Review of Scott Cunningham’s Wicca – Chapter 2 – The Deities

It’s been far to long since I ended up putting this book down. I got caught up in the fight between theism and anti-theism and was pulled from the original mission of this blog in general, which was taking a skeptical approach towards religious texts related to different world views. This was meant to highlight the great and not so great aspects of religion and how it is said to apply to our day to day lives.

So I decided it was time to revisit this book and actually give it the benefit of a thorough read and review. I am happy to be back on this path after a long period of self discovery as well as some promotion of this blog. We are becoming more popular by the day it seems, with a weekly podcast, quick casts on a 2 day a week basis, and even some debates raging all around the blogosphere. We have stretched our arms into some of the most recent scientific discovers as well as going as far as to compare polytheism to monotheism.

Oddly enough though, this did do one thing that I had not intended on doing. It revealed my primary choice of belief to the world well before I had intended it to be revealed. In my opinion this was somewhat a negative because it can be considered that I may shine a bias light on the texts related to my belief system. I am here to tell you that what this really means is that I will most likely scrutinize my own belief systems more so than others, due to the fact that I do not want anyone to understand my beliefs in a relative or nonsensical way.

I hope those that have been reading this understand that my intention is to bring all faiths to an understanding rather than show why one faith is better than another, my hope is that anyone who uses religion as a guiding light within their lives have chosen one that is truly right for them and has not just followed the masses because they are afraid of criticism from the community that they reside in.

With that, lets get into some of the highlights and interesting points of Chapter 2 of this Scott Cunningham’s book.

“Every deity that has received worship upon this planet exists with the archetypal God and Goddess. The complex pantheons of deities that arose in many parts of the world are simply aspects of the two. Every goddess is resident within the concept of the Goddess; every god in the God.”

So what I am understanding Scott is saying is that Wicca allows for a conceptualization of any god or goddess as a representation of “The God and Goddess” of the Wiccan religion. He seems to be stating that ultimately there are only two types supreme beings and those two have been split up and represented as pantheons by many cultures throughout history.

Let’s see what else he has to say…

“The Old Ones didn’t die when the ancient pagan religions fell to Christianity in Europe. Most of the rites vanished, but they weren’t the only effective ones. Wicca is alive and well and the deities respond to our calls and invocations.”

So what I am reading here is that Scott claims Wicca believes any God or Goddess can be attributed to Wicca. It seems he is saying that despite the large surge of Christianity in Europe, those legends and lore stayed with us through word of mouth and story telling passed down through lineage.

“They have been given so many names they have been called the Nameless Ones. In appearance they look exactly as we wish them to, for they’re all the deities that ever were. The Goddess and God are all-powerful because they are the creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence. We can contact and communicate with them because a part of us is in them and they are within us.”

Now this is a piece I have a bit of an uncertainty of, mainly in the commenting of “…creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence.” As I have recently had revealed to me is the concept that existence must be a precursor to everything. Meaning they in fact cannot be the “…creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence.” due to the fact that this means their existence self-refutes that claim, you cannot exist yet be the creator of all existence. My belief is that these superior beings that we worship as a God and Goddess are a bi-product of the existence of the universe, they are the representation of self and nature throughout this world and the universe beyond. This does not mean they created but instead are the rulers of this natural existence.

“Religion based entirely on feminine energy, however, is as unbalanced and unnatural as one totally masculine in focus. The ideal is a perfect balance of the two. The Goddess and God are equal, complementary.”

This seems to relate not only to “Holy Book” fearing religions but also certain forms of Wicca that have chosen to deify the Goddess while casting out the God from their rituals and worship. If you look at nature, there is almost always a masculine and feminine energy present within all of creation, this in itself is said to be representative of the Goddess and God. This does not mean “man and woman” but rather plainly masculine and feminine.

“The Goddess is the universal mother. She is the source of fertility, endless wisdom, and loving caresses. As the Wicca know her, she is often of three aspects: the maiden, the mother, and the crone, symbolized in the waxing, full, and waning moon. She is at once the unploughed field, the full harvest, and the dormant, frost-covered earth. She gives birth to abundance. But as life is her gift, she lends it with the promise of death. This is not darkness and oblivion, but rest from the toils of physical existence. It is human existence between incarnations.”

This is a very detailed description of the Goddess of Wicca, what I find interesting is the description of her as the Maiden, Mother and Crone, this seems very similar to the Christian Father, Son and Holy Ghost. So the question comes to my mind, who exactly had this belief first? There is historical representation of Germanic and Celtic druid sects of all women who worshiped their Goddess (as Mother Nature) which seems eerily similar to the Wiccan definition of the Goddess.

“The Goddess has been depicted as a huntress running with her hounds; a celestial deity striding across the sky with stardust falling from her heels; the eternal Mother heavy with child; the weaver of our lives and deaths; a crone walking by waning moonlight seeking out the weak and forlorn, and as many other beings. But no matter how we envision her, she is omnipresent, changeless, eternal.”

Much of this seems to relate to the concept that the Goddess and God come to us as we choose to envision them, but also these passages show the inherent relation between the Goddess and the Moon. Many, if not most, Wiccans seem to attribute the Goddess to the Moon, I’ll be honest this is one that while I enjoy the concept of, I have left for others to reflect on. That’s not to say I don’t perform my personal rituals towards the Goddess in relation with the Moon, there is just to much shared energy between the Moon and the Earth, but personally I see the Goddess as representation of the fertile bed of the Earth, always renewing and changing while casting her shadow upon the Moon to show us which phase she is in.

“The God has been revered for eons. He is neither the stern, all-powerful deity of Christianity and Judaism, nor is he simply the consort of the Goddess. God or Goddess, they are equal, one.

We see the God in the sun, brilliantly shining overhead during the day, rising and setting in the endless cycle that governs our lives. Without the sun we could not exist; therefore it has been revered as the source of all life, the warmth that bursts the dormant seeds into life and hastens the greening of the earth after the cold snows of winter.”

This is a brilliant definition of the God, though it seems a little lackluster to me all in all. There was a lot put to the Goddess, but so far it seems more like Scott is trying to cover up the concept that the God is just a sperm donor for all of life as we know it. Let’s see what else he has to say about the God before I go to much further in my review.

“As the horned God he is sometimes seen wearing horns on his head, symbolizing his connection with these beasts.”

This has long been considered where the “Horned Devil” has originated. This is the concept formed of the Greek Satyr’s such as Pan and Dionysus, the God is considered to often enjoy revelry as a Satyr.

“With the Goddess, he also celebrates and rules sex. The Wicca don’t avoid sex or speak of it in hushed words. It’s a part of nature and is accepted as such. Since it brings pleasure, shifts our awareness away from the everyday world, and perpetuates our species, it is thought to be sacred. The God lustily imbues us with the urge that ensures our species’ biological future.”

What I am taking from this is that while several faiths, such as Christianity, consider sexual relation for purposes other than procreation is a “sin”, Wicca does not feel the same, instead the teachings of Wicca accept the idea of sexuality and consider it a natural part of existence, not to mention that it advocates lust as long as it is not to a degree of harming one of the participants. The God is the representation of lust, much like men in current society seem to be the ones burdened with the yoke of lusty affairs. Again, this is not a negative to Wicca, instead it should be celebrated, as long as no-one involved is harmed.

Of old, the God was the Sky Father, and the Goddess, the Earth Mother. The God of the sky, of rain and lightning, descended upon and united with the Goddess, spreading seed upon the land, celebrating her fertility.

One of the most well known Mythological figures for this statement would be Uranus and Gaia from Greek Mythology. These were the “first gods”, though they were in fact said to be created by Chaos. Uranus and Gaia were the creators of all things, they created the Titans, Cyclops, Humans, and all life in the Greek Mythology. Though referencing that they came from “Chaos” seems to be a similar story to The Big Bang Theory where everything came from nothing. This seems to me that the early religions may have a better understanding of how the Universe was created than we give them credit for.

Today the deities of Wicca are still firmly associated with fertility, but every aspect of human existence can be linked with the Goddess and God. They can be called upon to help us sort through the vicissitudes of our existences and bring joy into our often spiritually bereft lives.

This doesn’t mean that when problems occur we should leave them in the hands of the Goddess. This is a stalling maneuver, an avoidance of dealing with the bumps on the road of life. As Wiccans, however, we can call on the Goddess and God to clear our minds and to help us help ourselves. Magic is an excellent means of accomplishing this. After attuning with the Goddess and God, Wiccans ask their assistance during the magical rite that usually follows.

My take on what Scott is relaying here is that while we associate our God and Goddess’ to the same forms of guidance as the ancient God’s and Goddess’ we do not rely on them to take care of our problems, instead we ask them for guidance on certain matters. Also he talks about how we don’t leave our problems in the hands of the Goddess to solve, this is far different than the Christian philosophy of God being the one to shoulder all of the spiritual and metaphysical burden. Wiccans instead solve their own issues and ask for assistance only when we cannot use critical thinking and logical thought processes to take care of the situation.

The power is in the hands of every practitioner, not specialized priests or priestesses who perform these feats for the masses. This is what makes Wicca a truly satisfying way of life. We have direct links with the deities. No intermediaries are needed; no priests or confessors or shamans. We are the shamans.

This line spoke volumes to me, it reminds us that we are the ones who must answer for our actions and also we must take charge in our lives rather than appealing to another human for forgiveness or interpretation of a situation that they only have 2nd hand knowledge of. We do not rely on a clergy member to invoke the beings of higher power but instead we are able to do this at our own accord. No lines, no waiting for availability, just a direct line to guidance. The down side is, it leaves it to us to interpret our own experiences and guidance, meaning that if we are new to the Wiccan way we may be wrong. But, this is where another aspect of Wicca comes in, it is an experiential religion, meaning that we are able to share our experience and ask others that may have had a similar experience for their input, but in the end it is for us to interpret for our own personal situation.

If you wish to explore the concepts of the Goddess and God, read books on mythology from any country in the world. Read the myths but look for their underlying themes. The more you read, the more information you’ll have at your fingertips; eventually it will merge into a nonstructured but extremely complex knowledge bank concerning the deities. In other words, you’ll begin to know them.

As I mentioned previously, we can look towards the ancient mythologies as reference materials for the way cultures understood deities. The main difference between those texts and the standard Wiccan philosophy is that they had many Gods and Goddesses, but Wicca has solidified the concept that each of these Gods and/or Goddesses were aspects of the God and Goddess represented in Wicca. It is mentioned quite a bit by Wiccan’s that when we invoke the God or Goddess they will appear in a way in which we can best relate and understand dependent either upon our concept of the God or Goddess or in a way which best relates to the situation. For instance if I chose to invoke the Goddess for Wisdom, she may appear to me in the form of Athena from Greek Mythology due to the fact that Athena’s prime representation was that of Wisdom, yet if I am having marital issues she may appear to me in the form of Hera for counseling. Also what he references here is the fact that the more you know the more power you have pertaining to invocation and understanding of how the deities have represented themselves throughout history when dealing with humanity.

This is one of the secrets of Wicca – deity dwells within.

As a nature based religion Wicca believes that the deities are not only within the world around us but also a part of us. We are a piece of the universe and the universe is a piece of us, meaning that anything that resides within the universe is also a part of us. Including the God and Goddess.

The Goddess and God are real, viable entities, possessing the force that created the universe. Attuning with them changes us forever. It also sparks new hope for our planet and for our continued existence upon it.

Here is a piece that I actually disagree with Scott over. Perhaps the universe we exist in may be a creation of the God and Goddess, but I don’t believe Scott was meaning to state that the God and Goddess are residents of a multiverse when he wrote this, obviously I cannot guarantee this was his concept of the residency of the God and Goddess. While I do subscribe to the concept of a multiverse and even an omniverse, I believe that the God and Goddess of this universe was created along side the universe rather than being the creators of the universe. I also believe that the only reason we call them a God and Goddess is due to the fact we have no better description for such beings, if they even require such a description.

If this rite is too formalized for you, change it or write your own. This is the basic thrust of this book: do it your way, not my way simply because I’ve set it down on paper. I can never fit my feet into someone else’s footprints on the sand. There’s no one true right and only way in Wicca; that thinking belongs to monotheistic religions that have largely become political and business institutions.

Scott truly highlights one of the main tenants of Wicca which is freedom and liberty. We are free to tailor our beliefs to our methods of acceptance. Though I must admit eventually Wicca will no longer be Wicca if it becomes “to tailored”, it will eventually either evolve into another preexisting religion or a religious alternative that is exclusive to yourself. Wicca is quickly becoming a term similar to Pagan, its real meaning is becoming to transparent and broad that the term Wicca is becoming an umbrella instead of a true description.

Discovering the deities of Wicca is a never-ending experience. They constantly reveal themselves. As the shamans say, “Be attentive.” All nature is singing to us of her secrets. The Goddess constantly draws aside her veil; the God lights us up with inspiration and illumination. We simply don’t notice.

This is another reference to the fact that Wicca is an experiential religion that you must actually be an active participant to understand and receive guidance. Not everyone, even in Wicca, requires the guidance of the God or Goddess, but by being aware of the signs around them they can understand the path that they are walking without invocation the deities.

There are some who say that we (and anyone else who won’t follow their rituals or embrace their theology) are worshiping Satan. Not that we know it, of course; Satan is too tricky for that, according to these experts.

Such people can’t believe that any religion but their own can be meaningful, fulfilling, and true to its adherent. So if we worship the God and Goddess, they say, we’re denying all good and are worshiping Satan, the embodiment of all negativity and evil.

Wiccans aren’t so close-minded. Perhaps it’s the greatest of all human vanities to assume that one’s religion is the only way to deity. Such beliefs have caused incalculable bloodshed and the rise of the hideous concept of holy wars.

The basis of this misconception seems to be the concept of a pristine, pure, positive being – God. If this deity is the sum of all good, worshippers believe that there must be an equally negative one as well. Thus, Satan.

The Wicca don’t accept such ideas. We acknowledge the dark aspects of the Goddess and the God as well as the bright. All nature is composed of opposites, and this polarity is also resident within ourselves. Thus darkest human traits as well as the brightest are locked within our unconsciousness. It is only our ability to rise above destructive urges, to channel such energies into positive thoughts and actions, that separates us from mass-murderers and sociopaths.

This is a reference to such religions as Christianity where they believe they have the one and only way to clarity and/or perfection, and if you don’t subscribe to their concepts you have no option, but to unwittingly worship their entity of evil. Instead Wiccans accept that we all have both good and “evil” in us, and the God and Goddess are not immune to this duality of nature. For instance, the wolf is a vicious hunter, often taking down the weak for food, but this same creature is one of the most social creatures in the world, it builds a small community that is sustained by the packs local food sources, they are also vicious protectors of their pack mates, they will come at a moments notice to aid another pack member if they are in trouble.

Any and all religions are real, the genuine article, to their practitioners. There can never be one religion, prophet, or savior that will satisfy all six billion humans. Each of us must find our ideal way to attune with deity. For some, it’s Wicca.

Wiccan’s and most Polytheist/Pagans do not believe that any single religion is incorrect. We believe that each person must find their own path and in that search and understanding we find what is right for us. Due to the fact that we are all different parts of the same universe we all have a role to play and within that role we have a belief that is proper for our view of the world and the life that we must live.

Wiccans emphasize the bright aspects of the deities because this gives us purpose to grow and evolve to the highest realm of existence. When death, destruction, hurt, pain and anger appear in our lives (as they must), we can turn to the Goddess and God and know that this is a part of them too. We needn’t blame a devil on these natural aspects of life and call upon a pure-white god to fend them off.

This piece is very similar to the “we don’t follow their god so they believe we worship their devil” portion from above. Wiccan’s and most nature based religions understand that death, destruction and sorrow are all parts of the life cycle of nature. These experiences help us grow and understand ourselves, as well as remind us that we are not immune to hardship but instead should welcome these as a potential for clarity and understanding of our lives. This also gives us a great point to attune with the God and Goddess because they too experience loss and sorrow, but instead of relying on us to bring their morality up they can help us better understand how to grow and develop through this loss.

And that was Chapter 2, I hope you all enjoyed this and are looking forward to Chapter 3. I should get it out in a much better timed fashion than the space between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. As you notice, my ending of Chapter 2’s review ends on a much different note than my Chapter 1. Chapter 1 I feel shows this books age and lack of understanding that has developed over the last 10+ years. Everyone must remember this book was originally published in 1988 and Scott Cunningham passed onto his next life in 1993, so there cannot be any rewrites of his work or updating his views as his understanding evolves through the years.

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