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Ch.17 Cernunnos (WMB 17.a)

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @


Chapter 17 - Cernunnos - part a

In Wicca the dynamic polarity and interplay of the goddess and the horned god through the seasons is at the heart of the celebrations. The Gallic Celtic horned god Cernunnos quickly became accepted as the horned god of Wicca. The meaning of his name is commonly taken as ’horned one’, though some older texts give variants of this such as ’horned spear’ which may have been superseded as our knowledge of the ancient languages increases.

Cernunnos as a possible candidate for the position of god of the witches was made popular by Margaret Murray in her book The God of the Witches (1933). The inclusion of Cernunnos, a Celtic-Gallic god, as the male companion and partner to Aradia, has been criticised as being an inappropriate mixture of pantheons and as a highly unlikely match by some. Regardless of how implausible this appears to be, it is not so when we take into consideration that the tribes we now collectively refer to as the Celts, moved around a great deal. The idea became even less far fetched when we discovered that an inscription to Cernunnos was found at Polenza in Northern Italy and what could be considered a very early depiction of him was found in Val Camonica, also in Northern Italy. The depiction at Val Camonica was described by Anne Ross in Pagan Celtic Britain:

“Here the stag-god, Cernunnos, is portrayed in a standing posture, wearing a long garment, and having his feet turned in. He wears a torc the magico-religious significance of which is well known, over both his right and left arm, while some attribute, no doubt the horned serpent, can be distinguished beside his left elbow. From his head spring tall antlers.”

This image which dates from around the fourth century BCE, does not depict the god as being phallic, as he is often shown in modern depictions, rather it shows the worshipper as being so in an exaggerated manner.

Cernunnos is a horned god associated with nature and animals, and he is also known as ’Lord of all Wild Things’. His name is usually taken as being derived from a piece of altar found in Notre Dame (Paris) dating to 17 CE which reads ERNUNNO, and depicts a bull-horned god, not the stag-horned god of the Gundestrup Cauldron.

"'Tis no Rarity to meet with horned Gods in Paganism : such was Jupiter Ammon, Pan the Fauns, the Satyrs, &c. But this Gallic God is known under the Name of Cernunnos, only since the Discovery of the Bas-relief of Notre-DameChurch. Thus we need not be surprised if the Learned, both in France and Germany, who have attempted to explain these Monuments, differ so much from one another with respect to this God; the two most probable sentiments upon this Subject, are that of the Author of the History of the Religion of the Gauls, and that of M.Eccart. The former takes Cernunnos to have been a rural God, who among our ancient Gauls presided over Hunter, as Alces, or Alics, according to Tacitus, was the God of the same exercise in the Province of ancient Germany, which was possessed by Nabarvali. The strongest Argument which he brings in Support of his Opinion is that the Horns of Cernunnos, the Diadem which he wears upon one of his Figures, and the Animals which holds in his Hand upon that of Chazelles, are all Characters of a God of Hunting, as justified by several figures of Diana, the Goddess of the same exercise among the Greeks and Romans, where we find all these Symbols. M. Eccart thinks this God represents Bacchus, or Dionysius, an Opinion which wants not Probability; but after all, can he flatter himself that he has discovered what was the fettled Opinion the Gauls had concerning a God who is so little known even at present.

To conclude, the Name of Cernunnos, is composed of two Celtic Words, whereof the first Cern, imports a Horn, and the second Yna, or Ona, a Spear.”[1]

[1] The Mythology and Fables of the Ancients, Antoine Banier, 1739

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.



My name is Sorita d'Este

and this is my website and blog!  Thanks for visiting - I hope you are finding what you are looking for!


Many years ago I dedicated myself to the pursuit of both esoteric knowledge, and an understanding of polytheism, the Gods and Nature.  I have been a full-time writer, author and publisher, specialising subjects linked to the occult, witchcraft, Paganism, mythology, ancient religions and magic - and all kinds of things in between since 2003. 


I live on a hill in Glastonbury, overlooking the marshes of Somerset,  a place of myth and legend, and a crossroad for many different religions. Here I am frequently found digging and growing, serving my fluffy rescue cat and navigating the unknown with my teenage son.  

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