Neo paganism is unusual in that the lead is taken by the female. Contrary to the monotheistic phalloctraic religions, the Goddess is the Boss. The Horned Lord (variously known as Herne, the Lord of the Wild Hunt or other deities from antiquity) is not only the Goddess’ lover, but her son.
This remarkable bit of incest explains the seasons of the year. The Goddess herself is undying, renewing each year as a little girl in Spring. Her Lord, however, dies at the harvest. He is John Barleycorn. When the corn is cut, his life is spent.
We come back to the fertility rituals. The Goddess gives birth to the child of Light (who will become the Horned Lord) at the Winter Solstice (anyone getting the idea of Christmas?) and at Beltaine, when they are both young people, they couple and the Goddess becomes pregnant with the child who will be born again in December.
The notion of a sacrificial god is not exclusive to paganism and it has been mooted that the festival of Christmas falling near the Winter Solstice was a clever move by the incoming religion of Christianity to wean people away from their pagan beliefs – and who doesn’t need a good feast and celebration in the middle of winter?
While the Goddess is seen as nurturing and the eternal Mother, like the earth itself, her consort is The Lord of the Wild Places, Protector of Animals, Defender of the weak and helpless, a father figure.
It is easy to see how the notion of a human family became entwined with the seasons of the year.
Although I do not now practice Wicca, there is a prayer I wrote some time ago that still leaps to mind every time I go out of doors
I greet my Mother the Earth
And my Father the Sky
I am the wind that blows
The stream that flows
The earth that turns
And the fire that burns
The spirit of the gods is within me and I rejoice
Blessed be all creation for ever more. Blessed be.
The notion of the Horned Lord (usually depicted with the antlers of a stag) explains why the Christian depiction of the devil usually shows him with horns. They really did not like the pagan deities.