The Strange Triumph of Cernunnos over Pan

If you’ve ever read the book Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton you are probably familiar with a chapter in it called “Finding a God.” Hutton’s argument there is that the Horned God became “the god” of Modern Paganism due to the popularity of the Greek God Pan with early 19th Century English Poets. As a devotee of the Horned One, I think Hutton’s hypothesis is absolutely spot on. The language we use to describe the Horned God bears a striking resemblance to the poetry of Keats, Shelley, and others. It’s true that it sometimes mirrors a few Renaissance-era writers, but those English poets are the ones who put Pan into the mainstream of English literature.

However, while Pan is the proto-type for our modern image of the Horned God, another god, the Celtic Cernunnos, has superseded him. If you look at most modern images of the Horned God, he tends to look far more Cernunnosy than Pan-like. It’s more likely the Horned God will be sporting antlers than goat horns. His face tends to be more “man-like” and less goat influenced, and he usually has human legs instead of goaty ones.

Given Pan’s prominence in literature (The Wind in the Willows) and art, you’d think that it would have all swung Pan’s way, but it didn’t. Now I’m not arguing that Pan is a forgotten deity, that’s certainly not true. We Panheads are legion; but the throne Pan once seemed so likely to sit on (or hump) is generally occupied by Cernunnos.

I love Pan, but most general Pagan Horned God images via statues or t-shirts don’t look like this.

Cernunnos is an enigma. There are many images of him but no stories or myths. Can you name a Cernunnos tale that you read in elementary school? If you can, you are an incredible person, because none exist, unless they’ve been written relatively recently. Can you recite a few lines from your favorite Cernunnos poem? Maybe something from the 19th Century that you were forced to read in high school? Again, you can’t, because they don’t exist.

Now those myths and stories and poems are there for Pan. I’ve been reading Pan mythology since the second grade. I was familiar with Pan and Syrinx before I read a Judy Blume book. Pan shows up countless times in 19th Century literature, eventually owning the century and its poets; becoming one of the most written about deities in all of English literature. Most of us were forced to read Pan in High School, he shows up in Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and numerous other poets. Pan was a rock star (on and off) for nearly 2500 years, Cernunnos wasn’t written about with any regularity until the 1930′s.

If there’s one person responsible for the ascension of Cernunnos it’s probably Margaret Murray in 1931. Murray’s inclusion of Cernunnos in her book The God of the Witches was definitely a turning point. In the first chapter of Witches Murray weaves together 15,000 years of horned god iconography and myths and turns it into one Horned God. Though she doesn’t single Cernunnos out for any special treatment (she mentions Pan a lot too), she does make him the starting point for the Herne the Hunter* folk-tale and turns Herne into a full-fledged god.

In one chapter Cernunnos becomes Herne, and Herne becomes “Old Horny.” Who can blame people for wanting to worship a god called “Old Horny?” While I have a lot of trouble with Murray as a Horned God scholar (though there are still a lot of Pagans out there who will defend her with their dying breath), as a Horned God mythicist she’s second to none. In just a few short pages she creates a myth for the ages, creating a history so compelling and believable that it has resonated for over eighty years. While many of her conclusions have been discredited, her influence will continue for as long Modern Paganism continues.

The problem with lumping Pan and Cernunnos together as one “Universal Horned God” is that they are extremely different deities. Cernunnos was not the sexual being that Pan was; there are no pictures featuring Cernunnos with an erect phallus. Cernunnos is usually depicted in a sitting position with legs crossed (we called this “Indian Style” at my elementary school), even if he did have a boner we wouldn’t be able to see it. This position was one Celtic hunters often used because it’s easy to get up from, so it’s probably safe to say that Cernunnos is a god of hunting. Cernunnos is often pictured with a torque and large bags of money on his person, cash and a symbol of royalty are a far cry from the drinking shepherd that was (and is) Pan. These are two entirely different types of gods.

Cernunnos on the Gundestrop Cauldron, a Celtic cauldron made in Thrace found in a peat-bog in Denmark.

Since Modern Witchcraft is a British Religion there are some practical reasons for the ascension of Cernunnos. While he’s not “English” and depictions of him in the British Isles are lacking (perhaps just six or seven, and even then whether it’s the god generally depicted in Gaul is up for debate), Murray made him English. Linking him directly to Herne suddenly gave him a British pedigree, and Celts did live in Britain, so even if there’s not a lot of evidence for his worship in Great Britain, it’s at least possible. Pan, despite the love many English poets felt for him, was Greek, perhaps the worship of Cernunnos over Pan was a matter of national pride?

Cernunnos has other advantages too, not just his nationality. He’s a blank slate; he can be about anything you want him to be since there’s no back-story. No one can point out his foibles or his rapes, unlike Pan. For someone like me who is obsessed with figuring out how my gods were worshipped in ancient times, Cernunnos is a problem. For the majority of people who don’t care about such things he has a lot of advantages. It becomes impossible for someone to tell you “you are worshipping him wrong**,” since no one knows how he was worshipped.

As a piece of iconography he has some distinct advantages over Pan. Cernunnos more easily fits the modern “Horned God” archetype, which has evolved into a strong, virile, middle aged man with horns on his head, generally those of a stag or deer. With Pan you get the baggage of the 24/7 boner and the goat legs. While the goat legs aren’t a problem on the cover of a book, the raging hard-on is, advantage Cernunnos.

Society at large also has “Pan issues.” Since Pan has been used as a “Devil” figure for the past several hundred years he sometimes comes with pre-conceived notions. While Modern Pagans don’t make the mistake of Pan=The Christian Devil, the public’s knowledge of Greek Mythology and religion in general is not what it should be, and Pan=Devil has become a shortcut to thinking in our society. While horns aren’t universally loved, they aren’t quite as feared as goat legs.

Cernunnos has emerged as a powerful symbol over the past 80 years, becoming the most recognized Horned God in Modern Paganism. Even those who don’t worship him by name generally honor a “Horned God Archetype” made more in his image than Pan’s. While Pan’s place in 19th Century literature created the woodland ideal of the Horned God most of us know so well, Cernunnos often ended up as the cover model.

*While worshipped as a deity in Modern Paganism, the earliest tales of Herne were more akin to ghost stories than mythology. If Herne has his origins within Pagan Gods, it’s more probable that his “father” was Odin/Woden than Cernunnos. Herne himself had a good shot at being “the” Horned God of Paganism. In The Meaning of Witchcraft Gerald Gardner calls Herne “the British example par excellence of a surviving tradition of the Old God of the Witches.” Since Herne and Cernunnos are so easily interchanged by man, it’s quite likely that this par excellence has also been shared with Cernunnos.

**That doesn’t stop me from trying though.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    If you are interested in knowing how Cernunnos’ cultus occurred in the ancient world, then there is a major matter you need to take seriously:  there’s only one definite image of Cernunnos that exists, and that’s the one from Notre Dame.  The name never occurs outside of that one depiction.  Assuming that any and every other antlered or horned deity in Gaul and Britain (and further afield, e.g. the Gundestrup Cauldron figure you show above) is Cernunnos is highly inadvisable, from a reconstructionism-influenced viewpoint, at least.

    I think it is a lot safer and far more accurate to suggest that the Horned God is a relatively modern theological concept and deity (and there’s nothing wrong with that), who has had some influence from various more ancient figures, including possibly Cernunnos.  And since Cernunnos may not even be a proper name, but instead a title simply meaning “horned [one],” it is an epithet that could apply to any number of deities and heroes:  Pan, Dionysos/Zagreus, the Dagda, Furbaide Fer Benn, possibly Wotan/Odin, and many others…

    • Bookhousegal

       Well,  if you want to ‘reconstruct’ the *Celtic*  or the *Romano-Celtic* mindset:  understand that oblique epithets and kenning-names are very much *part* of that: uniformity of nomenclature just wasn’t something that even the Romans of the time seemed to understand was pretty standard.   They even wrote about their own confusion about this, if you know what to look for.  It’s like how white people would colonize America and assign the names-for-a-tribe-that the-neighbors-they-met-first-called them.  

      Assigning ‘what’s safe’    according to your own sense of ‘what’s important’  is something that might well mean you’re repeating (or redoubling:  in that tribal analogy, what if people said,   ‘The Dakota never wrote down the word Sioux,  they must not have existed,’  …we know that’s not the case.    )  a previous anthropological type error:  maybe if someone says,  ‘Who’s that God,’   someone might say,  ‘The Horned One,’  or ‘The Hunter,’  or even more oblique things,  and someone might *hear,*  ‘So that’s His *name.*  I’ll write it down. ‘

      Romans might see ‘A river,’   ….Maybe someone else sees ‘That which is between lands.’    Get it? 

      • Bookhousegal

         Correction: even the Romans *assumed* uniformity of nomenclature was supposed to be standard.   Therefore assumed fragmentation when that wasn’t the culture.   But they weren’t exactly National Geographic, were they?

        That’s part of why they’d say things like  ‘They all worship Mars’  or  ‘This must be Minerva,’   or other stuff like that.    And they were probably closer to having the understanding than a lot of the people who framed the standards of academic argument in more recent centuries. 

         Antinuous wasn’t just ‘apotheosized *on* a river…   it was a messy situation in a ‘King’s’  boat on not just a river, but *in the Nile.*  There’s a lot going on there.   That I’m sure you’re well-acquainted with.  Does that make your beloved a ‘river God?’  Or of inconvenient cruise-ship rent-boys?   (I’m sure you wouldn’t say so.   Is he a Natalie Wood?  (interesting name there:  Born of a Wood,  drowned in the sea… a Star is tragically-born…)   If so,  how?   (And that’s not to trivialize that, either,  but… why’d something similar happen that’s still on people’s minds *now?*   How do we see boats on the ocean *now?* ) 

        Is that the only way to see a river,  (even the Nile,)  even then?   Suppose you’re forest-people in Gaul…   (Suppose you even  live on cleared land,  what’s between *you* and the river?  Back then.)   What’s a river mean *then?*   (Carrying on something Druidkirk derived from sources…  But what if the *sources*  didn’t quite get it?  ) 

        What are rivers named for,  in Celtic countries? 

        Maybe people weren’t actually in the business of writing footnotes at the time.   Maybe things were deeper,  living,  *interactive,*   not necessarily about who controlled what information,  etc, and to the extent anyone did, that was pretty deliberately-broken.  Maybe, even, they still are. 

        As for ‘safer to say,’  in the same vein:   ‘Cernunnos,’  if you will,  ain’t necessarily  in the *business* of ‘safer to say.’     I don’t think He ever has been,  not in the way you say it.   That’s kind of the point, too.   At least for some of us.   (And I’m trying to talk around the point at the very moment for the same reason that it’s also not supposed to be how *all* of us relate there, either.   But I think in this…popular use of the symbology,   a few vagaries aside,  is rather more coherent that way than people looking for ‘source materials’   can quite assemble.  

         Much more,  than ‘Safe things to give myself (never mind someone else)    ‘permission to believe,’    if you asked me, He’s about  something about trust  when it *ain’t*  ‘safer to say. ‘  Or necessarily do.   (And not in that way about ‘I want to break free,’  so often associated with ‘Horned Gods’  by some,  but more about Who you meet when you do,   And what to make of it, what to  do next. 

        There are things it’s OK to not know,  (trust me on having learned that one the hard way, not that that means ‘Stop trying,’  )   and believe it or not,  even for me, there are things that are better left unsaid,   not because there’s that big  a need for secrecy,  but because ‘If I told you, you’d think you knew,   and that’d be spoiling something.’ 

        All cosmology is local.  Even in a very-connected world.  (It’s *always* been connected  by some eyes)  That’s why it’s ‘cosmic.’  :)

        And that goes back to people saying, ‘Why do modern Anglo-Irish-Norman-American   Pagans hearken so much to ‘Cernunnos?’ ‘ 

        We *do.*  Even if in some ways that may be called fluffy/crazy/’unauthoritative’ *gasp*  /whatever.    It’s a *fact.*   We don’t *need* an ‘excuse.’  Never mind ‘permission.’   What are we,  begging,  now?  To whom?   Christians?  Anthropologists?   Ronald Hutton?  You?

        Also, kind of the point. 

        Especially when there’s yet another round of ‘Is Gerald Gardner a ‘Prophet/Authority?’   These aren’t even our *terms.*   And we shouldn’t forget that.    We can talk details all we want,   but I think he’s just a dude who tried bringing the Gods back,   and it *came off.*  If he knew what was to come,  we’d be worshipping the Prophet Jery’   instead of the Gods. 

        We’re in the next century.    And there’s more of us than *I* ever bargained for.   So. like  one asks of any good God,   and ourselves..  ‘What next?’

        (Hail your beloved there, by the way, “Mr. Lupus.”   :)  Trust that, too.   )

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          First off, please don’t call me “Mr.”  Respectful conversations begin with respecting the gender of the other person involved, I think.

          While what you’re saying about the Romans is correct, it’s still not very relevant a point, because we are only dealing with a single instance of the name “Cernunnos” here.  It’s hard to argue for a generalization of a concept from an exterior viewpoint (as the Romans did when they said “all the Gauls worship Mercury”) when there is no generalization of that sort going on.

          There is one river in Ireland that has a male name, incidentally.  So, thus we see the perils of generalizing about things in cultures.

          In terms of the rest of what you’re saying:  well, honestly, I can’t make head nor tail of it.  If you’re arguing for an experiential viewpoint with all of this, that’s perfectly fine, but one then shouldn’t say that one’s own experiences and one’s own modern theological formulations–which is, I think, what you’re saying–are therefore what ancient people said or thought on a particular matter.

          • Bookhousegal

             Would you like a different gender referent?  Ma’am? Please specify before quibbling.  See where that goes?

            To substance here?  In no wise. 

            Also…  It’s kind of the *point* that you’re trying to be an authority/’prove something’   about what you do not understand.

            You’re going out of your way to claim ‘This doesn’t make sense by the standards I come along and impose!’ 

            But it’s simpler.

            What do you want, here?   Lupus?

          • Branenn

            Personally I’d like you responses to just follow some sort of coherent order. At the moment they resemble a piece of code we once worked on that would assemble “real” sounding sentences out of random snippets of books we fed it.

        • Mark S

          All due respect, but you don’t make much sense to me. I don’t know if that’s because I’m dense, or what.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        So, what you’re arguing is basically what I’ve said:  it might not be a name at all, but just a kenning or an epithet that has been taken as a name in this one case (even if it is an appropriate epithet/kenning).  And, linguistically, if it really does mean “horned one,” then it should be something like Carnunnos rather than Cernunnos; the latter might likely mean something more like “victorious one.”

        But, linguistic arguments aside, that still doesn’t explain nor alleviate the problem of that one term being generalized all over the place by modern people when it was not generalized by the people who actually created the evidence and honored these various gods.

        Imagine if the Greeks in Egypt found that one horned deity there was called Ammon, and then every time they came across another one–whether it was Khnum or Heryshaf or Reshef or anyone else,  they then said “It’s Ammon,” and began writing about the Egyptians as if they had this single horned deity with some weird variations on that singularity in a few places, and further ignored the actual Egyptians’ thoughts on these matters, and didn’t even bother to find out more about them.  Would that be “right”?

        • Bookhousegal

           My point is,  you’re ascribing too much importance to ‘names graven in stone’


        • Malaz

           (coughs and speaks softly…so a random listener would only hear a coughing)

          “oldest…recorded…”horned god”…worship…ever”

          Tell ‘em PSVL! Preach it!!!

        • Bookhousegal

           Come to think of it,  you need go little further than modern Chicago to see a transposition of a and e vowels,  just over a very brief time.  

          Part of the problem here, is you’re giving a certain preference to certain kinds of *literalism,*  (also rather stronger claims than may be justified precisely cause you want a word attached to an image and for that word to be *precise.*  In ways that may  not apply.) 

          In making your ‘case’  for ‘absence of evidence,’  you actually are excluding the very fact that very little *was* actually written down as text, that was on the order you’d like,  unless,  really,  Romans came along and felt the need to.   But the image, even,  (and the archetype,  with or without antlers, even,)   just keeps recurring anyway.  

          Come to think of it, there’s no written words or names on *my* altar,  and the only religious imagery in my house is from Victorian bookplates.  :) 

          So, I’m just saying the standards you *want*  may just not apply.  especially when we’re talking about peoples with a pretty deliberately-oral tradition that was also pretty deliberately-broken *before* Christians came along and actually preserved *some* stuff,  (and altered a lot,  this we know, too,)   …and it’s just not something you can come along and apply your particular standards to,  then start getting picky about what ‘evidence’  you’ll even count.  ;) 

          This is why *folklore* is important when talking about, for instance, Celtic lands, and  quite often much of the local names and stories is found only in the form of sometimes-clumsy ‘conversions’  into Christian saints,  for instance.  

          What if, perhaps,  when people are looking for a ‘definitive text authority’  after the recon fashion,  you’re looking in compromised sources for perhaps something that wasn’t particularly broadcast to *begin* with?

          This is where I go to practicality:   what are you expecting:  pretty heavily-shamanic-themed  deities to really like ‘urbanize’  and be sure to be literal-minded when like making stone edifices?  Just for the sake of a later argument? 

          It’s been a pretty recurring theme in my own spiritual path that ‘You know,  if someone else told me this,  I would not have freakin believed them,  even if I found some stuff in books later.’   Suppose the Gods are real, and that’s actually one of the very types of people They take some interest in?   I mean,  anyone can make a text-based argument from authority,  right?   (The perennial  recons-vs-moderns  argument even if reality the most of us are at least some of both. 

          (Actually,  I personally tend to be most interested when concepts seem to *recur*   independently,  rather than be worried about ‘continuity of sources.’   It’s a lot easier to deliberately-copy a book than,  say,  a vision.)

          Accordingly,  before calling something ‘Foolishly non-textual,’  well,  where are the *people* at?   Look at that vision of the God, Himself, and tell me,  …do you see an argument?  :)


    • Edward

       And since Cernunnos may not even be a proper name, but instead a title
      simply meaning “horned [one],” it is an epithet that could apply to any
      number of deities and heroes:  Pan, Dionysos/Zagreus, the Dagda,
      Furbaide Fer Benn, possibly Wotan/Odin, and many others…

      Not to mention Egyptian deities with either of two distinct varieties of ram’s horns: curled, à la Amun, or wavy, à la Khnum.

  • Bookhousegal

    Hrm, I dunno,  I’ve got to take issue with some of the claims here:   it seems that in haste to try and make some case for Pan,  (Who really needs no introduction or defense, I would say.  :)  )  …there’s too much haste to claim that ‘This isn’t authoritative enough for recons,  it must be a Murray invention,’  even if the mythic threads appear all throughout insular myth  (with or without mention of the antlers)  om ways that are actually pretty darn  consistent with modern conceptions.

    …and the one thing not mentioned is of course anything spiritual, people’s own experiences/callings, visitations, or indeed any idea this prominence of Cernunnos/Herne/antlered God  has more to it than ‘insufficient scholarship  by recon standards: those sneaky Wiccans must be trying to escape being able to be told ‘You’re doing it wrong,  now that I’m trying to do that anyway.’  

    The image of Cernunnos isn’t some sanitized Pan knock-off to *begin* with,  for one,  so complaints about insufficient ithyphallic deptictions would seem to be kind of begging the question that way.   

    Maybe what’s going on *is* the ‘right way,’  …especially in these times, where an Otherworld guide/guardian/Lord of the Forest type may indeed be Someone the world and modern Pagans most *need*  to be paying attention to:  with all due respect to Pan,  the world’s a little *short* on conceptions of male Deity that are neither lawgiving-smitey King figures nor satyr types….  both of which are perhaps in the wider scheme overbalanced in human consciousness.    When He puts in an appearance in ritual, certainly,  you’ll hear much the same reports,  …of a very self-possessed primal masculinity (and, yes, sexuality)  that’s not about either domination nor abandon.    (And actually the same goes for the associations with Justice and poetry and authority, relations with Nature and people,  and any warrior/hunter connections there.) 

    Definitely associated with the Hunter,  rather than a herder,  and that ties into the shamanistic/naturalistic elements of the ‘Old Religion,’  (in this case,  yeah, I think this is *really* old.    And it may make recons somewhat uncomfortable,  but He’s also, I think, a prime example of a God that isn’t much-written about cause He doesn’t *need* to be. 
    (Actually, a lot of His closest followers tend to play it pretty close to the vest for just that reason: if  a lot of it comes straight from the Other Side, it’s a lot easier to tell who’s on task if everything isn’t out there in print, or other kinds of mundane circulation.   (And,  oh, yeah, this does bother people who want to argue about book-authority,  but also why He’s so much associated with seeking Mystery.   Frankly,  I’ve seen a lot of the boys looking for ‘Men’s Mysteries’  really get a lot out of that very dynamic.  Certainly for *gals* there’s  a lot of challenge and healing in encountering an absolutely, unapologetically,  primally-masculine figure Who’s just neither about some dude getting laid or mansplaining the ‘law.’  ) 

    Frankly, whenever someone tries to hash out some ‘battle of the polarities,’   He’s there, Lady’s there,  and I think that’s actually an important part of our shared *faith* that we *can* argue about stuff if we want or need to, without breaking the freaking universe.  :)

    He’s as old and as new as our religion itself, both.    Whether we say anything or not.  That’s kind of the point, in this case.  And the idea of Him being kind of a beloved  theological ‘blank slate,’  these days, (Less blank than arguing about sources would lead one to believe,  actually,  if you pay attention)    well, that’s a feature,  not a bug.   

    And don’t get me wrong,  I’m a fan of Pan in both the classical and Romantic modes:  and certainly those of His kids  (more literally, ha and ha ;) )   I know go a lot deeper than sex, but I  don’t think there’s some rivalry,  here.    Pan’s not going anywhere, either.  :)

    That’s a good thing.   Frankly,  I don’t see any particular ‘triumph over’  here,   but if there *was,*  I wouldn’t really see it as so strange in those terms.  Not at this point in history, anyway.   It’s not just that Pan is seen in the wider culture as resembling the demonization of Him,   …it’s actually that too often He’s taken to actually *represent*  one side of a ‘war’  between lawgiving/domination  and hedonism/’liberation’/even male rapaciousness.    I mean, He’s practically a  *symbol* of ‘Let’s have Sex!’  these days.   And obviously much maligned to the rest of the world as either to not be taken seriously or as ‘evil’ as they think sexuality and ‘beasts’  themselves are…  (Even while they wonder just ‘Who put the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-abomp.’    Io! )   So certainly in the public-image department,  Cernunnos  actually kind of represents stuff pretty studiously-forgotten out there.  And I think that’s part of the point, too. 

    Blessed be. 


    • Herne’s Friend

      Thanks for this.  Well said.

    • Lilith

      Thank you for this wonderful and articulate reply.  Very nicely said. :)

  • Druidkirk

    Pan is a horned god. Cernunnos is an antlered god. There is a difference. Other than Pan, most horned gods are also gods of war (see Romano-British iconography). There is an altar in Paris to Cernunnos given by sailors (river boats). Some scholars think He was a god of commerce, and He also may be an Underworld god as well. David Fickett-Wilbar makes a persuasive case for this in one of the Harvard Celtic Colloquiums. See the two gods a separate individuals (a la polytheism) and all troubles go away.

    • Bookhousegal

       Or….   What is the gold of the…. Underworld?   :)

      • Bookhousegal

         Or a boat on a river, in those terms, for that matter.  :) 

        More meanings…  A la… polytheism.  :)

        Too Wyrd to live, too Jung to die,   here we are.  :)

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      And yet, perhaps not, at least in some Celtic contexts.  There’s a wonderful word in Irish, dam, which can mean “ox, bull,” or “deer/stag.”  Horned animals; antlered animals–same word.  So…

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      And, Pan is war-connected; even though he’s not usually portrayed as a warrior himself, the fact that he causes “panic” (especially on battlefields) makes him a rather integral part of the proceedings of war a great deal of the time.

      • Bookhousegal

         Are you sure you aren’t working something backwards from *words,*  Sufenas?

        Cause Pan is *not* associated with battlefiedls at all,  even if you back-date the word ‘panic.’     Even the idea that ‘If you run into the woods,  for any reasons,   Pan will cause ‘panic.’   ..  That’s not connected,   in any world.   It really isn’t.   

        It’s got nothing to *do* with it.  Never mind ‘war’  ….the idea dudes run off into the woods and freak out..   (Then they think running off  into the woods causes Pan to induce panic.’   Hence association with uncontrollable fear…   Doesn’t mean Pan’s connected to war, any more than Cerne is some knockoff of Pan. It’s more like,  You ran into the woods,   dude.   Don’t let some punker chick embarrass you on that count.) 

        Cause that’s what you hear,  right?   If you are a dude not-right-with-the-worlds-Pan will freak your stuff.’

        I’m not seeing your claims there.   You think Pan’s some God of battlefield trauma?    Mr.   Classical sources?  Or did you imagine and define.    Did you ask?

        Why and how?

        You’re reaching.  

        • LaDawn

          Simonides, Fragment 6 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th to 5th B.C.) :
          “Goat-footed Pan, the Arkadian, ememy of the Medes (Persians), ally of the Athenians, [he was believed to have created panic in the army of the Medes attacking Athens] was set up by Miltiades [a statue].”
          Suidas s.v. Panikoi deimati (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :”Panikoi deimati (in Panic terror) : Women used to celebrate customary rites for Pan by shouting. And Menandros in Dyskolos [says] : `One must not approach this god in silence.’ Or because they attributed to Pan things [that happen] for no reason; for example, the enemy seems to attack; and [the soldiers] pick up their weapons in the commotion, form ranks, and attack one another.” 

          Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 3. 46 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :”[Kybele (Cybele) was angry with the King of Kyzikos who had slain one of her sacred lions:] The god Pan had riven the doubting city [of Kyzikos] distraught, Pan fulfilling the cruel commands of the Mygdonian Mother [Kybele], Pan lord of the woodlands and of war, whom from the daylight hours caverns shelter; about midnight in lonely places are seen that hairy flank and the soughing leafage on his fierce brow. Louder than all trumpets sounds his voice alone, and at that sound fall helm and sword, the charioteer from his rocking car and bolts from gates of walls by night; nor might the helm of Mars [Ares] and the tresses of the Furiai [Erinyes], nor the dismal Gorgon from on high spread such terror, nor with phantoms so dire sweep an army in headlong rout. Sport it is to the god when he ravishes the trembling flock from their pens, and the steers trample the thickets in their flight.” 

          • Bookhousegal

             Ah.   So….  Pagans are referring to this ‘textual evidence’  involving ‘insufficient goateyness?’  :)   (speaking of sources, a link to that would be good. )  If that’s really what you want to ‘prove.’  Then tell me that’s under-represented somehow.   ) 

            Seems to me, though,   that text is about a lot of comparisons,  to other things..  Interesting,  but.   I’m still not seeing the ‘doings’   so demanded.   Interesting, though.   (I’d actually like to see more,  even if it’s way off the topic here,) 

          • Erik

             No, pagans are using actual ancient sources to point out that your claim of Pan being completely unrelated to war doesn’t jive with the available evidence…

          • Bookhousegal

            Actually, I did some meditating on this after being called on that reference the *first* time:   though I still have trouble connecting it to the premise under discussion:  I believe I’ve actually read that and didn’t think much *of* it, to be honest. 

            I’m sort of still having some trouble seeing how this connects to the *modern* Pagan conceptions described in the article,  being the big quibble there. 

            Partly my fault for not responding well to people claiming ‘text authority’  means a particular *interpretation*   is somehow overriding. 

             Certainly,  a lot of recons will take things in text as ‘evidence,’  but I’m still unclear  on how that plays into this *dynamic.* 

            And if maybe something’s being ‘worked back from words. ‘ 

            Even back then,  perhaps.  That’s part of why I was wanting to see the text in question again.    I *think* it’s a pretty strong claim to call Someone a ‘God of War’  when it might just be about Not-war, in a way.  Ie,  freaking people out so they *don’t* particularly fight.   

            Or then to claim that’s really what the premise of the *discussion*  is about,  since I honestly just didn’t relate the two. 

            So that’s where I was with that.    Text has been provided,  but beyond the ‘well-deserved ‘gotcha,’  where’s this go?

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             When talking about historical deities, I’d say any evidence (textual or iconic) is pretty pivotal.

            Taking old gods and assigning them new roles/demeanours/etc. is obviously going to bring a certain amount of criticism (such as the historical “that stance is unfounded” or the religious “You’re doing it wrong”.

            But that is the crux of the argument between reconstructionist and revivalist/neo forms of paganism.

            (I could probably point out that the image of a horned god has been deliberately manipulated in the past for a religious agenda.)

          • Apuleius Platonicus

            Pan was specifically credited by the Athenians for the great victory at Marathon, which many believe to be the single most important military engagement in Western history (since, without it, there might not be any such thing as “Western” history at all).

            In recognition of Pan’s assistance at this crucial time, the Athenians established a shrine in his honor as part of the Parthenon.

            See Herodotus, or any decent modern book on Greek history.

            It should also always be remembered that Pan’s name in Greek simply and literally means “All”.

          • Jason Mankey

            Pan is an old Arcadian God, and his name comes from the root “pa” which means simply shepherd. Yes, Pan does mean “all” in modern Greek, but that’s not why Pan has the name Pan. Pan’s worship in Athens did begin after Marathon, but he had been worshipped in Arcadia long before that. In Arcadia, Pan was seen as second only to Zeus, and the two were brothers in some traditions.

            I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond to all the posts on here (let alone read them all), I’m out in the wilds with very limited internet, this one just happened to catch my eye in the two minutes I was able to get online. I’ll be posting a lot more Horned God stuff in the near future. Thanks for reading everyone!

          • Genexs

            A coin featuring Pan issued by Antigonos Gonatas (277-239 bce) commemorates the victory of the Macedonians over the Gauls in 277 BCE. The Macedonians made offerings and prayers to Pan before the battle. The reverse shows Pan building a altar/trophy out of weapons captured from the Gauls.

    • DeaMonda

      Gods of commerce usually were underworld gods. “money” and coinage” came from underground. Pluto and hades were also gods of money and commerce

  • Jeanne Anne Decosta

    seems that many dont know the difference between horns & antlers .. those who have actually SEEN the God of the Witches recognize that he has antlers .. not horns .. nothing against Pan .. & he may be invoked & involved with craftwork .. but he is not the God

    • Star Foster

       That’s a strange comment. When I first “saw” him he had none. I think such experiences are ultimately subjective.

      • Jeanne Anne Decosta

         thats cuz you saw him after he’d shed his antlers .. antlers are deciduous .. you know .. how big his antlers are depends on the time of year

        • Star Foster

           I find that logic deliciously disturbing.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             i like being “deliciously disturbing” ..

            it isnt logic tho .. its simply the fact of nature ;)

      • Bookhousegal

         I think that’s allowed.  :)  For some,  no proof is necessary,  for others,  no proof is sufficient,   even if you gave em 8×10 color glossy photos of a sylph flipping off an electron microscope. 

        For the rest of us,   well,   we do our best to breathe. Find priorities.   Etc. 

        • Aine

           Yeah, except you don’t get to claim your subjective experience as ‘fact’.

    • Bookhousegal

       Point of linguistics:   that difference didn’t exist in northern europe in those words or root languages,  either.   Root words,  Corn, Cerne, kernel Cerne, cornu, Herne,  ..there isn’t actually a hard distinction between ‘horn’  and ‘antler.’  Not even sure where the word ‘antler’  came from,   really. 

      • Jeanne Anne Decosta


        its disheartening to see how ignorant of basic biology so many Pagans are .. isnt Paganism .. in all its various branches .. fundamentally a NATURE religion ?!? shouldnt those who claim adherence to nature religion know @ least a ltl bit about nature ??

        horns =/= antlers .. consult a mammalology text if youre still confused …..

        • Bookhousegal

           I was replying to an assertion from linguistics.  

          If you have a quibble with *Nature,*  no one’s stopping you. 


          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             while everyone else  seems to be getting bogged down in linguistic or historical or ideological trivia .. im the only one whos addressing the NATURE of the matter .. horns vs antlers .. about as natural as it gets

            Cerrunos ~ antlers

            Pan ~ horns

            Witch God ~ antlers

            Witch God = Cerrunos

            Witch God =/= Pan

            has this sunk in yet?

          • Artor

            Congratulations! You win the award for Best Dogmatic Pedant of the Internet!

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             the Dogmatic Pendants are those who dont know the difference between horns & antlers .. or who know the difference but still attempt to argue that that an antlered god has horns .. or a horned god has antlers .. or whatever confused nonsense it is theyre trying to say

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             I do believe they are talking about the historical ‘pagan’s of Pre-Roman Europe.

            Let us look at the word ‘Cernunnos’, for example.

            It is a (Gaulish) Celtic word, pretty much accepted as having the root word ‘Kernou’ – meaning ‘horn’ (or ‘headland’, giving an association to Cornwall/Kernow.)

            I don’t think people are disputing that the imagery shows antlers for one and horns for another.

            As for the antler/horn etymology question:
            Antler comes from the old French ‘antoillier’ which, it is suggested, may come from the Gallo-Romance ‘antoculare’ meaning ‘horn in front of the eyes’ (cf. the German Augensprossen – ‘eye-sprouts’ or ‘brow tines’)

            It should be remembered that past cultures did not have the scientific preciseness of the modern day.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             past cultures may not have had the scientific preciseness of today .. concerning terminology anyway .. but they certainly knew the difference between horns & antlers & were able to express this difference linguistically .. if the ancient Celts had worshiped a horned god he woulduv been depicted with horns .. he wasnt .. he was depicted with antlers .. arguing that past cultures didnt make the distinction between horns & antlers is stupid .. of course they knew the difference whether or not m0dern urban Pagans do or not .. likewise .. if modern Pagans are going to worship an antlered god they need to call him that .. calling antlers horns just displays ignorance

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             So stop arguing about the difference between antlers and horns (it really is bloody obvious) and start arguing that the antlered representations from Celtic (and previous) times are not Cernunnos.

            The etymologies all point to the idea that ‘Cernunnos’ is derived from a word meaning ‘horn’.

            As is the word ‘antler’.

          • johno

            Cor Blimey what a load of verbal diarrhea, I watch and read the battle of the ego with amusement.

          • Apuleius Platonicus

            I would vote for MOST Dogmatic Pedant, rather than “Best”.

    • PJ

      Actually, the word “horn” can imply antlers as well. Check Merriam-Webster if you don’t believe me. :)

      • Jeanne Anne Decosta

         english has a descriptive .. not a proscriptive grammar .. so dictionaries describe words according to common usage .. commonly ppl are ignorant .. horns & antlers arent the same regardless of how commonly ppl confuse them & what the dictionary commonly says .. they arent the same histologically or functionally .. but thats beside the point

        the point being that the God visualized & experienced personally in Celtic & Celtic-eclectic Witchcraft has antlers .. this article discusses why Cerrunos & not Pan is taken as the archetype of the Witch God .. the consort of the Goddess .. the answer is simple: Cerrunos has antlers .. Pan has horns

        • Kauko

           Actually, no language has an inherently descriptive or prescriptive grammar, as those words refer to the ways in which people who study/ teach language view/ approach a language’s grammar. Also, you seem to be implying that language is somehow beholden to a modern scientific understanding of the world which is almost certainly not the case. Quite the opposite, historically, languages tend to classify things based on that linguistic group’s experience, interaction, and perception of the environment around them, not based on modern science textbooks. The scientific distinction between horns and antlers may be germane in a biology class, but not necessarily in a discussion about how such words might have been used by ancient peoples.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             it isnt about a “modern scientific understanding” .. the ancient Celts & other people certainly knew the difference between horns & antlers .. anyone who hunts or practices animal agriculture does .. the difference between horns & antlers is germane to a biology class just as it was to the ancient people who knew nature intimately

            quibble all you want but the simple fact of the matter is that Cerrunos has antlers & Pan has horns .. the God of the Witches likewise has antlers .. so Cerrunos is a better name for the Witch God than Pan is

          • Artor

            May I point out that Cernunnos translates to “The Horned One,” despite the fact that he clearly has what we now refer to as antlers? You are trying to map our modern terminology onto ancient usage, and it fails. Your pedantic and dogmatic stance is underwhelming, and I think you’re on the losing side of whatever argument you’re putting forth, either semantically or theologically.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             since you dont even seem to understand the argument how can you say who is “winning” or “losing” it ??

            in fact .. there is no “argument” .. horns are horns & antlers are antlers .. if you want to argue against this simple factfact of nature go ahead .. ill simply dismiss you as being intransigent & stupid

            Cerrunos has antlers .. Pan has horns .. the Witch God has antlers .. the Witch God doesnt have horns .. Cerrunos ~not Pan~ is the God of the Witches

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             Cernunnos really isn’t the ‘god of the witches’, but neither is Pan.

            If only because there isn’t one ‘god of the witches’.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             ok Leoht .. fair enuf .. but the God of the Witches .. whatever you want to call him .. has antlers not horns .. i dont care if you call him Cerrunos or Herne or Freyr or just the ‘Antlered God’ .. my only point is in response to the OP who seems to think its weird that Cerrunos has won out over Pan .. all im saying is that thers nothing weird about it at all .. since Pan has horns & Cerrunos has antlers & the god .. whatever you call him .. has antlers

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             Find me historical evidence of a name meaning ‘antlered god’.

          • Kauko

             “intransigent”? Isn’t that kind of the pot calling the kettle black?

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             nope .. im not the one intransigently trying to argue that horns are antlers .. or antlers horns .. or whatever silliness it is youre stuck on

          • LeohtSceadusawol

            People are not trying to argue that point.

            They are arguing that the historical record shows that Cernunnos was ‘The Horned God’

            Regardless of scientific distinction.

          • Kauko

             Was that the word on your word-of-the-day calender and you’re just determined to use it as many times as you can today?
            In fact, I’m not trying to argue anything. I have no problem with the idea of horns and antlers being separate things, but my seeing them that way or your seeing them that way does not make that distinction binding on every culture in human history.

            For the record:
            characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude.That definition accurately characterizes every comment you’ve made in this thread.And while we’re at it, can you please learn the correct use of English punctuation? Putting two periods after every other word is incredibly annoying to read and makes you look illiterate.

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

             somehow .. i didnt figure it would take you long to resort to ad hominem ..

            your intransigent insistence that the ancient Celts thot  horns & antlers are the same thing makes you the ignornat one Kauko ;)

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             Prove they didn’t then.

          • Eileen Verchot Hall

            Except no one has been trying to do that anywhere in this conversation. You just came along and announced that they were.

          • Artor

            I am amused how you are conflating your particular tradition with THE god of THE witches. You are, I hope, aware that there are a great many traditions of witchcraft, and each has it’s own patron God & Goddess, many of which would contradict you. I hate to disillusion you, (actually I don’t) but modern Wicca has very little in common with historical Celtic practices. To my knowledge, the Dagda, sacred consort of the Irish Celts, was never depicted with horns.

            I’m also amused that you accuse me of not understanding the argument, which is not about the difference between horns & antlers, as you seem to believe. Nobody here disputes that horns & antlers are different things. However, the words have been used differently in the past, and your denials to the contrary carry no weight.

  • Henry

    Maybe Hutton’s argument is wrong, and the popularity of Pan with early 19th century poets wasn’t the prototype he thinks it was.

  • Danacorby

    For the record, the illustration of Cernunnos on the Wild Hunt page is from “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper. An awesome book. part of an equally awesome pentalogy.

  • Wade MacMorrighan

    Honestly, I am in the minority that happens to be unconvinced by Hutton’s arguments for a variety of reasons: his works are not exactly objective historical arguments but what academia defines as “polemics”; he employes numerous Logical Fallacies throughout his writings; and he is clearly agenda-driven.  His chapter “Finding a God” was fatally flawed from the outset because of an unwillingness to look towards any culture that pre-dates the Victorian period and by an apparent ignorance (in the non-pejorative sense) of Classical source-material and academic literature that shows, amid other details, that Pan was, in fact, considered a “Great God” throughout the ancient world.  One such brilliant text is “The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece” by Prof. Phillippe Borgeaud; and even Prof. JB Russell’s monograph, “The Devil” traces the origins of the Devil as worshiped by “witches” to Pan and other pagan cultures.

  • Wade MacMorrighan

    Something that Hutton certainly never bothered to consider is the fact that, throughout antiquity, horns were a very common motif emoting respect and honor.  Furthermore, most chief-deities within a cult were often crowned with horns, whether bull or otherwise.

    • Obsidia

       Exactly.  Moses was shown with “horns” in order to denote his status. (see Michaelangelo’s depiction).

      And what of the high percentage of ancient cave art where the hunting (?) shaman is shown wearing horns/antlers?  Also, many indigenous people celebrate the combination of human/animal characteristics? 

      Isn’t the common denominator the way that Humans can interact and sometimes even merge with animal consciousness?  And that animals themselves are not inferior to other animals…but rather part of a great Natural sharing of consciousness?

      • Kauko

        It is my understanding that the idea of Moses having horns is more likely based on a misunderstanding of the Hebrew text of Exodus. It’s made difficult by the fact that the same root, Q-R-N, can refer to both rays of light or horns. The standard Jewish understanding of Exodus 34:29 (umoshe lo yada ki qaran ‘or panav, And Moses did not know that the skin of his face “qaran”) is that “qaran” is referring to rays of light here. Rashi comments, “For the light radiated from his face in hornlike rays.” Also compare with Habakkuk 3:4: It is a brilliant light which gives off rays (qarnayim) on every side. All the ancient translators and commentators seem to understand it this way with the exception of Jerome, who in his Latin Vulgate, translated it as ‘horns’ (et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua). This is where Michelangelo got his horned Moses.

        • Obsidia

           Horns are also symbolic of rays of light, as in the Sun.  I believe this double meaning is very very ancient.  It is interesting that the root Q-R-N has a similar sound to Herne or Cernunnos! 

          • Kauko

             Given the similarity between the words for ‘horn’ in the Semitic languages, Greek, Latin and maybe others, it’s quite possible they all have a similar source.

          • Kauko

             I was looking into this some tonight and it looks like a similar root is widespread in Indo-European languages, which begs the question, is the Semitic root also related? And if so, which language group gave it to the other?

  • Angus McMahan

    Interesting history. Love it. For me, Pan being goat-like made him more of an agricultural deity. Settled. The meadows at the edge of the forest. Cernunnos with the antlers seemed more wild, more of the deep forest. 

  • LeohtSceadusawol

    Lots of cultures have had horned/antlered deities. This could be an example of deity evolution – the earlier deities seem to be less anthropomorphic and more representative of (non human) nature, so the worship of animals/trees/etc was more common and the worship of men/ancestors less so.

    It wouldn’t be too hard to suggest that the theriomorphic deities originated from the transitional period.

    Personally, I see deities as geographically distinct (England and Norway both have monarchs, but not the same monarch), so there is no reason why there can’t be more than one deity with horns/antlers in existence.

  • Artor

    Do you have an early source for the Herne myth? AFAIK, Herne started out as Henry II’s huntsmaster, who was cursed for lying and getting one of his underlings hanged. As such, he’s a figure I avoid associating with, despite my affinity for the archetype. Just as an example, this is me, cloven hooves & all:

    • Peter M

       As far as I know, Herne is first mentioned in Shakespeare’s MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. The titular wives trick Falstaff into disguising himself as Herne, and then scare him by disguising themselves as fairies. The more elaborate legend about Herne first appears in William Harrison Ainsworth’s 1842 novel WINDSOR CASTLE. It could be derived from oral sources, but no one knows for sure.

  • Jeanne Anne Decosta

     ancient depictions of Cerrunos show him with antlers .. not with horns .. hes
    not called carnunnos either .. his real name isnt even indo-european ..
    this convo just keeps getting stupider & stupider .. boggles my mind
    that argumentative instransigent  man-splainers with no apparent knowledge of
    biology or history ~let alone any personal experience of the Great ANTLERED One~ will keep such nonsense going when its patently
    obvious that antlers & horns arent the same thing .. that the Celts
    knew this .. that they depicted the god with antlers not horns 

    if this is the level of intellect typically displayed here .. sorry i stumbled on2 this page .. my bad for expecting some intelligent discussion i guess .. maybe youll ought to get out in the woods sometime .. or to a farm .. & learn what antlers & horns are .. anyhow .. yall can keep on wallowing in your nonsense without me .. im outta here !!

    • LeohtSceadusawol

      There are ancient depictions of antlered figures, yes. These are commonly thought to be deity representations (sometimes they are suggested to be Shamans).

      This is not up for dispute. What people have been arguing is that the name comes from the Celtic root word for horn (although there is debate on the subject, as some point out that the Celtic word for horn is ‘karn’, not ‘kern’ whilst others list ‘kernou’ as the Celtic for horn. Possibly dialect differences, I couldn’t say.)

      The name itself appears on the Pillar of the Boatmen – a Gallo-Roman monument dating to the early first century (CE). It is linked to the image of an antlered man/god. So, clearly, there is an ancient connection between the name and an antlered figure.

      You keep making the claim that the Celts knew the difference between antlers and horns, but you have not actually given any evidence of this (different words for each would be useful.)

      I say again, yes the difference between horns and antlers is clear. But it doesn’t alter the very simple fact that the term ‘Horned god’ has been used for at least two thousand years (on and off) for a god-figure with antlers.

      Not, of course that any of this is meaningful in any way, when talking about the ‘strange triumph of Cernunnos over Pan’.

    • Kauko

       As you leave us, then, take this to heart: that no one here is in awe of your intellect, we’re mostly just laughing at you.

      Also, regarding below where you accuse me of resorting to ad hominem attacks, here is something you said prior to the comment I made about which you accused me of that:

      “ill simply dismiss you as being intransigent & stupid”

      Your comment there was just petty and mean. My comment in regards to your ability to type correctly following the general rules of the English language is undeniably factual.

      • LeohtSceadusawol

         Actually, I would say that the biggest ad hominem (or ad feminam, for that matter) attack would be this:

        “boggles my mind that argumentative instransigent  man-splainers with no apparent knowledge of biology or history ~let alone any personal experience of the Great ANTLERED One”

        It makes the suggestion that no one (else) has had personal experience of Cernunnos, and that all referencing throughout history must not have done, either.

  • Apuleius Platonicus

    For some reason, no one has mentioned the great love story “Daphne and Chloe” by Longus (fl. 2nd Century AD). The God Pan is mentioned therein 50 times by name. This is relevant because Jacques Amyot’s French translation of Longus’ novel, first published in 1559, was a best-seller throughout Europe. Also published that year was another wildly popular Paganizing “pastoral novel”, “Diana”, by Jorge de Montemor. So the Lord and the Lady were already firmly established in the European Imagination during the Renaissance (centuries before Hutton & Co. would have us believe).

  • Slag310

    To Jason Mankey, this is a very nice article, thank you and thanks to some of the commentators who provided additional useful information.   To Wade MacMorrighan, I appreciated your comment here, which I agreed with. By the way, you had asked last year on the YG dicussion forum for PIEReligion about customs for the Harvest among Germanic people.  That forum is dead as a doornail, I signed off years ago. But you can find some useful information here , yes, that is my website.  This is a list of songs for the late summer or early fall grain harvest, there would be other songs for later harvests, including the apple harvest, but I haven’t written that up yet. The song list gives some information about customs as well as the songs. The Goddess that you are most likely asking about is Sif (with an accent on the i), she of the golden hair which Loki cut off and had to replace.

  • D.j. Jolly III

    I am from Mississippi and spent a large part if my childhood in the woods. It only seems natural that i would stumble into Cernunnos worship (if that is the right word). I also saw Cernunnos when i was 10. I was a good little christian boy and the image of a antlered figure dancing in a fire was hard to deal with so i ignored it. I had no knowledge of any beliefs outside of christanity. Cernunnos suits very electic pagans like myself.