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.