Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fun with Cernunnos (vaguely nsfw)


So, in lieu of writing, I've been doing art. This began with redoing the Ninefold Oracle, and went on to the Traveling Magic thingy. Now I'm dredging up more stuff from my sketchbooks. I don't consider myself a 'good' artist, but I can make stuff that pleases me, and that means I'll show it to you : ).
The first (and most recent) one is my shot at a figure that properly reflects ancient models:



Cernunnos was one of the first of the ancient gods to receive my earnest worship. Understanding him based on Huson and Gardner, the combination of wild-forest and Underworld vibe was juicy for a young magician.

Just to get the basics out of the way, I'll quote myself from FB:

"The Antlered God is depicted in Romano-Celtic statuary in central and coastal Gaul and into Roman Britain. We call him 'Cernunnos' (meaning, more literally 'the pointy one') because of a single inscription, and because Gardner adopted the name for the 'devil' of his witch-cult.

The Antlered God is usually depicted cross-legged (the Celtic position of feasting and socializing) with deer's antlers. He is always shown clothed, and there are no phallic depictions of Cernunnos. Likewise, almost no Celtic god is depicted with the head or hooves of an animal, including Cernunnos.

Cernunnos is never shown as a hunter, or with weapons or hunting tools. He bears and wears torcs - often multiple torcs - and is accompanied by the mysterious ram-headed serpent. I take the latter to represent the fertility power of the Underworld.

The Underworld Power of wealth and growth seems the central theme of the figure, to me. He is depicted with bags or cauldrons of wealth, and surrounded by the symbols of wealth - the cow and the deer. I find it likely that he represents a vision of the Fertility Father."

For a very nice review of what we know and guess about this interesting Celtic deity, read Cei Serith's excellent article.
That's the roots of the matter.

The Gundestrup Cernunnos - in many ways the seminal
source for modern depictions.

A Romano-Celtic hunting deity,
with hound.
In the folkloric rehash of the mid-twentieth-century Pagan and witchcraft revival, this obscure Celtic figure was rediscovered and melded with both Pan and with the English folkloric tale of 'Herne', the huntsman of Windsor Park. There is some slim chance that the Saxon name Herne is related to british roots connected with 'cern', but otherwise the only link is the presence of antlers in Herne's tale. There are hunter gods in Romano-Celtic statuary, but they are never antlered and have no connection with Cernunnos.

Levi's Baphomet, the
Goat-god of the witch's
sabbath.
As I was entering Pagan work the image of Cernunnos had been very much merged both with traditional depictions of the Hindu Shiva and with Victorian notions of Pan, as well as with Levi's Baphomet. He was often depicted seated cross-legged, his Ram-headed serpent mixed with Shiva's snakes, and the subtle caduceus-phallus of Baphomet becomes the plain depiction of the Roman Pan and satyroi figures. The example that really sticks in my mind is Oberon Zell's full-page telesmatic figure of the god, probably from somewhere like 1968. That image is surprisingly difficult to find on the internets...


So when I drew my own figure in  late 1980s I had no issue with drawing the above. I never went for the 'Hunter' thing, and preferred to stick to the Gundestrup basics. For me, by the late 80s, the witch's Cernunnos was afigure that combined Shiva's teaching of sorcery and mysticism with the forest and wildlife symbolism of Cernunnos, and a strong inclination to view the original Celtic Cernunnos as the God of the Underworld. In this I was certainly influenced by witchcraft mythology, and I'm really still sorting it all out


This is like the full monty of syncretic Cernunnos-in-my-head. I'll probably stick with the top image, the nicely correct one (once I flip the hands...) but I still dig this one.

May wealth rise from the deep, and plenty flow in from the wild, and may we praise the Antlered God for the Blessing!



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