Due to the weird vision, daydream who-knows-what-it-was that happened in the last post, I feel like I need to honour my process and research about horned deities. Why? I don’t know! I’m trying to follow my gut these days, so bear with me. Here goes…
The Stag Horn
Cernunnos : Celtic
Because of his frequent association with beasts he is often referred to as The Lord of the Animals. Because of his association with stags in particular (a particularly hunted beast) he is also known as The Lord of the Hunt.
The Stag Lord, The Horned God of the Hunt, The Lord of the Forest…of all the Celtic divinities (with the exception of Danu) none has caught the imagination of modern pagans so much as Old Horny himself.
The Song of Amergin
I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?
Origin obscure but certainly Celtic
Pashupati : India
The origins of the Celts are obscure, but it has been suggested that they lie far to the East around the Indo-European Plateau. If so, we should not be so surprised to find ancient gods there who might be cousins of our own local horned deity. This ancient image came from Mohenjo Daro, in the North-West of modern India on the River Indus, and is believed to have been made around 2,000 BC. It is thought to be the seated figure of a very early version of Pashupati, the Lord of the Animals in Hindu mythology, peacefully surrounded by his beasts.
The resemblance is striking.
Of all of the Gods that we honor in Paganism today probably the most revered is the Horned God, in the shape and form of Cernunnos. Pick up some modern Pagan literature and chances are he is in there, listen to conversation at a Moot and you will hear him mentioned, surf the net and you will find him in hundreds of sites. Yet a place where he is not often sought is in a land which is home to a thousand Gods and Goddesses, the mysterious land of India. Deep in India’s ancient past we find a God which could be the Horned God in his original form, preceding Cernunnos, Hu Gadern, Pan and Herne, that of the Horned God of the Indus Valley, Pashupati.
In his immediate surroundings are five types of animals. What these animals actually are is debatable, as it is difficult to say with absolute certainty. A couple of the animals which can be correctly identified, without debate, are those of the stag and the horned serpent. The stag on his right-hand side stands very close to him, which suggests a strong connection to the animal and like Cernunnos the stag has seven tines on each antler, totaling in fourteen. In his left hand Cernunnos is holding a horned serpent which also appears on another two of the interior panels on the Gundestrup Cauldron, while in his right-hand he is holding a torque. Another of the animals next to him on his left appears to be either a dog or a wolf. The cause of more discussion has been the identifying of another of the other animals in the immediate proximity of Cernunnos, which scholars believe to be either a boar or a lion. The last of the five animals near Cernunnos looks to be a bull.
on the Gundestrup Cauldron
If we examine the Pashupati seals we find a very similar scene. Again we find the horned God in a yogic posture surrounded by animals. These are thought to be a tiger, a rhinoceros, an elephant, a bull and below him is the musk deer. Also, on some of these seals we find that the God’ s penis is visibly erect and the testicles prominent. The seat that Pashupati is on supported by two appears to be hour-glass shaped double drums known as ‘damaru‘. In Asia today these drums are often associated with Indus Valley script, its secrets remaining a mystery.
Valley Seal of Pashupati
When the image of Cernunnos from the Gundestrup Cauldron is compared with the images of Pashupati from the Indus Valley seals a great degree of resemblance is very evident. Yet how deep do the similarities run and can any deductions be made from them? The most striking of the similarities in the images of the horned Gods is the posture. Cernunnos is often referred to a being in a ‘lotus posture’ on the Gundestrup Cauldron. The lotus posture, referred to in India as ‘padmasana‘ (padma-lotus + asana – seat or posture), is a yogic posture which allows the back to remain comfortably upright during meditation and minimizes any risk of loss of balance. On the Pashupati seals we find the horned God in a similar posture. According to one of my research associates on the interrelationship between Pagan and yogic religion, Dr. Jonn Mumford (Swami Anandakapila Saraswati), Pashupati is sitting in a yoga posture called ‘Gorakshasana‘ , the cowherd posture. In this posture the heels are positioned underneath the genitals, a yogic technique known as ‘bandha‘, which forms a muscular lock in this region. This technique is said to be an advanced Tantric technique which is used to help redirect energy to the Muladhara (root) chakra and up the Sushumna. This has suggested to researchers that the people of the Indus Valley were possibly early Tantrics. In other seals the posture is the same, the only difference being that instead of feet, like Pan, Pashupati has hoofs.
Herne the Hunter : English folklore
In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. His appearance is notable in the fact that he has antlers upon his head.
The first literary mention of Herne is in William Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, though there are several theories attempting to place the origins of Herne as predating any evidence for him by connecting his appearance to pagan deities or ancient archetypes.
Various theories have been proposed to account for the origin of the character, none of which has been proved conclusive, and the source for many of the tales told of Herne remain unknown.
In his 1929 book The History of the Devil – The Horned God of the West Herne R. Lowe Thompson suggests that “Herne” as well as other Wild Huntsmen in European folklore all derive from the same ancient source, citing that “Herne” may be a cognate of the name of Gaulish deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English “horn” is a cognate of the Latin “cornu” (see Grimm’s Law for more details on this linguistic feature). Some modern Neopagans such as Wiccans accept Lowe Thompson’s equation of Herne with Cernunnos (which they further connect to the Greco-Roman god Pan). Herne however is a localised figure, not found outside Berkshire and the regions of the surrounding counties into which Windsor Forest once spread. Clear evidence for the worship of Cernunnos has however been recovered only on the European mainland, and not in Britain. “Herne” is clearly derived ultimately from the same Indo-European root, *ker-n-, meaning bone or horn from which “Cernunnos” derives. However a more direct source is the Old English hyrne, meaning “horn” or “corner”, which is inconsistent with the Cernunnos theory.
In the Early Middle Ages, Windsor Forest came under the control of the pagan Angles who worshiped their own pantheon of gods, including Woden, who was sometimes depicted as horned, and whose Norse equivalent Odin rode across the night sky with his own Wild Hunt and hanged himself on the world tree Yggdrasil to learn the secret of the runic alphabet. It has been suggested that the name Herne is derived from the title Herian, a title used for Woden in his role as leader of fallen warriors (Old Norse Einherjar). Another Wild Hunt-associated folkloric figure, King Herla, started as the Old English Herla cyning, a figure that is usually said to be Woden, but was later re-imagined by Walter Map in literature as a Brythonic king (see Herla article) who after traveling to an Otherworld returns to find his lands inhabited by Englishmen, has a name that has also been connected to Herian and thus also possibly to Herne.
Both Shakespeare and Samuel Ireland identify Herne as a real historical individual, the latter saying that he died an unholy death of the type that might have given rise to tales of hauntings by his unquiet spirit. The fact that Herne is apparently a purely local figure supports this theory. One possibility is that Herne is supposed to be the ghost of Richard Horne, a yeoman during the reign of Henry VIII who was caught poaching in the wood. This suggestion was first made by James Halliwell-Phillipps, who identified a document listing Horne as a “hunter” who had confessed to poaching. The earliest edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor spells the name “Horne”.
Here’s a beautifully written, syncretic version of the HG, mixing in Cenrnunos, Herne, Aurthur of the round table and at least Robin Hood and the Holly/Oak King – though I think there are a few others in there too – into one very compelling Being.
The Horned God: An Unofficial Autobiography
So, at first I ruled as the stag and God of the Hunt; invoked with blood and sweat and the chase. I led the hunt through the forest and it was I who bent the branches to scratch and tear and cut. For without effort, what is the point of life? Without hunger, what would feed the spirit? Without need, all life would die. So, their sorcerer stood in bloodied skins, and raised his hands and called my name. Then he fell to the ground and skin became fur, and feet became hooves. Blood gushed as my antlers pushed through bone and sinew to arise with seven tines, one for each of the moving lights within the blackness above. Stood before them, I held my head proud and tall – none met my gaze, they just breathed the stench of death and the copper taint in the blood-filled air. They breathed this and it filled them with the hunger, ready to face their own death in order to feed the tribe. Drums suddenly filled the silence, and the hunters danced my dance, invoking my spirit into their bodies; giving me more life, and more power until, proud in full erect manhood I screamed my name again and again, and they span around the fire, their throats calling with the guttural call of the rutting stag, telling its spirit that the tribe must live! And it must die for the tribe! Then in an instant they were gone – as the drums suddenly stopped they disappeared into the forest without a sound.
The Goat Horn
Janicot : Basque
the Basque Janicot or Janus, the horned god of fertility, otherwise known as lord of the woods. He was the god of the oak, of doorways and the Wheel of the Year.
and a little darker Janicot
In Greek religion and mythology, Pan (Greek: Πᾶν, Pān) is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. His name originates within the Ancient Greek language, from the word paein (πάειν), meaning “to pasture.” He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.
In Roman religion and myth, Pan’s counterpart was Faunus, a nature god who was the father of Bona Dea, sometimes identified as Fauna. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pan became a significant figure in the Romantic movement of western Europe, and also in the 20th-century Neopagan movement.
The Strange Triumph of Cernunnos over Pan
Cernunnos is an enigma. There are many images of him but no stories or myths. Can you name a Cernunnos tale that you read in elementary school? If you can, you are an incredible person, because none exist, unless they’ve been written relatively recently. Can you recite a few lines from your favorite Cernunnos poem? Maybe something from the 19th Century that you were forced to read in high school? Again, you can’t, because they don’t exist.
Now those myths and stories and poems are there for Pan. I’ve been reading Pan mythology since the second grade. I was familiar with Pan and Syrinx before I read a Judy Blume book. Pan shows up countless times in 19th Century literature, eventually owning the century and its poets; becoming one of the most written about deities in all of English literature. Most of us were forced to read Pan in High School, he shows up in Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and numerous other poets. Pan was a rock star (on and off) for nearly 2500 years, Cernunnos wasn’t written about with any regularity until the 1930′s…