny Gibbons states:

We Neopagans now face a crisis. As new data appeared, historians altered their theories to account for it. We have not. Therefore an enormous gap has opened between the academic and the "average" Pagan view of witchcraft. We continue to use of out-dated and poor writers, like Margaret Murray, Montague Summers, Gerald Gardner, and Jules Michelet. We avoid the somewhat dull academic texts that present solid research, preferring sensational writers who play to our emotions ... [Jenny Gibbons [http://web.archive.org/web/20051029023619/http://www.cog.org/witch_hunt.html Studying the Great European Witch Hunt] The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies #5 Summer 1998 ]

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Various gods in fantasy literature are depicted as being horned, often with other animalistic features.

The Horned Rat

In Games Workshops Warhammer Fantasy Battle game setting and related novels, the chaos-mutant rat-men known as the Skaven worship a Horned Rat god. [ Richard Wolfrik Galland, "The World of Warhammer: The Official Encyclopedia" p. 114]


The barbarian fantasy by Pat Mills based on Celtic mythology and the work of Robert Graves features the highly successful story arc and graphic novel "The Horned God" [Clute, John "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" p. 872] where Sláine takes on the mantle of the sacrifical king in order to depose the current, corrupted Horned God - the Lord Weird Slough Feg. The Sláine RPG features the sourcebook "The Way of The Horned God" based on this story-arc.

The Wind in the Willows

In The Wind In The Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame Chapter 7, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" features Ratty and Mole meeting a mystical horned being, both powerful, fearsome and kind. [Chas S. Clifton, "The Paganism Reader" p.85]

Quatermass and the Pit

In the critically acclaimed and influential 1950's TV series, and later movie by Nigel Kneale "Quatermass and the Pit" horned entities, with specific reference to prehistoric cave-art and shamanistic horned head-dress is revealed to be a 'race-memory' of psychic Martian grasshoppers. [White, Eric "Once they were men: Now they're Landcrabs: Monsterous Becomings in Evolutionist Cinema" in "Posthuman Bodies" p.244]

ee also

*Horned helmet
*Gundestrup cauldron
*Triple Goddess


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Horned God — Dieu cornu Détail d une figure humaine portant des cornes, relevée par l Abbé Breuil Depuis les travaux de l anthropologue Margaret Murray, le Dieu cornu (en anglais Horned God) désigne la divinité de la préhistoire qui, bien avant que l Eglise… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Horned helmet — European Bronze Age and Iron Age helmets with horns are known from a few depictions, and even fewer actual finds. Such helmets mounted with animal horns or replicas of them were probably used for religious ceremonial or ritual purposes.Early… …   Wikipedia

  • Horned Serpent — For the tribe of werewolves in the World of Darkness setting, see Uktena (World of Darkness). A Horned Serpent in a Barrier Canyon Style pictograph, Western San Rafael Swell region of Utah. The Horned Serpent appears in the mythologies of many… …   Wikipedia

  • Horned hummer — Sun Sun, n. [OE. sunne, sonne, AS. sunne; akin to OFries. sunne, D. zon, OS. & OHG. sunna, G. sonne, Icel. sunna, Goth. sunna; perh. fr. same root as L. sol. [root]297. Cf. {Solar}, {South}.] 1. The luminous orb, the light of which constitutes… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Veles (god) — For the city in the Republic of Macedonia, see Veles (city). Veles (Cyrillic: Велес; pl. Weles; Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic: Велесъ) also known as Volos ( ru. Волосъ) (listed as a Christian saint in Old Russian texts) is a major Slavic… …   Wikipedia

  • Arma (god) — Arma in Hittite and Luwian mythology is a minor god of the moon. He is depicted as being winged and as wearing a sickle moon mounted on the horned helmet.ee also* Hittite mythology …   Wikipedia

  • Cernunnos — The Cernunnos type antlered figure on the Gundestrup Cauldron. Cernunnos is the conventional name given in Celtic studies to depictions of the horned god of Celtic polytheism. The name itself is only attested once, on the 1st century Pillar… …   Wikipedia

  • Wicca — This article is about the duotheistic religion. For other uses, see Wicca (disambiguation). This pentacle, worn as a pendant, depicts a pentagram, or five pointed star, used as a symbol of Wicca by many adherents. Wicca (pronounced  …   Wikipedia

  • Pat Mills — Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sláine (comics) — Superherobox caption=Sláine graphic novel cover by Mike McMahon 1986; Sláine copyright Rebellion A/S 2005. comic color=background:#c0c0c0 character name=Sláine real name=Sláine mac Roth publisher=IPC Media debut= 2000 AD #330 (1983) creators=Pat… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”