Meet the Gods: Cernunnos
Cernunnos is one of the Ancient Ones, as old as the earth. The nature and fertility god is said to have been born of the All Mother Anu, working his magic in the wildwood as the first humans on earth came to be. He was part of evolution, seen “as a shape-shifting, shamanic god of the Hunt” in prehistoric times, according to the article, “Cernunnos – Ancient Celtic God” by J. M. Reinbold.
His image was painted on cave walls and carved into cliffs. People dressed in skins, bones and feathers danced to communicate with him. They still do a dance in his honor today.
“[He] made himself known by many names to nearly every culture throughout time. He is perhaps best known to us now in his Celtic aspects of the untamed Horned God of the Animals and the leaf-covered Green Man, Guardian of the Green World,” Reinbold wrote.
Cernunnos is very similar Herne, God of the Hunt in British mythology – a horned god who was lord of the forest. These four lines appear in William Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – “There is an old tale goes, that Herne the hunter, / Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest, / Doth all the winter time at still midnight, / Walk around about an oak, with great ragg’d horns.”
As a great hunter, he said to possess divine skills. In some cultures he is known as Pan, the lusty god of the wilds with the horns, hindquarters and legs of a goat.
Cernunnos is the embodiment of wild, untamed, powerful and fertile masculine energy of the natural world, and is associated with male animals, particularly when in his form of a stag with mighty antlers. As such he is protector of the forest and the animals. As a god of trees and vegetation, he is portrayed as a man with nut-brown skin, a beard and wild, curly hair, wearing a crown of ivy and twigs.
“He isn’t concerned with human affairs, but he will come to those who also protect and love the forest. And he’s a playful and loving consort to those he chooses,” Rebecca Rose wrote in her blog.
Cernunnos is also considered a god of death and dying and he is said to comfort the dead “by singing to them on their way to the spirit world,” Patti Wigington wrote in the article, “Cernunnos – Wild God of the Forest” for Learn Religions.
Because of his horns and occasionally being depicted with a large, erect phallus, Christians considered Cernunnos to be Satan, although Satan’s horns were those of a ram.
He is typically celebrated in spring and summer as Green Man. As the Dark One, he is the sacrificed and journeys to the Underworld during fall and winter, returning again in spring.
To honor Cernunnos, offer wine or milk by pouring it onto the ground, especially in a wooded area. You can also place symbols of him on your altar, such as antlers, leaves, moss and soil.
“If you’re trying to conceive, and you’ve got a significant other who’s open to the practice of ritual sex magic,” Wigington suggests, “consider a bit of outdoor passion some evening, and call upon Cernunnos to bless your union.”
Considered to be the spirit of the stag god, Cernunnos was sacrificed in the fall to preserve the cycles of nature. The ancient tradition continues to be performed today in Abbots Bromley, a British folkloric site located where the Celtic tribe Curnovii (the horned ones) once lived. Each September, men decorated with antlers are “hunted” through the streets, concluding with a performance of the Horn Dance.
Merry part. And merry meet again.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.