According to Wiccan lore, the Dark Goddess is the Hag or Crone aspect or Avatar of the Triple Goddess, associated with the Underworld, wisdom, death and transformation.
To the Celts in Ireland, for whom all three aspects took on great significance, the Hag was known as Callieach Bheare. In Ireland the quality of
Life was measured by the good health of humankind and animals, by success in battle and by the fecundity of herds. An analogy was drawn between the physical fitness and suitability of the Sacred King and the health of national affairs.
This determined the way that the Dark Goddess was represented. Her fruitfulness was believed to be dependent on the virility of her mortal partner who was chosen by the gods to take the Irish crown and be her mate. Thus as his physical human decay made its first appearance, or battle scars emerged, or crops failed, the Goddess Morrigu (the English equivelent is queen Medb or Maeve), having already transformed from Maiden to Mother, became symbolically transposed to her third aspect, the Hag, the symbol for the man to begin his lonely walk towards abdication or slaughter.
The Hag could then renew the cycle of life, often playing her casting. hand for a new partner while still retaining her aged guise. In one legend a prince and his brothers have a chance meeting with this decrepit and repulsive form, whereupon she requests sexual intercourse with each man. Only one does not decline and, as their coupling commences, Cailleach Bheare, sheds her hideous mantle and reveals herself as a beautiful Maiden, the 'Sovereignty of Ireland'.
In British Wicca the Dark Goddess, or Queen of Death, features heavily in the Autumn Sabbats.
According to some Traditions she appears at the beginning of August to slay the Corn King at the Lammas celebration prior to her descent into the Underworld at the Autumn Equinox.
The Wiccan understand of the Dark Goddess, as detailed above, is very much an 'homogenised' version of the authentic Celtic beliefs concerning this deity.
see also: GODDESS; HEKATE (aka Hecate); HAG
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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