Twenty-five thousand years ago, Paleolithic people depended upon hunting to survive. This is because a successful hunt meant that there was access to food, shelter, tools, weapons and clothing.
During this period, nature was overwhelming and so each aspect of nature was ascribed with its own spirit and each was made into a deity to make sense of nature.
At this point, magick became mixed in with animism – the belief that everything has a spirit, even if it is an inanimate object – and applies the most to plants, the earth, and the elements. This stems from the belief that you must respect all things because they feel just as we do.
As most hunted animals were horned, the God of Hunting was represented with them too.
The earliest form of magick was sympathetic, meaning that similar things were thought to have similar effects – also known as the law of attraction. During this time, it was practiced through the creation of life-sized clay models of bison, which were attacked and “killed” with spears. This practice evolved into a religio-magickal ritual whereby tribes would put together small performances to simulate a successful hunt. Cavemen would throw on skin and horned masks to play the part of the Hunting God, who directed the hunt.
Cave paintings still exist of these rituals alongside spear-stabbed models of bison and bears.
Along with the God of hunting, there was a Goddess. If there was to be animals to be hunted, there must be fertility of those animals. In other words, if the tribe was to continue, there had to be a resource for food as well as fertility for women so their tribe can live on – especially since there was such a high mortality rate during this period.
Sympathetic magick played a part in this too, and clay models were made again, but this time they were of animals mating. This was accompanied with rituals that consisted of tribe members copulating.
Many carved and modeled representations of the Fertility Goddess came into existence and were known as Venus figurines. All of which are similar in that they have greatly overemphasised feminine attributes, the faces are not defined and the arms and legs, if there at all, are barely suggested.
This is because people were solely concerned with the fertility aspect of the Goddess. Women were the bearers and nursers of the young and the Goddess represented this. She is therefore known as the Great Provider and Comforter, Mother Earth or Mother Nature.
With the development of agriculture, she was further elevated and thought to watch over the fertility of crops as well as the tribes and the animals.
Two Halves of the Year
At this point, the year fell naturally into two halves: the summer and the winter. In Summer, food could be grown and so the Goddess predominated; in the winter men and women had to revert back to hunting, and so the God predominated.
The other deities (who represented wind, sky, water etc.) gradually fell into the background with a secondary importance.
Evolution of Beliefs
As humanity developed, so did the religion – which it had now become slowly and naturally. People had spread across Europe, taking the deities with them. As countries developed, the God and the Goddess acquired different names. For instance, in Britain the south of England knew the God as Cernunnos – the “Horned One”, whereas in the north he was known as Cerne.
By now, men and women had learned how to store food in the winter so hunting became less important. At this time, the God became more generalised as a God of nature and death – in addition to what lies after.
To compliment the belief in life after death, the Goddess became associated with rebirth as well as fertility.
- “Witchcraft” by Valerie W. Holt
- “The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation Solitary Witch” by Silver Raven Wolf
- “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft” by Raymond Buckland