There are lots of things involved in Paganism and Witchcraft that lend themselves to multiple offshoots and various sub-topics. When thinking about how to present the concept of the Divine Masculine, this becomes an easy thing to fall into. There are all sorts of historical, political, social, religious, and practical angles to consider that it soon becomes obvious that the topic is as big as the concept itself. I mean really, what’s bigger than God?
So, I will touch on a few things but try to keep the focused point heading in a single (or at least narrowed) direction.
I talk a bit about the idea of the Divine Masculine in another blog post. But now I want to go into more of what his role is among those who follow or want to follow him. Who is He?
My first relationships with the concept of a male deity were pretty similar to that of most people. At least, I imagine that to be so, having grown up surrounded predominately by a Christian (in one form or another) environment. Even people who have no real religious experience or teaching given to them fall into the cultural paradigm of Christianity that exists from living in a country where God is constantly referenced, churches are everywhere, and even cartoons and advertisements use Christian mythological symbolism like halos and pitchforks. So when coming into Pagan beliefs from such a background, what happens? When does the idea of God shift from what is culturally imbibed to something older, more primal, more rustic, and more natural to a Pagan?
Like anything else, I can only really speak from my own experience and possibly from the viewpoints of others close to me whose understanding I have witnessed. I struggled for a year or so with accepting and incorporating the idea of a Pagan god into my life. I had the benefit of being spiritually agnostic for a while before discovering Paganism. So for me, I’d already really divorced myself from the concept of what the Judeo-Christian god is like and everything that went along with him before I was introduced to Witchcraft. My first study of Witchcraft brought me to an understanding of a feminine deity. I latched onto that concept very easily and for a couple of years, was okay with paying lip-service to the other half of things. Sure, the books said that there was a God who was her sacred partner, child, etc. But he wasn’t entirely necessary… right? I mean, I read in some of Z. Budapest’s writings that someone could have an entire spiritual practice without any male counterpart at all. So I figured if he was there, and if he was around, he could give me a bit of space to explore and get myself grounded in my new path before seeking him out.
And he did. I found Goddess spirituality very helpful, very healing, and for the most part exciting, liberating, and magical. But, I kept feeling like I was missing out on something. Z.’s books were good, but they weren’t quite there for me. I kept reading other things as well that insisted that the Goddess had another half, and while I believe that my time spent with just Her was a necessary part of my growth, it was just a step along the road and not the conclusion to my journey.
I think it’s a unique challenge among Pagan practitioners who are coming into the path from another arena to find where they fit with regard to the idea of a Goddess, and a God who is very different from the culturally familiar one of the Judeo-Christian system. I think also that men have unique challenges to face in Paganism, both based on where they come from, and what they are coming into.
The idea of the Divine Masculine in Paganism has many angles to examine. He is a multifaceted being, very complex, and at the same time, very simple. He is neither all-loving, nor is He all-ruthless. He is gentle and comforting, but He is also the hunter who culls the wild herd. He is a protector and defender, but He has a vicious side and a fierce temper as well. Like all things, really, He cannot be broken down into either being ‘good’ or ‘evil’. He is a balance of them both because He IS the balance.
He is nature. He is the new green on the trees and the scent of fallen leaves blanketing the earth. He is the crash of thunder and the fire that lights the skies during a storm. He is the whipping rain and the wind that uproots trees. He is the sun, shining down in gentle, life-giving rays or burning the ground to dust. He is the growl of the wolf, the roar of the lion, the piercing shriek of the eagle, the purr of a tomcat, and the soft velvet upon a stag’s crown of antlers. He is life. He is passion, lust, freedom, sacrifice, love, wisdom, power, pride, anger, laughter, warmth, and pain. There is nothing that exists that does not wear His face or share His touch. He is present in the features of every young baby, every small boy, every rebellious teenager, every angst-ridden youth, every foolish fellow chasing dreams, every optimistic young man, every cautious father, every harsh teacher, every bitter elder, and every wizened old sage. He is in the girls and women too, though we may have to look harder to find Him within ourselves. He brazenly shines through every one of his sons and they all reflect aspects of Him at different times in their lives, sometimes in their smiles, sometimes in their tempers, sometimes in their arm as they swing a tool, wield a weapon, or throw a ball, and sometimes in their footsteps as they seek Him out in quiet groves and grottoes or in the night sky among the stars and distant worlds beyond this world. The Divine Masculine is also not only the Warrior, He is the Poet, the Healer. He is not just the Sage, He is the Fool. He is not just the gentle Lover, He is the stern Judge.
Our society has backed the Divine Masculine into a tight corner, a little box, and cut off his balls while simultaneously telling His human representatives they have to “Man Up.” The idea then becomes how can men show their power? They can’t find it within themselves; they’ve been separated from that source, so they have to look outward. But they can’t find it there either because the ultimate example accepted in our society of the male face of the Divine is an impotent, unsexed single parent with a bad attitude, and his virgin son.*
This is disheartening. It gives men nothing realistic to aim for and women nothing to want. In Paganism, it can be a huge shock as well for men who deep down, are seeking to find that missing part of themselves and their spiritual voice. There is a large focus on the feminine in Witchcraft, as there should be. But not to the exclusion of the other half of life. Women are given positions of respect and leadership, and among some of the more established paths and traditions, even given an edge over the male in rank and power. I don’t really agree with this either. I believe that both are totally equal to one another. That is what I strive for, teach, and practice: for focus and balance in equal parts. One may get more attention for a time, but then that deity will step back to allow the other to move into the lead.
The Divine Masculine has suffered indignities along the same lines of the Divine Feminine. Both have been shoved back and ignored. Like Her, His strengths have been wrongly identified as faults or sins, things to be overcome or ashamed of instead of embraced and celebrated. His human representatives, boys and men, have been separated from what makes them whole and complete beings and lied to about this whole thing. It is my sincerest wish that all men have a chance to go into the woods, build a fire, beat out primal rhythms on drums and free themselves to scream with their true voices, dance unto dizziness, and find that connection within themselves that has been so long ignored.
As a woman, I looked long and hard to find Him. Once I did, I will gladly never be rid of Him.
*Personally, I think the historical Jesus got it on with Mary Magdalene, but that’s not accepted canon by the church. They would rather see him as unmarried and virginal.
11 thoughts on “The Divine Masculine”
“Our society has backed the Divine Masculine into a tight corner, a little box, and cut off his balls while simultaneously telling His human representatives they have to “Man Up.” The idea then becomes how can men show their power? They can’t find it within themselves; they’ve been separated from that source, so they have to look outward. But they can’t find it there either because the ultimate example accepted in our society of the male face of the Divine is an impotent, unsexed single parent with a bad attitude, and his virgin son.*”
You have no idea how much this passage made me laugh! xD
But I have to agree with you. The God aspect has somewhat been ignored due to the Jude-Christian God “dominating” the field. When people enter Paganism, most of them have had enough of God and his Ten commandments. They are relieved to find a merciful, loving female deity in contrast to the Christian God who is very often unforgiving and who, as it seems to people, loves to punish them for their misdeeds (you know, Hell and all that stuff).
When I was little, I attended a Catholic school (though not because my parents are extremely Catholic but because we were in a foreign country and that school was most accepting towards other cultures). Anyway, I got used to the concept of a male deity there, but always felt as if something was missing (like you did, if I understood correctly). When I found about about Wicca, it was this gender (and sexual) balance as well as the emphasis on nature that “put a spell on me” 🙂 Tough it was still hard to get used to referring to a “Goddess” but it seems perfectly natural now 😀
And I’m glad to see that male Witches really are starting to get in touch with their masculine side again. Rituals (at least those that I have attended) do not ignore the God. I also try to keep this balance in mind when writing my solitary rituals.
There are a lot of great book on the subject that I have been planning to read such as Margaret Murray’s The God of the Withes. Have you read it by any chance?
I didn’t really feel like something specifically feminine was missing from Christianity. At least that wasn’t my only difficulty with the religion. It was just ‘one more thing’ on a huge list of things that didn’t fit and didn’t make sense to me. What I actually meant in this post was that when I got into Paganism, it was hard for me to find a Godform that I could really accept and resonate with because for a long time, whenever “God” was mentioned, the influence I had from Christianity took over. It took a couple of years of only Goddess-focused study for me to get comfortable with the idea of a Pagan God. So then I started trying to find Him.
And yes, I have read that book. It’s one I think all Wiccans should read, for historical value in the understanding of practices and traditions if nothing else. I don’t agree with some of the ideas that Murray put forward, as they’ve been rejected by the vast majority of scholars and archaeologists/anthropologists. But the book was one that Gardner read and drew from, so for that reason, it gives a helpful background in understanding where the concept of the Witches’ God comes from.
Another really good one is “The Witches God” by Janet and Stewart Farrar.
I understand where you’re coming from, but somehow, the idea of a Pagan God was much more logical to me. It was just the Goddess part that was unusual but hey….to each their own 🙂
And I guess I really should read it then! 😀 both of them if I get the chance 🙂 As for Murray, I know there have been many discussions about her theories and that many of them really have been rejected, but I still haven’t come across a detailed analysis of her works which says exactly WHAT is wrong. If you happen to know of something like that, I’d love to know. I mean, it’s nice to read her books, but you should always know the other side of the story too 🙂
A quick summary 🙂
What’s good about Murray’s work:
1 – She opened the door for further study into the old practices and beliefs of Europe.
2 – She brought the word “Witch” out in a way that meant something other than ‘evil person’ or ‘someone in league with Satan’.
3 – She became very popular among people who were interested in Witchcraft and she spread these concepts to them as ‘the authority’ on Witchcraft. This provided people who wanted to pursue the practice of Witchcraft with a scholar on which to hang their beliefs, instead of just coming up with it all on their own. This is what Robert Graves did when he wrote “The White Goddess”. Both of these authors were influential to Gerald Gardner in his ‘fleshing out’ of the details of Wicca as it came to be known and understood.
4 – She was a woman who came out and spoke in a field dominated by men. This took a lot of guts, especially since her ideas and information were as radically different from anything previously presented as they were. She took a lot of guff from her peers, but believed strongly in what she was presenting. Her courage as a person is commendable, despite her information being skewed. If it weren’t for Murray, Wicca as we know it wouldn’t exist.
What’s bad about Murray’s work:
1 – It’s entirely historically inaccurate. Meaning, she is the one who conceptualized the idea of the Pagans of Europe all worshiping the Goddess of the Moon and the Horned God, as if Witchcraft were a cohesive religion centered on these two deities. This is not true, if it were, the enormous plethora of deities among Europe’s different cultures wouldn’t exist.
2 – She put forth the theory that Witchcraft was The Old Religion, pretty much becoming the first one to use that particular term (The Old Religion) to describe it. Witchcraft was a folk practice that combined with a multitude of religious, spiritual, and cultural beliefs in Europe.
3 – She did all of this with no actual facts or evidence, creating the bulk of it out of her own mind and then pontificating about it like an expert authority. Murray made one of the biggest blunders in doing historical work: she conceptualized a theory, an idea, and then hunted for evidence to support it. The proper way to do things, of course, is in the reverse. One looks for evidence and then pieces together a picture based on the evidence. Murray did what so many accuse bigots and propagandists of doing. She ‘cherry-picked’ her historical info to support her preconceived conclusions.
So, as I said, you should read Murray’s work to get a solid understanding of where Wicca’s origins began, because these works were what inspired and directed the people who started putting the structure to the modern practices of Wicca. But, the actual information she cites is false, so don’t look at it like a history book that ‘proves’ what Wiccans do is actually ancient. It’s more like a myth in that regard — a story that inspires spiritual understanding with a kernel of the facts exaggerated to tell a good story.
Thank you very much for the reply! 🙂
I just want to note one thing before giving my response to the actual topic. Yu said: “One looks for evidence and then pieces together a picture based on the evidence.”. I actually heard of an even better way to do this. You actually look for evidence that goes AGAINST your theory, or rather you try to deny your very own theory 🙂 not bad, eh?
Anyway, as for Murray, I like the positive sides and applaud her courage just as much as you do and I knew that both she and Graves and Leeland had a great influence on Gardner, but I just don’t feel a great need to read her books if practically everything that she says is false. I don’t like people throwing the word “science” around like that. BUT, I probably will read at least something she wrote 🙂 just for the sake of culture I guess. Then again, I like the way she called Witchcraft “the Old Religion” because I believe there is something primordial in its beliefs. Somehow it seems so natural that even cavemen must have felt similarly to us. I can understand how Witchcraft and modern Paganism could have roots in prehistoric times and all that. Though I guess she didn’t do a very good scientific job of proving this or at least partly proving it. I agree with you though when you say that it’s obvious that there couldn’t have only been two main gods that ALL people worshiped. She seems to have exaggerated things a bit there but hey…she just cared too much for her work and I believe she got subjective.
Also, if this is where Wicca’s (apparently unstable) origins are, this could leave room for many uncomfortable questions from other people. But then again, I don’t really care xD I just know what I believe and what seems logical to me. As for others, they can search for their own path 🙂 we don’t all have to agree on everything. Plus, there are always other origins too.
What I like is that Gardner never really said that this was THE ancient religion people practiced so many thousands of years ago. At least not that I can recall? He, at some point in his life, said that Wicca was a new religion but that he “borrowed” certain elements of these ancient religions. Correct me if I’m mistaken 🙂
Thank you for this post, it is superbly written and describes the pagan god so well! You are so right about men in society. When my partner discovered Paganism and explored the Horned god, he felt so much more comfortable with himself – he found a connection to his male-ness that suited him. Not the ‘alpha’ male that many men feel they have to be, all bravado and aggression, but natural, gentle yet strong, FREE to be himself.
I love the relationship between the goddess and the god – united, yet each individual with their own power and strength.
Thank you. I think that it is a crippling blow to men in our society that they have to divorce themselves from themselves and then spend their entire existence trying to deal with that lack of balance as best they can. I’m glad to hear that your partner found that balance again within himself and wish him the best as he continues his journey. Since he has a partner who supports that in him, you’re both going to have wonderful experiences growing in this and learning from each other. Blessings to you both!
🙂 And to you x
Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading this. 🙂
As young gay man it has been a real struggle developing my relationship with the Horned One. I see in him all the attributes that I want in myself yet because of my self-image deny myself the ability to possess them. I’m beginning to see my relationship with myself mirror my connection to him, and I’m realizing that he is a part of me in such an intimate way already. The more I accept myself as I am, allowing my Higher Self to take its rightful place, I see his splendor shining through.
Sounds like you’ve got the idea, Owyl 🙂 I think the more time you spend with Him, and not necessarily just with what other sources tell you of Him, you will learn even more and recognize more of him within yourself.
I often tell people who say they want to connect with the Horned One, or if specifically calling him Cernunnos, that you should go where he is and do what he does. Cernunnos doesn’t have a huge amount of written lore. So most of what is considered to be His area and manner is drawn from intuition or other sources.
If it’s going to be drawn from intuition, why not use your own intuition as well?
We know he is the lord of nature and animals, so care for animals and spend time in the grass and among trees. I guarantee you will learn and recognize more of the Horned One doing these things than you will in studying ten books that talk about him. 🙂
I also believe that you will find a strong connection with him because of your sexual orientation. The Horned One crosses boundaries and barriers. He exists in multiple worlds and blends them: Human and Animal, Here and Otherworld/Underworld.
He is all that is Male. Don’t let society dictate to you what ‘male’ is. He is a much better teacher than they are in that regard. 🙂