I am a stag of seven tines.

(Song of Amairgin)

The Paris Cernunnos has four.

The "sorcerer" of Les Trois Frères, apparently, seven.

For all his youthful appearance, the Gundestrup Antlered sports a lordly fourteen.


Antlers are a miracle. They're the fastest-growing bone on the planet. By Samhain, they're actually dead. Dead horns on a living buck: small wonder that the Antlered is reckoned lord of the dead.

Novelist Rosemary Sutcliff, in Mark of the Horse Lord, describes a cave-painting of the Lord of Herds and the Hunting Trail: "towering into the upper gloom, gaunt and grotesque but magnificent, the figure of a man with the head of a twelve-point stag."

Trophy-hunters value number of points: more is better. The more points, the older (and presumably wiser) the stag.

One wonders just what the meaning of different numbers of tines might be in representations of the Horned God. Having posed the question, the answers readily present themselves.

The god of four tines is Lord of the Four Quarters (and Seasons). The twelve-tined lord is Master of the Year. In the language of venery (hunting), bucks with twelve or more tines are known as "royal stags," so the God of Twelve or Fourteen Points also implies Kingship.

And as for that Stag of Thirteen Tines....

It's a truism that in iconography, there are no extraneous details. Did the ancestors number the god's tines and assign symbolic significance accordingly?

We don't know, and likely we'll never know.

But since words are seeds, and a question once posed can never be unasked, one thing's sure.

We do now.


Cool it with a baboon's blood:

then the charm is firm and good.


Photo: Paul B. Rucker