Archive for the ‘A to Z of Mythological Figures’ Category

So who is this Cernunnos dude? (A to Z)

August 1, 2008

It’s been a while but I’ve decided to continue on with the A to Z of Mythological Figures series. Everything you read or comment (yep, you can play along too!), is/must be from memory. It doesn’t matter if a few mistakes are made along the way. Also, if you know anything about Herne, you can post that as well (I’ve forgotten how the story goes). Even sharing you experience/s with the God would be interesting and perhaps helpful in understanding this mysterious and complex deity. My understanding of Cernunnos derives from my studies into comparative mythology.

Okay, here goes…

Hang on a minute…there isn’t actually any ancient written mythology about this deity. All we know about him comes mostly from Roman-Celtic iconography, stone statues and the like, and what’s more, his name only occurs on a single inscription, somewhere in France, either above or below the partial remains of a statue of a horned deity. All that’s left is the Head. It’s said that the God must have been in a sitting position, because there isn’t enough room on the monument for Cernunnos to be standing, and so all seated horned gods have inherited the name, including the antlered god depicted on the famous (OK, I’m going to have to check the spelling) Gundestrup cauldron.

Apart from the horns (or antlers) and a desire to remain perpetually seated (or squatting), Cernunnos likes to surround himself with various animals, particularly stags and horned serpents. He also likes wearing a torc, or hanging them on his horns like a pair of Bet Lynch earrings.

The earliest possible depiction of Cernunnos is actually a drawing found in Italy (dating to something B.C.), although he’s standing up, the God is interpreted as another Cernunnos because he is accompanied by a serpent (and possibly a stag or he might have antlers).

While the horns indicate that Cernunnos has the ability to take on the form of a bull (another creature who is a part of his animal entourage), the antlers likewise show he can also take the form of a Stag, and parts of his body (such as his legs) are sometimes shown morphing into serpents.

He is doubtlessly a god who bestows abundance upon his worshippers. Horns of plenty, sacks overflowing with grain or coins, are also part of his iconography. One example shows a stag with a stream of coins issuing from his mouth.

He also made friends with some Roman deities: Both Hermes and Apollo have been known to hang out with him from time to time.


What do you know about Blodeuwedd? (A to Z)

April 4, 2008

Every week or so, I’ll pick a Deity/or a human character from myth (in alphabetical order), and from memory write all I can remember from myth, archaeology, experience, or elsewhere, relating to that Deity. It would be great if you could play along in the comments. Also, feel free to add or correct any of the given info.

Here’s my attempt…

Amazingly I can spell her name. Not too sure on the pronunciation. I think it’s something like blod-e-weth. Arianrhod, in an attempt to deprive her son Lleu Llaw Gyffes on attaining his manhood placed three curse on him: 1) He would remain nameless, unless Arianrhod named him; 2) He would not bear arms unless she armed him; 3) and he would never marry a natural born woman. With the help of Gwydion…

(Gwydion adopted him, although recently when I researching Arianrhod, I kept reading that he was married to Arianrhod, who was also his sister, and that Lleu was his natural son. I’m not sure if that’s correct or not. I’ve always understood that Lleu was the magically conceived and instantaneously born son of Math and Arianrhod (admittedly that my own personal interpretation). Although, what I interpret as as a magical act of sex without them actually doing it, strictly speaking it was a test to see if Arianrhod was a virgin or not after she had applied for the job of ‘royal foot-holder.’ When she on the spot gave birth to twins, that kind of gave the game away and she returned to Caer Arianrhod (Arianrhod, means something like ‘silver circle.’))

…, who was something of a magician, Lleu overcame the first two curses. The third, required the help of King Math (from whose branch of the Mabinogi, the myth comes from). Together, Math and Gwydion created a wife for Lleu from a combination of (six kinds of ?) flowers (If you can name them I’ll be impressed. I remember one was meadowsweet). Blodeuwedd meaning something like ‘flower face/aspect/persona.’

At first Lleu and Blodeuwedd were happily married, but while Lleu was away somewhere, Blodeuwedd fell in love with someone else (Can’t remember his name). The lovers decided to figure out how to kill Lleu, and one day Blodeuwedd manged to get Lleu to reveal how he might be killed….

(This is a pretty common theme in mythology and folktales, and it crops up a few times in Celtic myths alone. The myth of Blodeuwedd and Lleu has a close parallel in Egyptian myth in the tale of ‘Bata and his brother.’)

Lleu seemed to think he was indestructible, and told her that he could only be killed if he was both inside a house and outside, with one foot on a bath…

(The ‘Bath Murder’ is another reoccuring theme. Agamemnon was said to of been killed by Clytemnestra while taking a bath. In the romance of ‘Tristan and Iseult,’ Iseult tries to kill the already wounded Tristan in a bath, after discovering that he had killed her father. The boat that Tristan was set adrift in is again related to the symbol of the bath, as if the floating chest/coffin/ark/ (also Vishnu’s couch) of various mythologies, that are related to the old-and-new-moon boat that floats upon the cosmic ocean symbolic of the Goddess’s womb. The bath symbol kind of re-inverts this mythic image of the ocean vessel, which is itself a womb symbol, where the dying/wounded/drunk/asleep god, caught within the threshold of death and life of the cycle, be it monthly, yearly, or the entire cosmic manifestation of cyclic existence, dies and is reborn.)

…and the other on a mule, with a spear that was created on sunday (the day of rest), implying that his death was somehow impossible. However, Blodeuwedd took him seriously, and after (a year and a day?), her lover had fashioned the forbidden spear, and Blodeuwedd convinced Lleu to act out his paradoxical death stance. Lleu was speared, but instead of dying, he was transformed into an eagle and flew away, which was good enough for the two lovers.

Gwydion searched the land for Lleu, until one day he came across a swineherd who told him that every day his sow would disappear ever morning and return again at night, and was puzzled as to her whereabouts. Gwydion followed the sow to a tree upon a hill, where there was perched an eagle, who dropped bits of rotting meat to the sow below, who devoured them. Gwydion summoned up his magical power in verse and struck the eagle with his staff, which transformed back into Lleu. After Lleu had regained his former health, he compelled his wife’s lover to accept his fate, and assume the same impossible death stance, and Lleu killed him with the spear. Blodeuwedd was transformed into an owl… (‘Wide-eyed’ Athene was also an owl, and was depicted as such on Greek coins, as (I think) was Lilith)), …fated to remain in the darkness of night forever, shunned by all other birds.

What do you know about Apollo? (A to Z)

January 29, 2008

I’d like to try something new. Every week or so, I’ll pick a Deity (in alphabetical order), and from memory write all I can remember from myth, archaeology, experience, or elsewhere, relating to that Deity. It would be great if you could play along in the comments. Also, feel free to add or correct any of the given info.

Here’s my attempt…


Artemis’ twin and son of Zeus and Leto, who gave birth to both of them beneath a tree on an island somewhere in Greece. Apollo Killed the Python who guarded the Oracle at Delphi and claimed it as his own. I think the dictum “Know thyself” hung above the entrance to the oracle. I imagine that Apollo has a symbolic mirror, which is the sun, the indestructible face of divinity that reflects back upon his devotees, although I’m unaware of any tradition claiming that Apollo had a mirror or it was a cult object associated with Apollo. Animals associated with Apollo are mice and serpents. I think in classical sculpture he is depicted holding a serpent staff (Caduceus), like his son Aesculapius (the divine physician), who, Zeus blasted with a thunder bolt, for practicing the art of physical resurrection. Apollo got his own back by slaying the Cyclops who forged the bolt, but had to pay penance of some kind

In the Iliad, Apollo inflicts plagues upon the Greek armies because Agamemnon refused to return Apollo’s priest’s daughter. I’m uncertain of Apollo’s origins but at some point he upgraded as a sun God. It was at the feast of Apollo (winter solstice I think), that Odysseus finally returned to the Island of Ithaca. Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle, and in recompense created the five-stringed tortoiseshell lyre, which he gave to Apollo.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses he falls in love with a nymph called Daphne. He chases her, but to escape his advances, she changes herself into a laurel tree.

I’m sure a mortal challenged Apollo to a contest with the lyre. I can’t recall the details, but the mortal lost and, I think, was hung on a tree and flayed alive. nasty.