The God and the Goddess

This is a guest post by Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University.

On the basis of their own texts, presented in an earlier post, it seems like Wicca affirms the existence of an ultimate deity.  On my analysis, the Wiccan ultimate deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being.  It is an entirely natural power and it appears that the concept of the Wiccan ultimate deity is identical with the concept of natura naturans as described by a long series of atheistic philosophers.

The Wiccan ultimate deity manifests itself as a male deity (the god) and female deity (the goddess).  The concept of manifestation in Wicca appears to be derived from the concept of emanation in Neoplatonism.  The Plotinian One, for instance, emanates the Divine Mind, which is split into a duality based on the subject-object polarity of cognition.  However, the similarities with Neoplatonism quickly end.  The Wiccan god and goddess are intended not as disembodied and intellectual, but as highly carnal and sexual.

The Farrars write that “the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source” (1981: 49).  Buckland explains that the Wiccan ultimate deity manifests itself to us as the male god and female goddess (1986: 19-21).  He writes that “in their early development, people came to worship to principle deities: the Horned God of Hunting and the Goddess of Fertility. . . . In virtually all instances . . . the Ultimate Deity was equated with both masculine and feminine . . . broken down into a god and a goddess.  This would seem most natural since everywhere in nature is found this duality.” (1986: 20).

Cunningham writes that Wiccans gain personal access (both cognitive and practical) to their ultimate deity through the intermediation of the God and Goddess.  Although the ultimate deity is distant and hard for humans to relate to, Wiccans “link with this force through their deities.  In accordance with the principles of nature, the supreme power was personified into two basic beings: the Goddess and the God” (2004: 9).  He writes that “Wicca reveres these twin deities because of its links with nature.  Since most (but certainly not all) nature is divided into gender, the deities embodying it are similarily conceived” (2004: 9).  The God and Goddess are immanent powers: “The Goddess and God are both within ourselves and manifest in all nature” (2004: 4); they are “omnipresent” (2004: 5).

Cunningham also tells us that the god and goddess are  natural creative powers: “the deities are the creative forces of the universe (not just symbols)” (2004: 14, itals his).  However, he then tells us that the deities are personifications of those creative forces; they are projections of human forms onto impersonal energies: “the deities didn’t exist before our spiritual ancestor’s acknowledgement of them.  However, the energies behind them did; they created us.  Early worshippers recognized these forces as the Goddess and God, personifying them in an attempt to understand them.” (2004: 10, italics his).

Cuhulain writes: “The Wiccan concept of the Divine is shaped by what we see around us in the natural world. . . . We conceive of Divinity as manifesting as both female and male, as this reflects what we see in our universe.  Threfore, unlike Christianity, we are not monotheistic.  Most Wiccans recognize a Goddess and a God.”(2011: 14)

Sabin writes that “Wiccans believe that deity separates (or we separate it) into facets – or aspects – that humans can relate to.  The first ‘division’ of deity is into its male and female halves. . . . The two main aspects of deity that Wiccans work with – the male and the female – are simply called the God and the Goddess” (2011: 26).

Silver Elder writes that “the Divine Source [is] manifest as a binary force of male and female which we call the God and Goddess” (2011: 9).  She says that Wicca involves “the veneration of the God and Goddess of Nature” (2011: 13) and that “The God and Goddess are revered and celebrated as a binary team, representing the ultimate power and force” (2011: 18).

More exposition and criticism of Wicca and discussion of its relationship to atheist philosophy:

Atheism and Wicca

The Wiccan Deity

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

On Atheistic Religion

Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and the Sacred: Natural Creative Power

Atheist Ceremonies: De-Baptism and the Cosmic Walk

Atheism and Possibility

The Impossible God of Paul Tillich

Atheism and the Sacred: Being-Itself

Pure Objective Reason

Criticizing Wicca: Rationality

References:

Buckland, R. (1986) Complete Book of Witch Craft.  Second Edition Revised and Expanded.  St. Paul, MI: Llewellyn Publications.

Cuhulain, K. (2011) Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training.  Portland, OR: Acorn Guild Press.

Cunningham, S. (2004) Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  St. Paul, MI: Llewellyn Publications.

Farrar, J. & Farrar, S. (1981) A Witches Bible.  Blaine, WA: Phoenix Publishing.

Sabin, T. (2011) Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice.  Woodbury, MI: Llewellyn Publications.

Silver Elder (2011) Wiccan Celebrations: Inspiration for Living by Nature’s Cycle.  Winchester, UK: Moon Books.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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