As season would dictate, this week we honor He Who is King of the Underworld, Cernunnos! Cernunnos is the conventional name given in Celtic worship to the Horned God. In the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca, started by Gerald Gardner in England in the 1950s, the Horned God is sometimes also referred to as Kernunno. Cernunnos is the god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. A god labelled Cernunnos on the ‘Pillar of the Boatmen’, a relief now on exhibit at the Muse National du Moyen Age in Paris, dates back to 1 C.E., and is depicted with stag’s antlers in their early stage of annual growth. In this relief, he is also seen to be holding a living bull-headed snake in his left hand, representing the Underworld.
In Wicca and other forms of Neopaganism, the Horned God, is revered as one of many timeless deities upon which to call for blessings and interventions. The Horned God reflects the seasons of the year in an annual cycle of life, death and rebirth. At this time of the calendar year, we as Pagans, and Wiccans more specifically, are also readying ourselves for the long winter that is coming. We have, in our worship, acknowledged the Death of the God of the Harvest at Autumn Equinox (Mabon), marking his journey into the Underworld where he resides until he is reborn at Winter Solstice (Yule). Then, at the Spring Equinox (Oestara), as a strong and nimble youth, we gather to plant seeds for growth, as He will grow into adulthood and become the Lord of the Hunt or Lord of the Wild Things. He will unite and procreate with the Lady of All in her maiden form on May Day (Beltane), and impregnate Her with his ‘replacement’. She then becomes the Mother, and He assumes his role as the Holly King, reigning in strength and vigor until His power begins to decline after the Summer Solstice (Litha). Once again, we celebrate our coming harvest, His glory, and His sacrifice at Lughnasaad (Lammas), that we might make it through the coming winter. This cycle of birth, death, and rebirth culminates in His death at Fall Equinox (Mabon), and he travels once again to the Underworld to rule until his rebirth. Thus, His role is crucial to the continuation of life and growth on this planet.
Many of the ancient Gods have been all but forgotten, but the mythos of Cernunnos has withstood the tests and ravages of time to be brought forth into the 21st century. Thus, while Modern Wicca is a ‘new’ religion, it has its roots in ancient traditions. To check out more on this fascinating God, visit your local library or buy one of many books available on Celtic Gods and Goddesses.
May Cernunnos keep you warm, fed, and safe this coming winter!