PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Cernunnos


First off, congratulations on the publication of The Book of Cernunnos, a devotional volume dedicated to the Gaulish god of the same name. Why the specific focus on one particular god from one particular time and place rather than, say, on the Horned God more generally?

Rick Derks put a very nice devotional anthology together on the Horned God (Hoofprints in the Wildwood – 2011) and Jason Mankey has his book on The Horned God of the Witches. But no one has – to the best of our knowledge, anyway – ever done a book for Cernunnos. Jason and I are both devotees of Cernunnos, and a few years ago we decided that with all the devotional anthologies in the world, it was time Cernunnos had His own.



What makes Cernunnos so perennially popular among modern pagans?

He is a God of the Wild, a God of Nature, in a time when Nature is both under attack and fighting back. Cernunnos reminds us that for as far as we’ve come in the past 10,000 years of civilization, we lived on the edge of the wild for between ten and twenty times as long. We still need the wild – Cernunnos is a connection to the wild.


So, you're a Cernunnos guy yourself?

Yes. I feel like He’s been around me my whole life, but especially since I first encountered him in a “drawing down” ritual in 2006. I took priestly vows a year later, and He’s been an active part of my life ever since.


If you could ask an ancient Gaulish priest just one question about Cernunnos, what would it be?

I would ask the most vague and open-ended question I could, to try to get as much information from the priest as possible. I’d probably lead with “who is Cernunnos?”


Me, I'd want a story.

Iconography apart, we know virtually nothing about the Gaulish Antlered God: no hymns, no rituals, no mythology have survived. (We don't even know, for instance, if he had a Partner.) Does this present a danger for the modern pagan: the danger of projecting what we want to see onto a vague but attractive ancient template?

On one hand, yes. On the other hand, we in this time and place are simply doing what our ancestors did centuries ago: interpreting our experiences and comparing them to the experiences of others, to try to paint a broader picture of this person we’re encountering. For a God with no established lore, that’s the only way begin.

The Gods can speak to us just as They spoke to our ancestors.


Gods, don't they just? Would an ancient Gaul recognize the Cernunnos of this anthology?

We have no way of answering that question. I suspect they would find some things familiar and other things not.


Fair enough. What surprised you most in pulling this anthology together?

Just how broad and varied people’s experiences of Cernunnos have been. And yet, as different as they are, you can see the common threads running between them. Cernunnos may present Himself to different people in different ways, but it’s still Cernunnos.


What did assembling the anthology teach you about Him of the Torc?

Patience and determination… as befits such a very old, very primal deity. This project took far longer to complete than we ever expected, and there were multiple places where we considered dropping it. But His message was always “just keep moving forward.” So we did, and now the book is complete.


OK, big theological question: is the Gaulish Cernunnos qua Gaulish Cernunnos an entity discreet from the horned gods of other times and places--Pan, say, or the God of the Witches? If not, what is their relation to one another?

I am a hard polytheist – my answer to that question is “yes”. My default position is that different Gods are different persons, unless there’s a good reason to suspect they’re the same person known by a different name in a different place. To address your specific example, Cernunnos is clearly not Pan.


Is there a moral side to the Gaulish Cernunnos? Does he have any ethical implications?

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


A priestess friend of mine once took a class in Writing Your Personal Theology at the local UCC* seminary. Back in those days, if you wanted to expand your pagan academic horizons, that's pretty much what you had to do.

(Today, not so much: thank Goddess for Cherry Hill Seminary.)

As one would expect, some of what she learned was applicable, some wasn't.

“'What's my Christology?'” she laughed, looking over the list of seed-questions that they'd given her. “I don't have one!”

(In Christian thought, Christology is the study of Christ's person and role in spiritual ecology.)**

Me, I'm with her. Still, taking a step back—translating into Pagan, so to speak—I ask myself: Well, who—as I see it—is god of humanity? Who, among all the gods, is most like to us? Who stands between—in the sense of connecting us to—ourselves and the other gods?

For me, a witch of the Tribe of Witches, the answer is clear: this role is filled by Him that we call the Horned.

The other gods are who they are, but he's the animal god. (I would see Him as the collective body of fauna/animal life here on planet Earth.) As animals—as human animals—he's likest to us of all the other gods. Like us, he knows what it is to love, to suffer, to die. The other gods may (or may not) know these things too, but he knows them as an animal—and, in particular, as a human animal—can know them.

That's what makes him ours, ours to us.

That's what makes us his, his to him.

That's what makes him our god, our Horned, of all gods likest us: “like us in animality, like them in divinity.”

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Climbs Out Onto a Branch


The famous Paris relief of the Gallo-Roman god Cernunnos is remarkable for many reasons, and perhaps the strangest is this: There are torques hanging from his antlers.

Virtually every description of the image mentions this fact, but few proceed to ask the obvious question: Why? What does it mean that torques hang from the god's antlers?

1. In the Classical world, the twisted metal neck-ring that Romans called a torque (the word means “twisted”) was known as a distinctively Celtic item of apparel. In Roman art, a Celtic warrior may not be wearing anything else, but he'll always be wearing a torque. This is no Romeburg import of a god, but a being of here and now: a god of this time, this place, and this culture.

Conclusion the first: Cernunnos is a Celtic—i.e. local, indigenous—god.

2. From its use in ancient art, we can intuit a number of probable meanings for the torque. As something made from a valuable material (metal) by a skilled craftsman, it represents wealth. It's certainly possible that, as in the contemporaneous Germanic-speaking world, torques were actually used as a form of currency.

Conclusion the second: Cernunnos is a wealthy god: Wealthy, and the Giver of Wealth.

3. Being themselves expensive, it follows that torques denote nobility or even royalty, since only the moneyed could afford such things.

Conclusion the third: Cernunnos is a noble, perhaps even royal, god.

Note that, while humans wear torques one at a time, the god wears multiple torques simultaneously. (Although now obscured by damage to the bottom of the relief, it is clear that the god once wore one around his neck as well: three in total.) All that the torque represents—indigenousness, wealth, nobility—the god has, so to speak, in spades.


I'm going to go out on a limb—one of the god's branching antlers, perhaps—and suggest that we see here a possible allusion to the giving of votive torques to the god.

Now, we have no evidence for the existence of life-sized statues of Cernunnos in the temples of ancient Gaul. If they did exist, one would expect them to have worn actual antlers inset into the carved head of the god (antlers being far too delicate a structure to free-carve in stone).

If this were so—going even further out on the antler here—I'm going to posit that votive torques may well have hung from the god's antlers in the temple.

Antlers—the fastest-growing tissue in the animal world—being calques for tree-branches, I'm also going to suggest that, in groves sacred to the Antlered, we might well expect to have found votive torques hanging from the branches of the sacred trees as well.

(I could readily envision a forest shrine in which the god's cult image was a standing post carved at the top with the god's head and face[s], and many-tined antlers—perhaps renewed annually—inset on the sides or top.)

OK: here I'll go out onto the very tip of the tine. Are we seeing here perhaps an allusion to a story? A story in which the Horned himself made the First Torque? A story in which, perhaps, wealth—represented by torques—grows from the very antlers of the god, as fruit grows from a tree?

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Can't wait to see!
  • Helga Hedgewalker
    Helga Hedgewalker says #
    Gods above, below and in-between! This is the most wonderful thing I've read in AGES!!!! This artist has definitely taken note.
SER-nun-nos or Ser-NUN-nos? KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos?

The Old Gaulish antlered god Cernunnos is hot these days. (Ask me, He's always been hot.) So how do you pronounce His Name?

SER-nun-nos or Ser-NUN-nos? KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos?

Well, how you pronounce your god's name is up to you and certainly none of my business. But if you'd like to know the historic pronunciation—how, for instance, the sculptor that carved the famous Paris Cernunnos relief (shown here in full modern reconstruction) would have articulated the god's name, there historical linguistics can help you.

Historically speaking, we can rule out the first two pronunciations immediately. In Gaulish, C was always “hard” (i.e. pronounced as K).

So, KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos? One hears both pronunciations these days. (I've never heard anyone attempt Ker-nun-NOS, bless His Horns.)

Well, we can't say with absolute certainty that it's one or the other, since Gaulish has been a dead language for considerably more than a millennium. According to Dutch linguist Peter Schrijver (Schrijver 20), however, available evidence indicates that, as a rule, the Gaulish language favored stress on the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Some Thoughts on a Contemporary Cernunnos

That the Horned God speaks directly to contemporary needs and sensibilities may readily be deduced from the hundreds—if not thousands—of contemporary visual images that He has inspired.

I'd like to take a little time to muse on what strikes me as one of the simplest, most beautiful and, simultaneously, most articulate of those many images: Thalia Took's "Cernunnos." 

Took takes as her prototype the famous—and eponymous—image of Cernunnos from the Gallo-Roman Pillar of the Boatmen discovered in 1710 underneath the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris (see below). Both images share a full-face view of the god, with antlers, beard, torque, and leaf-shaped cervine ears. Clearly this is a god who readily hears prayer, his hearing as sensitive as a deer's. Both images are inscribed with the name of the god: in the Notre Dame Cernunnos, above the image itself; in Took's, charmingly, below.

I'm struck by the visual economy of Took's rendering. We see only the base of the god's antlers; his shoulders and bare chest suggest both virility and nudity. His pentagrammatic face—beard, antler, ear, ear, antler, beard again—gazes out directly at the viewer, enhaloed in his wild tangle of hair. This is a wilder, more untamed god than that of the Paris Boatmen. 

In your imagination, take away Cernunnos' antlers, ears, and "torque" (on which, more shortly).  Connoisseurs of historic irony will note that the god, with his open face, short beard, and centrally-parted shoulder-length hair bears a strong resemblance to traditional images of Jesus. This is sheer brilliance on Took's part: it both lends the image a disquieting familiarity, and with gentle humor redresses the fact that early Christian artists, in the absence of any real knowledge of the historical Jesus' appearance, based what has come to be the standard image of the Christian god on pagan prototypes. Call it a cattle-raid of icons.

Note both the economy and the aptness of Took's palette. The original Pillar of the Boatmen Cernunnos sculpture would likely have been painted, but we can no longer say what the colors might have been. Took here renders the god solely in greens and browns: precisely what one would expect for a god of woodland and wildlife.

Also well worth noting are the ways in which Took departs from the Paris image. We see here the subtlety of her approach. The Paris Cernunnos wears a royal torque and, as god of wealth, sports two more hanging from his antlers. Here, though, what at first seems to be a torque proves, on closer inspection, to be a green snake. Like Shiva, the Western Antlered also wears around his neck a living serpent, which (as witches well know) whispers into his leaf-shaped cervine ears the mysteries of the Great Below.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Please, and with my blessing!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Beautiful! Another one to print out for my inmates' binder of shadows. Thanks.
Why I Don't Call the Horned God 'Cernunnos'

The Horned God is assuredly one of the preeminent (and, I would contend, patron) gods of the Pagan Revival, and I would be willing to hazard a guess that in English-speaking Pagandom at large, He is named by the majority of His votaries as “Cernunnos.”

(Writer and thinker Ceisiwr Serith once remarked to me that an image search for “Cernunnos” turns up mostly modern, and very little ancient, art.)

But though the Horned is my heart-god and I offer to Him daily, I myself never call Him Cernunnos.

Why not?

To me, names are culture-specific—one could even say culture-bound—material. “Cernunnos” is a specifically Gaulish name, bound to a particular language, place, and people. I'm not a Gaul, I don't live in historic Gaul, and I don't speak Gaulish. Therefore, though I honor the Name and recognize it, I don't use it.

The same with “Herne,” “Pan,” or most other historic Names that you'd care to mention.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Well, of course how you, or anyone else, conduct your spiritual lives, Greybeard, is no business of mine. But if one accepts my pr
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Wait. What? We can't say Cernunnos because we aren't Gaulish? Can we say Ishtar if we aren't Babylonian? Can we say Diana if
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    Indeed, I don't think of him as antlered, but horned. I was born under the sign of the ram, was raised around cattle. I see the ho
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Joanna. Personally, I'm a big fan of precision in language. If that's pedantry, so mote it be. The issue that you raise is
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Plus, Cernunnos is an antlered god, not a horned god Am I the only pedantic when it comes to this lol? Great blog post, great b

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Cernunnos is known by many names. The Horned God, God of the Hunt, Lord of the Animals. He can be found in the sacred grove in the heart of the forest, in the call of the rutting stag. Of all the names he is known as I grew up knowing him as Herne the Hunter. As I generally make female dolls I was quite surprised that Cernunnos appeared, maybe I was inspired by the fallow deer stags I got to hang out with this summer.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jude Lally
    Jude Lally says #
    Ah! I was wondering who he had a message for, as it wasn't me!!!
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    Yep, apparently!
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    OMG I love him! I shouldn't have, but...yeah, that was me who just snatched him up. I've been wanting one of your dolls - still in

Additional information