The God of the Hunt in Paleolithic Religion
Most of the animals early man hunted for food were horned, so the God of Hunting was seen as horned. Early man also mixed magick with their basic belief in the Hunting God. Specifically, they used sympathetic magick. In simple terms, sympathetic magick is the idea that like attracts like. If clay was fashioned into the shape of a bison, and this model was ritually killed, it was believed that the hunt would be more successful.
True ritual began with the worship of the God of the Hunt. Early man would wear animal skins and antlers and play the part of the Hunting God. Cave painting of such rituals still exist. These paintings show a strong connection with the God of Hunting and his power over the hunt. This form of sympathetic magick is still performed in some areas of the world.
The Goddess of Fertility in Paleolithic Religion
Along with a Hunting God, there was also a Fertility Goddess. It is unclear which one was worshipped first, or whether they developed together. In the end, it doesn’t matter. If animals were to provide food and other necessities, those animals had to breed. If the tribes were to survive and even thrive, then the women had to have children. Fertility was an inherent part of life.
Sympathetic magick again was used to help ensure this fertility. Carvings and cave paintings have been found that resemble mating animals, and during ritual, various members of the tribe would copulate in an attempt to invoke the Goddess of Fertility. Early man was very concerned with the fertility aspect of the female form, as women were the bearers and nurturers of the children of the tribe.
The Division of the Year in Paleolithic Times
In time, the Goddess assumed an even more powerful role. With the rise of agriculture, the Goddess was said to watch over the fertility of the crops, in addition to the fertility of animals and of the tribe itself. In the summer, the Goddess was seen as the giver of life and sustenance, watching over the crops and domesticated animals. When winter came, the God took over, as hunting was absolutely necessary to survive the harsh winter months.
The year was divided into a light half and a dark half. During the light half of the year, through the summer months, the Goddess held sway. She was worshipped as the bringing of fertility, and the nurturer of the tribe. The winter was considered to be the dark half of the year. During this time, the God was all-powerful. He ruled over the animals that the tribe relied upon for food, and protected those who participated in the hunt.
The Goddess of Fertility and the God of the Hunt were the most important deities to ancient man, and continued to have some importance as religion developed in early Europe. While there were other gods and goddesses, they paled in comparison. The God and Goddess of ancient times are still honored by many people today, and these nature deities are the foundation of Wiccan worship.