The Horned One and The Devil
In approximately 12,000 BCE, somebody ventured deep within Earth’s caverns in what is now southern France to paint a picture of what appears to be a dancing man with various animal attributes, including an impressive rack of antlers. There are comparatively few cave paintings depicting humans; most are incredibly precise portrayals of animals and so this dancing human-like figure has attracted much scholarly attention:
Does it portray a sacred being or god?
Does it portray a shaman, who have historically masqueraded as animals for assorted spiritual purposes (and still do)?
The cavern in which this image appears is now named Les Trois Frères; the horned figure is popularly nicknamed The Sorcerer or The Dancing Shaman.
Whoever that horned man was, he didn’t remain deep underground but surfaced, although he continued to be associated with caves. Ancient Greek artifacts frequently depict composite goat-men, typically combining a man’s upper torso, face, and very erect phallus with a goat’s lower quarters and horns. This image describes satyrs as well as the great god Pan.
When the Roman people first arrived in that region of Italy, they found a similar figure waiting for them. Faunus, their goat god, resembles Pan and the satyrs. According to legend, Faunus helped found the original city of Rome; the Lupercalia, a major festival whose vestiges survive in the modern Valentine’s Day, was dedicated to him.
Another horned male spirit, this one with stag’s antlers, is found all across Europe. Horned male spirits are found in Asia and Africa as well. These horned gods, some with goat or bull’s horns, others with stag’s antlers, are associated with fertility, sexual vigor, prosperity, survival, and wild nature. The cave painting’s nickname is no accident: these horned gods are also identified with the earliest stages of shamanism and witchcraft.
In the Christian era, this same figure became identified as the devil, popularly envisioned as a composite goat-man including a man’s perpetually erect phallus, and a goat’s horns and hoofs. Images of Pan can be virtually indistinguishable from those of the Christian devil, except that wings were eventually added to the devil’s form, so as to combine the form of the horned god with that of a fallen angel. The horned god served as the prototype for the Christian devil.
The story doesn’t end there: throughout Europe, as elsewhere, both before and after Christianization, men guised in the form of animals especially horned ones, perhaps ritually channeling horned spirits. Initially these were public communal rituals; however with the rise of Christianity, this practice was outlawed and so went underground, performed secretly in remote mountain clearings and caves.
We know that this occurred because of Christian descriptions and because similar practices still survive, albeit now usually considered “folkloric” rather than spiritual or magical. Photographs are available of Central European men, masked, costumed, and horned in the guise of their horned spirit, Krampus. Vestiges of masked, horned shamans also survive in modern figures like Santa Claus and his “dark companions,” as well as in what were once considered “lucky” chimney sweeps and hunchbacks.
During Europe’s witch-hunt era, people, mainly but not exclusively women, were hysterically accused of assembling en masse and worshipping the devil, usually in the form of a goat or a composite goat-man. Many defined this worship of a goat-shaped devil as what constituted witchcraft.
Were these accusations based on fact or fantasy?
Was this all hysteria, as some believe?
Was the Inquisition attempting to stamp out surviving Pagan practices, as others think?
It’s impossible to determine: this was a period of religious fanaticism, not anthropology. The word “devil” was tossed around so broadly and loosely in relation to the horned ones that it’s now impossible to determine when the word was intended to describe a spiritual entity and when a man. And of course, for many devout Christians, there was no distinction between the two.
An unknown number of people, mainly women but also children and men, were tortured and killed for allegedly venerating a horned god. The horned god was envisioned as presiding over witches’ sabbats. Witches were accused of having sex with this figure, of receiving gifts from him in exchange for their immortal souls, and of offering him obscene obeisance. What the Inquisition described as the “witch’s kiss of obeisance,” or “osculum obscenum,” involved kissing the devil’s anus, buttocks or genitals.
The story doesn’t end there; the horned one never disappeared. His image remains potent, powerful, and virtually guaranteed to evoke some kind of reaction.
Today some perceive the horned one as sacred, not evil; a little rambunctious maybe but vital, powerful, and positive—the transmitter of Earth’s blessings. Other people look at the very same image and see the devil.
What’s so special about those horns?
Horns appear in the earliest manifestations of human religion, not only in the cave painting at Les Trois Frères but also in the temple complex at Çatal Hüyük and throughout the entire ancient world. Further information about the significance of horns may be found in ELEMENTS OF WITCHCRAFT, however, in short, horns indicate links between the moon, certain animals, men’s genitals, and women’s inner reproductive organs.
Horns indicate wisdom, magical power, and primal generative, reproductive energy (see TOOLS: Horns)
Many horned spirits are lunar spirits
Most, although not all, horned spirits are male
Horns indicate protection and abundance: the cornucopia is the horn of plenty
Lunar goddesses like Artemis, Astarte, Diana, Inanna-Ishtar, and Isis often wear horns or horned headdresses. There was a Gaulish goat-goddess named Fenta. Many Celtic goddesses are profoundly identified with cattle. Some sacred hags sport antlers and boar’s tusks. Celtic bronze statues portray antlered women, although whether they are divine or human is now unknown. During China’s Chou dynasty (1050—256 BCE), female shamans danced wearing antlers.
Even goddesses who lack horns are frequently depicted in the company of horned animals. A famous Middle-Eastern image of a goddess variously identified as Inanna-Ishtar or Lady Asherah portrays her standing between two dancing ibexes (wild goats). Artemis is rarely without a stag at her side.
The male horned spirit is often the companion of a goddess; conversely he is a male divinity who is concerned with the welfare, prosperity, and fecundity of women. These male spirits are portrayed dancing, cavorting, and otherwise engaged with women.
Another name sometimes used for this horned man-spirit is the sacred Wild Man. The Horned Spirit/Wild Man presides over Earth’s cyclical nature: birth, death, and rebirth. He is the personification of the male generative fertility needed to spark life. Many horned spirits are associated with the element of fire, identified as the “spark of life.” Horned spirits proffer firebrands and, later, coal to their devotees. Conversely many horned spirits are associated with rainstorms that fertilize and were perceived as inseminating the feminine Earth.
The most obvious characteristic of horned deities are their horns. However there are also others:
Horned spirits are often characterized by hoofs or a limp. Sometimes they have uneven feet (one foot, one hoof): this mysterious shuffling step is also associated with shamans.
Horned spirits are often identified with specific tools: they carry birch switches, pitchforks, and sickles. (See TOOLS.)
Sometimes horns are omitted but other animal anatomy retained as a clue to their true identity, notably hairy legs or cloven hoofs. This tradition survives in the notion that even when the devil manifests as a human being, one cloven hoof is retained as identification.
When discussing horned spirits, exactly what are we talking about? Spirits who manifest as horned deities, or people in the guise of horned deities? Spiritual traditions involving horned spirits involved masquerading and possibly ritual possession similar to modern Vodouistes or Native American katchina dancers (see MAGICAL ARTS: Ritual Possession).
There was once a powerful, extensive spiritual tradition involving masquerading as animals which the Church worked tirelessly to eradicate, although it was a tradition that was never entirely destroyed:
In the 570s, the Council of Auxerre, France, forbade masquerading as a calf or stag and banned distribution of “devilish charms.”
The seventh-century Liber Penitentialis is the earliest collection of ecclesiastical disciplinary laws for England. One clause forbids anyone from dressing as a bull or stag during the Calends of January.
In an early association of the horned one with the devil, the Liber Penitentialis assigns three-years’ penance to those who transform themselves into the appearance of wild animals since the practice is devilish.
Hysteria regarding witches’ sabbats presided over by goats may be understood as a response to these traditions. Because such a disproportionate number of women were killed as witches, the question is often posed: where were the male witches? Tremendous emphasis was placed on identifying witchcraft with women. Women, hence witches, were perceived as submissive; male practitioners, many apparently dressed in shamanic horned costume, were identified with the powerful devil, instead.
In the words of St Peter Chrysologus (405-450), “All who have masqueraded in the likeness of animals…have turned themselves into devils,” and furthermore, “The man who puts on the guise of an idol has no wish to be in the image and likeness of God. Who jests with the Devil cannot rejoice with Christ.”
He urged Christians to convert those who “have masqueraded in the likeness of animals, who have assumed the shape of herd animals, who have turned themselves into devils.”
St Caesarius of Arles (470—542) wrote, “Is there any sensible man who could ever believe that there are actually rational individuals willing to put on the appearance of a stag and to transform themselves into wild beasts? Some dress themselves in the skins of herd animals, others put on the heads of horned beasts…”
The tradition never completely died: dressing up as animals or masquerading in beast masks was incorporated into the medieval Feast of Fools and the Feast of the Ass. It eventually became associated with New Year’s festivities; however it’s quite likely that the practice also continued secretly in the forest and at remote, ancient sacred sites in the same manner that Vodouistes once put on shows for tourists but reserved true rituals for private, sacred occasions. Presumably these secret traditions were what the Inquisition was so anxious to root out and eradicate.
Nor did the horned spirit ever fade away even in the heart of the Church. An altar stone found at Notre Dame Cathedral, for instance, depicts a horned deity with torcs on his antlers similar to images of Cernunnos (see page 558).
There are a lot of horned spirits. The following is a selection of the most renowned, with a special focus on those historically associated with witchcraft.
See CALENDAR: Lupercalia, Sabbats; CREATIVE ARTS: Dance: Goat Dance, Maenad Dance.
Aatxe, the name of this Basque deity, means “young bull.” Another name for him, Aatxegorri, means “young red bull.” Another Basque spirit named Etsai may or may not be identical with Aatxe. It is unclear whether there were originally two distinct spirits or whether Aatxe, having come to the attention of the Inquisition during their search for Basque witches, evolved into Etsai, a spelling more amenable to French and Spanish clerics.
Aatxe is a shape-shifter who can assume human form but most frequently manifests, as his name indicates, as a bull. (Other forms include dragon, goat, horse, and pig.) Like the Minotaur, Aatxe lives deep within Earth but reputedly leaves his cavern home on stormy nights (with the implication that Aatxe is responsible for the storms). Aatxe is among the spirits affiliated with the goddess Mari. Some believe that Aatxe is really among Mari’s many manifestations.
Etsai is frequently described as an “evil spirit,” although whether he has always been “evil” and dangerous or whether this reputation stems solely from Christian perceptions is now unknown. The name “Etsai” has become synonymous with “devil.” Etsai allegedly teaches his devotees arts described by Christian sources as “diabolical.” His classroom is a mountain cave. Allegedly, even his students fear him because he always forces one student to remain permanently with him following graduation, although exactly what happens to them when they stay is unclear. The intended implication is that staying with Etsai is similar to being trapped in Hell.
See also Akerbeltz, Devil, Minotaur; DIVINE WITCH: Mari.
Akerbeltz literally means “black he goat” in Basque, however “he” may really be “she” as some understand Akerbeltz to be a manifestation of the goddess Mari. Others perceive Akerbeltz as Mari’s companion or her alter ego, her twin soul; the nature of the close relationship between these two Basque spirits remains subject to debate.
Akerbeltz is ancient; Roman-era inscriptions refer to him. Akerbeltz dwells in mountain and underground caves, as does Mari. He protects flocks, especially from illness, raises storms, and leads a host of spirits. Akerbeltz reputedly presides over gatherings of witches every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Traditional Pagan offerings to Akerbeltz are modest, and include bread, eggs, and coins.
The Inquisition identified Akerbeltz as Satan and, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, claimed that witches offered him more dramatic sacrifices, such as their immortal souls.
The name Inquisitors gave to Basque witches’ sabbats was “Akelarre” or “Goat meadow.” Goya’s famed painting of that name depicts a witches’ sabbat presided over by a mammoth upright goat.
See Boch de Biterna; CREATIVE ARTS: Visual Arts: Goya; DICTIONARY: Akelarre, Sabbat; DIVINE WITCH: Mari.
Information regarding pre-Islamic Arabian deities is sketchy. However, Almaqah seems to have been the pre-eminent deity of the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, now in modern Yemen. Almaqah was a lunar deity. He bears the title “Lord of the Horned Goats” and is sometimes depicted in the form of an ibex but more frequently as a bull, his primary sacred animal.
Almaqah’s emblems are a cluster of lightning flashes and an “S”-shaped weapon. Sabeans referred to themselves as “children of Almaqah.” The great temple of Marib in Yemen, now sometimes referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, seems to have been dedicated to him. (Conclusive archeological documentation is still pending.)
Asmodeus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Ashmodai, which may or may not derive from the Iranian Aeshma Deva. There are two theories regarding Asmodeus’ origins:
In dualist Iranian and Zoroastrian tradition, Aeshma Deva is an evil spirit, a deva (devil) who fights on the side of the Lord of Darkness. Aeshma means “Madness”; he is the third highest-ranking evil spirit. One theory is that Jews encountering Aeshma Deva during their Babylonian exile incorporated him into their own mythology.
An opposing theory suggests that there are actually two dangerous spirits whose names merely sound similar. Although the names are similar, Ashmodai is an independent Jewish spirit. Occultist Samuel MacGregor Mathers subscribed to this notion, suggesting that the name derives from the Hebrew Asamod, “to destroy.”
In Jewish demonology, Ashmodai is the destroyer, a high-ranking avenging angel, the Prince of the Revengers of Evil. He visits Heaven daily to learn the destined fate of human beings and to receive his assigned orders. Alternately, he is the King of Demons or Djinn.
According to Jewish tradition, Ashmodai is the son of Naamah, sister of Tubal-Cain, the first metalworker and a descendant of Cain. Naamah has her own reputation in Jewish folklore as a formidable demon, a sometime ally, sometime competitor of Lilith. Ashmodai is sometimes considered Lilith’s husband.
Ashmodai was King Solomon’s primary competitor. According to legend, Solomon enslaved Ashmodai, forcing him to help with Solomon’s building projects including the Jerusalem Temple. Ashmodai paid him back by tricking Solomon into giving him his magic ring. Once Ashmodai possessed the ring, he sent Solomon into exile, assumed his form and ruled in his place, although Solomon eventually regained his throne.
In Christian demonology, Asmodeus is technically an extremely high-ranking demon or rebel angel, however his name is also sometimes used as a synonym for Satan. Asmodeus is traditionally envisioned as a horned, lame man or as a composite creature with three heads (bull, ram, ogre), a snake’s tail, and goose feet, riding on a dragon.
See also Cain, Devil; ANIMALS: Snakes; DIVINE WITCH: Lilith; FAIRY-TALE WITCHES: Jewish Fairy Tales, Mother Goose; MAGICAL PROFESSIONS: Metalworkers; HALL OF FAME: Samuel MacGregor Mathers.
Attis was the young lover of the great goddess Kybele. Their relationship is the subject of a lengthy and very complex saga:
Zeus lusted after Kybele but she disdained him. He attempted to rape her. She escaped him by transforming herself into a rock. In the throes of passion, Zeus ejaculated onto the rock. Even as a rock, Kybele is fertile. She conceived and bore a hermaphroditic child named Agdistis, who may or may not be an incarnation of Kybele herself.
Agdistis was immensely powerful and violent, perhaps expressing Kybele’s rage. The gods, led by Dionysus, decide to eliminate him/her. Dionysus transformed a fresh water spring into wine; Agdistis, intending to drink deeply of water got drunk instead and fell into a stupor. Dionysus, meanwhile, had collected strands of Kybele’s fallen hair and braided them into a rope, which he knotted into a noose and slipped over Agdistis’ genitals.
Abruptly Dionysus or Pan let out a bloodcurdling scream, jolting Agdistis awake. He/she jumped up, castrating her/himself. A river of blood poured forth from which a tree emerged, either an almond or pomegranate depending upon the version of the myth. (Sometimes the miraculous plant is also described as a red flower, perhaps a poppy.) A woman, passing by, picked the nut, flower or fruit. A virgin, she instantly conceived.
Her father, however, scoffed at the notion of virgin births and punished her by locking her in a tower, depriving her of food, attempting to induce miscarriage and starve her to death. Every night, however, Kybele slipped into her locked room, bearing apples and water as sustenance for the woman she had chosen to be her sacred vessel.
The young woman’s magical child was born on December 25th. His grandfather rejected the baby and so the baby was brought to the river and placed in a basket to die among the reeds. An alternate version suggests the baby is abandoned on a mountaintop. There are two versions of what happens next: either a mother goat finds the baby and rescues him or a shepherd finds him and brings him home, nurturing the baby on the milk of a goat who has just given birth. The baby is named Attis, derived from the Phrygian word for goat, attagi. Attis is the goat-god, although he is envisioned as the most handsome man on Earth.
That’s just the beginning of this very complex saga, which eventually concludes with Attis’ resurrection three days after his death, coinciding with the vernal equinox.
Attorney Pierre de Loyer, a contemporary of French witch-hunter Pierre de Lancre, suggested that the goat worshipped by witches was none other than Attis, the consort of Kybele. In his opinion, devotees of Kybele and Dionysus served as prototypes for the witches of his day.
See also Devil, Dionysus, Pan; BOOKS: Witch-hunters’ Manuals: Pierre de Lancre; BOTANICALS: Apples, Opium Poppy; DIVINE WITCH: Dionysus, Kybele; HAG: The Devil’s Grandmother.
Azazel is a desert spirit worshipped by ancient Semites. He rules over a band of goat-spirits, the Se’irim. Azazel is famous for his part in Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) rituals. As per instructions in Leviticus 16: 21-28, two goats were brought into the Jerusalem Temple. One was sacrificed to the Creator; the other dedicated to Azazel is the original scapegoat. The sins of the people were ritually transferred to this goat, which was then brought to the desert and set free as an offering to Azazel. Although this was a Jewish custom, its roots are believed to be pre-Judaic.
Azazel is also among the rebel angels. He taught the daughters of man the craft of metalworking and the sacred art of cosmetics. In Christian demonology, Azazel is considered a fallen angel and counted among Satan’s host. Perhaps because of his strong associations with goats, his name is also sometimes used as a synonym for Satan.
See The Devil, Se’irim; MAGICAL PROFESSIONS: Metalworkers.
In 1312, the Knights Templars, an organization of monastic knights, was accused of heresy and the order violently suppressed. Central to the accusations brought against the Knights Templars was that the knights adored an idol named Baphomet, incorporating his worship into various rituals including their initiation ceremonies.
Who was Baphomet? Did he or she exist? No one knows for sure. Accounts of Baphomet derive solely from the charges brought against the Templars and their trial testimony. Baphomet is not clearly identifiable as any other known spirit although, of course, this does not negate the possibility of his existence.
It is unclear whether Baphomet ever existed (no idol was presented as evidence), whether the Knights Templars had adopted other spiritual traditions or whether more than one idol existed, leading to contradictory testimony.
Twelve of the 231 knights examined acknowledged existence of an idol. All confessions and testimony were obtained under severe torture. It is unknown whether any part of these confessions was genuine or whether confessions were just desperate attempts to end torture by agreeing to whatever their persecutors asked. The various accounts are contradictory and inconsistent. The men do not seem to be describing the same thing.
Their Inquisitors were not interested in the finer nuances of Pagan tradition; from their perspective the Knights Templars had gone from Christian warriors to devil-worshippers. They perceived Baphomet as Satan. The crucial point for their Inquisitors was that the Templars confessed to heresy; identifying Pagan spirits, if indeed Baphomet existed, was irrelevant. Inconsistent testimony remained unexplored and Baphomet remains mysterious.
If Baphomet existed, who was he? The facts may be impossible to determine.
Templar trial testimony described Baphomet as the following:
Baphomet was worshipped in the form of a head, either a skull, or a bearded head, or a head with two or three faces
Baphomet was a black cat
Baphomet had a goat’s head and horns and a body combining features of a donkey, dog, and bull
Baphomet was described as an actual human skull. Others said their idol was made from wood, others that it was metal.
The Templar mystery continues to hold incredible fascination for people and various theories regarding Baphomet’s name and existence have developed.
For years, the standard explanation was that Baphomet was a corruption of Mahomet, an archaic spelling of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s name. The Knights Templars were in close daily contact with Muslims and so it was suggested that Baphomet represents attempts to syncretize Islam with Christianity. However, this explanation ignores the Islamic total abhorrence of idolatry. There is no “idol worship” or sacred imagery in Islam, quite the contrary. There are no depictions of Muhammad. No Islamic spiritual tradition resembles anything of which the Knights Templars were accused.
Nor were the Knights Templars accused of dabbling in Islam. They were accused of Christian heresy and of devil-worship, with the implication of witchcraft. Three possibilities exist:
Baphomet did not exist
The Christian Templars were engaged in Christian devil-worship
The Templars were engaging in Pagan-influenced practices possibly related to horned gods
The image now most associated with Baphomet was drawn by the magus Eliphas Levi in 1854 and explicitly portrays a horned spirit. It does not necessarily correspond to Templar testimony but depicts what appears to be a masculine human body with woman’s breasts topped by a crowned, horned goat’s head. (Another suggestion is that the image depicts a masked female.) There is an upright pentacle on the figure’s forehead.
The figure’s right hand points up to a white crescent moon, while the left gestures down toward a black crescent moon shape, interpreted as indicating the metaphysical rule, “As above, so below.” Baphomet’s naked belly is scaly like that of a snake or dragon. Baphomet has black wings, although these are feathered birds’ (angel) wings rather than the bat wings typically associated with the devil or demons.
An upright caduceus (Hermes’ magic wand entwined by a pair of snakes) is placed phallically between Baphomet’s legs, although it also obscures the figure’s genitalia. The figure combines male and female anatomy, which may indicate perfect balance, the balance of complementary opposites. The black and white crescent moons are reminiscent of the Chinese yin-yang symbol.
Levi’s image of Baphomet serves as the prototype for many Tarot depictions of The Devil.
Aleister Crowley took the magical name Baphomet when he joined the Ordo Templi Orientalis.
See ANIMALS: Bats, Cats, Dogs, Donkeys, Goats, Snakes; DICTIONARY: Ordo Templi Orientalis; MAGICAL ARTS: Astrology; HALL OF FAME: Aleister Crowley, Eliphas Levi.
Boch de Biterna/Boch de Biterne
Boch translates as “he goat.” This term first emerged on the French side of the Pyrenees in reference to Basque witches. It is possible that the term makes reference to Akerbeltz or to Mari. The Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica) is a unique type of ibex or steinbock (wild mountain goat) indigenous only to the Pyrenees. Goats make frequent appearances in Basque magical and spiritual traditions.
In 1458, Inquisitor Alfonso de Spina deplored ’perverse women…who come together by night in some deserted plain to adore a goat commonly called the boch de Biterne.” He claimed to have seen paintings in the chambers of the Toulouse Inquisition that depicted these women adoring their boch.
See also Akerbeltz; DICTIONARY: Akelarre; DIVINE WITCH: Mari; WITCHCRAZE!: Basque.
Bossu is a Vodou lwa usually depicted as a threehorned bull. He represents primal male vigor, similar to that other bull-spirit, the biblical Ba’al. Like Ba’al, Bossu is unpredictable and dangerous, manifesting the potential outcome of excess testosterone. He is the lwa of aggressive action, sometimes necessary if dangerous. Bossu is considered among the more volatile lwa and is among those identified as patrons of less ethical sorcerers, however he is also petitioned by women for enhanced personal fertility. His colors are red and black. Bossu’s altars are decorated with horns.
See DICTIONARY: Bòkò, Lwa, Vodou.
An annual festival similar to the ancient Lupercalia still occurs, although not in Italy. Instead it is held in the village of Jajouka, in the foothills of Morocco’s Rif Mountains. There, Boujeloud, another horned male spirit, dances, sewn naked into the skin of a freshly slaughtered goat. The women that he flails with his oleander switches anticipate pregnancy within the year. According to the renowned Master Musicians of Jajouka, Boujeloud was the original source of their music. Like Pan, he is a music teacher.
Various recordings of the Master Musicians of Jajouka exist, including Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, recorded in 1968 by Rolling Stone Jones.
See also Faunus; CALENDAR: Lupercalia.
God punished Cain by cursing him to a life of permanent wandering. Cain protests that this punishment is too great and fears that others will kill him. God relents, placing a magically protective mark on Cain. The Bible contains no description or identification of that mark, however many believe it was a set of horns. According to legend, Cain was eventually slain by his blind descendant Lamech, whose son Tubal-Cain saw Cain from afar. He thought he saw a horned animal and advised Lamech to let loose an arrow, which amazingly met its mark. Tubal-Cain is identified in the Bible as Earth’s first metalworker.
A Jewish legend suggests that Cain was really Lilith’s son by Adam, not the son of Eve. A Christian legend suggests that Cain was Eve’s son but that his father was that old snake Samael, equated in Christian folklore with Satan.
In medieval Europe, Cain was among those believed to lead the Wild Hunt, sometimes called Cain’s Hunt. Because he was identified as the ancestor of smiths, he was simultaneously associated with witchcraft, shamanism, and sorcery.
See ANIMALS: Corvids, Snakes; DIVINE WITCH: Lilith; MAGICAL PROFESSIONS: Metalworkers.
Lord of Souls, Celtic Lord of the Underworld, the Dead, Healing, and Wealth, Cernunnos has dominion over nature, animals, and abundance. Cernunnos is traditionally depicted with a man’s body and stag’s horns, although this may be a shamanic guise.
Cernunnos is the Latin name given this mysterious Celtic deity. His original name is now unknown. Cernunnos is usually translated as “the horned one” and derives from an Indo-European root word ker meaning “growth” or “to become large and hard.” It may be a name or it may be a title: the word appears on an altar found at Notre Dame that also depicts his image.
Images of this god appear throughout Celtic Europe. His worship seems to have been widespread throughout Celtic territory, from Ireland to Romania, and he remains beloved in the Neo-Pagan community.
Cernunnos appears on the Early Iron Age Gundestrup Cauldron, which was found in a peat bog in Denmark in 1891, as well as on over 30 surviving ancient depictions. On the Gundestrup Cauldron he sits cross-legged surrounded by forest animals, holding a ram-horned serpent in one hand and a torc in the other. In a relief found at Reims, France, Cernunnos sits crosslegged with a stag and bull at his feet. He has a large sack from which he distributes what appear to either be coins or grain.
Cernunnos’ attributes include a huge sack of treasure and a torc, the Celtic sign of nobility and power.
See also Herne the Hunter; ANIMALS: Snakes; TOOLS: Cauldron.
Throughout Europe but especially in Germany and Central Europe, chimney sweeps are considered auspicious harbingers of good luck, associated with New Year’s festivities, the Yule season, and fertility.
It’s considered incredibly lucky for a chimney sweep to be the first person one sees or the first person to cross one’s threshold on New Year’s morning. Chimney sweeps were once paid to make brief appearances immediately after midnight on New Year’s Eve. However, to see a chimney sweep any time was considered lucky. Many would rush over and touch them for good luck. If a chimney sweep kissed a bride immediately after her marriage, she was believed blessed with luck, love, and fertility.
What the chimney sweep symbolizes and represents however, doesn’t necessarily correspond to the chimney sweep’s literal every day existence. As horned spirits like Krampus (see page 570) were suppressed and shamanism was forbidden, traditions associated with them were transferred to chimney sweeps. The Lucky Chimney Sweep thus is more than just a menial worker. He is a shaman in disguise; Krampus without his horns and hoofs.
This Lucky Chimney Sweep was a popular motif on early twentieth-century Central European Christmas and New Year’s postcards, where his magical attributes are often on display. In these images, the Lucky Chimney Sweep brandishes Krampus’ birch twig broom. Dressed in black and red, similar to Krampus, the Lucky Chimney Sweep distributes moneybags, gold coins, and Amanita muscaria mushrooms. He brandishes lucky charms like four-leafed clovers and horseshoes. Horseshoes often symbolize the vulva: like Krampus, Lucky Chimney Sweeps are frequently depicted enjoying romantic encounters with beautiful ladies.
Lucky Chimney Sweeps are intrinsically identified with coal, the gift (or punishment) that Santa and his horned helpers give disobedient children. Coal is the gift of warmth and life, similar to Prometheus’ gift of fire. Another figure identified with this in Europe, and thus with good luck, was the professional charcoal burner.
The Lucky Chimney Sweep is almost always depicted as a very sweet, clean, rosy-cheeked child and so his image is far less overtly sexual and threatening than that of Krampus, whose phallus and lustful nature are often emphasized. Like Krampus, chimney sweeps are associated with coal, source of flame and heat.
Lucky Chimney Sweeps are associated with pigs: they ride them, herd them, carry them or train them to do circus tricks like jumping through hoops or horseshoes. Sometimes pigs pull the chimney sweep in a chariot, toboggan or sleigh similar to that of Santa Claus.
Chimney sweeps’ natural associations with chimneys link them to Santa Claus, Easter witches, and shamans whose soul-journeys are sometimes described as “trips up and down chimneys.” Chimney sweeps are often depicted wearing black backless slippers; in mythic imagery, they frequently fall out of their shoes or seem to be missing one.
See Krampus, Santa Claus; ANIMALS: Pigs; BOTANICALS:Amanita muscaria, Birch; CALENDAR: Easter, Yule; CREATIVE ARTS: Dance: Step of Yu, Visual Arts: Halloween Postcards; DICTIONARY: Soul-journey.
The devil is a complex topic with enough information to fill its own encyclopedia, thus what is included here is by necessity a brief overview, with the emphasis on the identification of Pagan horned spirits with the devil.
In a dualist Christian vision, the devil is the evil force that opposes Jesus Christ. His role is to tempt Christians and undermine Christianity. He is also, however, the ruler of Hell, the Christian realm where damned souls are eternally punished. The devil is a trickster who tempts people to perform acts for which he will later punish them.
This idea of the devil is a Christian concept; this devil did not exist prior to Christianity. The devil is a complex character, an amalgamation of many sources. It took centuries for him to evolve into the form that first became familiar during the Middle Ages and remains so today.
Although various names are now used for the devil as if they were synonymous (Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, and so forth) these names actually derive from different concepts and traditions and originally indicated different spirits. The Christian devil evolved from Jewish, Pagan, and Zoroastrian sources, however he is not identical with any of them. Because this modern conception of “the devil” is thus something of a pastiche, he is often a contradictory and elusive figure, perhaps befitting a trickster.
Devil is related to the Indo-European root word de or divine. In pre-Zoroastrian Iran, a deva or dev was a divine being. The word still retains this meaning in Buddhism and Hinduism; Hindu devas are sacred and benevolent.
Christians were not the first to diabolize other people’s gods. When Zoroastrianism came to prominence in Iran, the word “devil” came to indicate dangerous, evil spirits. Zoroastrianism is intensely dualist: the devas form the army of the Lord of Darkness, opponent of the Lord of Light.
Although the cosmology has changed, the Christian conception of the devil as an opposing and (almost) equal force derives from Zoroastrian tradition, as does this use of the word “devil.”
Satan is a Hebrew word, however there is no Hebrew spirit named Satan. Rather it is a title: Satan means “Adversary” and in Jewish tradition; he is always described as Ha-Satan or “the Satan.” Similar to the ancient Egyptian conception of the judging of dead souls, Jewish tradition suggests that when one dies, a court of angels considers how one’s time was spent on Earth, ultimately determining one’s future destiny.
As in a modern court of law, there is a defense attorney (your guardian angel) and a prosecuting attorney, whose job it is to point out every single thing you ever did wrong. This adversary is Ha-Satan and obviously he was a feared, unpopular character. However, he is not innately evil—any more than a tax accountant is evil for determining what you owe. He is doing the job assigned to him by the Creator. It is unclear whether there is one Satan or whether different angels fill this role.
Satan appears very infrequently in Hebrew scriptures; he is not an especially significant figure in Jewish tradition. He is occasionally depicted as a tempter of humanity but more usually as an obedient servant of the Creator. In Jewish tradition, not all angels are envisioned as pleasant: Ha-Satan is an accusatorial, adversarial angel in the same manner as there are Angels of Death.
There is no concept of Satan as a force opposing the Creator in the Old Testament. The Creator is Creator of All, good and evil. According to Isaiah 45:7
I form the light and create the darkness.
I make peace and create evil.
I the Lord do all these things.
The Hebrew Ha-Satan (“the Adversary”) was eventually translated into Greek as Diabolos (“Accuser”) This evolved into Diabolus (Latin), Diablo (Spanish), Diable (French), Djab (Kreyol), Diabolical (English), and Diavolo (Italian).
According to Jewish tradition, at the very beginning of time, some angels visiting Earth fell in love with the Daughters of Man (human women) causing them to betray their angelic vows. These angels taught women all kinds of secrets and various magical arts including metalworking. The Creator banished them from the heavenly host or, in some cases, inflicted severe punishment. Many of these rebel angels evolved into dangerous, volatile spirits, associated with witchcraft and the occult and are sometimes described as “demons.” Many became allied with Lilith. These ex-angels include Azazel, Samael, and someone described as the beautiful “Son of the Morning Star.”
This notion of Fallen Angels entered Christian mythology and continued to evolve. In the Jewish story, the angels come to Earth and transgress once they’re here: they rebel against rules; they yield to temptation.
In the Christian story, the angels are cast out of Heaven as punishment. Various reasons are given including their refusal to pay homage to Man. The most common reason however is that the Chief of the Rebel Angels believed himself equal or superior to God and thus challenged him, intending to take over the throne of Heaven.
The rebellion failed and this angel with his celestial army of followers was thrown out of Heaven. The devil is generally understood to be the chief of the fallen angels. Demons are children of fallen angels and human mothers, which relates back to the original story. Also related is the implication that women are more closely allied (or susceptible) to the devil’s wiles and temptations than men. (See BOOKS: Witch-hunters’ Manuals: Heinrich Kramer.) The name usually given this chief fallen angel is Lucifer.
“Lucifer” means “Light bringer” and it is an ancient epithet attached to many Italian divinities including Juno and Fauna, daughter and close ally of the horned spirit Faunus. It initially indicated glory, not evil. Lucifer is a beautiful devil; he is not a horned spirit. In the earliest Christian depictions of Lucifer, he is indistinguishable from other angels, except that he is consistently portrayed as falling. (Some translate Lucifer as an amalgamation of light, luci and iron, fer, interesting in light of the devil’s associations with blacksmiths.)
The first animal to be associated by Christianity with Satan was the snake. The Book of Revelation, last book of the Christian Bible, first identifies Satan with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Snakes and dragons (then understood as great snakes) were strongly identified with Pagan traditions, especially those associated with female divinity and power. Snakes were sacred in many traditions, and particularly associated with women’s primal power and mysteries. Tales of devout Christian knights who slay dragons are metaphors for the destruction of Pagan spiritual traditions.
Devas, Ha-Satan, and Lucifer are pre-Christian concepts that eventually merged within Christianity. By the fourth century, when Christianity achieved political power, the concept of the devil as enemy of God and man was firmly entrenched into Christian belief. But it was a new vision of the devil that emerged, very different from the others. This devil physically resembled the male horned spirits, especially those spirits identified with goats.
Pagan worship and devotion to this male horned god was prevalent and deeply rooted throughout Europe and elsewhere; he was a major impediment to Christianity and perhaps to authority in general. It is no accident that these spirits so frequently take the form of goats: the horned god resembles a wild goat—he is rambunctious, anarchic, fun-loving, defiant, and uncontrollable. Some perceived the qualities associated with the horned gods as favorable; Christianity emphatically did not.
The horned gods celebrate the physical glories of Earth. They are voraciously hungry spirits who constantly crave sex, food, intoxicating substances, and comfort—in short, Earth’s physical pleasures. Horned gods dance, sing, and make merry. They create musical instruments, teach people to play, invent wine, sponsor shamans, and proudly display their ever-erect phalluses.
When the horned god manifests as a man (as he sometimes does) he appears as an archetypal Wild Man, resistant to rules, civilization, and all authority.
The horned spirits are mediating spirits: they negotiate the balance between people, animals, and plants. They are not dualist: they do not necessarily put the needs of people first. Their gift is fertility and abundance: they do not promise salvation or eternal life of the soul. (Some Pagan mystery traditions did, notably Demeter’s Eleusinian Mysteries.) Instead they promise offspring, if you want them.
The Horned God is the Lord of Wild Nature, the powers of Earth. His domain eventually became the domain of the Christian devil.
The horned gods were particularly abhorrent to the early Christians; they perceived them as harmful, seductive devils. By the witch-hunt era, the image of Satan as a goat had superceded all others. Previously, if Satan was envisioned as having any form at all, it was that of an angel. The New Testament has no specific physical description of Satan.
To undermine widespread devotion to the horned spirits, Christianity labeled their worship as evil. Eventually the horned male god would become the prototype for the devil’s physical manifestation. Many modern people will automatically identify an image of a horned spirit as the devil, whether it is a pre-Christian depiction of Pan or an early twentieth-century Krampus postcard.
From a dualist perspective, all spiritual entities must be on the side of good or the side of evil. By Christian definition, non-Christian spirits were perceived as subversive and evil. The official inclination was to banish and forbid all these spirits, eradicating them. However, many of these spirits had been worshipped for ages. Many were very beloved. Many of those who accepted Christianity were reluctant to completely abandon these spirits. In order to maintain these traditions in a safe (spiritually and legally) manner, many ancient Pagan spirits were identified as saints.
The Christian devil is not restricted to the form of a goat or a horned, hoofed man. During witch-hunt era Europe, the devil was considered a master shapeshifter. His favorite manifestations, however, were usually black: black cats, dogs, goats, and men. If the devil is such a master shape-shifter, how can he be identified? Russian folk tradition suggests that loud laughter is a telltale sign of the devil, disguised demons, and witches.
The process of what is called “identification” or “syncretism” involves transferring the attributes of a now forbidden spirit to another acceptable one. In essence the forbidden spirit masquerades as the safe one. Because by necessity this practice demands secrecy, after a few generations it can become difficult to recall the original spirit. Frequently attributes of both spirits merge; they become as one. This process often occurred with the tacit cooperation of the Church as a way of bringing disbelievers and the ambivalent into the fold.
Some Pagan deities were identified by Christians as saints—Brigid, Walpurga
Some Pagan deities were identified by Christians as fairies—Ainé, Maeve
Some Pagan deities were identified by Christians as witches—Baba Yaga, Hulda
Some Pagan deities were identified by Christians as devils—the irrepressible, disobedient, wild Horned God became identified as the Christian devil
During the reign of Pope Gregory the Great (from September 3, 590 until March 12, 604), the devil assumed the form of a hunchbacked bearded goat-skinned man with cloven hooves, horns, and a stick. Gregory described Satan as a black man possessing goat’s horns and hooves, an evil stench, and the power to control weather.
The devil’s stick links him to the phallic sticks and staffs carried by horned spirits like Pan, Hermes, Dionysus, and Krampus. The horned spirit’s stick is an emblem of phallic power: when he touches women with it, they conceive. When he bangs on a door with it, the household is filled with prosperity.
According to the Christian version, however, the devil’s stick is used to punish and torture people and also as a crutch because he is lame. The rationale for his limp is that when cast out of heaven, he fell and permanently injured his foot. (Although of course the angel cast out of heaven originally looked nothing like a horned spirit.) This vision of a limping devil, however, links him to various lame gods and holy people lamed during initiations, including Hephaestus, Dionysus, Oedipus, Achilles, and Hermes with his one sandal and shepherd’s crook. It also links him to the traditional shaman’s dance.
Sometimes instead of an ordinary stick or staff, the devil carries a pitchfork. One theory suggests that the image of the pitchfork-wielding horned devil is based on Shiva, the pre-Aryan deity from India. Shiva dances in the fire carrying a trident that resembles a pitchfork and leads a wild retinue of demons and witches. He may have been the original model for the Zoroastrian concept of the devil, eventually absorbed by Manicheism and Christianity. (See also Pashupati, Shiva; DIVINE WITCH: Shiva.)
Horned spirits like Hermes and Cernunnos often carry huge sacks from which they distribute largesse. The Christian devil also carries a large sack but in his case it is in which to carry away damned souls. That sack survives in modern Krampus and Santa Claus imagery.
Sometimes instead of being carried, the sack was envisioned as internalized, part of the Horned God/Wild Man’s body: the hunchback’s hump was perceived as this internal bag of treasure, hence the powerful association of hunchbacks with luck. Hunchbacks are also closely identified with Lucky Chimney Sweeps who also absorbed many of the characteristics of the horned spirits, as well as with cobblers, once closely associated with shamanism. See DICTIONARY: Bagatella.
The devil was no longer perceived as merely the head of a formerly angelic host; instead he led a fifth column of human devotees, identified by the Inquisition as witches. Eventually, for the Inquisition, worshipping the devil was what constituted witchcraft. For reasons discussed in WITCHCRAZE! it eventually became impossible to prove one wasn’t a devil-worshipper once one was accused.
There are two different issues:
People were accused of worshipping the devil
People worshipped deities that Christians perceived as the devil
People worshipped horned spirits and other Pagan deities and many still do. However in these spiritual traditions, there is no devil. Horned spirits are not the devil.
It is crucial to distinguish between what witches really believe versus what outsiders intrinsically opposed to witchcraft say that witches believe.
Other people did worship the Christian conception of Satan; this worship arose within Christianity as a reaction against Christianity. In its purest form “Satanism” simply reverses or opposes anything Christian. In order to genuinely worship the devil, one must subscribe to the Christian vision of the devil, as it is the only tradition in which he exists.
Christians have a unique relationship with the devil because Satan’s primary role was envisioned as opposing Christianity. Satan was the relentless, tireless enemy of Christ and Christians. Satan consistently plots to undermine, ruin and seduce Christians. Satan and his host have nothing to do but oppose Christianity. In this dualist vision, Satan became the official opponent of Christ.
The devil’s power was perceived as manifest in any form of resistance to Christianity. It was not necessarily to actively worship Satan to be a “Satanist”: simply not accepting Christianity indicated alliance with Satan. Eventually a vast host of human beings found themselves associated with Satan including witches, Pagans (defined as anyone who wasn’t Christian, Jewish or Muslim), Jews, Romany, and those Christians whose vision of Christianity did not correspond to official Church doctrine.
Martin Luther described not believing in the devil as “un-Christian” because without the devil to tempt people into damnation, there is no need for a Christ to save them.
Witch-hunters accused witches of attending sabbats presided over by Satan usually in the form of a huge male goat or a Pan-like figure combining human and goat anatomy. In whatever shape the devil appears, what, according to witch-hunters, exactly does he do at these sabbats?
He presides over proceedings like a king, leading orgies and distributing gifts (food, cash, magical tools)
He distributes malevolent materials and directs their use
He distributes flying ointments so that his guests may return
He rewards and punishes attendees as he deems fit
He trades favors for immortal souls; people make compacts with the devil by signing his Black Book
The first written reference to this Satanic pact emerged in the sixth-century Tale of Theophilus. By the tenth century, this story was very popular, widely distributed, and well known. First told in Greek, then translated into Latin and finally written in verse in the tenth century, The Tale of Theophilus recounts the story of a Greek priest, Theophilus, an ambitious cleric who believed he should be bishop. Instead he’s dismissed from his office. Angry, Theophilus hires a sorcerer who arranges a meeting for him with Satan.
The devil offers Theophilus a written compact whose terms are that Theophilus must renounce Christ and pledge himself to Satan instead. If he does so, he’ll be restored to his former post. Theophilus signs and indeed gets his position back. However, contemplating eternal damnation, he begins to have regrets and appreciates the magnitude of his sin. Finally the Virgin Mary personally intercedes, the contract is torn up, and Theophilus is saved.
In 1839, German historian Franz Josef Mone (1796—1871) was among the first to link European witchcraft with Pagan religion. (Mone was a devout Roman Catholic and not sympathetic to witches.) His theory: ancient Germans once lived by the Black Sea among devotees of Dionysus and Hecate. German slaves eventually fused German and Dionysian traditions into their own religion, characterized by devotion to a horned spirit, nocturnal gatherings, and the practice of magic. When the Germans headed west, slaves and lower classes brought this religion with them. The upper classes perceived it with contempt, eventually distorting Dionysus into the devil.
Dionysus is among those spirits classified as horned gods, however his myth is extensive and he transcends categories. Dionysus is a shapeshifter; among his favored forms is that of a bull, among his sacred animals. Dionysus is a close ally of Pan; they are often in each other’s company. The satyrs are considered devotees of Dionysus.
For further information regarding Dionysus, see DIVINE WITCH: Dionysus. See also Minotaur, Pan, Satyrs; CREATIVE ARTS: Dance: Maenad Dances; DICTIONARY: Bacchanal, Conjurer, Maenad, Sabbat.
The West African trickster spirit Eshu-Elegbara is Master of Roads. He determines whether someone’s path is clear or blocked with obstacles. “Path” is meant literally but also metaphorically. Eshu determines how easy or challenging an individual’s life will be. Devotion to Eshu-Elegbara was widespread; he is common to many West African pantheons. Because of this, Eshu-Elegbara exists in virtually all African-Diaspora traditions although, as befitting a trickster, his name, appearance, and personality is slightly different wherever he manifests. He is thus a lwa and an orisha.
In Brazil, Eshu-Elegbara evolved into Exu (pronounced “Eshu”), a special kind of spirit. The Exus are a category unto themselves: there are many Exus, or at least many individual aspects or manifestations of one Exu. He serves as a messenger and medium. This definition of Exu is common to Afro-Brazilian traditions but does not occur in other spiritual traditions such as Santeria, Vodou or Voodoo, where Eshu-Elegbara is known, respectively, as Elegba, Papa Legba, and Papa Labas.
Perceptions of Exu depend upon the spiritual convictions of the perceiver. Those with more purely African or Pagan orientations perceive Exu as dangerous and volatile but not inherently evil. He performs valuable services for people including healing, and he provides opportunities and good fortune.
Many possessing a strong Christian orientation, however, perceive Exu as evil or even as the devil. In Brazil, Exu is closely identified with the Christian devil; the two are sometimes perceived as synonymous. Like the Christian devil, Exu signals his appearance with the scent of sulphur and carries a pitchfork. (In Africa and elsewhere, Eshu-Elegbara carries a shepherd’s staff.) It can be impossible to distinguish statues of Exu from Satanic imagery.
Exu’s sacred colors are red and black: he is depicted as a red devil or a black one. He is usually envisioned as a naked, horned man, sometimes with a little beard, always with a perpetually erect phallus. Sometimes he has one cloven hoof; sometimes he just limps. Like the Christian conception of the devil, Exu is a smooth-talking man who hangs around crossroads.
In Brazil, Exu has a consort, Pomba Gira. She, too, is a road-opening spirit who shares many characteristics with Exu, including the sacred colors red and black. She is considered the matron saint of prostitutes, transvestites, the povertystricken, and the downtrodden. Pomba Gira is sometimes depicted as a beautiful, lascivious, horned woman. Like Exu, she sometimes also sports one cloven hoof.
Fauns are Italian spirits who manifest as men with goats’ legs and horns, similar to Pan and the satyrs. Fauns are among the spirits in the retinue of Faunus. Like the satyrs, they have a reputation for being lascivious, wild, and lustful.
See Faunus, Pan, Satyrs.
Faunus is among the most ancient indigenous Italian spirits and is known as “The Benefactor.” Faunus epitomizes Earth’s irrepressible male generative force. He is a spirit of the forest and wild nature, representing the innate fertility of land and people, a surging force that cannot be contained.
Faunus manifests as a horned human male cloaked in a wolf-skin or with a human’s upper torso and the lower body of a goat, similar to Pan and the satyrs.
Faunus uses different names:
As Lupercus, the wolf-god, Faunus arbitrates the balance between wolves and livestock.
As Fatuus, Faunus gives oracles and bestows psychic ability. His devotees once slept in his sacred precincts, dressed in the skins of freshly sacrificed lambs, in hopes of receiving dreams from the god.
As Innus, “He Who Makes Fruitful,” Faunus increases herds.
Faunus is a primordial spirit; he is so ancient that he cannot communicate as a human does but speaks through forest noises and nature sounds. His presence is often made manifest by nightmares even when he is bringing good news. Faunus is by nature a benevolent rather than a harmful spirit, however he is wild and uncontrollable. Once upon a time, his priests served as mediums, interpreting Faunus’ oracles and communiqués.
Faunus’ attributes include a goblet and a wreath. His sacred creatures are goats and wolves. His sacred day is February 14th. Faunus had a shrine on the Tiber Island. Rome’s Church of St Stefano Rotondo sits on the site of a temple once dedicated to Faunus.
See also ANIMALS: Goats, Wolves and Werewolves; CALENDAR: Lupercalia; DIVINE WITCH: Circe.
Although this may be used as a generic term to refer to any horned male spirit, it usually indicates Pan (see page 576).
Hannya are Japanese horned female spirits and they are dangerous. No iron club is necessary for the Hannya as it is for her male compatriots, the fierce, horned spirits known as Oni (see page 575)—she wields the power of a woman scorned and is fearsome indeed!
Hannya are frequently defined as female Japanese demons or as female Oni but, most famously, Hannya names a mask. The Hannya mask, perhaps the best known of Japanese Noh masks, has sharp fangs and horns and bears the name of the spirit it portrays. Hannya may originally have been snake spirits and are still sometimes described as “snake demons.” Older Hannya masks appear more serpentine than modern ones, whose emphasis is on her horns.
The association between Oni and Hannya may derive from the tenuous alliance perceived between human women and Oni. When Oni wish to hide their identity, they transform into human women and so, in theory at least, the sweetest most innocuous woman might really be an Oni in disguise.
It’s a one-way street, however: Oni transform into women but women don’t transform into Oni. They can however transform into Hannya, although this is an involuntary and permanent transformation. Once a Hannya, there’s no going back.
Women who die consumed with rage and jealousy transform into Hannya, vengeful, powerful spirits. In particular, those women spurned and scorned by lovers, especially if they then commit suicide, are believed potentially likely to become Hannya. The Hannya lingers on Earth, a malicious, destructive spirit, her anger overriding any residual human emotions or conscience. Hannya are perceived as negative, dreadful creatures; it is a terrible fate to become a Hannya and so the implicit message is that women must avoid, suppress and sublimate rage, anger, jealousy, and other dangerous emotions.
The most prominent feature of the Hannya mask is its horns. Horns, in Japanese cosmology, have strong associations with female anger. The Japanese gesture of two index fingers sticking up from a man’s forehead traditionally indicates that his wife is angry with him or jealous. Although the Hannya is now typically portrayed in Noh drama as a (sometimes-tragic) villainess, she may have once been viewed with more ambivalence: the traditional Japanese bride was styled with her hair in a tall, vertical, structured hair-do, further enhanced by a large, tall, structured head-covering. This was intended to cover her horns and protect her privacy, just in case she was really a hannya. Why the Hannya was permitted, perhaps even encouraged, to keep these secrets remains mysterious.
See ANIMALS: Snakes.
Hathor is the primordial Egyptian goddess; she was ever-present from the beginning. Many of her characteristics were eventually transferred to Isis but Hathor never lost her popularity.
Hathor has dominion over love, sex, reproduction, music, dance, intoxication, cosmetics, perfume, and all the joys and pleasures of life. Matron of women, Hathor is the guardian of females of all species. She embodies the female principle and grants fertility. She is also a warrior spirit, known as the Eye of Ra: when the supreme god Ra is in trouble, Hathor is his main line of defense. She was the guardian of pharaohs too.
Hathor is a shape-shifter and takes many forms (the cat goddess Bastet may or may not be Hathor’s alter ego); however her primary and perhaps most ancient manifestation is as a horned cow.
Hathor wears a horned headdress that combines lunar and bovine imagery
Hathor is the celestial cow; the Milky Way spills from her breasts
Hathor, one of the very few Egyptian deities commonly depicted full-face rather than in profile, has a special distinctive hair-do that resembles a “flip”: the ends curl up sharply in imitation of horns
Hathor manifests as a cow. (You’ll know it’s her, not just any old cow; the clue to her identity is the impeccable eye makeup sported by the Hathor-cow.)
Hathor is often portrayed as a gold cow. Some scholars believe that the biblical Golden Calf was either Hathor or her son. Hathor has dominion over the Sinai Peninsula where the events surrounding the Golden Calf are believed to have occurred.
Hathor embodies the powers implicit in horns. She is the Horn of Plenty providing devotees with all the bounties of life, but she also embodies the power of the horn as an aggressive weapon of self-defense.
See ANIMALS: Cats; CREATIVE ARTS: Music: Drum; DIVINE WITCH: Isis; TOOLS: Horns, Mirrors.
Hermes is among those spirits classified as horned gods; however his myth is so extensive that he transcends such classification. That Hermes is considered a horned spirit might surprise many: the Hermes of Classical myth is invariably depicted as a man dressed in a uniform of traveler’s hat and winged sandals. Originally, however, Hermes was a deity from rural Arcadia. He began his incarnation as a deity involved with human and agricultural fertility: he is the Lord of Flocks and is often depicted carrying a young lamb or kid, both horned animals.
Like many horned gods, Hermes carries a stick: in his case, it’s the caduceus, a short staff entwined by two serpents, still the emblem of the medical profession. He often carries a large bag, too, from which he dispenses gifts and treasures. Hermes frequently limps and is sometimes described as missing one sandal.
Hermes is the father of the goat-god Pan. According to myth, Pan’s mother was horrified by the goat-child she bore but Hermes was delighted and it was he who raised and protected his son. For further information, see DIVINE WITCH: Hermes; see also Pan, page 576.
Herne the Hunter
Herne the Hunter is an antlered man, swathed in deerskins. (It is unclear whether the antlers are his or whether it is a removable crown.) Sometimes Herne leads the Wild Hunt riding a fire-breathing stallion and accompanied by a pack of hounds.
Various legends surround Herne the Hunter:
He is the ghost of an English wizard who still haunts Windsor Great Park
He was an innkeeper (and wizard) who was hung from an oak as punishment for his involvement with the occult
Herne is a generic horned deity
Herne is Lord of the Realm of the Dead, Leader of Dead Souls, and possibly Cernunnos in disguise
The Christian Church identified Herne as the devil
Herne is the ancient keeper of England’s Windsor Park and allegedly may be found wandering around an old oak in the forest at night. (The tree is known as Herne’s Oak.) He usually carries a firebrand, a musical instrument or a birch broom.
Reference is made to Herne in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, where he is described as a hunter who hanged himself from an oak in Windsor Forest.
See also Cernunnos; DICTIONARY: Wild Hunt.
Juno Caprotina is among the many paths or manifestations of the pre-eminent Roman goddess Juno. Juno Caprotina dresses in goatskins and drives a chariot pulled by goats. Enslaved women made up a large proportion of her devotees.
See CALENDAR: Lupercalia.
The Egyptian deity Khnum manifests as a ram, the literal meaning of his name, or as a man with a ram’s head. The Spirit of the Nile, it was at Khnum’s command that the river rose in the annual life-giving flood.
Khnum fashions the bodies of children on his potter’s wheel and places them into their mother’s womb. In one Egyptian creation legend, Khnum creates all the Egyptian deities in this fashion. In parts of southern Egypt, Khnum was the supreme creator, shaping Earth and all its inhabitants from clay.
Khnum and his consort, the frog midwife goddess Heket, were present in the world from the beginning. Khnum is Lord of barley and wheat, flowers, fruit, birds, fish, and animals. In one creation legend, Khnum wearies of the labors of creating and maintaining life. Eventually he created a device to relieve him of the burden: by placing a replica of his potter’s wheel into the womb of female creatures, he was able to transmit his creative power.
See WOMEN’S MYSTERIES: Midwife Goddesses: Heket.
In Central European folklore and spiritual traditions, Krampus is most famous as the Yule-time companion of St Nicholas (Santa Claus). Good St Nick rewards children who have been good throughout the year with gifts; Krampus takes charge of bad, disobedient children. He rattles his chains at them, beats them with his birchtwig broom, gives them coal instead of toys and candy, and sometimes carries them off in a big sack or in a basket attached to his back.
Some perceive the Norse god Odin hiding under Santa Claus’ mask. If so, then Krampus may be Odin’s old sidekick and traveling companion, the trickster-spirit, Loki.
Krampus is a goat-man, usually corresponding very closely to the Christian conception of the devil. He is horned and hoofed, sometimes with one cloven hoof and one man’s foot but sometimes with two goat’s feet. Krampus carries or wears iron chains and shackles. When he punishes bad children by stealing them away, the implication is that he is taking them to Hell. Generations of Central European parents terrorized their children into good behavior by warning them that Krampus would “get” them otherwise.
Krampus, however, is a complex figure. One’s understanding of him depends upon one’s spiritual perceptions. If one sees the devil as a horned spirit (or vice versa) then Krampus perfectly corresponds to the image of the goatshaped devil. He’s wild, fierce, and scary.
However, if one examines Krampus with fresh eyes, without Christian context, a different image emerges. Krampus closely resembles ancient horned male spirits of fertility and abundance such as Faunus. Faunus always carries a small bundle of birch twigs. In Hungary, prime Krampus territory, this little broom has a specific name: virgacs (pronounced “veer-goch”). The virgacs is so identified with Krampus that in old postcard imagery, a picture of it is sufficient to indicate Krampus’ presence. Ostensibly Krampus uses this little birch broom to keep children in line; in reality, he slaps women with it to increase their fertility, similar to the rites of Faunus in Rome and Boujeloud in Morocco.
Krampus’ horned head and hoofed body further tie him to old horned gods. His iron shackles and chains indicate his kinship with ironworking shamans. Even the image of Krampus carrying children on his back like dolls can be read two ways: when Santa Claus carries toys on his back, one assumes that he intends to distribute them. Krampus may also be understood as carrying children in order to distribute them to those who desire them—future parents.
Krampus’ predilection for “bad” children may also be reinterpreted. “Good” frequently really indicates “devout” and “obedient”; “bad” usually means “disobedient.” Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t a rambunctious, rebellious Pagan spirit favor rebellious children? Stealing them might be his way of rescuing them.
This isn’t merely folklore, Christmas decorations, and speculations: on the Eve of the Feast of St Nicholas (December 5th), Salzburg, Austria hosts the annual winter festival known as the Krampuslauf or “the running of the Krampus.” Hordes of young men, masked and dressed up as Krampus, are herded into town by a man dressed as St Nick, who then unleashes these Krampuses on the awaiting crowds.
December 5th is the feast day of St Nicholas but it also corresponds to an old Roman feast day dedicated to Faunus, the Faunalia.
Many Krampus costumes are homemade or family heirlooms. Krampus masks invariably include chamois, goat or ibex horns. Sometimes the Krampus wears mismatched shoes; alternately shoes are worn on the wrong feet so as to re-create the shaman’s shuffling step. When fully costumed, some of these Krampuses tower over seven feet high. Krampuses run through the square like sacred clowns, rattling chains, clanging bells, and brandishing birch switches.
This tradition of masking is now considered rustic and folkloric was once perceived as dangerously close to witchcraft and Paganism. Periodically these traditions were discouraged and suppressed. Many of Krampus’ characteristics were transferred to Lucky Chimney Sweeps.
Krampus was a favorite subject of Central European Christmas and New Year’s holiday postcards and greeting cards. Sometimes he is depicted as diabolical and conventionally Satanic; sometimes his complexities are portrayed.
Krampus brings gold coins and flirts with women, sometimes very sexually explicitly. Krampus rides a goat. Sometimes he is depicted riding a broomstick, indicating his affiliation with witches. Sometimes he drives a toboggan loaded with children, implying that he is driving them straight to Hell. (Sometimes this isn’t implied but rendered explicitly with road signs spelling out their destination.)
In graphic depictions of Krampus, he almost always has an incredibly long, vividly red, protruding tongue. Scholars believe this tongue replaces what was once an ever-erect phallus, similar to Exu or the satyrs.
Krampus’ sacred colors are red and black. Two artistic depictions of Krampus exist: he is either portrayed as a furry, black devil or as a classic red devil. Austrian postcards from the 1960s depict him as a little demon-child, albeit a lascivious one, usually accompanied by scantily clad pin-up girls. He looks like baby Pan.
Occasionally Krampus is depicted as a female; sometimes entire Krampus families are depicted, including husband, wife, and small Krampus children. In any form, Krampus inevitably has horns, at least one hoof, and his birch virgacs.
See also Boujeloud, Chimney Sweep, Devil, Exu, Faunus, Satyrs; BOTANICALS: Birch; CALENDAR: Lupercalia; CREATIVE ARTS: Films: The Craft, Visual Arts: Halloween Postcards; FAIRY-TALE WITCHES: Grimms’ Fairy Tales: Frau Trude.
Leshii means “Forest Lord.” They are male Russian woodland spirits and protectors of the forest. They weep when trees are cut down.
Leshii are a category of spirits: there is more than one Leshii under the dominion of Musail, the Forest Tsar. (Leshii is both singular and plural.) Different Leshii have dominion over different parts of the forest; each has his own territory so to speak. This explains the migrations of forest animals, especially unexpected ones: the Leshii gamble at cards with each other, wagering with animals as their stake. When one Leshii loses to another, animals are transferred from one part of the forest to another.
The Leshii are mischievous, sometimes dangerous trickster spirits. Woodcutters, in particular, earn their ire: the Leshii hide their axes or cause “accidents.” The Leshii get people lost in the woods by using ventriloquism or mimicking familiar voices or sounds to lure “intruders” deeper into the forest.
The Leshii is a shape-shifter, manifesting in various ways. Leshii sometimes masquerade in the form of familiar people: this is one way he lures people deep into the forest. One assumes that one is following a known person, only for them to eventually disappear, transform into another shape or be revealed as the Leshii.
The Leshii’s most frequent manifestations include pigs, rabbits, ravens, roosters, wolves, burning fir trees, and even mushrooms, especially Amanita muscaria with which he has powerful associations.
Leshii also commonly manifest in specific forms:
The Leshii often appears with goat’s horns and hooves, sometimes with black fur and wings.
The Leshii manifests as a man. The clue to his identity is that something is wrong with his appearance: he lacks a belt, or his clothes are on backwards or his shoes are on the wrong feet. He usually carries a club.
Sometimes the Leshii appears as a person whose size dizzyingly shifts from dramatically small to large.
The Leshii is usually found in the company of bears and wolves. His special companion is a huge white wolf. Wolves are his very favorite animals; in Slavic areas, wolves were once understood to be the rulers of the forest, the true local kings of beasts.
The Leshii, like Faunus, mediates between wolves and domestic herds. Like Faunus, the Leshii doesn’t “speak” or at least not like a human. He makes forest noises instead, echoing the sounds of animals, birds or the rustling of trees. Sometimes the Leshii is described as “singing” although never with human words. There are many accounts of people encountering the Leshii or witnessing them in the forest. Those actually encountering the Leshii were often struck mute.
One theory suggests that stories about the Leshii may reflect fugitives (vagabonds, escaped slaves, runaway soldiers) hiding in the forest. The many stories of Leshii approaching campgrounds and requesting food (with words) are used to bolster this theory.
People uttered protective spells when entering the forest hoping to avoid the Leshii or to be safe from him if they did encounter him. Sometimes the Leshii came out of the forest looking for people. The Leshii has a reputation for stealing children and (similar to fairy changelings), replacing them with less than brilliant Leshii children. (Presumably smart Leshii children aren’t traded in.)
The Leshii also allegedly carries off (and marries) women, although notably he prefers unattached women or those trapped in unhappy unions. Sometimes women are stolen to serve as midwives or nannies for his children.
Similar to Persephone’s saga, legends suggest that if those kidnapped by the Leshii refrain from eating his food, they can escape his domain. Those who escape are described as looking wild and distraught; some have lost powers of speech (others allegedly return having lost their minds). However still others exhibit new magical powers and knowledge, becoming exceptionally skilled shamans and magical practitioners.
Not all encounters with the Leshii are unhappy. Allegedly if you encounter him but get him to laugh, you’ll be safe. Sometimes the Leshii befriends people; allegedly they must then make a pact to never wear a cross or take communion. Whether this is because the Leshii is the devil or whether this is because he is an exclusively Pagan spirit who reserves his favor for fellow-travelers is subject to interpretation. The Leshii sometimes offers spirit-familiars (animal allies) to those he favors.
Offerings may be left for the Leshii in order to earn his protection, patronage, and alliance. He traditionally prefers simple offerings of food, such as blinis, bread with salt (significant as so many spirits dislike salt), the Russian national dish kasha (buckwheat porridge), cookies or candy. Tree stumps and fallen logs serve as the Leshii’s altar; leave offerings there or alternately, wrap the food in a clean cloth, tie it up with a red ribbon, and leave it at a forest crossroads.
The Leshii’s domain extends beyond the forest.
He presides over hedges
In meadows and fields, the Leshii plays a different mediation role: between people and rodents
The Leshii has been known to turn up in urban taverns. However, the further away from the forest the Leshii gets, the more likely he is to manifest characteristics attributed to the Christian devil.
Hunters allegedly make pacts with the Leshii that echo those that the Inquisition accused sorcerers of making with Satan. From the perspective of the Church, these are Satanic pacts; however from another perspective, the Leshii insists on allegiance to the Pagan world. Unlike spirits who don the masks of saints, the Leshii brooks no compromise. Allegedly hunters seeking his protection and gifts must remove their crosses, swear allegiance to the Leshii and no longer swallow the Communion Host but bring it to the Leshii as proof that it wasn’t consumed.
In Northern Siberia, hunters allegedly earned the Leshii’s alliance by offering him gifts of playing cards with the suit of clubs removed. Allegedly this is because clubs resemble crosses but it may be a reference to the club the Leshii always carries.
See The Devil, Faunus; ANIMALS: Pigs, Rabbits, Wolves and Werewolves; DIVINE WITCH: Simbi; HAG: Leshovikha.
This is the story: Poseidon, Greek Lord of the Sea, sent an amazingly beautiful white bull from out of the ocean to King Minos of Crete with instructions for Minos to sacrifice it to him. Minos had good intentions but that bull was so incredible he didn’t have the heart to kill it and so substituted another, less magical, bull for the sacrifice.
Poseidon wasn’t pleased. He punished Minos by causing Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, to develop an overpowering lust for the bull. She persuaded the master inventor Daedalus to build her a lifesize, hollow model of a cow in which she was able to hide and consummate the relationship. She conceived and bore a child with the head of a bull and the body of a boy. He was called Asterius, the Minotaur, which means the Bull of Minos. Minos was horrified and embarrassed.
In other Greek myths, unwanted sons are exposed in the wilderness or put out to sea in barrels, sometimes together with their sexually transgressing mothers. Not the Minotaur: Minos’ solution was to build him his own underground domain, the labyrinth.
According to the Greek myth, the Minotaur lived within the labyrinth in total isolation and was never permitted to leave.
The labyrinth was a maze: the Minotaur who dwelled within knew it inside out but others who entered allegedly never came out. At some point, the Minotaur was placed on a diet of fresh meat. People were sacrificed to him: forced to enter the labyrinth where death awaited.
This sacrifice was locally unpopular; Minos found another solution. Following a dispute with Athens, the Athenians were forced to send seven young men and seven young women to Crete every nine years to serve as sacrificial offerings.
Theseus, son of the King of Athens, vowed to end the shipment of Athenians to Crete. He volunteered to be among the sacrificial youths. In Crete, he meets and seduces the Minotaur’s beautiful sister, Ariadne, a high priestess. In love, she vows that Theseus will not die and with help from the inventor Daedalus who, in essence, was responsible for the Minotaur’s conception, forms a plan that enables Theseus to battle with the Minotaur, kill him, and escape from the labyrinth.
The Minotaur is usually portrayed as diabolical and blood-thirsty; he is a consistent feature of books devoted to Classical “monsters.” However, the story is an Athenian story, told from an Athenian perspective: the hero is the man who kills the Minotaur. It is, however, the only surviving story: accepting it at face value is akin to accepting stories about witches told from the perspective of the Inquisition.
Whether or not there was an actual living, breathing Minotaur in Crete, there was a labyrinth. Archeological remains survive in the palace of Knossos in Crete. The palace is a vestige of Minoan civilization, the pre-Hellenic people who once ruled Crete. Little is definitively known about them. Their writing remains undeciphered. Even their true name is unknown: historians named them Minoan after King Minos.
Much of what is known about the Minoans is gleaned from artwork and artifacts.
Bulls were a significant part of their culture: images exist of youthful acrobats joyfully vaulting over bull’s horns. The Minotaur existed too, but apparently not as a scary monster: his image adorns Minoan coins. Minoan religion seems to have centered on a female divinity associated with snakes and a male divinity in the form of a bull. Clues that the Greek myth of the Minotaur is about spiritual conflict rather than merely killing a monster derive from the identity of the women in the tale, powers in their own right.
Pasiphae, the Minotaur’s mother, is the sister of Circe, lending this tale of animal transformation a different aura.
The name of Ariadne, his sister, indicates “Holy One.” She is believed to have originally been a Minoan goddess and would eventually become the beloved wife of Dionysus, another deity identified with bulls.
See DIVINE WITCH: Circe, Dionysus.
Horned spirits were demonized in places other than Europe. Often described as “Japanese demons,” Oni are a class of Japanese spirits. They are shaggy, horned, and tusked with vivid red, blue or black skin.
“Oni” is also frequently translated into English as “devil” or “ogre.” However unlike the European ogre, Oni are not stupid or slow but very smart and thus formidable opponents. Allegedly if an Oni loses a limb, it reconnects and heals instantly. They are now typically portrayed as vicious, malevolent, ominous demons up to no good.
Oni carry and wield the kanabo, a large spiked iron bar. The feared subject of horror stories, allegedly some Oni enjoy the taste of human flesh. This legend of the human-eating oni may derive from their origins as spirits of death. At least as far back as the second-century CE, Oni, then both male and female, served as supervisors in the Realm of Death. Although spirits of death are rarely popular, the Oni was perceived as fulfilling a spiritual function. Although dangerous, they were not evil and sometimes served as guardian spirits.
The Kamakura Period (c.1185—1333 CE) saw the rise of the new Samurai class and the concurrent demonization of Oni. The Oni evolved into enemies of the Samurai. A frequent subject of legends involves Samurai foiling evil Oni. Oni became increasingly masculine and malevolent. True female Oni became rare; the Hannya, a horned female spirit, became perceived as the Oni’s female counterpart.
Oni and Hannya have something of the same nature; both are spiritual entities—some Hannya and Oni have always been spiritual entities but others are transformed humans, sort of vengeful angry ghosts possessing the extraordinary powers of demons.
Men who die in states of excess anger may be transformed into Oni after death
Women who die in states of excess rage or jealousy may be transformed into Hannya
Although Oni are now almost exclusively male spirits, their affiliation is with human women. When male Oni wish to travel incognito or disguise their true identity, they transform into the image of human women. The implication is that any woman might be an Oni in disguise.
Demonized in popular entertainment, among esoteric scholars Oni remain spirits of anger and justice; like Shiva they both destroy and protect. Oni guard the gates of the various Buddhist hells and Realms of Death.
See also Hannya, Shiva.
According to a Yoruba legend, Ogun, the sacred ironworker, witnessed a magnificently horned water buffalo emerge from the Niger River and transform into a beautiful woman. He surreptitiously followed this magical woman: she walked like a queen through the marketplace where she bargained intensely and successfully for fine cloth. Ogun was smitten; he approached her and begged to marry her. She first demurred but when he revealed that he knew her secret identity and threatened to expose her, Oya agreed—but only if he never told anyone about her true identity. He agreed and brought her home to his forest compound.
He loved her passionately but his other wives weren’t delighted and sensed that there was something different about this woman. One night Ogun and Oya had an argument; he lost his temper and shouted out something regarding her true bovine identity. The other wives, eavesdropping by the door, heard all. Oya knew her secret was revealed; she didn’t say another word but simply walked out of Ogun’s home, never to return. She transformed back into her buffalo shape and entered the Niger River, over which she still presides.
That’s one version of their divorce anyway; another suggests that Oya, the most intellectual of the orishas, was bored helping Ogun at the forge. When the opportunity arose, she eloped with his dashing brother, the warrior Chango, who made her his chief military advisor.
Oya is the woman warrior orisha of storms, winds, and hurricanes. She rules the marketplace, considered the magical domain of women. The cemetery is also under her domain; she is the only orisha willing to have contact with the dead. Oya presides over healing and necromantic divination.
Oya has become increasingly popular in the past few decades and is now among the most beloved of Santeria’s orishas. Her horned aspect is not as emphasized in the Western Hemisphere as it is in Africa, where she is intensely associated with antelopes as well as water buffaloes. In African Diaspora traditions Oya is more popularly visualized as a beautiful, regal woman, but horns are traditionally placed on her altars and used to represent and summon her.
See DICTIONARY: Orisha, Santeria; DIVINE WITCH: Ogun; MAGICAL ARTS: Necromancy; MAGICAL PROFESSIONS: Metalworkers; PLACES: Burial Grounds, Marketplace.
O goat-foot god of Arcady!
The modern world hath need of thee!
Pan is the most famous of the horned male spirits. Some suggest that other horned spirits, such as Faunus, Krampus or Virbius, are all derivatives, aspects or versions of Pan.
Pan’s parentage is unclear: he may be the son of Zeus and Callisto, a bear spirit, who may or may not be a manifestation of Artemis. Or Pan may be the son of Hermes and Dryope, or Hermes and various other nymphs. If his parentage is mysterious, one thing is commonly acknowledged: Pan was born in Arcadia, a remote, mountainous region of Greece, as was Hermes.
Pan is half-man and half-goat. His lower half is goat-like; his upper half is human except for his goat’s horns and ears. He’s furry and shaggy. Sometimes he cavorts naked; sometimes he dresses in a deerskin. He carries a shepherd’s crook and the Panpipes he invented. Pan offers his devotees music lessons. He often wears a pine bough wreath indicating his alliance with Dionysus and Kybele: the pine is sacred to both of them.
Pan dances, plays music, and has sex as frequently as possible—he is sexually vigorous and tireless. He is also omni-sexual, pursuing both women and men and perhaps goats as well.
Pan brings joy, panic, and fear. He is associated with overwhelmingly ecstatic emotions. He himself is described as moody and may perhaps be considered the deity of manic depression or bi-polar disorder. When Pan feels blue, he goes off by himself to a cave. Should he be disturbed, he emits a bone-chilling scream that causes “panic”—the emotion named in his honor.
On moonlit nights, Pan is usually in a happy mood. He likes to frolic in remote, wild places with nymphs and satyrs. He is the master of the satyrs, who physically resemble him. Pan dances with Maenads, too. He likes fun and sensual pleasures. Pan enjoys surprising and scaring unwary travelers in the forest who react with panic, much to his delight. Although often described as grotesque, many surviving images of Pan, particularly those from Pompeii, are graceful and beautiful.
Pan’s name may derive from a word for “herdsman,” although the more popular explanation is that Pan means “all,” indicating that he is Lord of All Nature.
Pan is the protector of the forest and flocks. He is the patron of hunters, fishermen, and shepherds and all those who, one way or another, depend upon animals for survival. Pan negotiates the balance between the lives and needs of animals and people.
Pan was no obscure deity but among the most widely worshipped divinities in ancient Greece, although he was never part of the Olympian pantheon. Eventually his cult extended over the Middle East and throughout southern Italy. The city of Panopolis, at the source of the Jordan River, was named in his honor, as was another city in Egypt (also known as Akhmim).
The Greek historian Plutarch (c.45—c.120 CE), a priest of Apollo at Delphi, wrote that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14—37 CE), an Egyptian sailor named Thamus, on his way to Italy, heard a spectral voice demanding, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.”
Pan, however, was not dead: reports from a century after Plutarch’s death indicate that Pan was actively worshipped in shrines found in mountain caves and grottoes.
Nevertheless, Thamus seems to have spread the news: this story was very popular among early Christians who suggested that it coincided with the day Christ was crucified. Allegedly, according to the story, all Pagan oracles ceased from that day forth, although that clearly isn’t true, as Christians themselves forcibly closed many of these oracles centuries later. The story was interpreted as a parable of the death of Paganism in response to the resurrection of Christ.
Robert Graves, author of The Greek Myths, doesn’t dispute the truth of the story but suggested that Thamus misunderstood Thamus Pan-megas Tethnece or “the all-great Tammuz is dead”—a reference to Tammuz, Ishtar’s consort, a dying god, who died annually only to be reborn each year.
During the later Hellenic period, Pan developed something of a disreputable aura. He was identified with rustic, county religion. Classical Greeks, with their emphasis on human beauty and perfection, considered gods who combined human and animal anatomy like those of the Egyptians to be vulgar.
Pan became more identified as a woodland creature than as a god. However, by the Victorian era, Pan returned to the forefront: he was believed to epitomize the vibrant, Earthy, authentic flavor of Paganism, hence Oscar Wilde’s poem at the beginning of this section. Pan became extremely popular during the early Pagan renaissance and is the inspiration for Dion Fortune’s 1936 novel, The Goat Foot God. He remains an extremely significant and beloved deity among Neo-Pagans.
See also Satyrs; CREATIVE ARTS: Literature: The Secrets of Dr Taverner, Music: Flute; DICTIONARY: Pagan; DIVINE WITCH: Dionysus, Hecate, Hermes; HALL OF FAME: Dion Fortune.
Papa Bois, French for “Father Forest,” Caribbean guardian of the woods, is also known as Maitre Bois (Master of the Forest) and Gran Bois. He is a renowned shape-shifter:
Papa Bois manifests as a stag
Papa Bois manifests as half-man/half-animal, usually a stag
Sometimes Papa Bois manifests as a tree with a human face and voice
Papa Bois manifests as an old man, usually dressed in old, raggedy clothes. He is usually very hairy; there may be leaves growing out of his beard. Although at first glance he may look like man, a quick glance downward usually reveals at least one cloven hoof. (He allegedly doesn’t like people staring at his feet and considers it rude.)
Although usually manifesting as an aged man, Papa Bois is quite muscular and exceptionally strong. He lives in the heart of the forest with his lover, Trinidad’s anaconda spirit Mama D’Lo, and is the guardian of forest animals and the custodian of trees.
Papa Bois roams the forests of Trinidad and Tobago. He carries a cow horn, which he sounds to warn animals of approaching hunters. Sometimes Papa Bois lures hunters deeper into the woods by assuming the shape of a deer; he then transforms back into human shape to scold them or issue stern warnings.
Papa Bois despises and does not tolerate wanton destruction of the forest. Nor does he tolerate wastefulness or cruelty, or killing merely for the sake of killing. He has been known to evict, trick, harm, and even kill hunters and woodcutters who incur his wrath.
The Wild Hunt rides in the Caribbean too and Papa Bois is its leader. Among those in his nocturnal troop are a band of reveling witches.
Although Papa Bois closely resembles European horned spirits, down to his associations with the Wild Hunt, scholars believe his roots lie in Africa. He is also among those spirits categorized as “Wild Men.” Like Santa Claus, Papa Bois has been softened in recent years. Papa Bois, impersonated by a man, serves as ringmaster of Trinidad’s famous annual Carnival. He is also more polite than he used to be: older versions were wilder, more ragged and anarchistic, close in spirit to Faunus than is generally now portrayed.
See Faunus, Santa Claus; DICTIONARY: Orisha, Wild Hunt.
An ancient depiction of a horned god has been found on a seal from Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley, dated c.3000 BCE. Pashupati, Lord of the Beasts is portrayed sitting cross-legged in a yogic posture. He wears a high horned headdress. He is surrounded by animals including horned beasts like a bull, rhinoceros, and deer. The figure bears tremendous resemblance to that of Cernunnos on the Gundestrup Cauldron. Devotion to Pashupati was never suppressed; he remains actively venerated and is recognized as a manifestation of Shiva. Once upon a time, Shiva became bored and frustrated with life and decided to go live with the animals in Slesmantak Forest in the Katmandu Valley, now modern Nepal. He lived there anonymously for a while but eventually the other gods (and his wife) came looking for him and his true identity was revealed. Shiva returned to his home and god-like responsibilities but still assumes the role of Pashupati when the desire hits him.
The region associated with Pashupati remains the holiest Hindu pilgrimage site in Nepal. A temple dedicated to Shiva existed at this site by 879 CE although the present temple was erected in 1697. The temple is filled with images of Shiva, especially numerous lingam, representing Shiva in his aspect of the divine phallus.
See also Shiva; DIVINE WITCH: Shiva.
This huge hairy goat-man, horned and hoofed holding a besom broom, was the star of the 1628 bestseller The Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Goodfellow. A medieval woodcut depicts a huge Robin presiding over a circle dance. He has donkey’s ears and bull’s horns and carries a broom in one hand, a lit candle in the other. Another horn is slung over his shoulder.
Robin is the son of a mortal woman and Oberon, the Fairy King, notorious wild man and shape-shifter. Robin is a trickster spirit. Together with Oberon and other spirits, he is responsible for human fertility and the maintenance of Earth’s seasonal rhythms.
Rod is considered the primordial deity of the Eastern Slavs. He usually manifests as a stag or male elk. Veneration of Rod dates back to prehistory. Rod and his wife and daughter, known as the Rozhanitsy (see next section) first appeared during the Neolithic era and are the earliest known Russian pantheon. They were actively venerated until the tenth century when other deities, including Mokosh, became increasingly popular.
“Rod” means “family line” or “lineage.” He is Lord of Fertility, Birth, and Abundance. He is a solar deity; his holy days were the winter and summer solstices. Offerings to Rod included bread, curds, and mead.
See WOMEN’S MYSTERIES: Spinning Goddesses: Mokosh.
The Rozhanitsy are a pair of deer spirits, mother and daughter. Some historians believe them to be part of the most ancient known pantheon of what is now Russia, dating back to Stone Age pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer times. They are deities of abundance and fertility.
Rozhanitsy names two distinct types of Russian female spirits. The horned Rozhanitsy are not the same as the Rozhanitsy Fate fairies who dwell in the Russian bathhouse. (See PLACES: Bathhouse.)
The Rozhanitsy manifest in various ways:
As horned women
As women riding horned deer
As women riding horses but holding stag’s antlers in their hands
The mother Rozhanitsy was the daughter of a deer. Her consort, Rod, Lord of Growth and Prosperity, father of her daughter, usually took the form of a stag (see previous section).
According to legend, witches fly through the night sky, sometimes on brooms but traditionally also sometimes on animals or in chariots drawn by animals. In some regions, among the times of year most associated with witches’ flight is the period immediately following the Winter Solstice, corresponding to what the Norse called Yuletide. Witches traditionally fly up and down chimneys; in some areas, fires are kept burning all night to keep witches out (or in).
Santa Claus flies through the air during Yuletide, too, in a sleigh pulled by antlered reindeer. His assistants are elves. In parts of Europe, although not in America, Santa Claus is accompanied by a dark, threatening “helper” who often resembles a horned goat spirit. Santa Claus, too, goes up and down chimneys, although his arrival—unlike the witches’—is eagerly awaited.
The Yuletide night sky is a busy place: Santa Claus, his reindeer, and the witches aren’t alone. The Wild Hunt flies through the night sky during Yuletide, too, often led by that whitebearded old spirit Odin. Good Christians were advised to avoid the Wild Hunt at all cost, to stay inside and hide until it had passed.
Once upon a time, night-riding witch-goddesses like Perchta visited homes during Yuletide, expecting to receive food offerings like pancakes or dumplings. Eventually during the witchcraze, households that left offerings to Perchta were charged with witchcraft, arrested, and destroyed.
On the other hand, to this very day, households make a ritual of leaving cookies and milk (or something stronger) for Santa Claus. Many consider this a charming, wholesome custom. What’s going on here? Why is a saint lauded for behavior forbidden to witches? Who is Santa Claus anyway?
Santa Claus was unknown to early Christians. Incorporation of Santa Claus into Christmas festivals was considered disreputable, semi-Pagan and actively discouraged until the twentieth century. His association with Christmas remains controversial—fundamentalist Christians still reject him, recognizing that Santa Claus is clearly a Pagan importation. Fundamentalist Christian websites frequently point out that all one has to do is rearrange one letter to transform “Santa” into “Satan” or vice-versa.
Modern Christmas celebrations incorporate many Pagan traditions including gift-giving, Christmas trees, the Yule log, mistletoe, and Santa Claus.
Ostensibly, Santa Claus is an affectionate nickname for St Nicholas, a beatified third-century bishop from what is now Myra, Turkey. He is among those saints now considered apocryphal by the Church. It is generally believed that beneath the mask of bearded St Nicholas lies the bearded Greek sea god, Poseidon. (Another suggestion is that St Nick was assigned dominion over what was once associated with Artemis/Diana of Ephesus.)
If St Nick is Poseidon, then who is Santa Claus? Various theories suggest who hides beneath the mask:
The horned god Hermes carries a sack in one hand, indicating that he is a deity who provides for his devotees, who brings them gifts. Santa Claus is the modern “deity” with a sack of gifts. Horned spirits survived within Christianity under the guise of Santa Claus. These days, Santa Claus no longer wears his horns on his head but remains closely identified with his herd of horned reindeer.
Christmas corresponds in time with the Roman festival of the Saturnalia, characterized by feasting, happy celebrating, and giving gifts to children. The Saturnalia honored Saturn, an aged god who presided over a long-ago golden age. Saturn is a jolly old man with a long white beard who distributes gifts and presides over merriment.
Odin flies through the air at Yuletide. He is a world traveler; once upon a time, his pet ravens covered the globe every day just like Santa Claus allegedly does at Christmas. Santa’s associations with reindeer may recall Odin’s sojourn with Saami shamans.
Santa’s role as leader of the elves however also indicates another Nordic spirit, Freyr, Lord of Fertility. Freyr is the Elven King; the elves work for him. Among Freyr’s sacred attributes is the pine tree.
Perhaps the reindeer are the key: reindeer are closely identified with the Saami people who live in the Arctic, close to the North Pole that is now so associated with Santa Claus. The Saami are traditionally nomadic reindeer herders. They were also renowned throughout Northern Europe for their powerful shamanic traditions. Saami shamans soul-journey, often utilizing chimneys.
In parts of Europe, St Nicholas doesn’t resemble red-suited, reindeer-driving Santa Claus. Instead men masquerade as St Nicholas by donning a bishop’s traditional clothing and hat. This St Nick is dignified and devoutly Christian. Whether a child is deemed “good” often depends upon obedience and religious compliance. However, St Nicholas is inevitably accompanied by an assistant who is clearly Pagan and frequently horned. St Nicholas officially represents the Church; his partner stands in for Satan. The partner has charge of “bad” children and may beat them (literally), give them coal or take them away, ostensibly to Hell.
In Holland, Black Peter (Zwarte Piet in Dutch) is, similar to Krampus (see page 570), Santa’s helper. He is now most frequently envisioned as a small black boy, dressed in ornate medieval clothing; he represents a Moor. White men masquerade as Black Peter in blackface. However, this was not the ancient original vision of Black Peter. Black Peter was once envisioned as a shaman. He dressed in rough, ragged clothes and wore a fur hat topped with horns. He carried a huge sack on his back that often has a pine tree sticking out, similar to the phallic pine logs once carried in Dionysian processions.
Black Peter is depicted carrying small human figures in his sack. However these weren’t initially dolls for good little girls: they represented babies to be born in the New Year, given as gifts of fertility. “Black” Peter was covered with charcoal and soot, not because he was diabolical, but because black was recalled as the color of fertility, as it was for the ancient Egyptians.
If the original Black Peter was cleaned up, his soot removed, his horned hat traded in for a clean red hat but his big bag of gifts retained, he looks remarkably like Santa Claus.
Under Santa Claus’ jolly demeanor may also lurk old Pagan frost gods like the Russian Morozko, also known as Father Frost, or perhaps the Nordic Holler, consort of the witchgoddess Hulda, also associated with Yule traditions and the Wild Hunt. (See DIVINE WITCH: Hulda.)
Modern American Santa Claus derives from the traditions of eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury German immigrants to the United States. His costume hadn’t yet been standardized; instead of his present red and white suit, he frequently dressed in animal skins or tattered rags. Yes, he carried a bag of treats, but he also carried a whip or a stick and a broom. He was soot-faced and carried jingle bells. This shamanic figure resembles those on Dutch Speculaas Poppen cookie molds (see FOOD AND DRINK: Yule Cakes).
Modern red-suited Santa Claus is a creation of the Coca-Cola Company. The figure spread worldwide in 1932 as part of an advertising campaign. (Some perceive that his bright red and white suit is a reference to Amanita muscaria mushrooms; although this may sound farfetched, one does recall that the original Coca-Cola formula incorporated coca and kola, two botanicals associated with shamanic traditions, so who knows? Amanita muscaria spirits are reputedly red and white, as are the mushrooms.)
Further Reading: When Santa Was a Shaman by Tony van Renterghem (Llewellyn Publications, 1995) and Santa, Last of the Wild Men by Phyllis Siefker (McFarland and Company, 1997).
See also Chimney Sweep, Hermes, Krampus; BOTANICALS:Amanita muscaria; CALENDAR: Yule; DIVINE WITCH: Hermes, Odin.
Satyrs are ancient Greek wilderness spirits who physically resemble the goat-god Pan. Satyrs have the head and torso of man, horns and legs of a goat, and the tail of either a goat or a stallion. They make their home in forests and mountains but are part of the retinue of Dionysus and travel in his processionals.
Satyrs are wild, uncontrollable spirits associated with sex, dancing, and intoxication. They are always sexually aroused; an ancient Mediterranean aphrodisiac root charm called satyrion root allegedly bestowed the satyr’s vaunted sexual prowess on human men.
Satyrs famously chase nymphs, the Greek female woodland spirits, frequently catching them, often to the nymphs’ delight. Satyrs dance with Maenads, a popular motif in ancient Greek art. The satyrs’ formalized traditional dance led to the origins of Greek drama, the tragic goat-song.
Satyrs are musicians: they play flutes, often the double vertical flutes rather than Panpipes. When Athena threw away the flute she invented, a satyr picked it up and preserved it.
See also Fauns, Pan, Se’irim; BOTANICALS: Roots; CREATIVE ARTS: Dance: Dance of the Maenads, Goat Dance, Music: Flute; DICTIONARY: Maenad; DIVINE WITCH: Dionysus; PLACES: Forest.
Se’irim (singular: se’ir) are goat-shaped Semitic spirits. Their name derives from sai’ir or “hairy” or “shaggy.” In Leviticus 17: 7, Jews are forbidden to sacrifice to them, which of course indicates that some were following this practice, necessitating legislation against it.
It is possible that the medieval image of the devil goes back to the Se’irim. The word has come to mean “goat” but also “devil.”
See also Azazel.
Shiva is among the deities often classified as Horned Spirits however his myth is so extensive that he transcends categories. Shiva’s many manifestations include the sacred bull, Nandi. He carries a trident that resembles a pitchfork.
Further information regarding Shiva may be found in DIVINE WITCH: Shiva. See also Pashupati.
Sylvanus, horned spirit of forests, groves, and wild fields, presides over boundaries, thresholds, and hedges. Sylvanus is the protector of herds and cattle. He was worshipped in Northern Italy, perhaps as far as Pannonia, an ancient trans-Danubian nation now part of modern Hungary. What we know of Sylvanus derives from Roman writings and it is unknown whether they simply used a name that literally means “forest spirit” for what were originally independent deities.
The Romans associated Sylvanus with Faunus. He is also similar to Pan in that he too enjoys scaring lonely travelers. The first fruits of the season were offered to Sylvanus alongside meat and wine. These were exclusively male rituals; women were not permitted to witness sacrificial offerings made to Sylvanus. His attributes include a pruning knife and a pine bough.
See also Faunus, Pan.
Virbius, a male woodland spirit, is Diana’s chief companion at her shrine in the Forest of Nemi. Virbius is the patron of thieves and manifests as a man or a stag. Less emphasis is placed on chastity in Diana’s cult than in that of Greek Artemis. Virbius is Diana’s consort. Depending upon her aspect, their relationship may be platonic or not.
Statues of Diana that depict her standing beside a stag may indicate a literal stag, her sacred animal, or her consort in stag guise.
See DIVINE WITCH: Diana.