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Cernunnos - The Horned God
Some gods prefer to remain mysterious, a little on the dark side, and away from humans as much as possible. Cernunnos, certainly seems to be one with these traits. Cernunnos is an ancient horned god of Celtic paganism beliefs.
In the Musee National du Moyen Age (National Museum of the Middle Ages) in Paris, France, there is the only piece of ancient artwork that has the name Cernunnos inscribed on it -- this ancient piece of art is the Pillar of the Boatmen. In 1710 the stone pillar was discovered in the foundations of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Pillar of the Boatmen was carved during the time that Gaul was under Roman Empire rule.
The stone pillar has depictions of several deities on it in bas-relief and dates to the early 1st century AD. The pillar was dedicated to Tiberius, Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD, from the Lutetian sailors guild. One of the deities on the pillar is Cernunnos, a deity in his own right as a god of the Celtic Gaul, not a Roman god.
Where the pillar was found is the ancient site of Lutetia, a town of Roman-Gaul times. Lutetia is where the Parisii of Gaul lived during the Celtic Iron Age (1200 BC - 400 AD). They lived on the banks of the river Seine from the middle of the third century BC up until the Roman era. Lutetia was the chief city of Gaul and became very important to the Roman Empire. Eventually the city was named Paris.
In the depiction of Cernunnos on the pillar, he has stag antlers with a torque (armband) hanging from each one. He is portrayed as very masculine and powerful. There is another depiction of what is believed to be Cernunnos on a silver vessel dated between 200 BC and 300 AD. The vessel is called the Gundestrup Cauldron. This image shows a god with horns, surrounded by animals including a stag. The vessel was discovered in 1891 in a peat bog in Denmark. However this depiction of the Cernunnos-like god is not as masculine as the French version.
Cernunnos is associated with wild animals, especially those with horns. The stag is the animal he is most often portrayed with in Celtic literature and images. He is most often associated with the stag who populates the forest with his virility. Therefore Cernunnos is seen as a god of fertility. Besides being called the Horned God, he is often referred to as Lord of the Animals. He has several other names and is a protector of the forest. He is often called Master of the Hunt, so some neo-pagans believe that Herne the Hunter, a local god of Berkshire, England is a manifestation of Cernunnos.
There are many names and attributes associated with Cernunnos, one variation of his name is Kernunno. He is often thought of as a god who comforts the dying and sings to the dead as they are on their journey to the spiritual realms.
Cernunnos, in some traditions of the Wiccan faith, is seen as the Horned God who dies after harvest and returns in the spring to impregnate the goddess of spring who brings renewal and rebirth to the land. This, however, is a fairly new concept compared to the beliefs of ancient times.
Although Cernunnos is a god of the underworld and has horns, he is not associated with the devil as fundamentalists believe he is. The underworld does not symbolize hades and the devil. Hades is far below the underworld in an endless pit. The underworld consists of caves, tunnels, and caverns that some gods inhabit or travel in when in search of spiritual truths.
Cernunnos knows all there is to know about evil and the evil ones who harm humanity -- yet he uses this knowledge to heal, not to destroy. He will journey to the depths of hades to confront his dark side or to help others do so in order to heal.
Celtic literature relates all horned gods as Cernunnos. He is seen as a peaceful god who cared for nature and the fruitfulness of new life within nature. The Pillar of the Boatmen also links Cernunnos to those who sail the seas.
In many depictions Cernunnos has a pouch or bag that is his treasure, full of gold coins. A depiction from the Remi tribe (Gauls) of the stag vomiting golden coins also affiliates Cernunnos with material wealth and treasures.
Cernunnos was not added to the Roman pantheon after Gaul came under control of the Roman Empire -- yet some scholars do compare Cernunnos to Mercury, Actaeon, Jupiter, and Dis Pater. In both Roman and Greek mythology, Dis Pater was a god of fertility, treasures and mineral wealth who ruled the underworld with his wife Proserpina (Roman), or Persephone (Greek). At a much later time, the name Dis Pater was transformed to Hades, Lord of the Underworld. This is yet another reason why Cernunnos is erroneously seen by some as the devil.
There is some scholarly research that connects Cernunnos to the foster brother of Cuchulainn of the Tuatha de Danann. Cuchulainn's brother, Conall Cernach has the same cern root as is in the name Cernunnos -- so Conall Cernach is often seen as Cernunnos, the ancient Horned God and God of the Hunt.
Conall did have the power and masculinity of Cernunnos, yet he was not a horned god, nor was he a protector of the forest and animals within.
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