Reply To: Cernunnos

The British Druid Order Forums BDO Public Forum Cernunnos Reply To: Cernunnos


    I must say that you are remarkably well informed Dowrgi, that is some useful information.

    Thanks, I’m glad you’ve found some of my insights useful, not that I’m claiming to have the last word by any means.

    With regard to Cernunnos, we could write zillions of words on him …

    Reading through what you wrote again, I’d be careful with the Caverne Des Trois Freres image. Do we actually know that it represents a stag deity of some kind? The actual image, I’m sorry to say, is quite disappointing when you see it and it’s rather hard to make out, unlike the drawing that was made. I’ve always thought that image might represent a “shaman” of some kind – perhaps a hunt imitation ritual.

    Re the Roman interpretation, Cernunnos has been indeed been likened to Dis Pater, Mars and Mercury (Woden?), but is all the more interesting in that he was the one Gaulish deity that the Romans didn’t Romanise or that resisted synchretism. He’s also one of the deities who seems to have had a recognisable image before Roman iconography came into play.

    The Celtic Cornovii/Cornavii are problematic in terms of their location, identity and name. The “people of the horn” is the usual etymology given, and would explain their geographical location in Sutherland and Cornwall, however the “main” Cornovii tribe lived in the Shropshire area and only later appeared connected to Cornwall, Kernow, the name of which may be connected. Were they perhaps a sub-tribe of the Dumnonii? The Damnonii also appear in Scotland and their name may mean the “Stag People”. Were these names perhaps poorly understood by the Romans? Horn People, Stag People, perhaps the same people(s)?

    Do we know that the Val Camonica image was definitely a deity and, if so, definitely meant to be Cernunnos. I know it could seem a bit cynical, but these are the questions we need to ask. As for Herne, I thought the earliest text evidence we have from was indeed from Shakespeare, although I do remember Robin of Sherwood too, a series I really liked as child. The thing is, elk, reindeer and stag are fairly ubiquitous and to early hunter-gathers and their later descendants, it would seem a no-brainer that the animal would hold a special place in terms of reverence – that doesn’t mean they were the same, though – at least that’s what an academic would argue. On the other hand, the more spiritual argument could be that the great spirit of nature reveals itself to all peoples in their time and place in a way that they can understand, the name is not really important.

    Do you think that the Celts influenced the Vikings? I think the connection with Woden also bears further investigation.

    I’d be careful here, what we know of Norse, Irish and Welsh mythology comes from Medieval Christian scribes, and thanks to them, we have a lot of material, but we also need to watch out for interpolations, error, misunderstanding and so on. The Norse materials, in particular, can be quite contradictory at times, so as a window on the Iron Age, or pre-Christian and pre-Roman beliefs, caution is advised.

    The Viking Age was a relatively short and revolutionary period in Norse/North Germanic history and there was indeed interaction, both violent and peaceful, with the Celtic peoples of Britain and Ireland, so I would not exclude an influence. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but somewhere or other there are a couple of Norse legends with magical severed heads, including Mimir’s head carried by Odin similar to that of Bendigeidfran or Brân the Blessed, and they may well indicate a Celtic influence. However, I think in terms of what we’re talking about, we have to go much further back. The so-called Celtic/Gaulish and Germanic peoples lived in close proximity, interacted with each other, spoke languages that descended from the same Indo-European proto-language and had belief systems that would have, at least in part, had similar Indo-European roots. Moreover, their geographical proximity and the similarities in their material cultures and environments would all strongly support a view that at least some common origins, archetypes and influences are to be found there.

    Anyway, when I have more time, I’ll post some stuff on Gwydion and Woden and, I must say, I’m enjoying this conversation a lot. Very interesting indeed …