Cernunnos: Wikis


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Depiction of Cernunnos from the Pilier des nautes, Paris, France.

Cernunnos (also Cernenus[1] and Cern) is a pagan Celtic god whose representations were widespread in the ancient Celtic lands of western Europe. As a horned god, Cernunnos is associated with horned male animals, especially stags and the ram-horned snake; this and other attributes associate him with produce and fertility.[2] Cernunnos is also associated mainly as the God of the Underworld.

Everything that we know about this deity comes from two inscriptions from France and one from Germany.[3]



A rock carving of Cernunnos in the National park of Naquane, Italy.[4]
Cernunnos was proposed to have been identified as the illustration on the Snake-witch picture stone, which shows a possibly horned figure holding snakes in his/her hands, from Gotland, Sweden.

Archaeological sources such as inscriptions and depictions from Gaul and Northern Italy (Gallia Cisalpina) have been used to define Cernunnos.

The first artifact found to identify Cernunnos was the "Pillar of the Boatmen" (Pilier des nautes), a monument now displayed in the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris. It was constructed by Gaulish sailors in the early first century CE, from the inscription (CIL XIII number 03026) probably in the year 14, on the accession of the emperor Tiberius. It was found in 1710 in the foundations of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on the site of Lutetia, the civitas capital of the Celtic Parisii tribe. It depicts Cernunnos and other Celtic deities alongside Roman divinities such as Jupiter, Vulcan, Castor, and Pollux, a combination suggestive of a Gallo-Roman religion.

On the Parisii inscription [_]ernunnos, the first letter of the name has been scraped off at some point, but can safely be restituted to "Cernunnos" because of the depiction of an antlers in the image below the name and that in Gaulish, carnon or cernon means "antler" or "horn".[5]

Additional evidence is given by two identical inscriptions on metal plaques from Steinsel-Rëlent in Luxembourg, in the territory of the Celtic Treveri tribe. These inscriptions (AE 1987, 0772) read Deo Ceruninco, "to the God Cerunincos". Lastly, a Gaulish inscription (RIG 1, number G-224) written in Greek letters from Montagnac (Hérault, Languedoc-Roussilion, France) reads αλλετ[ει]υος καρνονου αλ[ι]σο[ντ]εας thus giving the name "Carnonos".

Several images without inscriptions are thought to represent Cernunnos. The earliest known probable depiction of Cernunnos was found at Val Camonica in Italy, dating from the 4th century BC, while the best known depiction is on the Gundestrup cauldron found on Jutland, dating to the 1st century BC. The Cauldron was likely to have been stolen by the Germanic Cimbri tribe or another tribe that inhabited Jutland as it originated from south east Europe.

Etymological derivations

God of Etang-sur-Arroux, a possible depiction of Cernunnos. He wears a torc at the neck and on the chest. Two snakes with ram heads encircle him at the waist. Two cavities at the top of his head are probably designed to receive deer horns. Two small human faces at the back of his head indicate that he is tricephalic. Musée d'Archéologie Nationale.

Cern means "horn" or "bumb, boss" in Old Irish and is etymologically related to similar words carn in Welsh and Breton, and is the probable derivation of "Kernow" (Cornwall), meaning horn'[of land]'. These are thought by some linguists to derive from a Proto-Indo-European root *krno- which also gave the Latin cornu and Germanic *hurnaz (from which English "horn") (Nussbaum 1986) (Porkorny 1959 pp. 574-576).

The same Gaulish root is found in the names of tribes such as the Carnutes, Carni, and Carnonacae and in the name of the Gaulish war trumpet, the carnyx. The Proto-Celtic form of this theonym is reconstructed as either *Cerno-on-os or *Carno-on-os, both meaning "great horned one". (The augmentative -on- is frequently, but not exclusively, found in theonyms, for example: Map-on-os, Ep-on-a, Matr-on-ae, Sir-on-a.)


The depictions of Cernunnos are strikingly consistent throughout the Celtic world. 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 a position which some have interpreted as meditative or shamanic, although it may only reflect the fact that the Celts squatted on the ground when hunting.

Cernunnos is nearly always portrayed with animals, in particular the stag. He is also frequently associated with a unique beast that seems to belong primarily to him: a serpent with the horns of a ram. This creature may have been a deity in its own right. He is associated with other beasts less frequently, including bulls (at Rheims), dogs, and rats. Because of his frequent association with creatures, scholars often describe Cernunnos as the "Lord of the Animals" or the "Lord of Wild Things", and Miranda Green describes him as a "peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness".[6] Because of his association with stags (a particularly hunted beast) he is also described as the "Lord of the Hunt". Interestingly, the Pilier des nautes links him with sailors and with commerce, suggesting that he was also associated with material wealth as does the coin pouch from the Cernunnos of Rheims (Marne, Champagne, France)—in antiquity, Durocortorum, the civitas capital of the Remi tribe—and the stag vomiting coins from Niedercorn-Turbelslach (Luxembourg) in the lands of the Treveri. The god may have symbolised the fecundity of the stag-inhabited forest.


Detail of the antlered figure depicted on plate A of the cauldron

In Wicca and other forms of Neopaganism a Horned God is revered; this divinity syncretises a number of horned or antlered gods from various cultures, including Cernunnos. The Horned God reflects the seasons of the year in an annual cycle of life, death and rebirth.[7]

In the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca, the Horned God is sometimes specifically referred to as Cernunnos, or sometimes also as Kernunno[8].

Modern Druidry, which derives from Celtic culture, honors Cernunnos in his ancient Celto-European form as the guardian of the forests, the defender of the animal tuatha (tribes), the source of the deep forest wisdom, and the masculine half of creative energy. His restorative work in the cycle of the year is particularly celebrated at Beltane / Beltaine, and is often paired with one or another of the female deities in her maiden aspect. Druids may call upon him in reference to vital, non-violent masculine divinity.


  1. ^ - variant of the name, Cernenus was discovered ...
  2. ^ Green, Miranda (1992). Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. Routledge. pp. 227–8.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Umberto Sansoni-Silvana Gavaldo, L'arte rupestre del Pià d'Ort: la vicenda di un santuario preistorico alpino, p. 156; "Ausilio Priuli, Piancogno su "Itinera"" (in italian). Retrieved 02-04-2009.  .
  5. ^ Delmarre, 1987 pp. 106-107
  6. ^ Green, Miranda (1992) Animals in Celtic Life and Myth, p. 228.
  7. ^ Farrar, Stewart & Janet, Eight Sabbats for Witches
  8. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente, page 52-53
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) volume 13, number 03026
  • Delmarre, Xavier (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (2nd ed.) Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
  • Lejeune, Michel (1995) Recueil des inscriptions gauloises (RIG) volume 1, Textes gallo-grecs. Paris: Editions du CNRS
  • Nussbaum, Alan J. (1986) Head and Horn in Indo-European, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-010449-0
  • Porkorny, Julius (1959) Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch Berlin: Franke Verlag

See also

External links

Simple English

[[File:|right|Cernunnos|thumb|A picture of Cernunnos from the Pilier des nautes, Paris, France.]] Cernunnos (also spelt as Cernenus[1] and Cern) is a Pagan Celtic God from the ancient Celtic lands of western Europe.

Cernunnos is linked with male animals with horns, especially stags (a type of animal). Because of this, he is linked with fertility.[2] Cernunnos is also seen as God of the Underworld.

Everything that we know about Cernunnos comes from two pictures; one from France, and one from Germany.[3]


  1. - variant of the name, Cernenus was discovered ...
  2. Green, Miranda (1992). Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. Routledge. pp. 227–8. 

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