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Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way Author(s): David Fickett-Wilbar Reviewed work(s): Source: Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium,

Vol. 23 (2003), pp. 80-111 Published by: Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/01/2013 14:00
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Cernunnos: David
Of the many


a Different Way



"Lord MacCana he is "lord of theanimals" (1983, 42); toUdo Strutynski of theAnimals" (1983, 45); to David Rankin, "lord of living beings" Miranda Green "lord of beasts and fecundity"(1986, (1986, 184); and to
184) and "a fertility-image" (1986, 194). The case seems closed. When This almost exact agreement makes me nervous, however. are repeated from source to source in almost identical such conclusions if the authors are simply passing on received language I have to wonder

him out as enigmatic at all. beasts," and "patron of commercial

deities worshiped is by the ancient Celts, Cernunnos one of themore enigmatic. This god with the antlers, sitting so certainly calmly, seems at once civilized and savage, and the contradiction poses a literature, however, doesn't challenge that is hard to resist. The academic To Anne Ross, he is "lord of wild to Proinsias prosperity" (1967, 38);


tradition. Now we certainly do not have to reinvent thewheel, but there is a need for taking a fresh and deeper look at something long

as Lord of the Beasts. generally presented for identifying Cernunnos for the ubiquitous panel from the Gundestrup cauldron (fig. 4), the Except has antlers is attitude seems to be that the mere fact that Cernunnos sufficient to prove the case. What arouses my suspicion be connected even more is that not only did an in-depth

thought settled.My disquiet is heightened by the lack of evidence

The often noted connection between 1996, 265). (Rankin, in general writers on and prosperity is also relevant. However, seem unaware of Bober's work. Since it has been fifty years Cernunnos since Bober, it seemed worth while to open the case again. of death" Cernunnos

to the Underworld rather than the forest, but even when she that Cernunnos was identified with is referenced her primary conclusion, we read that Cernunnos was perhaps not often mentioned. True, Pluto, is the Dis Pater mentioned by Caesar (Ross, 1967, 49), or that he was "lord

he studyconductedby Phyllis Pray Bober, in 1951, conclude that was to

The name "Cernunnos" is only found associated with an image in one in Paris (MacCana, 1970, inscription, on a block found under Notre Dame 1). (The inscription "Jupiter Cernunus" also appears once, on a 42) (fig.

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"little book" (libellus)


the relief of a bust of a balding man with antlers on which are hung tores. well as antlers, he has the ears of a deer. Over his head is the as "Cernunnos." Whatmough (1970, 172) will inscription generally read only allow "ern nno" for it, in its present condition. The block is indeed much worn, and was only in slightly better condition when itwas found, As on eighteenth century drawings of the piece we can say with fairly good confidence that itdid once say "Cernunnos" (Ross, 1967, 135). The bottom of the block has been lost, but the original size may be determined by the figures on the other sides of it. From the proportions of but based

from Dacia, dedicated by the president of an 1962m association of Jupiter Cernenus (magister Iouis Cerneni; Dessau, no. 7215), which, however, tells us nothing about the deity other than his on the block is name, so itwill not be part of this discussion.) Discernible

must be taken into consideration we are dealing with.

it is clear that originally the block included the the figure of Cernunnos entire figure and that he must have been sitting. It is important to note that the pillar this block was part of was set up by sailors, something which in any attempt to unravel the sort of deity


1. The Notre Dame



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title itself appears to come "horn or antler," (which *k(e)r-n(o), The root from the Proto-Indo-European in Celtic to *kornu/kernu) changes singular ending -s. The


meaning of thename would thusbe "The god with antlers" (Ross, 1967,
135). It is often stated that since the name occurs only this once itwould not be appropriate to say that it represents the "name" of the deity There are difficulties with this, however. represented. and perhaps Fortuna) are ones that are certainly considered names,

the theonymic *-no- and the first person


Roman divinities on thepillar (Iovis,Vulcanus, The labels above the


to a name, such as Apollo being called "Son of Leto." One thing used to we can say define the difference seems to be etymological transparence; if Since it's a title rather than a name. what an appellation means, "Cernunnos"

this one deity of all those mentioned is given a title rather than a name does not seem to me to be reasonable. The suggestion also requires that it is there be a firm difference between a "title" and a "name." Now can identify a title as opposed certainly true that there are cases where we

as are thoseof theother Celtic ones (Esus and Smeri[ Jos). To hold that

speculation over the etymology of "Esus." This that something recognized as the name of a Celtic god must presupposes have been originally something that we would more commonly term a "title." This requires us to ask the question of when a title is promoted to there has been much the status of a name. When does it is used often enough? When it has become

can be "translated" into the language of those who inscribed this reasoning ithas to be a title. it,by seem to The problem with this reasoning is that all deity "names" have been originally titles. "Jupiter" is "Shining Sky Father," "Agni" is "Fire," etc. And, to take an example from the pillar of the sailors itself,

opaque? Ifa child inan English-speakingcountryis called etymologically


All in all, then,it seems odd thatthisone appellationhas been denied the
it to have that status. Itmay therefore be said that there exists a group of representations of deities that seem to represent a single deity, with the name Gaulish "Cernunnos." The majority of these images come from a fairly restricted and Gundestrup, area around Paris and Reims. Two, from Val Camonica status of a "name." I think itbest to consider 82

she have a title rather than a name because the word is both transparent and found more frequently as a common noun? etymologically

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images are glaring exceptions and will need to be explained. These images are of figures that are connected with certain attributes: deer's antlers; arms in the orans position or in the lap; a container of coins or grains in the lap; a serpent or serpents with a ram's head, which he grasps behind the head, or encircle him, or both; tores, both worn

will have all of these attributes. Some of these, such as the tore and ram-headed serpent, are also found in conjunction with other deities. Of the over thirty examples, I will examine those which seem to me to hold the greatest amount of information. In short, those which are as Cernunnos identifiable as Cernunnos further data but There have no only on the basis of other monuments but supply I have limited my investigations been excluded. Camonica, suggestions been

not all depictions thatcan be identified that legs. Itmust be remembered

and held; and crossed

further to the ones Gaul,

from Val

there have

first. England and Ireland,and Iwill deal with them


the Gundestrup cauldron, and that his images are found in


between the antlers. I am not convinced thatwhat he wears on are indeed antlers, since they have no tines. It is also unsure his head whether they are growing from his head, or are part of a crown. Further, a Rather than comparing wheel is not part of other images of Cernunnos. seem more appropriate to relate it itwould this image with Cernunnos, the horned helmets from the Tiberian Arc

(Boon, and wheel

are three images that come from England that have been to be of Cernunnos. A coin found near Petersfield, Hampshire. 1982) depicts what appears to be an antlered head, with a ladder


illustrated Ross (1967, 159, fig. 109) and Boon (1982, fig. 9, 279), by
also bear wheels complex between their horns. This of horned helmet and wheel can be found as well on



European myth of the dragon-slaying), would take us too far afield.

suggest the possibility of a deity connected with wheels, horns, and serpents, which overlaps the Roman equivalents of Mars and Jupiter (and is in fact a Gaulish reflex of the Proto-Indo knobs I would but to investigate

thepanel of the Gundestrupcauldrondepictinga god holding a wheel; he is aided in thisby a smallerfigure who wears a hornedhelmet (Fig 2). The similarity with theOrange helmet is increasedby theirboth having
on the end.

this further


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Figure 2. Wheel


from the Gundestrup


can be made for an image of Cirencester (Ross, 1967, plate 43a), which shows a man grasping two horned serpents by the neck. They seem to grow from the ends of his legs, or else his legs are folded under him. His arms are bent into a semi-orans position, which may A better case

seem as if something is growing from his head, but the piece is broken off. if the arc the broken piece would have formed is completed, However, there doesn't seem to have been room for antlers. Although this piece is strongly probable, then, a definite identification of the image as one of Cernunnos A County Offaly, in Ireland is suggested image from Clonmacnois, even more problematic, being less clearly an image of Cernunnos (Ross, 1967, 147). It depicts a figure whose crossed legs are interlaced with his is not possible.

simply be necessitated by the height of the snake's necks. On either side of his head are rings with ovals in them which are generally interpreted as baskets of grain, coins, or eggs. He doesn't clearly have antlers; it does

Something growing from his head is intertwined as well, but this is the apparent antlers and likely to be hair as antlers. On the whole, crossed legs might better be interpreted as ornamental motifs. Despite Anne Ross's confidence, I have my doubts that this figure has antlers; in arms. as 84

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any case, again none

other identifying characteristics are

of Cernunnos'

present. (Ross, 1967, 147). It has been suggested Irish hero Conall

in a scene from Tain Bo similarity with the iconography of Cernunnos a poisonous in which, when Conall Frdich, serpent, the approaches slides into his belt, and is later released without harm to either. serpent

1967, 149-151) that the by some (e.g., Ross, in some sense. Ross Cernach is related to Cernunnos is usually bases this in part on the name "Cernach," which translated but which she suggests could have been a homophone which "victorious," has the meaning "angled, having corners." More important, she sees a

That does indeed sound similar to the images of Cernunnos iswhich a

snake or snakes encircle Pater,

with Dis

However, Conall best warriors in Ireland (Coe, 1995, 245), forwhom "victorious" would be a considerably more appropriate name than "having corners." The total lack of martial connection

the deity's waist. Ross also identifies Cernunnos and notes that Conall Cernach is an ancestral figure. Cernach Mesca is described in Ulad as one of the three

the imagery in the representations of Cernunnos make between the two unlikely. Finally, that Cernunnos isDis Pater is questionable, and therefore can not be used to identify him with other is difficult because with him. Any conclusions about the images which can clearly be to those images that we now turn. of Cernunnos

the religious meaning Explaining there is no mythology clearly associated his nature must therefore come from deemed as of him, and therefore it is The oldest depiction is from theVal rock carvings made by a people who been identified with Cernunnos was figure of a man with antlers, who

Camonica in Italy, one of a number of were likely Celts. The figure that has carved in the fourth cent. BCE. It is a

wears a long robe, and has his arms raised in the orans position. Around his right and possibly his left arm are loops which may represent tores, while underneath his left arm is a curved line which may represent a snake (Anati, 1961, 172).


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Figure 3. Val Camonica

Rock Drawing

The other images are from the Roman period, with the exception of that found on the Gundestrup cauldron (Fig. 4). This silver and gilt cauldron was discovered in Jutland and while itsworkmanship appears to be Thracian and Taylor, have shown), the figure on 1987, (as Bergquist the Cernunnos panel is clearly Celtic.

Figure 4. Panel 86

from theGundestrup


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Celtic boar and itstail is far too long. but it lacks thebristlesof thetypical a hyena.) To his right a large stag are it Bober (1951, p. 19) identifies as
Cernunnos1 bowl

two lions opposing each other; a single To his left are numerous animals: a boy riding a fish, and a bull, all facing away from the main figure, lion, and a dog facing him. (The dog has sometimes been identified as a boar,

This panel, from the inside of the cauldron, depicts a man with folded legs, a tore in his right hand and a ram-headed serpent in his left.His arms are in the orans position, and there are antlers with seven tines on his head.

him. The bullmatches theone on theother side of him; theyboth face to Closely paralleling theGundestruppanel is a depiction on a silver
from Lyon. Here we left.

antlers are duplicates

of his, and a smaller bull,

both of which


find a draped seated figure, whose head is so there is no proof that he wore antlers. He is, unfortunately missing, however, wearing a tore and holding one in his right hand; in his left is a cornucopia. To his right is a stag, and to his left is a dog, and a treewith a

Gundestrup cauldron is striking. On the other side of the bowl isMercury, with his money bag, counting out money on an table, and with a tortoise of all his by his side. This Cernunnos figure is the most Romanized like a classical and reclining rather than depictions, being draped god

snakewrapped around it (Wuilleunier, 1936; Olmsted, 1979, plate 63.2; Ross, 1967, fig. 98). The similarityof the composition with the

Here he holds a cornucopia in his left hand, which was cross-legged. a means of expressing in Roman symbolism the wealth likely represented by the tore. The snake has therefore been displaced from his hand, and is instead shown wrapped around a tree, a motif which would have been in the repertoire of a Roman or Greek silversmith, since itwas the canonical

the snake of theHesperides. way of representing

ram's head for the same reason. This

It has likely lost its

relief shows a balding and bearded cross-legged man, sitting in front of what appears to be a Roman-style temple. On his head are the broken stubs of antlers. On the bottom of the pediment above his head are the remains of the tips of their tines, four to each antler; on the pediment itself is a rat. Cernunnos wears a tore around his neck and an arm ring on his right arm. Over his left arm is a bag from which he is pouring out what 87

Perhaps themost impressivedepiction comes fromReims (fig. 5).

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are most stag. likely coins, which To his right is Apollo stream down and to his to pass between a bull and a left isMercury. (See MacCana,


Figure 5. Reims some of which will be dealt are other images of Cernunnos, The most but we have seen his most defining characteristics. later, defining of these is, of course, his antlers. I will deal with them in greater detail later; for now I wish simply to observe that because of them it is quite logical to presume that he originally was a hunting deity or god of There may provide another link with hunting. Hunting was important to the inhabitants of Val Camonica (Anati, 1961, 173); however hunting a major part of the Gaulish economy in the historic period, so did not form it is unlikely that a god who maintained only that meaning would have continued to be iconography 88 does worshiped. not suggest Further, hunting. other than the There is only



the forest (Duval, 1981, 151). The dog that is sometimes foundwith

antlers, the one possible

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that if this deity was associated with hunting, itwas not with In fact, he is here shown as holding a tool connected with hunting alone. thewild and animals, and a tool connected with the domestic and plants. to show Connected descriptions surrounded

the remainsof antlerson his head,who holds a bill inhis left hand and a bow inhis right(MacCana, 1970, 67.) The presence of thebill is enough

in which there is any representation, from La Celle-Mont-Saint-Jean, obvious connection with hunting. This is a statue of an upright man with

view is based largely on the Gundestrup cauldron, on which he is

are the majority of the animals by animals. However, from an iconographic point of view. Two of the animals are insignificant lions apparently fighting each other, and two more are the bulls which set, one at either side of the panel. Finally, there is a boy

as a hunting god are the with theories of Cernunnos of him as Lord of the Animals. As I have already stated, this

form a matched animals

to have attending him. It is only the stag and the dog which are any attention to Cernunnos, which, as we have seen, are found on paying the cup from Lyon, but without the other animals (excepting the serpent); we may therefore conclude are that it is those animals alone which

ridinga fish, a ratherunlikely figure for a huntinggod or lord of the

unfair to say that the animals represented with the other deities declare them to be Lords ofthe Animals, and to ask the question of just how many Lords of the Animals the commissioners of the cauldron had. Even more Cernunnos was Lord of theAnimals then doesn't

significant. Further, there are other deities on the cauldron who are surrounded by animals (e. g., the wheel god shown in Fig.2). If the animals represented around Cernunnos show that he is Lord of the Animals, I do not think it

so, and I say this only slightly flippantly,if the animals show that
the boy on the fish show than iconography, a

the surrounding animals appear to be more case of a silversmith filling space. The ram-headed so unusual that Miranda

that was theLord of Boys on Fish? Except for the stag and dog, then, he
decoration serpent is themost unusual of Cernunnos' attributes, Green writes that it is "too idiosyncratic a beast to than one culture" (1986, 26). It is not, however, an

belong to more attribute of Cernunnos alone. On the Gundestrup cauldron it is found in the company of a deity on the interior plate we have already seen (fig. 2). 89

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There are other animals surrounding the deity, three griffins and two dogs, and the serpent does not seem to be more important than any of the others. a group of It is also found on another plate, where it accompanies


What is it, then? Attempts to divine itsmeaning have relied on as the snake portion has been interpreted chthonic (Bober, 1951, 26). Ross (1967, 151 - 152) finds the widespread European belief in snakes as
in light of guardians of treasure to be relevant, which is not unreasonable thewealth that is shown with Cernunnos. The ram has been seen as either an animal of fertility or a sacrificial beast (Bober, The 1951, 26). combination analyses of the symbolism of snakes and sheep in Celtic religion. Thus,

of the two is seen by Green (1986) as creating an animal in the fertility aspects of snake and ram are combined. All these speculations might be unnecessary, however, or at least the ram-headed because misdirected, serpent is not, in fact, unique to which Celtic culture. Val Camonica, It is found as farway from Gaul, and even Gundestrup and as China, where it is a common motif on Shang Dynasty bronzes (e. g., Hentze, 1965, fig. 25). That such an BCE)

(1523-1027 unusual combined creature is found so distant in time and space from our area of interest is at first startling, but not unreasonable. We need only

to know that there was a link between China and Celtic Europe. Bober the ram-headed herself, as far back as 1951, had noticed serpent's existence in China, observing, "In all likelihood it is to be added to the from the art of the steppe peoples which were long list of motives accepted by La Tene craftsman," but this hint appears not to have been followed up on. The large gap in time and space between Cernunnos and the Shang dynasty is bridged in part by such pieces as a part of a horse harness from

think thesilk embroidery of froma grave atHochmichele (Frey, 1991, 87)

Great Tsimbalka inScythia (Artamonov,1969,plate 186; 57-58), dated to

from whose waist grow the 4th century BCE. There we see a woman identifies their serpents that curl up to be held in her hands. Artamonov to heads as those of lion-griffins, but they bear a remarkable resemblance

ram's heads, and at least establish a steppe motif of snakes with the heads is completed by a greave from of other animals. The bridge to Cernunnos in Thrace, dated to the fourth century BCE Vratsa, (Fol and Marazov, 90

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1977, 87). On

in the shape of a woman,

points out that the ivy leaves on cauldron also appear on the greave.) close to the Gundestrup cauldron.

appear two,and possibly four,ram-headedserpents. (Megaw (1970, 133)

the inner panel of the Gundestrup We can therefore bring that animal

this silver and gilt greave, made

silversmiths, most likely in northern imagery, itwas made by Thracian Thrace itself. It can therefore be shown that the ram-headed serpent existed as an artistic motif in the very area in which the Gundestrup The Val Camonica snake doesn't have a ram's cauldron was created.

We can, infact,bring itveryclose. Bergquist and Taylor (1987) have argued convincingly that although the cauldron may contain Celtic

to conclude that the It is reasonable snake does. head; the Gundestrup was added to the iconography of Cernunnos by the Thracian ram's head makers of the Gundestrup cauldron. We might therefore say that at least as far as this one attribute is concerned Cernunnos is not a purely Celtic elements.

deity,but thathis iconographyis a combinationof Celtic and Thracian

Rather, the ram-headed serpent appears here as a decorative motif. That this free-floating motif was used by the Thracian silversmiths of the

formed, than at the ram-headed serpent as already a composite being when it entered Celtic symbology. Hentze does not deal directly with the ram headed serpent, dealing instead with the other symbols on the vessels. He nonetheless deals with ram and serpent symbolism found there, linking them into a complex related to themoon, renewal, the calendar, and water. On the Thracian greave and in Scythia, however, there is none of this.

solution of the origin of the ram-headed This serpent doesn't necessarily answer the question of itsmeaning, but it suggests a direction to look. Since the creature was not an invention of the Celts, it is less important to look at the Celtic associations of the animals from which it is

Gundestrup cauldron to depict the serpentpresent in theVal Camonica

style Cernunnos could well have been a purely artistic decision, but even Cernunnos.

What chord could that have been? We have already seen how have chthonic symbolism. One way in which cultures interpret serpents this chthonicism of snakes is to see them as monsters; indeed, as theworst of monsters, who hoard wealth that should instead be perversely 91

so it clearly strucka chord in theminds of theGauls who worshiped

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distributed where see this in India, for instance, society together. We the great monster whose death is necessary for the world to come to bind

snake. This, then, would be the it is the archetypal monster, associated meaning with the underworld, death, and disorder, which withhold treasure. It is is usually shown subduing the serpent; even in significant that Cernunnos grotesque version of the ram-headed snake:

an opponent of order, a imprisons cows. If a serpent is ideologically monster made of two animals is doubly anomalous. A creature that had its origin in China as a combination of lunar symbols might have struck the Thracian silversmiths (or their Celtic clients) as instead a simply more of the monstrous

intobeing isVrtra, a serpent (Macdonell, 1974 (1897), 54 - 66), who

cases in which he isdescribedas feedingthem,thereisno questionofwho

is in charge. Cernunnos' influence crossed

Both are drawing from Posidonius, who, as 17; tr. Benjamin Fortson). the straw, writing that "the (4.36), also mentions quoted by Athenaeus or straw on the ground when they eat theirmeals" Celts place dried grass noted is that none of these authors claim that the Gauls sat on the ground at any time other than eating; this at least should make us doubt whether the cross-legged posture can be said to have been, in fact, their normal sitting position in general.) The "sitting on the ground" theory can not be maintained, however. cross-legged posture than thirty of his

(28) that the Gauls "do not sit in chairs when they reported by Diodorus and dogs" (Koch, eat, but sit on the ground using the skins of wolves tr.Philip Freeman). Strabo (4.4.3) concurs with their not sitting 1995, 11; in chairs, but tells us that they "eat sitting on beds of straw" (Koch, 1995,

may simply representthe normal sitting they position of theGauls, as


legs have been used to support theories of eastern 1951, 21-5), but the most common suggestion is that

which I have not seen (Koch, 1995, 9; tr.Philip Freeman). (Something



32) and Saintes (Bober, 1951, 29), thegoddess sitson a chair,but he sits 92

indicative of the close identification of Cernunnos with crossed legs is that even when he is paired with a goddess, as at Sommerecourt (Bober, 1951,

Of the is specifically significant to Cernunnos. I am aware of only four which are images, there are only a standing. Further, of the statues which are cross-legged, small number which we can identify as not being Cernunnos. Even more

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see, therefore, that the cross-legged posture is strongly cross-legged. We in a way not shared with other deities. identified with Cernunnos At Val Camonica, Cernunnos is shown standing; the next time we see on the Gundestrup I cauldron, he is sitting. What has happened? him,

like to suggest that the position was assigned to Cernunnos for was common reasons. to It in Val Camonica purely practical, artistic depict what appear to be divine figures only from the waist up, with arms in the orans position (see, for example, Anati, 1961; 220, 221). The image of Cernunnos there, however, is of the entire figure. Ifwe now turn to the cauldron, we find that all of the figures which strike us as


pulling men Camonica.

men intoor deities (withperhaps theexceptionof thebeingwho isputting

are in the same half form as at Val out of some vessel) In this, we have a simple transference of iconographic to the Gundestrup tradition from Val Camonica cauldron. (As an aside,

than a Cernunnos in full (especially that he has depicted considering antlers as well); there simply wouldn't have been enough room for him. His body would have been shrunken in significance and with it, his own. The solution was to still show him in full, but to fold his legs under him so as to be able tomake his proportions bigger. the ram-headed serpent is likely to have entered the iconography of Cernunnos cauldron. through the Gundestrup It is therefore not unexpected for this other artistic motif to have been to Cernunnos in the same way, again through the cauldron. applied already of the presence of these two motifs the Gundestrup We have seen how

filled the space, they would be considerablylarger depicted in a way that

this provides a new piece of Celticity for the cauldron.) The size and of the cauldron panels meant that if the half-figure deities were to be shape


was adopted in this possibility thatthegod himself way, explaining the

limited distribution depicted, of his worship, the consistency of the way he was and the strong identification of him as having crossed legs.

and their seeming origin in I suspect that the cauldron was in fact known by cauldron, the Gauls who worshiped Cernunnos. Based on its artistic merits, size, and value, it could have become a model for Gaulish religious depictions. The half-figure style of representation would not have had a parallel in Gaul, but the crossed legs of Cernunnos could have been seen as part of his nature and adopted into Gaulish representations of him. There is even the


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An obvious objection to this theory would be the images from the

of Entremont and Roquepertuse. These

There are, however, a MacCana, 1983, 109), include cross-legged men. number of reasons to dismiss this One of the images from possibility. antlers. Itmay, of course, represent a priest sitting ritually in the position of his god. There is also the case that Entremont and are Roquepertuse examples of the Celto-Ligurian type of temple. In fact, they are the two examples of this style. It is so unusual that in his classification of Celtic temples Brunaux (11) lists four types; Belgic, Vierecckschanzen, spring all of which have numerous examples, and sanctuaries, Celto-Ligurian; that is, Entremont and Roquepertuse. He furtherpoints out a strong Greek

variously from the fourth to second centuryBCE

(Ross, 1967, 65;



Entremont(Brunaux, 1988, 37) stillpossesses itshead. This head has no

only images of severed heads, both in the round and in relief, but niches for actual ones. There is a particularly artistic engraving in stone of horses' heads (MacCana, 1983, 108). Most striking of all is a large bird, most likely a goose, that sits the portico from Roquepertuse, overlooking contain niches for severed heads or skulls (MacCana, The aggressive severed heads, and horses would 1983, 100). goose, indicate either a god of war (Ross, 1967, 65), or a shrine to the honored dead (Brunaux, 1988,38). the pillars of which

and Iberian influence in the Celto-Ligurian temples. We are thus put on warning thatwe are likely to be dealing here with "aberrant" imagery. The deity or deities worshiped at these sanctuaries have no other in common with Cernunnos. The sanctuaries contain not iconography

influenced Cernunnos' would have had to iconography, it travel from southern Gaul to northeastern Italy and northern Thrace without leaving a trace in between, and then to reappear in central Gaul by inDenmark. That seems unlikely in the extreme. way of Gundestrup arms are generally either in the orans position or in his Cernunnos' are in the orans positions in the two earliest lap. They images, those from Val Camonica and the Gundestrup cauldron. The orans is a very common one in Val Camonica, where, as we have seen, it is particularly closely 94

Finally, we must remember that the earliest images that can be identified with confidence as Cernunnos are from northeastern Italy and Thrace several centuries later. In order for the Celto-Ligurian artistic tradition to have

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Itmay have had a specific linked with deities or other numinous beings. in that culture, such as receiving, giving, or protecting, or even as meaning was an expression of presence. Whatever itsmeaning, in Val Camonica. not peculiar to Cernunnos the cauldron may be a continuation however, thatmeaning The orans position on from Val Camonica,

Even on the cauldron way of showing Cernunnos holding two objects. all of the male figures are this position is not confined to Cernunnos; shown this way. (All of the females have at least one arm across their In the later representations, he has his hands in his lap. This has breasts.) a clear reason; the tore has been replaced or supplemented by a filled bowl or bag, and Cernunnos is therefore holding that symbol. attributes of Cernunnos, The tore is early on one of the major with him on the Val Camonica image. While many deities are appearing

as as with theotherdeities,or simply used by the silversmiths an effective

of the symbology

with at least two, wearing one and carrying the other in his hand or on his arms or antlers. He is therefore associated with it in a way not shared by tores indicates a other deities. The fact that other deities often wear

shownwearing one of them, it is Cernunnoswho is typicallyequipped

since it is also a common attribute of warriors, both in Alternatively, statues and classical accounts, it could be a symbol of power in general. Based on the value of many of the actual tores which have been found and of them in hoards and depositions, along with coins (Fitzpatrick, 1992, 396), however, theymay serve as well as indicators of is shown by the tore's being wealth. That this is the case with Cernunnos in some of his images by a purse, or the two being represented replaced together. That this is the case is further shown by the fact that when the presence Cernunnos carries it in his hand or wears hand or arm. When

meaningsmight be as an emblem of divinity. possibility thatone of their

If, therefore, the tore is is positive, and the serpent with representative death, that which is negative, those are the appropriate sides for them to be. Cernunnos is therefore seen, in this symbolism, to sit or stand between of wealth, with thatwhich paired opposites. 95


thedark side of existenceand the right with thebright. InEnglish this is

in the words "sinister" and "dexterous."

it on one arm, it is in his right on only one side, it is on his left. the serpent is found In Indo-European symbology and language, the left is associated with

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stag and bull, found on the relief from Reims, may be seen as Cattle are the archetypal opposing symbols as well. Indo-European of domesticated wealth. This is seen as far back as in Proto-Indo symbol from which the fact that a sentence can be reconstructed European, The

frequently mythology Cernunnos

in Indo-European with the land of the dead The 1979, 274). interpretation of the dog with (Lincoln, as a "hellhound" would its position at the left of explain Cernunnos as well as its connection with the ram-headed serpent. If we interpret the dog in relation to the stag at which it looks over Cernunnos, associated

it is the only animal animals connected with him, while at Gundestrup other than the stag and bull that is looking towards him. Since the bull should be considered to be merely part of the background, the stag and the are as well as at Lyon. Dogs dog form an opposing pair at Gundestrup

dog. This animal is not frequently discussed its importance ismade clear on both vessels;

*peH2- wiH2ro- pekwu-, "protect men and cattle" (Watkins, 1995, 210) shows both the importance of cattle and the fact that cattle can stand for everything one owns. Deer, on the other hand, are the logical animal to also serve as representatives of wealth, this time of wild rather than tame. To the left of the Cernunnos figures from Gundestrup and Lyon is a in relation to Cernunnos, but at Lyon it is one of the three

These may be considered as columns or as row. figure of Cernunnos. the rows the columns are compared, we find opposition, whereas When give us equivalences.

the two may be seen as a linked pair, as the hunter and the hunted. The panel on the Gundestrup cauldron is thus seen as a very carefully 1. We see here that this symbolic constructed system, as laid out in Table is composed of four elements, arranged in a square around the system


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Table 1: Gundestrup Cauldron

Tore: Snake:

Culture Wealth Positive Mediatorbetween Cultureand Nature |


Nature Mediatorbetween Positiveand Negative HoarderofWealth Negative Mediator r cernunnos

Mediator between


between ||NaturegndCu|ture
r ~" docp ,

Wealth ....
_Hunted_||_||_ The

Positiveand Negative

n 1 Death

and one of culture on each side, making each complete in that opposition. these sets of opposing symbols sits Cernunnos, who serves as mediator between opposites; in fact, as a reconciler of opposites in his very self, as a combination of man and animal. Between

are positive symbols, and symbols on the right side of Cernunnos those on the left are negative. We have already seen the significance of In addition, there is a representative of nature the right-left opposition.

A similar set of oppositions is found, as we have seen, at Reims, in the figures of the stag and bull. Here the stag has a negative value, as the wild animal compared to the more beneficent domestic bull. There is a further set of opposites: god of healing and light, and Mercury, Apollo, the psychopomp who leads the souls of the dead into the dark. Again they are found on the appropriate sides, and again they are part of a system of four opposites in a square, with the added opposition and arranged of a human (godly) figure and an animal on each side. (This completion sits between, system is charted out in Table 2.) And again Cernunnos human and animal in his very nature. reconciling


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Table 2: Reims Apollo: Healing Bright Human form Mercury Mediatorbetween Psychopomp Lifeand Death Dark Human form ||_| ernunnos r

Mediatorbetween Human and Animal |

Mediatorbetween Human and Anima| |

x^l!!^ .

_Animal_||_||_Animal_ Fewer

between d Mediator ....... W


Tame andWild

^J?.?" .
A .

symbols are found in the image from La Celle-Mont-Saint In one hand we find a but the system is still relatively complex. Jean, which is connected with the wild and animals, and in the other a bow, billhook, Table connected with the tame and plants.

Bi"hook: I

3: La Celle-Mont-Saint-Jean

Nurturing ||

Three Pairs I*m*,

Mediator betweenI
?_? ofOPPOS'tes Animal



In these three representations, then, we find a complex system of images, representing balanced opposites on each side of an image who contains serving as mediator opposites within his very self, with Cernunnos opposites, both externally and internally. This a god who reconciles opposites. tricephalous. The areas in which these gods were

is, then, is his role,

This view of Cernunnos sheds lighton anotherenigmaticdeity, the

worshipped were of this, theirworshippers were also likely to have been

essentially the same. (See maps 12, 13, 14 in de Vries, 1961; 159, 164,
and 168). Because the same.


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Fig. 6. Tricephalous There

from Soissons


a number of representations inwhich the two are conflated, such as on a planetary vase from Bavay (Pettazzoni, 1949; MacCana, 1983, 44), a relief from Bolards and statues from Autun and 1981, 151), (Duval, In the case of the latter two, the antlers interpreted by some (e.g. Green, 1981, 401) seasonal the antlers of rituals, in which removed so as to correspond to the pattern

is strong evidence for a close relationship between the two. In the case of the pillar from Soissons, this is indicated by there being the head a ram-headed serpent beneath it (as well as a and beginning of the body of There are as rooster, a symbol of Mercury, tying that deity in as well.)

Condat. are removable. This has been as indicating the possibility of Cernunnos were added and of deer in nature. This would

only have been possible for the Condat stature, however; the Autun statue as the one in Sommerecourt, which also has antler holes) (as well traces of solder in the holes. In other words, the antlers were possesses in. In the case of the Autun statue, the use of permanently soldered natural antlers explanation is that making is ruled out by its size (18.5 cm). A more parsimonious statues in the round with antlers that aren't


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detachable is a difficult operation, likely to fail by the breaking of the either in the carving or after (a fatewhich befell theLa Celle antlers,

statue at some point), and, in the case of stone figures, Mont-Sainte-Jean a large amount of stone, much of which would requiring simply be

of a Gaulish tricephalous (fig. 6) aren't spread the figure; rather, one looks forward and one to each side. equally in relief, This is, of course, an obvious way of depicting a tricephalous such as on the planetary vase, but theAutun and Condat three-dimensional images are also depicted in this way. At Autun, this ismade clear by the The three heads about faces forward, while at Condat it is the center head which wears a tore and has antler holes. Rather than the tricephalous having three individual heads,

two heads that look to the side beingmuch smaller than the one which

faces forwards, and two then, it has one primary one which ones which face left and right. The tricephalous, identified in secondary i e., the is therefore the god who looks both ways; part with Cernunnos, and a god of bi sits between, a god who unites opposites, god who directionality. It is easy to see how a deity with the nature of Cernunnos as I have all people, including set forth here might be spiritual satisfying. However, sailors on the Seine, have other, more worldly concerns, and any deity that It is does not address them in some way is unlikely to be worshipped. therefore necessary to ask what role Cernunnos society and the life of the individual. Lacking

can be associated obvious romana.

the context for our images, we can only investigate whether Cernunnos with other deities whose roles are better understood. The

could have played both in texts, and even generally

on the Gundestrup cauldron. a city of the Indus Valley civilization, seal, fromMohenjo-Daro, and dated to the second millennium BCE (Taylor, 1992, 89), shows a man with growths from his head sitting in a cross-legged position surrounded 1970, 38). We have already seen, from the case of by animals (MacCana, of Cernunnos This

which is oftencompared to that image fromthe Indusvalley civilization

place to look for equivalent deities is, of course, the interpretatio I would like to deal with an Before turning there, however,

the ram-headed serpent, that the distance in time and space between the two does not permit us to rule out a connection out of hand. There are,


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however, significant

between the two that make any such


connection highlyunlikely.


any snake at all), are absent from the seal. The horns on the head of the seal can easily be seen not as horns growing figure on the Indus Valley from his head, but as parts of a headdress. In fact, since they join

are first aspects of each which are lacking on the other. The typical attributes of Cernunnos, the tore and the ramheaded snake (or

horns. (It isparticularly ofthe headdress isused by ironicthatthetriplicity some Indologiststo identify figureas a proto-Siva (Sir John the Marshall,
referenced in Sullivan, 1964, 119), while Celticists are using the two horns to identify it with Cernunnos.) Even more damaging to the theory of an identity between the two is 119) has


into the fan-shape


them, they are not actually


argued strongly that what has been identified by some as a is in fact a decoration hanging from the figure's waistband, and phallus are in the Indus Valley that such waistbands found only on females. Further, the figure on the seal wears armlets, which are also found only on female figures. With the absence of the important characteristics of and the identification of the Indus Valley figure as female, the Cernunnos, similarities between the seal and the Gundestrup Cernunnos are seen to be merely superficial. Such superficial similarities may have been enough, image of this type, not necessarily directly from India culture between to have served as India and Thrace, artistic form of the Gundestrup panel. A search for such task for art historians, particularly those specializing however, for an itself, but from a a model for the intermediates is a

thatthefigureon the seal ismost likelyfemale. Herbert Sullivan (1964,

in the art of the but since such templates are unlikely to have been relevant to the steppes, of Cernunnos religious meaning (just as in the case of the ram-headed serpent), Iwill not deal with the question any further here. However, comparing Cernunnos with deities from the Indo-European world is more in the legitimate, so as to determine if he has a place first place to work is obviously in the interpretatio romana, looking at both deities that accompany him and deities with whom he is conflated. (I have already noted the name of "Jupiter Cernenus," However, since, as

of thanbeing uniquelyCeltic. The religious systems thoseculturesrather


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noted, the name is not accompanied by any defining characteristics, this deity will not be considered here.) On the "Cernunnos" block from Paris, on his right and the opposing side, by the Dioscuri. he is accompanied, are not otherwise found with him, however, so nothing more

On his leftis theGaulish Smertullos,shownkilling a snakewith a club.

The Dioscuri can be said. Cernunnos is shown twice with Hercules, on the back of the statuary group from Saintes and on a lost altar from Le Chatelet (Bober, 1951, 51; C6), known only from two nineteenth century drawings, on one side of which was a standing figure with a purse who has two things extending from his head. (The other two faces show Victory and a goddess with an open purse in one hand and coins in the other.) Bober is inclined to see Cernunnos

here; however, in light of our only knowing of this piece from two drawings, the execution of which could well have been influenced by what the artists wanted the image to show, it is impossible to be sure that this represents Cernunnos. I see two possible reasons that Hercules might have been connected with Cernunnos. First, Hercules was seen as, among other things, a killer of serpents (e. g. that of the Hesperides, which we have already seen on the Lyon cup), and the grasping by Cernunnos of the ram-headed serpent could have been seen as a similar act. Bober (1951, 31) would identify the Smertullos as well. from Paris with Hercules Second, Hercules was, of his travels on his labors, a patron of merchants, such as the sailors on the Seine would have been. Cernunnos from Reims shown Cernunnos' Cernunnos'


is accompanied three times, on the two reliefs by Apollo and that from Vendeuvres. On both of the first two he is

to Cernunnos'

would three depictions of Apollo put him to Cernunnos' right, with on Cernunnos' is not left. This would indicate that Apollo Mercury

was originallyofMercury, as atReims (Bober, 1951, 51). If so, all thatit

to his left; he is also on right, with Mercury at Vendeuvres. The image on the side of the block to right right is destroyed, but ithas been suggested, quite reasonably,

particularly associated with Cernunnos, but only in opposition toMercury. I have explained the reason for this grouping above, and see no reason to revise my opinion.


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seem to place presence of the rat at Reims; placed where it is, itwould the Saintes grouping Cernunnos underground. Further, when discussing

Cernunnoswith Pluto (44). She based Bober suggested identifying this on the laterRomanized images showing him bearded and balding (Reims and Paris), which is a typicalway of showing Pluto, and the she suggested that the smaller figure to the goddess's left should be

the three images as a whole identified as a subsidiary goddess, making these arguments to represent Pluto, Ceres, and Proserpina. While likely are reasonable, it does not mean that we have to equate Cernunnos with Dis Pater, lord of the dead, but rather with Pluto, god of wealth, which, we have seen, is certainly one aspect of Cernunnos. have


isMercury. We The deity most commonly depicted with Cernunnos as well as on seen him twice at Reims, and possibly at Vendeuvres, is himself depicted several the Lyon cup. Even more important, Mercury times in Gaul in ways connected with Cernunnos. We thus find several

and a connection with it could have been suggested by the Cernunnos, snakes on Mercury's the connection is highly caduceus; nonetheless, suggestive. The connections between Cernunnos and Mercury go the other way as well. We have already seen that although the tore remains particularly associated

1969, fig. 1951, A9; Benoit, (Bober, cross-legged images of Mercury on Mercury's are sometimes The wings petasos 143). represented as In at least horns (e.g., at Staufenberg; Benoit, 1969, fig. 145). virtually one case, at Clermont, the appearance is strongly one of antlers. There are as well several images inwhich Mercury is accompanied by a ram-headed We have seen that this serpent is not unique to serpent (Bober, 26).

with Cernunnos (even on the heavily Romanized Lyon cup), it or replaced by the purse of Mercury is accompanied in a number of and Mercury were seen by the images. It is clear, then, that Cernunnos as overlapping, either as identified with or accompanying Gallo-Romans wealth This raises the question of why. There is a connection with in both cases, but Pluto is also connected with that, and he is barely connected with Cernunnos. each other. The

explanation may come through a suggestion made by Calvert Watkins (1970b) of the possibility of an Indo-European god of exchange He describes and reciprocity. this god as one of bidirectionality, of


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with worlds of the gods and of humanity. The specificdeities he links
these ensuring the distribution of wealth, and of communicating between the

are Hermes, PuSan, with the inclusion of Pan, and the Vedic stated but not specifically dealt with in detail. Of these, it is Mercury detail than the others. PuSan

will be PuSan, so Iwill discuss him ingreater likelythatthe leastfamiliar

is a god of merchants, those who travel to and fro. Originally, he was a god of domestic animals, flocks, creatures which are though, neither wild nor tame, and are kept on the outskirts of inhabited territory, on land neither wild nor tame. As

1897, 36). As "master of theway" (MacDonell, also functions as a psychopomp: he

(RigVeda 1.89.6), increasing(1.89.5), and bestowing (1.142.6) ofwealth

(6.53.1; Watkins, 1970a),

a god of the herds, he is also possessing

May Pusan carry you from here, the knowing one, none of whose cattle perish, shepherd of theworld. May he lead you to those Fathers. (10.17.3; Pusan after Geldner, 2003) is thus a god of go-betweens, of liminal states, of wealth, and of the journey of the soul. Ifwe now turn back to the classical world, the first deity to draw our attentions is the Greek Pan, whose name is likely linguistically cognate

of with "Pusan" (Polome, 1997,415). While he is often thought as a god wild forest neither of the flocks, inhabiting of the wild, he is rather god
nor tame village and farmland, but the half-wild, half-tame pastures. With his horns and cloven hooves, he partakes in himself of both the animal and the human. He is not himself connected with wealth (except insofar as domestic animals are wealth), but his father Hermes most certainly is.


is himself a god of the borders, with his cairns or herms marking the And we have already seen that Mercury, the edges of properties. is the most common deity depicted with of Hermes, Roman equivalent I have summarized the shared characteristics of these deities Cernunnos. in Table 4.


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Table 4: Mercury


and Cognates_




Herds, "Bring

Wealth: Distribution

Possessing, Sheep



Psychopomp Mediator between up and


Mediator Mediator between between up and up and down

down Messenger Messenger


ofgodsof sun


Identified with Hermes

Identifiedwith Mercury,
_father Roads of

Son of Hermes; "Pan" cognate with

"Pusan" cognate with

"Master of the

Pan_"Pusan"_"Pan"_ and

Merchants Merchants Merchants

way, protector "

_of travellers

Doors Offered to on threshold

Announcer sacrifice of sacrifice Announcer of

Goat Goat Leads bride to

groom Borders Herds,

Goat Goat Leads bride to

groom Borders Pastures Herds

Physical deformity: Partgoat Worshiped in

caves Snakes Snakes

Physical deformity:

Lives inand is
worshiped in caves

Goes & returns

Goes & returns


& returns Ships GrainGrain (gruel)


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This evidence

Even more interesting, especially for the purposes of this paper, is that Cernunnos may be added to the group, as is shown inTable 5. (I have added some characteristics of the earlier deities that gain in importance The table confirms my contention that with the inclusion of Cernunnos.) is not a god of the wild, but rather a deity connected with one Cernunnos of themost Table characteristic elements of culture, namely commerce.

indicates at the very least a central and eastern isogloss of a of bidirectionality associated with wealth. Many of the characteristics god - a I list may seem almost obviously connected god of roads might be thought of as a psychopomp. Others, however, are a bit naturally as a connection with goats. surprising, such

5: Cernunnos


Wealth: Possessing, Psychopomp

Wealth: Distribution Psychopomp

Wealth: Sheep

Wealth: Herds,
"Bring Prosperity"

Wealth: Possessing,


Psychopomp: Between Apollo

and Mercury

Mediator up and down

Mediator up and down

between between between


Mediator up and down and (tore snake)

up and down




gods Identified withHermes

ofgodsof sun


Identified withMercury, father Pan, of Patron: Roads and travelers

Son of Hermes; "Pan"cognate with "Pusan"

"Pusan" cognate with "Pan"

Accompanied by,and identified with,


Patron: Patron: "Master the Sailorson Seine of of way, protector







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Table 5: Cernunnos

(cont.)_ Pusan DoorsOffered to on threshold Cernunnos Sits on threshold
_(e.g. Reims)









Goat Goat


Goat Leads bride to



Leads bride to

Borders Herds, Pastures

Borders Pastures

Liminal zone of forest Herds of

cattle _deer and

Physical deformity:
Part goat

Physical deformity:

Physical deformity:

Worshiped in caves
Snakes Snakes Snakes

Lives inand is worshiped in

caves _


Underground Reims

Goes and

Goes and



Looks both _(three heads) Sailors Grain?

Ships Grain (gruel) Grain

Mercury, since they are not purely gods of wealth under the ground, Pluto's realm), but of wealth commerce. through

as given in the table therefore into a Celtic deities list of connected culture, as indeed an Indo his suggested god of bi-directionality establishing European one. It also explains why Cernunnos was related specifically to The correspondence extends Watkins' of characteristics (which may come from created and exchanged


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In summary, then, although, pace Bober and others, Cernunnos was considered a god of material prosperity, he was so by means of his nature as a god of the in-between, of bi-directionality, of the reconciliation of

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