Pagan Blog Project Week 6- Cernunnos

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.

Nature Stuff: Are You Ready to ROCK?

I went down to the beach to look for stones to make my rune set the other day. This being the Pacific Northwest stones are a dime a dozen, since we have shingle beaches. It doesn’t hurt to live on an island the size of Manhattan either, since the beach is, well, everywhere. (Trivia time: Manhattan is 22 sq mi and has a population of 1.5 MILLION people. Our island is 23 sq mi and has a population of around 900, but only about half of those are year-round residents.)


Yes, it’s as cold as it looks. And if it were a clear day you could see Canada in the distance.

When I left the house that day, it wasn’t raining. As a native Northwesterner, I take pride in the fact that I have never owned an umbrella and I am fairly hardy in inclement weather. As the descendant of English seafarers, I’d like to think that a brisk marine squall is merely but a mild nuisance. However, the torrential downpour that started was such that within minutes I was soaked to the bone. Of course, this starts after I had already walked a good ways down the beach. It probably would have been wise to wear something a little warmed than a linen jacket, too.


That’s right bitches, I’m 42 and unafraid to show you myself, without make up and looking like a wet dog. UNAFRAID, I TELL YOU!

I stuck it out, though, and I found several good stones that I think will work fine. I got to spend a nice hour or 2 in the rain in complete solitude, just me, the beach, the rain and the birds. In the autumn and winter, after the Canadians who own summer houses and the weekenders stop coming, there is a silence at the beach that is so sharp and lovely it’s almost tangible. You can almost hear the fog passing by. Nature relaxes and returns to a more peaceful center. There are over 250 known species of bird that call the island home, depending on the time of year. There are deer everywhere, to the point of being pests, eagles are as commonplace as pigeons, ravens dominate the landscape like glossy black generals barking orders; we even are rumored to have a small population of fox on the island. If you are very lucky you might even see a pod of orcas or grey whales. In the spring, I could sit in my living room and just watch the outdoors like tv, but is that enough?


A view of the island taken from the ferry at sunset in mid-September.

Most people would kill to live in a place like this (provided they could stand the gloom and the solitude). I am seriously blessed to live in one of the most beautiful and rare places on earth, and the fact that I am such an “indoor kid” is almost criminal. Years of childhood asthma and severe allergies have made me habitually avoidant of the outdoors. When we lived in Seattle, we lived just a few miles from the Arboretum, and yet I only managed to make it there a handful of times. I really need to get out an enjoy my environment more often, and by more often I mean more than just the walk out to my car. Thinking about how much time we spend indoors as a culture breaks my heart. The standard cliche about “nature being my church” should be true for most pagans, if not all. A deep appreciation of nature is one of the gifts of this path, perhaps we should all take a moment to remove the pane of glass that separates us from it.


Oh look, more islands!

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