Encyclopedia > Cernunnos

  Article Content


Cernunnos the Horned One was worshipped by the iron age Celts all across Europe as late as the 1st century, and his worship must have begun centuries before that. Little is known about him since the Celts had no written language of their own and their druids were forbidden to write down their knowledge even though some of them knew Latin and Greek; everything we know about him can only be guessed at from images created by the Celts. His name is known because it was carved on a single such image made by sailors from the Gallic Parisii[?] tribe (from whom Paris got its name) in the 1st century AD, by which time Gaul (modern France) had become a Roman province. The earliest image of him that has been found was carved on rock in Northern Italy in the 4th century BC. It is not known how widespread the use of this exact name was: it is possible that this was the name for this antlered god to no-one but the Parisii themselves, but the structure of the name suggests otherwise.

The word Cornu means "horned" in both modern French and in Latin, which was originally imposed upon them by the Romans. Cernunnos is a Roman name meaning "Horned One," probably the new Romanised name given by the Gauls to their very old horned god, in which case its use may have been widespread throughout Gaul after it became a Roman province.

Cernunos' portrayals are unusually consistent. His most distinctive attribute are his stag's horns, and he is usually portrayed as a mature man with long hair and a beard. He wears a torc, an ornate neck-ring used by the Celts to denote nobility. He often carries other torcs in his hands or hanging from his horns, as well as a purse filled with coins. He is usually portrayed seated and cross-legged, in the meditative or shamanic position.

He was believed to be born at the winter solstice, married a goddess at Beltane and died at the summer solstice annually. He is a life-death-rebirth deity.

Cave paintings in France from the Paleolithic show an upright stag; this may indicate that Cernunnos was worshipped in the Paleothic Era.

The Druids knew him as Hu Gadarn or Herne, ruler of the underworld and astral planes.

Cernunnos is nearly always portrayed with animals, in particular the stag[?]. He is also frequently associated with a unique beast that seems to belong only to him: a serpent with the horns of a ram. Less often he is associated with other beasts, including bulls, dogs and rats. Because of his frequent association with beasts he is often referred to as The Lord of the Animals. Because of his association with stags in particular (a particularly hunted beast) he is also known as The Lord of the Hunt.

In the modern Neo-Pagan movements, of which Wicca is the most notable, the worship of the Horned God has been revived. Whether or not these religious groups are actually surviving cults or modern reconstructions, the adherents generally follow the life-fertility-death cycle for Cernunnos, though his death is now usually set at Samhain, the Celtic Halloween Festival.

see also: Horned God

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
U.S. presidential election, 1804

...     Contents U.S. presidential election, 1804 Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Party Running Mate(Electoral Votes) Thomas Jefferson ...

This page was created in 40.2 ms