Finding Cernunnos

Finding Cernunnos January 1, 2022

Finding Cernunnos

Finding Cernunnos is one of those classic Celtic undertakings. The destination is uncertain and the journey is through a number of passageways which may lead to wonderous discoveries. Or to dead ends. This post is about that journey. Better yet, it is about that journey, so far.

Gundestrup

I cannot remember when I first saw an image of Cernunnos for the first time. I know that it was the image from the Gundestrup Cauldron, but the exact year escapes me. It is a fascinating image that has captured my imagination for quite some time. Cernunnos is readily visible, yet so are other animals. What exactly is the relationship is between Cernunnos and the animals that surround him?

I have always found it striking that the stag to his left had a very similar set of antlers to Cernunnos. I wonder if it is because they share this attribute, because they are one in the same, or whether it is some form of sympathetic magic lurking just beneath the surface.

Seeing Cernunnos

The one thing that I am sure of: the vision represented on the Cauldron is a unified vision. In my opinion, these aren’t images that are superimposed over other images. What you see is what was in the eyes of the artist. Cernunnos isn’t separate from the reality presented. He is a part of it. When I look at the images, I don’t over-analyze it – I accept it, as is.

Lord of the Forest?

In RDNA, they often talk about Dalon ap Landu, a latter-day creation that is called the Lord of the Forest. For a very long time, I assumed that Dalon ap Landu was the same as Cernunnos. In my mistaken notion, he same entity, just a different name. I was to learn that this was not exactly the case.

I have spent a lot of time in the forest. Camping and hiking have long been a part of my life. I have run in the forest for a long time andI still do. It is an important and integral part of my daily religious and devotional practice. Since I was very young, I have looked for Cernunnos for years on end, yet, I have never seen him.

Looking for Cernunnos

I have seen deer. Fawns and does and bucks have crossed my path, and mine theirs. Once, I saw a doe that was taller than I was and broader. It was still not Cernunnos. I came to the realization that I probably wasn’t going to see Cernunnos. Nevertheless, I kept looking.

I have seen many deer on the trail. Sometimes they are waiting for me just watching. At other times, they are crossing the trail, either quickly or slowly. They are beautiful and graceful. I always feel that there is something auspicious about their crossing my path, especially, with a Hellenic bent, when they cross from left to right.

Are they Cernunnos?

While I saw many of these magnificent creatures, there was not a single one that stood out as something or someone as grand as Cernunnos. Are they special? Without a doubt. Are they imbued with magic and presence? I surely feel that they do. Are they Nature Spirits? Definitely, they are without a doubt a part of the spirits of nature.

Are they Cernunnos? No.

As I continued my runs through the forest, I was always careful about footing. I have tripped and fallen while running, both in the forest and on the roads and it is embarrassing and potentially perilous. SO, through the use of peripheral vision, I take great care to watch where I step as I am running down a trail or a road.

Since I live in a part of North America that does have snowy and icy weather, I am ever mindful of the possibility of sliding on ice, either seen or unseen, as in black ice. Winter and its snows came and went, and the path was often snowy or muddy or frozen and I was careful as I ran through the forest.

Spring Arrives

Spring came and the trails slowly cleared, and I was intrigued by the transition from bare forest to a young forest to a budding grove (with thanks to Marcel Proust). Something was tugging at my consciousness, but it was subtle. It didn’t jump out at me in the least. It was just hidden, hidden and there.

Watcher of the Skies

I continued running the trails and one day I looked up into the sky, through the trees, and it occurred to me. Through the branches, past the leaves, reaching into the sky, I saw it. The branches, as they reached out, looked just like antlers, from the tree to the sky. It was that branch against that patch of sky, but the antlers were plain to see.

As I continued to run, I did not see antlers in every tree that silhouetted against the sky, but there were certainly those that were unmistakable. I had run by them countless times and never seen it. Now, as I passed by, I couldn’t imagine this scene as anything else but the presence of Cernunnos.

Branches Against the Sky

Branches reach to the heavens,
Antlers against the sky,
I see Cernunnos in the trees,
As I am running by.

Hail to you,
Lord in the Forest,

Your body is the trees,
As the sun kisses your branches.

Flow, Stream, Flow

I have many paths to chooses through the forest, and as the weather became slowly more pleasant, I changed my route to take me deeper into the forest. The beauty of these trails is that I can cross over some small stream, over picturesque small bridges made of stone and earth. Since this has been a wetter year than most, I like to see the water in the streams, slowly meandering through the forest, a lazy progression of water flowing through lowlands and trails.

As I gazed into the water as I crossed a cross-roads bridge, I saw an interesting site. One of the antler-trees sat next to the stream and as I passed over the bridge, I saw the reflection of the branches in the water. Not only did I see the branches reflected in the stream, but I also saw the antlers reflected in the water. When I finished my run, I walked back to this place to see if I saw what I thought I did, or whether it was a trick of the light.

Looking Into the Waters

When I investigated the reflection in the stream, I against saw the unexpected. I saw the reflection of antlers in the water! Antlers against sky in water. Once I was able to look past the reflection and in fact looked into the water, I saw that not only was there a reflection of antlers, but the branches that had fallen into the water looked like antlers under water. In a moment of Neptunian clarity, I saw that the antlers were there as well.
At later times, as the stream was moving with more than just a ripple, the branches under water and the refraction of the image as I was running by looked to me to be branches moving in this panorama. Now, I was able to see Cernunnos in the sky, but also running in the waters.

Branches Against the Sky and Sea

Branches reach to the heavens,
Antlers against the sky,

I see Cernunnos in the trees,
As I am running by.

Branches in the waters,
Reflection from above,
As the stream moves onwards,
I see Cernunnos in the waters as they move.

Hail to you,
Lord in the Forest,
Your body is the trees,
As the sun kisses your branches.
Your body is in the stream,
As your run through moving water.

Sky and Sea and…

I found the presence of Cernunnos is the trees and in the waters one of great comfort. It was nothing like I expected, when the prior vision of this God would have been one of him sitting crossed leg in the forest, serpent in hand. I think that image was to indicate the presence of this God amongst the forest and the other animals.

Summer Arrives

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place later in the summer. Since the trails are rather uneven in places, I always must take care not to step on twigs or branches that fall or with pools of water that may cross through the trail. Roots, embedded in the path may also become a hazard if I do not pick my feet up or avoid them altogether.

Antlers Again

After running past the same roots for months on end, something finally caught my eye. On a particular sunny day when the light was filtering through the trees, I started looking at the roots as I ran by. Looking down, many of them looked like roots on the trail, however, quite a few of them were obviously antlers. The more I ran, the more I looked, the more antlers I saw. They were antlers everywhere, embedded in the trails that I ran.

The antlers were a part of the Earth itself. Cernunnos was everywhere I looked in the forest, not only as branches against the sky, and branches reflected in the water. He was also pushing out from the soils all around. Seemingly, he is the forest himself.

Branches Against the Sky and Sea and the Land

Branches reach to the heavens,
Antlers against the sky,
I see Cernunnos in the trees,
As I am running by.

Branches in the waters,
Reflection from above,
As the stream moves onwards,
I see Cernunnos in the waters as they move.

Roots in the forest,
Antlers inscribed,
On the very ground,
That is the forest.

Hail to you,
Lord in the Forest,
Your body is the trees,
As the sun kisses your branches.
Your body is in the stream,
As your run through moving water.
Your body is the Earth,
The very floor of the forest.

The Lord in the Forest

So, Cernunnos is not the Lord of the Forest, as I was once led to believe, but instead Cernunnos is the Lord in the Forest. He does not walk in the forest, he is the forest in which all other walk, crawl, fly, or swim. He is the heartbeat of the forest and the life and magic that permeates that very place.

Look at the Gundestrup Cauldron. I believe if we take the image of Gundestrup and look at it a different way, I see Cernunnos as not just a character in the forest, but the forest itself, upon which all else in that forest dwell. He is the stream, he is the branch, he is the root, he is the canvas upon which the forest is drawn.

He is the Lord in the Forest.


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