Unlike many Pagan women, there isn’t a lot of “Goddess” in my worship. I have my altar to the Matrons that I have combined with Hestia, Hera, and Hecate, and I have my statue of our gal Freya, but in general I have always been drawn to the male forces in nature. They are so much more wild, primal, and have this element of lust in all its forms that I feel in my bones. When I have had any kind of spiritual discourse, it has always been with a masculine deity. When I am out in the forest, I don’t feel that gentle, embracing earth energy of growth others speak of, I feel the manic pulsing throb of nature. The wind is a purring predatory whisper, calling me with its bloodsong. My world has always been more about a volatile, passionate engagement. I love the sea, and storms, and thunder and lightning.
Although my practice is not Celtic, Cernunnos is a concept I can relate to. I say concept because there really isn’t an firmly established historical god called Cernunnos, the name is used as a catch all for the pan-Celtic reoccurring figure of the Horned God (if I remember correctly, there is only a single attestation to the name “cernunnos”, but many artistic renderings of various horned god figures across Celtic Europe and parts of Anatolia. I should probably double check this, but I am tired and spent all day trying to wrap my head around German negations, modal music, and how French wine influenced art and music, so for the sake of argument let’s pretend I am 100% certain). While the ADF emphasizes viewing the gods as entities rather than archetypes, in some cases I think the power is in the archetype when a specific entity isn’t described. The very nature of Cernunnos is something mutable and experienced differently by different people, possibly owing to his being a medley of different deities. Some portray him as a gentle steward of the animals, others as the untamed king if the wild, others view him as a Pan like figure, some see him as Oberon. I don’t see how the any of these are mutually exclusive. Nature is both mothering and merciless by turns, any god of the natural world would have to include many aspects. Similar gods demonstrate similar dichotomies. Dionysus is a god of growth, wine, and of ecstasy, but has been show in myth and literature to be able wield his powers in very dark and destructive ways.
I have seen Pagans jump down each others throats about how a god is represented or described. One of the few things that Christianity gets right (on a philosophical level, not so much in practice) is the idea that one can not know the mind of god. That Pagans feel they can saddens me. Cernunnos is a deity as complex as nature itself. If to me he feels like sleeping in a pile of wolves and to others he feels like a gentle spring breeze, what is the difference? We are dealing with knowledge that is both revealed (knowledge learned by divine experience or revelation) and rational (knowledge gained by scholarship and history). When we reconstruct the practices of the past from the fragments we have, we have to retain an open mind and face the fact that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do.