Cernunnos Celtic God: 9 Ways to Work with the Horned God
Branches crunch underneath your feet. The Full Moon is just visible through the thick, looming trees. You’re headed to the sacred place, deep in the forest. The place where Cernunnos calls his wild children to him. The place of initiation. Cernunnos is an ancient European god and an important one for many pagans today. He is known as The Horned One, The Horned God, Master of the Hunt and Lord of Wild Things. His energy is wild and yet welcoming, and he often calls to those who need to reconnect to their primal instincts and to the earth. Learn the history of Cernunnos and eight ways to work with him in your pagan practice.
Who is the Celtic God Cernunnos?
The horned god Cernunnos was worshiped by the ancient Celts and possibly by Indo-Europeans who lived in Europe prior to the Celts. His worship was widespread through Europe with the most evidence of his cult in Britain, France, and Spain. At least fifty archaeological artifacts with his image have been discovered, mostly in Northern France. Cernunnos is depicted as a man with antlers or horns, and he is believed to be an ancient god of fertility, beasts and the wild. His image is also prominent in cave paintings dating to prehistoric eras.
The most famous depiction of Cernunnos is on the Gundestrup Cauldron dating from the first century BC. On the cauldron, Cernunnos is a man with antlers sitting cross-legged, flanked by wild animals. He holds a torc in one hand and a snake in the other. He also wears a torc around his neck. Another famous depiction is a statue called the Pillar of the Boatman discovered in the foundation of Notre Dame Church. This piece dates back to 14 BC!
What is Cernunnos the God Of?
He is the embodiment of the primal self. The wild man deep inside all of us that we’ve forgotten for far too long. Cernunnos’ name literally means the “horned” one. The horns atop his head link him to the stag, ram, goat, and auroch. They remind us though he is a gracious and protective god, he has horns to defend himself and others. And sometimes he’s not afraid to use them.
The Celtic Horned God is Lord of the Forest, Wildlife, Abundance, Survival, Virility, the Hunt and Fertility. Cernunnos is invoked to protect one’s travels, business, and for connecting with the divine masculine. In my experience, he is a protective friend and guide to those who call on him; particularly those with Celtic heritage. He will aid you in your magical practice, notably connecting with the forest, nature spirits, and your hidden wild, primitive self.
Cernunnos: The Horned God’s Characteristics, Associations and Offerings
Cernunnos’ Domain: the forest, animals, nature, fertility, travels, the hunt, abundance, healing, sexuality, virility, and primal instincts
Physical Characteristics: a man with either deer antlers or ram horns, often sitting cross-legged in a meditation position. He wears a Celtic torc on his chest or holds it in his hand. He is sometimes portrayed with 3 faces or 3 heads, demonstrating his connection with the life/death/rebirth cycle (similar to the Triple Goddess)
Sacred Animals: stag, ram, (horned) snake, bull, dog, and rat
Symbols: Cauldron, torc
Feast Days: Beltane
Sacred plant: Oak, Ivy, Mistletoe, Juniper, Grains
Sacred place: forests and fields (all wild, un-spoiled places)
Offerings: wine, water, milk; antler sheds, leaves, soil, his sacred plants; acts of sexuality, primal drumming music, entering an otherworldly state
Spiritual Allies or Aliases: The Green Man, Pan, Puck, Herne the Hunter
8 Ways to Work With the Celtic God Cernunnos
Your relationship with Cernunnos will be unique to you. We provide our readers with ways to connect with deities, but ultimately your connection with the horned god will take on its own personality. You’ll find ways that work for you and some that don’t. Just be prepared: working with Cernunnos is no easy matter. He is an ancient, primal and wild god who honors his instincts and wildlife above everything else.
1. Study the Horned God’s History & Origins
While there may not be many written myths of Cernunnos, his history and lore reaches far and wide. I recommend studying the archaeological evidence of his cult, as well as the Celts’ history and beliefs. Researching other horned gods will also give you a deeper understanding of Cernunnos. As well as the Green Man. As they are all linked.
2. Make Sacred Space for Cernunnos
Make sacred space dedicated to him: an altar with colors of the earth and forest (green, brown), a representation of him (statue or photo), candles, acorns, tree branches, a cauldron, a torc, offering bowls/bottles, green and brown stones, animal figurines or images like the deer, snake, dog, etc. Welcome him to your sacred space and into your life – a simple prayer is perfect! Greet him as The Horned God, Lord of the Wild Things, God of the Hunt, and The Horned One.
3. Provide Offerings
By providing offerings for Cernunnos on a regular basis, you are engaging in an exchange of energy. Or in an exchange of gifts. While some offerings are given in exchange for magical aid, other offerings are given to show one’s gratitude. Offerings for Cernunnos include water, wine, mead, ale, and non-edibles like tree branches, acorns, seed pods, flowers, etc. The Horned God enjoys bread, particularly homemade, as well as homemade meals. Figurines and pictures of wild animals and forests make great gifts for this wild Celtic god.
4. Into the Wild
One of the easiest ways to connect with Cernunnos is by going into the wild places. By taking a trip and staying in the woods or wilderness, you’ll feel his presence. Go for a hike, stay in a cabin, or go camping. If anything, take a brief walk through the woods. Look, listen, and feel. Cernunnos speaks through the trees and animals. Perform rituals and cast spells that invoke the horned god in the forest to amplify your magick’s strength.
A torc is a Celtic piece of jewelry, typically worn around the neck or chest, that’s made of thick metal. Cernunnos appears to wear or hold a torc in nearly every depiction of him. Acquire your own torc and dedicate it to Cernunnos. Leave it on his altar and ask for him to charge it with his energy. Then wear the torc during ritual, while out in public for protection, and to increase your primal instincts.
The Celtic god Cernunnos is famously depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron. Because of this, he is often associated with the magical tool the cauldron. Place a cauldron on his altar and learn how to use it in your rituals and spells. Or use it as a vessel for offerings to the horned god. Cauldrons are useful in brewing potions, making food, and in burning rituals. Some people use cauldrons to burn loose incense on top of charcoal disks. The choices are many and up to you!
7. Wildlife Preservation
Because the horned god is a protector of wild life, joining a wildlife preservation committee or supporting a local animal rescue would be a great way to honor him. In my local area, we have multiple wild bird rescues that specialize in treating hurt or sick birds then releasing them into the wild. If you ever come across an injured or sick bird, call your local bird rescue. The same goes for other wild animals in your area. If you live in the city, donate money or goods to a local animal shelter. Or join a non-profit organization that supports forest preservation, etc.
8. Drumming and Trancework
If you ask anyone who’s worked with Cernunnos in their practice how to go deeper with connection, they’ll tell you to get into shamanic drumming and trancework. There’s something about shamanic drumming that puts you into an otherworldly state of mind AND reconnects you to your primal self. Its in that esoteric state, where we are disconnected from reality and yet more connected to our own bodies, where Cernunnos dwells. Put on some drumming (or beat the drum yourself), have a bonfire, and dance in the wildnerness and you’re sure to meet the Celtic horned god himself.
9. Work With Other Horned Gods
Cernunnos isn’t the only horned god. There are theories that Cernunnos is more of an archetype or a spiritual representation of ALL of the wild, fertile deities from the wilderness. Consider working with other horned deities like Khnum, the ancient Egyptian ram-headed god. Then there’s Pan, the Greek god of ecstasy, the forest, and fertility. And there are actually horned goddesses like Hathor, Selene, and Elen of the Ways. Puck and the Green Man both display some prominent features similar to Cernunnos too.