The Cycle of the God and Goddess
The Cycle of the God and Goddess within the Wheel is one that mirrors the cyclical nature of our spiritual growth and the life stages we move through in the course of our lifetimes. The Goddess is the Maiden of new beginnings and the gift of promise who becomes the nurturing Mother. She tends and cares for what she has birthed and as Her wisdom grows she enters the state of being that is the wise Crone who has seen all that life has to offer and gives that wisdom back to those who prove worthy. She remains a constant throughout the wheel, never dying or being reborn; changing only in the nature of expression that is necessary to ensure the cycle of the God.
The God also moves through the cycle of death and rebirth, and His course is that of sacrifice, death and then the mastery of rebirth. He moves through the Wheel as both child and lover to the Goddess as well as guardian and protector of both flora and fauna. Throughout his cycle of change he moves from the child of Light that is birthed at Yule to the Youth that quickens and enlivens at Beltane to the King of Power and Father of strength at Litha and finally to the place of the Sage whose energy sustains humanity in the harvested grain, cut down, and willingly sacrificed to feed and hold all safe throughout the cold of winter.
The Cycle of the Goddess
Young Mother (Imbolc) – Maiden(/Spring Equinox/Beltaine) – Pregnant Mother (Summer Solstice)- The Harvest Mother (Lammas/Autumn Equinox) – The Crone who holds the seed of the quickening God of Light – (Samhain)
The Cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth of God
Growing Youth (Imbolc/Spring Equinox)) – Virile Young Man (Beltane) – The Father (Summer Solstice) – Sacrificial Father/Protector (Lammas)- The Sage (Autumn Equinox) and the Quickening Seed held within the womb of the Crone (Samhain)
If we follow this cycle through the Wheel of the Year, these are the attributes of Deity that are held within. This is but one interpretation of the cycle of God and Goddess:
The Goddess, after giving birth at the Winter Solstice begins her transformation and renewal into the Maiden. The time of ripening and fertility
Spring Equinox: Balance/Transition
As the God is gaining in his strength and growth the Goddess is both the nurturing Mother and the quickening Maiden. This is an aspect of the Equinox as a process of transition and transformation. The energy of this balance calls forth the renewal of the Goddess into the eager Maiden anticipating the sacred union at Beltaine.
The Goddess, now fully clothed in the aspect as the Maiden is ready to procreate and continue the cycle of life. The God has now reached the stage of the virile and potent Youth and their sacred union will provide the promise of what may be reaped later in the cycle of the Wheel.
Summer Solstice: The Great Mother
The Goddess is pregnant and ready to give birth. She is at the apex of motherhood; and the potential for life that the Mother offers. The God has reached maturity and holds the potency of his being sustaining and providing as the Father.
The Goddess is now seen as the Earth Mother. That which was planted as seed and quickened at Imbolc comes to full harvest and it is now time to reap the fruits of what has been planted to continue the cycle. The God in his matured aspect of the protective Father holds within the knowledge that His cycle of strength and light will be renewed only if he willingly sacrifices his life to ensure that all life will continue through the harshness of the winter months ahead. He is the wheat that is harvested to nourish.
Autumn Equinox: Transition to Wisdom
The Goddess, recently widowed through the sacrifice of the God at Lammas, now mourns this loss of her consort and she enters into her time of wisdom of the Crone. The God, now having become assimilated by and completely part of the natural world, is seen as the Horned God or the wild protector of natural life. He asks that we take only what is needed for survival and that we hold in reverence the dormant potential that lays within for new life at the time of the Spring Equinox.
Samhain: Promise of Renewed Life through Death
The Goddess as the Crone is the wise one that knows the mysteries of the sacred cauldron of life/rebirth and carries the lessons of the Mother within; transforming them into deeper wisdom. It is from this deep place of knowing and the waters of the sacred womb that the Goddess becomes pregnant with the sun child who is the God to be born at the Winter Solstice. This is the polarity of Death ( God /Consort had to be sacrificed (grain/harvest) in Life ( the sun child sleeps still in the womb of the Goddess ready to be born at Solstice ).
Winter Solstice: Rebirth
The Goddess, transformed once again in the Great Mother gives birth to the Sun King, the God. This is the promise of renewed Life and the return of the Sun’s warmth and sustaining energy. This is the affirmation of Life (birth of Sun) that is held In Death (the dark of Winter when nothing seems alive).
Another Turn of the Wheel
As we learned in Lesson Three, The God is also depicted on the Wheel of the Year as the Holly and Oak King, at the Solstices (Litha and Yule), respectively. In this cycle of the Wheel the God is directly responsible for the Natural World and the creatures that inhabit it. In keeping with this attribution the God at Lammas still acts as the Sacrificial King and the lands that he has guarded and greened throughout the Summer as the Oak King are now needed to feed and provide the harvest for those of humankind who are also in his keeping. The wheat is cut and the bread is baked to honor this willing sacrifice and the ingestion of this substance of Life is the ingestion of the solar and life giving principles of the God himself.
The Holly King and Oak King
Each holds sway and hand of might
Upon the year’s Great Wheel.
In each domain one shall be King
As wax and wane of Light
Move within nature’s cyclic plan.
The Oak holds fast
To growing light
And Holly brings shadow near.
The time between held
In equinox Gate and season’s turn
Tips finely calibrated scales.
Solstice Kings, though brothers, they
In battle determine solar fate.
The Light holds fast
The Oak marks time
Flanked by strength
And sundial’s grace.
The Holly answers with response
A dance of calculated pace.
At sunset’s call, he strikes his final blow
As Oak in silent acquiescence bows
And bends to Summer Light’s repose.
His brother- triumphant Holly King
Upon rooster’s call shall next arise.
The waning of the year begins
With Oak King’s necessary demise.
For what lay sleeping within
The growing splendor of Holly’s
Fertile embrace is the promise
Of Light’s return at the peak of
Winter’s darkened and snowy face.
And, once again the two shall meet
Oak strengthened by slumber’s rest.
The end of darkness near;
The Holly King, his energy spent
Shall relinquish crown as
Oak reigns renewed.
The Oak King and the Holly King are part of Celtic mythology, and are often seen as aspects of the Green Man. They are usually considered “twin gods,” or sometimes two aspects or manifestations of the same god, often the Horned God. The Oak King rules the Summer months (and is sometimes called the “Summer King”) and the Holly King rules the Winter months (and is thus called the “Winter King”). The God in this form acts as guardian and keeper of the natural world through its cycles of waxing and waning light. He ensures that all will be well and all will continue and be sustained.
The Oak King is usually celebrated at Yule and heralds the return of the Light, spring and new growth and the Holly King is generally celebrated at Litha, as the Light begins to lessen in preparation for harvest and winter. A battle is enacted at those times and the victor of the new season takes his place as guardian. They are twin reflections of an inner polarity of Light and Dark and the battle that takes on the inner landscape as we move towards acknowledgement and embracing of our own Divine nature.
Foundations of Practice: (Available on Thursday)
A Pathworking of the Season
The Eight Sabbats of the Witch’s Wheel of the Year