Where They May Be Found: Cernunnos

I actually don’t know where He’s found, but I took a man hunting for him.

Actually, how do you hunt a god?  You don’t, really.  They hunt you.  Or maybe you hunt them as the hunted hunt the hunter, or haunt the hunter.

I don’t know much about Cernunnos.  Others do, and have some awfully good recommendations on how to find Him.  I’ve only seen him once, maybe twice.  It’s strange to write about a god you don’t know personally and tell others where he might be found.  Mayhaps even presumptuous.

It’s all presumption, though, isn’t it?  I go to places and see gods and presume that you’d want to meet Them.  I’m not actually certain why you wouldn’t, but I’m sure there are probably good reasons.

Or maybe, if you haven’t met them, you feel a bit outside, a bit dubious.  I get that.  I feel a bit outside of this, particularly.  Cernunnos isn’t “my god.”  There’s no shrine to him on my altar, and only perhaps the leaves I’ve gathered from strange places and the elk tooth I carried in my hands through the forest the other day to represent him.

On the Face of Another, in a Forest

See, my companion lives in a desert and worships a forest god.  In fact, he hadn’t seen much of forests, and it made an awful lot of sense and seemed like a grand thing to take him through one or two of them here while he visited me.  Who wouldn’t want to take a beautiful man for a walk through the trees to the craggy top of an urban mountain?  And besides, I love the man, and forests walks with lovers–oh, you get the point.

I heard someone sing about Cernunnos once.  I was at Faeriecon in Seattle with two friends.  One wore a wolf-mask crafted by a fellow Patheos writer, the other a beaked avian mask, and I wore mine, blue-green-gold draconic-canine face which I previously wore to hide my face while playing recorder on the streets, because it’s a bit intimidating to be a thuggish-looking punk guy with a tiny pear-wood recorder playing for business folks more eager to catch a bus than hear medieval music.

So, we’re there at this convention, waiting for FAUN, and the band before is doing awkward and violent hip-thrusts evoking animalistic sex and saying something about Cernunnos and it doesn’t feel right.  Actually, it feels awful.  I’d only met one god by then, and she’s not known for hip-thrusts, but still–it felt like there wasn’t a god there at all, and despite what they said about the horned god being horny or some such, the only arousal I could see where the older unkempt men crowding around and leering lecherously at the young women wearing fairy-wings dancing at the front. In fact, if the musicians were correct about Him, I found myself wanting to have very little to do with his worship.

It wasn’t him, though.  I saw him once in a vision a few months after that, right around the time I was having more visions than I could really handle (and this isn’t a boast–I don’t recommend such things).  He was huge, indifferent, waiting, and utterly impatient with crowds of drunken revelers copulating as obeisance.  He threw them off, violently, like the earth shaking off cities built along faults or vacation homes nestled in drought-stricken California woodlands.

For awhile I thought I’d seen Dionysos, instead, but that was cleared up later.  I’ll tell you where I’ve found him another time.

Have you ever seen the face of a man seeing a river for the first time?  Climbing out onto the water along the fallen trunk of a still-living willow, following the patterned leaves of unfamiliar, northern trees, staring at a wild bee-hive, hearing a summering wind shake the branches of Birch and Maple as the sun filters across his face?

May you one day have that chance.

In the Face of The Forest, on Another

I like trees and forests and the wilds, but the gods I worship are mostly associated with the places we dwell.  Very wild places are no longer wild when you visit them, because by “wild” we mean “without humans,” or “nature without a specific part of nature.”  Funny how that works, huh?  We’ve the fantasy of being out in the wilds, “alone” in nature.  The sight of another human on a trail disturbs the fantasy, of course, but if we’re wise (and I’m not very often wise), we’d remind ourselves the family passing us through the pristine wild belongs there no less than we do.

Cities are full of Nature, because they’re composed of Nature’s denizens.  The non-urban forests, though–yeah.  That’s where you’ll find him.

Before my companion’s visit, my friend who wore the beaked-mask while musicians pretending to have sex on stage laughed upon hearing of the circumstances of the visit.  “It’ll be, like, Cernunnos like crazy for him,” he joked, but also didn’t joke.

We sat under an Alder together by a stream and watched as a leaf sailed several meters against the current to land at my companion’s feet.  “It’s for you,” I told him, because it was, because you learn to notice those things, even when you don’t actually have much to do with the powers working such things.  He accepted the stream’s gift, and I left with as much wonder as he.

Apparently, I took this photo.

We climbed to the top of the highest point in Eugene.  I’d promised I’d show him trees, and he saw them, stretched out for miles in all directions.  We kissed there, and elsewhere, but though I’d acted as his guide out of love, I’d also offered this to Cernunnos.  Yeah, we don’t talk really, but he seems rather awesome, and it was an easily-proffered service.  “I’ll show one of your devotees what I can,” I’d said, an act of worship I give also to my gods, which is partially why I’m writing all this for you strangers.

I can’t say for certain precisely where Cernunnos was, but I could tell he was there, or everywhere, the way the wind rose up just as we neared the end of our path through the trees, the spinning falling Maple leaves dancing almost horizontal across our view, the speckled slug collecting dried pine needles upon its slimed body, the deep feeling of happiness in my hand which clutched the berry-smeared elk-tooth, and, most of all, the look on my companion’s face, seeing the face of the forest.

*The day before my companion arrived, John Beckett had posted a piece on Cernunnos, a remarkable synchronicity.  I highly suggest reading it.

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About Rhyd Wildermuth

An intractable tea-swilling leftist-punk bard, Rhyd Wildermuth has left bits of his heart(h) everywhere—in a satyr’s den in Berlin, hanging from an elder tree over a holy well in Bretagne, scattered in back alleys of Seattle, and lost somewhere in the bottom of his rucksack. He’s devoted to Welsh gods, breathes words, makes candles, plays recorder, fumbles with tech, and refuses ever to learn to drive. He also writes at paganarch.com.