Cernunnos. Herne. Bucca. Gwynn Ap Nudd. Pan. Maybe these are different names for the same god. Maybe they’re different gods who do similar things in different places. Maybe they’re both. In any case, the Horned God is a very old, very primal deity. He is a god of instincts, not a god of the intellect. He is the Lord of the Animals, the Hunter and the Hunted, the Lord of Death and the Lord of Life.
And he is calling followers here and now. They are men and women; gay, straight, and bisexual; from America and Europe and Australia.
Hoofprints in the Wildwood, edited by Richard Derks, is a collection of devotions made by those followers. It’s a small book: 188 pages featuring 55 offerings by 30 contributors. The offerings include poetry, essays, rituals, personal narratives and artwork. It’s available as an ebook for $5.99 or as a printed book for $14.50 through Lulu’s print on demand service.
As you might expect from such a wide assortment of contributors, the entries are a mixed bag. Some are excellent, most are good and a few left me scratching my head. But even the most derivative of the offerings have something important – passion.
I’ve come across some of these writers on the internet, but as far as I know none of them are “professional Pagans.” These aren’t people who make their living studying religion or even teaching religion. They’re people who do religion. Reading their work makes me want to do religion too.
My favorite entry is “My God” by Juniper. It’s the very intimate story of how she came to be called by Cernunnos and the impact he’s had on her life. Her experience with Cernunnos is very different from mine, but I can easily see the same deity working in both cases, personalizing his approach to two rather different people. Juniper has a longer piece on the history of the Horned God on No Unsacred Place – it’s the first of a multipart series and is very much worth your time to read.
Hoofprints in the Wildwood is what its subtitle says it is: “A Devotional for The Horned Lord.” Although you could read it in one sitting, it’s best read in a devotional setting: read 10-15 minutes, meditate on what you’ve read, then make your own offerings. Maybe you read one of the poems out loud. Maybe you perform one of the rituals. Maybe you sing or dance. Maybe you simply close your eyes or gaze into the trees and speak what’s on your heart.
But be warned – the Horned God is not someone to approach with trivialities. Your ego and your comfort aren’t too high on the priority list of a god who is both Hunter and Hunted. He has more urgent, more important matters to deal with. He is not cruel, though he can be harsh. Several of the writers’ experiences match my own – the Horned God can be loving and patient and nurturing. But he wants what he wants and he needs what he needs – passionately.
If you are a priest, priestess, devotee or follower of any of the Horned Gods, or if you just want to see what Pagan religious devotion looks like, I recommend Hoofprints in the Wildwood.