From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Horned God is one of the two primary deities found in the neopagan religion of Wicca. He is often given various names and epithets, and represents the male part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the other part being the female Triple Goddess.
The term 'Horned God' itself predates Wicca, and is a 20th century syncretic term for a horned or antlered anthropomorphic god with pseudohistorical origins, who, according to Margaret Murray's 1921 The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, was the deity worshipped by a pan-European witchcraft-based cult, and was demonised into the form of the Devil by the Mediaeval Church. Horned and antlered figures appear in various religions and cultures, both ancient and modern, however the suggestion made by Murray that many or all of these represent a single pancultural deity is widely denied by contemporary historians.
Theories of historical origins
Several theories have been created to establish historical roots for the worship of a Horned God.
Following the writings of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage and others, Margaret Murray, in her 1921 book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, proposed the theory that the witches of the early-modern period were remnants of a pagan cult and that the Christian Church had declared the god of the witches was in fact the Devil. Without specific recourse to any specific representation of this deity Murray speculates that the head coverings common in inquisition-derived descriptions of the devil 'may throw light on one of the possible origins of the cult'.
In 1931 Murray published a sequel, The God of the Witches, which tries to gather evidence in support of her witch-cult theory. In Chapter 1 "The Horned God". Murray attempts to claim that various depictions of humans with horns from European and Indian sources, ranging from the paleolithic French cave painting of "The Sorcerer" to the Indic Pashupati to the modern English Dorset Ooser, are evidence for an unbroken, Europe-wide tradition of worship of a singular Horned God. Murray derived this model of a horned god cult from James Frazer and Jules Michelet.
In dealing with 'The Sorcerer", the earliest evidence claimed, Murray based her observations on an drawing by Henri Breuil, which modern scholars such as Ronald Hutton claim is inaccurate. Hutton states that modern photographs show the original cave art lacks horns, a human torso or any other significant detail on its upper half. Breuil considered his drawing to represent a shaman or magician - an interpretation which gives the image its name. Murray having seen the drawing called Breuil's image 'the first depiction of a deity', an idea which Breuil and others later adopted. Hutton's theory led him to conclude that reliance on Bruiel's initial sketch resulted in many later scholars erroneously claiming that "The Sorcerer" was evidence that the concept of a Horned God dated back to Paleolithic times.
Murray also used an inaccurate drawing of a mesolithic rock-painting at Cogul in northeast Spain as evidence of group religious ceremony of the cult, although the central male figure is not horned. The illustration she used of the Cogul painting leaves out a number of figures, human and animal, and the original is more likely a sequence of superimposed but unrelated illustrations, rather than a depiction of a single scene.
The idea of a historical Horned God cult is widely regarded as being a fantasy. Despite widespread condemnation of her scholarship some minor aspects of her work continued to have supporters.
Influences from literature
The popular image of the Greek god Pan was removed from its classical context in the writings of the Romantics of the 18th century and connected with their ideals of a pastoral England. This, along with the general public's increasing lack of familiarity of Greek mythology at the time led to the figure of Pan becoming generalised as a 'horned god', and applying connotations to the character, such as benevolence that were not evident in the original Greek myths which in turn gave rise to the popular acceptance of Murray's hypothetical horned god of the witches.
Influences from occultism
Eliphas Levi's image of "Baphomet" serves as an example of the transformation of the Devil into a benevolent fertility deity and provided the prototype for Murray's horned god. Murray's central thesis that images of the Devil were actually of deities and that Christianity had demonised these worshippers as following Satan, is first recorded in the work of Levi in the fashionable 19th-century Occultist circles of England and France. Levi created his image of Baphomet, published in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1855), by combining symbolism from diverse traditions, including the Diable card of the 16th and 17th century Tarot of Marseille.
Gerald Gardner and Wicca
Murray's theory of the historical origins of the Horned God has been used by Wiccans to create a myth of historical origins for their religion. There is no real evidence to support claims that the religion originates earlier than the mid-20th century.
The "father of Wicca", Gerald Gardner, who adopted Margaret Murray's thesis, claimed Wicca was a modern survival of an ancient pan-European pagan religion. Gardner states that he had reconstructed elements of the religion from fragments, incorporating elements from English folklore and contemporary influences such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as well as eastern philosophies.Template:Citation needed Gardner supposes that the Horned God and The Goddess were of the ancient tribal gods of the Wiccan religion he was trying to reconstruct. There is no evidence of these concepts existing in ancient cultures; much of modern witchcraft draws from a romanticized view of history and religion..
According to Jenny Gibbons some Wiccans have begun to accept the ahistoricity of their religion.
Georg Luck, repeats part of Murray's theory, stating 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/Faunus, a combination of gods which he posits created a new deity, around which the remaining pagans, 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.