Cernunnos is a mysterious deity of the ancient Celts and Gauls. To Wiccans, he is The Horned God. Not much is known about his traditional role or worship, but scholars have pieced together some information about where he came from and what he does.
Today, Cernunnos is considered a god of fertility and the wilderness. Sometimes called the “Lord of Wild Things,” most of what we know about him today comes from fragmented knowledge and depictions on artifacts like the Gundestrup cauldron.
Within Gaulish culture, he is variously interpreted as a god of animals, nature, fertility, commerce, or travel.
He is depicted on the Pillar of the Boatmen, a Roman column built in what is now Paris. It was made in honor of Jupiter (the Roman equivalent of Zeus) and is one of the earliest pieces of representational art to have an inscription.
Though it’s dedicated to Jupiter, it also has a relief of Cernunnos and the title “Cernunnos.” Part of this inscription has been damaged since the pillar’s discovery, so only “ernunnos” remains.
The accompanying figure is a man with stag’s antlers that have a set of torcs (a kind of necklace or collar made of a stiff metal ring) hanging from them.
The lower body of the figure is obliterated, but the dimensions and posture suggest that it was sitting cross-legged.
The Gundestrup cauldron is another significant depiction of Cernunnos. It’s a silver vessel from 150-1 BCE, richly decorated with human figures.
One of the interior plates bears an image of a seated, cross-legged male figure with antlers. He holds a torc in one hand, and a ram-horned serpent in the other.
Cernunnos isn’t the only deity or legendary figure depicted with antlers. Despite the lack of written records about his associations or worship, scholars have been able to deduce some of his functions based on other uses of iconography similar to his.
For example, horns and antlers are often used as a visual cue for aggression, wildness, and virility. The name Cernunnos is rooted in the Gaulish word karnon, which translates to “antler” or “horn.”
The connection of antlers and horns to fertility comes from horned animals in rutting season. Stags sport antlers during their breeding season and use them in combat with other stags.
Once breeding season’s over, they shed their antlers and re-grow them again for the next breeding season. Cernunnos’ broad, spreading antlers illustrate his virility and power. The addition of the torcs denote a high status.
Today, Cernunnos has become a kind of figurehead for all deities of virility and the “divine masculine,” particularly in Wicca.
He is a syncretization of multiple horned gods of antiquity and serves as a consort of the Great Goddess. He is also sometimes called the Lord to the Goddess’ Lady.
Symbols & Associations
Cernunnos is associated with virility, the forest, wildness, and animals. His symbols are:
- Torcs, a symbol of high rank.
- Antlers or horns.
- A serpent with ram’s horns.
- Other wild animals, particularly those who dwell in the forest.
The lack of written legend about Cernunnos means that there isn’t much to go on when it comes to deciphering his powers. Unlike Greek and Roman deities, for example, there aren’t libraries of legends talking about Cernunnos’ deeds.
It can be deduced that he has power over wild animals and fecundity. His inclusion on the Pillar of the Boatmen also suggests that he may have had some protective power over sailors, merchants, or tradespeople.
The existence of the Pillar of the Boatmen and Gundestrup cauldron suggest that Cernunnos is appreciative of art and creative works. This is probably a good place to start when it comes to figuring out what to offer him.
Other than that, it’s probably best to use a healthy amount of intuition. As a deity of animals and the wilderness, he’s also likely to appreciate:
- Fresh fruits.
- Grains or seeds.
- Fresh water.
- Wine, mead, or beer.
- Cakes or breads.
Signs Cernunnos is Calling You
Cernunnos may be calling you if you feel drawn to the forest or wild animals. If you feel compelled to spend more time in nature, or develop a deeper connection to it, he might be trying to make himself known to you.
The appearance of stags or serpents in your dreams can also be a sign from Cernunnos.
Since he’s a symbol of virility, a heightened sex drive may be another call from him.
You might also cross paths with Cernunnos’ iconography. If you find yourself spotting references to him over and over, he might be trying to get your attention.
Crystals Associated with Cernunnos
Cernunnos isn’t traditionally associated with crystals, but many modern Pagans enjoy connecting to deities through specific stones. Some crystals tied to Cernunnos are:
- All green stones, like emerald, moss agate, or fluorite.
- Fossilized plant matter, like jet or petrified wood.
- Clear quartz.
Herbs Associated with Cernunnos
The herbs most often associated with Cernunnos are:
If you don’t have access to these, you can also work with herbs that are at their peak during deer rutting season (typically autumn).
Working with Cernunnos
You can work with Cernunnos by learning all you can about the people and historical context he came from. Discover what he meant to them and see how you can apply that knowledge to your own life.
You can also use divination to try to connect with Cernunnos. Consider using augury (divination by the flight of birds) or other forms of divination that involve the natural world.
If you have the space, try making an altar to him. It’s best to do this outdoors if at all possible. Find a nice, peaceful spot. Sow native flowers around it to attract pollinators and other wild things.
Decorate it with images of Cernunnos, stags, or serpents. Place a water vessel and an offering bowl there. (It’s best to use shallow dishes for these, so animals can benefit from the food and water you put down.)
Spend time meditating at this altar regularly. When you make offerings, be sure to offer items that are safe for consumption by birds, rodents, deer, or other animals.
If making an altar or giving offerings isn’t an option for you, you can also offer acts of service. Take part in forest cleanups, or just make a habit of picking up trash while you hike. Volunteer or donate to wildlife rescues.
Sacred sex is another way to work with Cernunnos’ energy. Because of his association with virility and the deer breeding season, he’s strongly connected to sex. Treat sex as a devotional or meditative act and connect to its sacred elements.
Cernunnos is a fascinating deity that was obviously important to Celtic and Gaulish societies, so it’s a shame that there isn’t a lot left to demonstrate how he was worshipped in ancient times.
Today, he’s achieved new significance among Wiccans and some other Pagans as a deity of nature, animals, wilderness, and virility.
Where we lack written records, we’ve been able to connect with this ancient god through depictions and symbolism that resonate through time and space.