There's a Deity on My Altar!
Deity, The God & Goddess:
In this section, we enter some pretty tricky subjects. If you ask 100 Wiccans what they think Deity is, you would receive 200 different answers. Covering this topic comprehensively is beyond the scope of any single source, however Deity remains the core of Wicca. Although this is a touchy subject, we will attempt to cover many different Wiccan viewpoints. There are some Wiccans who believe to call yourself "Wiccan" means that you believe in a specific pantheon, or have a specific belief system. However, in real life, you will meet Wiccans with beliefs which vary widely from one another. One of the goals of this class is to give you an overview of these beliefs, and from there you may choose your own path. We will not entertain discussions on which belief is more "Wiccan" than another and this is counterproductive to your individual path, as well as to Paganism as a whole.
For purposes of simplification, the word Deity is used in these lessons to represent the the divine force, the universe as a living force or the all. This is not presented so much from a monotheistic perspective but rather a pantheistic perspective. Generally, this force is beyond gender, however we witness the manifestation of the divine in all that is around us. That said, there are no absolutes and we must explore a variety of ideas.
Because much of nature is divided into male and female principles, many Wiccans identify with the God and the Goddess. This is a very broad statement and it is important to keep in mind that some traditions and solitary Wiccans only acknowledge the Goddess in their rituals. Still other Wiccans do not see the God and Goddess as separate entities, but rather different symbolic facets of Deity. Because Deity is a creative force, the Goddess is often stressed more strongly as She is the Mother of all creation.
The point is that every Witch has a different view of Deity as is entirely appropriate. Each of us are individuals, and each of us will relate to Deity in our own way. Again, we will cover a variety of Wiccan viewpoints, but will not contribute to popular arguments of which viewpoint is more "Wiccan" than another or which is more historically accurate than another. The primary focus of this class is on modern Wicca and how it applies to your personal path.
Please remember that you can click on images to enlarge them, and to reveal extra tidbits of information that will be on your exam.
MoonBeam identifies with the Goddess. She feels a close connection with the creative feminine energy of the Mother. She is not yet comfortable with the idea of the God, particularly the Horned God, having come from a strict Christian background. She realizes that her anxiety about the Horned God is unfounded but nevertheless she chooses to identify with the triple Goddess.
For MoonBeam, the Goddess has three faces, Artemis (or under her Roman name, Diana) the maiden of the new and waxing moon, Selene the mother of the full moon, and Hecate the crone of the waning and dark moon. She sees the Goddess reflected in myths of the three fates, the cycles of the moon and of life & death.
She feels that her focus on the Goddess is a way to heal some of her past which involved abusive relationships, and is a way to counterbalance a patriarchal society. She represents the triple Goddess on her altar with her three legged cauldron in which burns either a white (maiden), red (mother) or black (crone) candle depending on the current phase of the moon.
MoonBeam has an Irish heritage in her family and has begun study of The Morrigan who has three phases, Ana (maiden or virgin) Babd (mother) and Macha (crone). She has not connected with this personification of the Goddess as she is only in the beginning stages of her research.
Power of the Witch by Laurie Cabot
Pat feels that Deity is omnipresent and places pictures of space on the wall above the altar to represent Deity. Pat does not separate Deity into sexual polarities and does not adhere to organizational forms such as patriarchy and matriarchy, but rather believes that gender should not matter. Pat belongs to a coven in which decisions and ritual workings are based on the unity of a circle. Each covener takes turns coming up with ideas for ritual and there is no High Priest or High Priestess.
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
The Grandmother of Time by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest
Alex started his studies in a Gardnerian coven, but after only a few months with them, he moved to a city very distant from his home coven. Currently he is with an Alexandrian coven which practices according to his views of Deity. He now considers himself an Alexandrian. Alex sees the God as aspected in the Oak King of the Waxing year (Yule to Midsummer) and the Holly King of the Waning year (Midsummer to Yule). He uses oak branches and acorns, or holly to represent the God on his altar. The God in both aspects dies and is reborn. The Goddess also changes in her aspects as Earth Mother and the lunar Queen of Heaven.
A Witches Bible Compleat by Janet and Stewart Farrar
Diane relates to the Triple Goddess much like MoonBeam does. Diana is her maiden of the waxing moon, Selene is the mother of the full moon and Hecate is her crone of the waning moon. She also identifies with the Sun God. She sees the God in two parts, Kernunnos (balance and inspiration) and Pan (flexibility and sensuality). The pentacles Diane wears, and the one on her altar represent to her the five aspects of Deity.
Earth Magic by Marion Weinstein
Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein
Terry believes that Gods and Goddess are separate entities, not simply facets of the All. Terry believes that for thousands of years people have worshiped very specific Deities, and through their worship have created energy pockets, a sort of collective memory or morphogenetic fields (as Rupert Sheldrake describes them in his recent work). Terry feels a close connection to certain Deities, and has developed a relationship with some through meditation and shamanic practices. Terry utilizes the runes in his magical and divinatory practices and uses certain runes to represent Odin and other patron Deities on his altar.
The Archaic Revival by Terence McKenna
The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God by Rupert Sheldrake
Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science by Matthew Fox
GreenLady sees the Goddess as Gaea, the primal mother of all things. Her animistic-like view is that the Goddess is present everywhere, and that Mother Earth is a living entity with consciousness. She feels that the God is the Sun which brings light and life to the creative womb of the Earth. The Goddess is represented on her altar with a small Venus of Willendorf statue (such as the one in the picture) and the God is represented with grains, wheat, and sunflowers.
The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo
The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present by Jean Markale
Page is reading and learning. She can relate to many different views of Deity but has not yet formed her own. She has had two experiences which are helping to shape her beliefs. The first was a vision she had during an intense meditation of what seemed to her to be the Goddess. The second was a feeling of being looked after when she came very close to being in a collision in her car. She remains open to new ideas, and meanwhile places a white candle on her meditation altar.
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Objects by Barbara G. Walker
The Goddess Companion: Daily Meditations on the Feminine Spirit by Patricia Monaghan
Matthew grew up Catholic and felt very close to Mary throughout his life. As he adopted Wiccan views, he maintained his relationship with Mary in the guise of the Goddess and sees Jesus as a symbol of the God. To the fury and amazement of many of his Wiccan friends, he insists on placing a statue of Mary on his altar next to the cross.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (Fiction)
Practical Candleburning Rituals by Raymond Buckland
Lafayette grew up in New Orleans and combines Voudou with his Wiccan practices. His believes that the world was created by One God, NaNa Buluku who is both male and female. Nana Buluku gave birth to Mawu, the west, moon and female and Lisa, the east, day, and male. Lafayette's' beliefs are rather complex, but to simplify them for an example: he sees Obatala and Yemonja as God and Goddess. He also recognizes many other Deities.
Jambalaya by Luisah Teish
In later lessons, we will go over what many of these viewpoints have in common, but for now, here's your assignment!
Take a few days to assess how you view Deity. Write down your conclusions, thoughts, or confusion in your notebook. Be as descriptive as possible, even if you aren't sure. You are not expected to be absolute in these beliefs, just put out some ideas for your own reference later (in your notebook or book of shadows). Also mention what could be used on your altar to represent Deity to you.
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Terms to Know
Polytheism is the belief that deity takes many forms, the belief in more than one god.
Omnipresent describes that which present at all times in all places.
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one god.
Patriarchy is a form of organization in which the father or authoritarian male is ruler.
Matriarchy a form of organization in which the mother or authoritarian female is ruler.
Animism 1. attributing conscious life to objects and phenomena in nature 2. belief in the existence of disembodied spirits.
Personification For purposes of this lesson: to represent or symbolize a complex or abstract quality, idea, person, entity or energy. To represent an abstraction.