top of page

Ch.17 Cernunnos (WMB 17.c)

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @


Chapter 17 - Cernunnos - part c

The Horned God as viewed in Wicca today does leave us with an interesting problem. None of the known historical horned gods had any associations with witchcraft, whereas the goddesses whom we have considered here, did in some instances have strong associations with witchcraft practices throughout their history. The question that we may need to ask ourselves here, regardless of the ancient providence of horned gods, is why exactly did a horned god become associated with the practices of the Wiccan tradition?

The possible answer to this question takes us down the route of medieval Christianity and its propaganda against witchcraft, in which the devil was often a Christianised version of earlier Pagan Gods. It may be through the images which surfaced through Christian scaremongering that the inspiration for a horned God in Wicca manifested.

“The first is a figure of Robin Goodfellow, which forms the illustration to a very popular ballad of the earlier part of the seventeenth century, entitled ‘The mad merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow;’ he is represented party-coloured, and with the priapic attribute. The next is a second illustration of the same ballad, in which Robin Goodfellow is represented as Priapus, goat-shaped, with his attributes still more strongly pronounced, and surrounded by a circle of his worshippers dancing about him. He appears here in the character assumed by the demon at the sabbath of the witches.”[1]

The popular image of the Goat of Mendes, or Baphometic Goat, is taken from the writings of Eliphas Levi, from 1855-56. The Golden Dawn magician and scholar Arthur Edward Waite translated Levi’s works Dogma de la haute Magie (1855) and Ritual de la haute Magie (1856) and compiled them in English as Transcendental Magic in 1896.

Levi’s image of the hermaphroditic goat, with the torch between its horns, and hands in the ‘solve et coagula’ position seems to sit halfway between the alchemical and classical worlds. The link to Mendes is interesting, as this connects it back to ancient Egypt, and the many horned gods worshipped there. Ironically Mendes was the cult centre of worship for Banedjet, who was a ram-horned god, not goat-horned. Banedjet was seen in the late period as representing the ba (spirit or soul) of the four gods Re, Osiris, Shu and Geb. This is symbolically appropriate from a Wiccan perspective as these gods embodied the sun (Re), the underworld (Osiris), the air (Shu) and the earth (Geb), thus actually combining the most common attributes of the Wiccan horned god.

Returning to Levi’s image of the Goat of Mendes, it was also referred to as Baphomet, the name given to the idol said to be worshipped by the Knights Templar. Levi made this link, which subsequent magickians picked up on. Levi’s goat also showed features like the torch between the horns in common with other contemporary witchcraft images he may have drawn from, such as the image of the devil in The Sabbat frontispiece for Collin de Plancey’s 1818 classic work Dictionnaire Infernal.

The popularity of horned gods in English and French writings of the nineteenth century, together with striking imagery, could have contributed to the adoption of the horned god in Wicca. The attention brought to the horned god as the centre of the witch cult by the writings of Margaret Murray also provide a possible source for his entry into the Wiccan tradition. Although medieval Christianity undoubtedly demonised any of the old gods with horns, the horned god of the wilds is an ancient figure and one which fits in with the life-positive polarity and philosophy of the Wiccan tradition. Though he may be called by many names, the horned god is clearly here to stay.

[1] The Worship of the Generative Powers, Wright, 1865

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.



My name is Sorita d'Este

and this is my website and blog!  Thanks for visiting - I hope you are finding what you are looking for!


Many years ago I dedicated myself to the pursuit of both esoteric knowledge, and an understanding of polytheism, the Gods and Nature.  I have been a full-time writer, author and publisher, specialising subjects linked to the occult, witchcraft, Paganism, mythology, ancient religions and magic - and all kinds of things in between since 2003. 


I live on a hill in Glastonbury, overlooking the marshes of Somerset,  a place of myth and legend, and a crossroad for many different religions. Here I am frequently found digging and growing, serving my fluffy rescue cat and navigating the unknown with my teenage son.  

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
bottom of page