Deities of the Hunt

In many ancient Pagan civilizations, gods and goddesses associated with the hunt were held in a position of high regard. In some of today’s Pagan belief systems, hunting is considered off-limits, but for many others, deities of the hunt are still honored by modern Pagans. While this is certainly not meant to be an all-inclusive list, here are just a few of the gods and goddesses of the hunt that are honored by today’s Pagans:

Mysterious Female Archer
Artemis is a goddess of the hunt in Greek mythology. Renzo79 / Getty Images

Artemis is a daughter of Zeus conceived during a romp with the Titan Leto, according to the Homeric Hymns. She was the Greek goddess of both hunting and childbirth. Her twin brother was Apollo, and like him, Artemis was associated with a wide variety of divine attributes. As a divine huntress, she is often depicted carrying a bow and wearing a quiver full of arrows. In an interesting paradox, although she hunts animals, she is also a protector of the forest and its young creatures.

Detail of Gundestrup Cauldron, Celtic horned God Cernunnos, Danish, c100 BC.
Cernunnos, the Horned God, is featured on the Gundestrup Cauldron. Print Collector / Getty Images

Cernunnos is a horned god found in Celtic mythology. He is connected with male animals, particularly the stag in rut, and this has led him to be associated with fertility and vegetation. Depictions of Cernunnos are found in many parts of the British Isles and Western Europe. He is often portrayed with a beard and wild, shaggy hair. He is, after all, the lord of the forest. With his mighty antlers, Cernunnos is a protector of the forest and master of the hunt.

Temple of Diana
Diana was honored by the Romans as a goddess of the hunt. Michael Snell / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images

Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. Honored by the ancient Romans, Diana was a huntress, and stood as a guardian of the forest and of the animals who resided within. She is typically presented carrying a bow, as a symbol of her hunt, and wearing a short tunic. It is not uncommon to see her as a beautiful young woman surrounded by wild animals. In her role as Diana Venatrix, goddess of the chase, she is seen running, bow drawn, with her hair streaming behind her as she takes pursuit.

Red Deer Stag
Herne is often symbolized by the stag. UK Natural History / Getty Images

Herne is seen as an aspect of Cernunnos, the Horned God, in the Berkshire area of England. Around Berkshire, Herne is depicted wearing the antlers of a great stag. He is the god of the wild hunt, of the game in the forest. Herne's antlers connect him to the deer, which was given a position of great honor. After all, killing a single stag could mean the difference between survival and starvation, so this was a powerful thing indeed. Herne was considered a divine hunter, and was seen on his wild hunts carrying a great horn and a wooden bow, riding a mighty black horse and accompanied by a pack of baying hounds.

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Mixcoatl (Aztec)

Aztec Man
This man is one of many who celebrate their Aztec heritage. Moritz Steiger / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Mixcoatl is portrayed in many pieces of Mesoamerican artwork, and is typically shown carrying his hunting gear. In addition to his bow and arrows, he carries a sack or basket to bring his game home. Each year, Mixcoatl was celebrated with a massive twenty-day-long festival, in which hunters dressed in their finest clothes, and at the end of the celebrations, human sacrifices were made to ensure a successful hunting season.

As The Flames Rise Wotan Leaves' 1906
As the Flames Rise, Wotan Leaves', 1906. From The Ring Cycle of operas by German composer Richard Wagner. Heritage Images / Getty Images

Odin is associated with the concept of the wild hunt, and leads a noisy horde of fallen warriors across the sky. He rides his magical horse, Sleipnir, and is accompanied by a pack of wolves and ravens.

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Ogun (Yoruba)

Door in Nigeria with Deity Carvings
Relief from a carved Yoruba door in Nigeria. Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In West African Yoruban belief system, Ogun is one of the orishas. He first appeared as a hunter, and later evolved into a warrior who defended people against oppression. He appears in various forms in Vodou, Santeria, and Palo Mayombe, and is typically portrayed as violent and aggressive.

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Orion (Greek)

Selene and Endymion (The Death of Orion), 1660s-1670s. Found in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Selene and Endymion (The Death of Orion), 1660s-1670s. Artist: Loth, Johann Karl (1632-1698). Heritage Images/Getty Images / Getty Images

In Greek mythology, Orion the hunter appears in Homer’s Odyssey, as well as in works by Hesiod. He spent a good deal of time roaming the woods with Artemis, hunting with her, but was killed by a giant scorpion. After his death, Zeus sent him to live in the sky, where he still reigns today as a constellation of stars.

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Pakhet (Egyptian)

Sands in Egypt
Pakhet is associated with hunting in the desert. hadynyah / Vetta / Getty Images

In some parts of Egypt, Pakhet emerged during the Middle Kingdom period, as a goddess who hunted animals in the desert. She is also associated with battle and war, and is portrayed as a feline-headed woman, similar to Bast and Sekhmet. During the period in which the Greeks occupied Egypt, Pakhet became associated with Artemis.