Image hosted by


"The Horned One" is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. He was worshipped all over Gaul, and his cult spread into Britain as well. Cernunnos is depicted with the antlers of a stag, sometimes carries a purse filled with coin. The Horned God is born at the winter solstice, marries the goddess at Beltane, and dies at the summer solstice. He alternates with the goddess of the moon in ruling over life and death, continuing the cycle of death, rebirth and reincarnation.

Paleolithic cave paintings found in France that depict a stag standing upright or a man dressed in stag costume seem to indicate that Cernunnos' origins date to those times. Romans sometimes portrayed him with three cranes flying above his head. Known to the Druids as Hu Gadarn. God of the underworld and astral planes. The consort of the great goddess. He was often depicted holding a bag of money, or accompanied by a ram-headed serpent and a stag. Most notably is the famous Gundestrup cauldron discovered in Denmark.

encyclopedia mythica


Cernunnos in Celtic polytheism is the deified spirit of horned male animals, especially of stags, a nature god associated with produce and fertility. As a "Horned God", Cernunnos was one of a number of similar deities found in many ancient cultures.

Contents [hide]
1 Origins
2 Etymology
3 Iconography
4 Medieval traces
5 Neo-Paganism
6 References
7 See also
8 External links

Cernunos is known, from archaeological sources such as inscriptions and depictions, to have been worshipped in Gaul, Northern Italy (Gallia Cisalpina) and the southern coast of Britain. The earliest known probable depiction of Cernunnos was found at Val Camonica in Italy, dating from the 4th century BC, while the best known depiction is on the famous Gundestrup cauldron found in Denmark and dating to the 1st century BC.

In Gallo-Roman religion, his name is known from the "Pillar of the Boatmen" ("Pilier des nautes"), a monument now displayed in the Musée Nationale du Moyen Age in Paris. It was constructed by Gallic sailors in the early 1st century AD, from the inscription (CIL XIII number 03026) probably in 14 CE on the accession of the emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero. It was found in 1710 in the foundations of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on the site of Lutetia, the civitas capital of the Celtic Parisii tribe. It depicts Cernunnos and other Celtic deities alongside Roman divinities such as Jupiter, Vulcan, Castor, and Pollux.

The Pilier des nautes provides the earliest written record of the deity's name. Additional evidence is given by two identical inscriptions on metal plaques from Seinsel-Rëlent (Luxembourg), in the territory of the Treveri. These inscriptions (AE 1987, 0772) read "Deo Ceruninco", "to the God Cerunincos". Lastly, a Gaulish inscription (RIG 1, number G-224) written in Greek letters from Montagnac (Hérault, Languedoc-Roussilion, France) reads "a??et[e?]??? ?a?????? a?[?]s?[?t]ea?" thus giving a name Carnonos.

On the Parisii inscription [_]ernunnos, the first letter of the name has been scraped off at some point, but can safely be restituted to "Cernunnos" because of the depiction of an antlered god below the name and the fact that in Gaulish, carnon or cernon means "antler" or "horn" (Delmarre, 1987 pp. 106-107). Similarly cern means "horn" or "bumb, boss" in Old Irish and is etymologically related to similar words carn in Welsh and Breton. These derive from a proto-Indo-European root *krno- which also gave the Latin cornu and Germanic *hurnaz (from which English "horn") (Nussbaum 1986) (Porkorny 1959 pp.574-576). The same Gaulish root is found in the names of tribes such as the Carnutes, Carni, and Carnonacae and in the name of the Gaulish war trumpet, the carnyx. Therefore, the Proto-Celtic form of this theonym can be reconstructed as either *Cerno-on-os or *Carno-on-os, both meaning "horned masculine deity". The -on- is frequently, but not exclusively, found in theonyms (examples: Map-on-os, Ep-on-a, Matr-on-a, Sir-on-a). Following accepted Celtic sound laws, the Romano-British form of this Proto-Celtic theonym is likely to have been *Cernonos or *Carnonos both directly comparable to the Gaulish form Cernunnos.


Depiction of Cernunnos from the Gundestrup cauldron.The depictions of Cernunnos are strikingly consistent throughout the Celtic world. His most distinctive attribute are his stag's horns, and he is usually portrayed as a mature man with long hair and a beard. He wears a torc, an ornate neck-ring used by the Celts to denote nobility. He often carries other torcs in his hands or hanging from his horns, as well as a purse filled with coins. He is usually portrayed seated and cross-legged, in a position which some have interpreted as meditative or shamanic, although it may only reflect the fact that the Celts squatted on the floor when hunting.

Cernunnos is nearly always portrayed with animals, in particular the stag. He is also frequently associated with a unique beast that seems to belong primarily to him: a serpent with the horns of a ram. This creature may have been a deity in its own right. Less often he is associated with other beasts, including at Reims bulls, dogs and rats. Because of his frequent association with beasts scholars often describe Cernunnos as the "Lord of the Animals" or the "Lord of Wild Things". Because of his association with stags in particular (a particularly hunted beast) he is also described as the "Lord of the Hunt". Interestingly, the Pilier des nautes links him with sailors and with commerce, suggesting that he was also associated with material wealth as does the coin pouch from the Cernunnos of Reims (Marne, Champagne, France) - in antiquity, Durocortorum, the civitas capital of the Remi tribe - and the stag vomiting coins from Niedercorn-Turbelslach (Luxembourg) in the lands of the Treveri.

Medieval traces
Traces of the god survived well into Christian times. The literary traditions of both Wales and Ireland contain allusions to him, while in Brittany the legendary saint Korneli (or Cornély) at Carnac has attributes of Cernunnos. It has also been suggested that the English myth of Herne the Hunter is an allusion to Cernunnos, though this seems doubtful as Herne is thought to be a survival of Saxon, rather than Celtic, beliefs and is first mentioned in 1597 in the play The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 4, Scene 4, by Shakespeare

In the modern Neo-Pagan movements, of which Wicca is the most notable, the worship of the Horned God has been revived. The adherents generally follow the life-fertility-death cycle for Cernunnos, though his death is now usually set at Samhain, the Celtic New Year Festival usually taking place on October 31.

A major difference between the historical and the Neopagan versions of Cernunnos is that the latter tends to figure phallic symbolism, merged in from Pan and from the Eliphas Levi depiction of Baphomet.

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) volume 13, number 03026
Delmarre, Xavier (2003) Dictionnarie de la langue gauloise (2nd ed.) Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
Lejeune, Michel (1995) Receuil des Inscriptions Gauloise (RIG) volume 1, Textes gallo-grecs. Paris: Editions du CNRS
Nussbaum, Alan J. (1986) Head and Horn in Indo-European, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110104490
Porkorny, Julius (1959) Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch Berlin: Franke Verlag