1. Meaning of Name: Ceisiwr Serith and Kondratiev both give us “The God with Antlers”. Green disagrees slightly, translating the name as “Horned One”, or “Peaked One”.1
2. Pronunciation: Kayr-NUN-awss, with the “u” like in “put”.
3. Other Names and Epithets: The name can also be spelled Kernunnos, Karnonos, Carnonos, and in various other ways.2
Interpretatio Romana: Ceisiwr Serith suggests Mercury, Hercules, Apollo, and Pluto. Mackillop suggests Dis Pater, as does Phyllis Fray Bober.3
4. Irish Equivalent: Mackillop suggests the hero Conall Cernach, but this is disputed by Serith.4
5. Indo-European Equivalent: Páxusōn, the Indo-European God of herds, wealth, merchants, and bi-directionality.5
6. Realm: Neither ueronados nor andernados, Cernunnos mediates between the worlds.
7. Iconography: Green describes his iconography as antlers, stags, the ram-horned snake, torcs, a sack of grain and/or money, and a rat. Serith disputes this to some degree, arguing that the context of the horned serpent may suggest that it is a generic monster. Serith further suggests that sitting between the serpent and the torc may represent Cernunnos as a mediator between opposites. Likewise, he suggests that the depiction of Cernunnos on the Rheims altar, showing him between a stag and a bull, may represent his mediation between the wild and the civilized.6
8. Significance: Serith, in his extensively documented and closely reasoned article, sees Cernunnos as the a mediator between opposites, a God of bi-directionality and exchange, reciprocity and ambiguity. In this view, Cernunnos mediates between Upper World and Underworld, Samos and Giamos, wild and civilized, good and evil, light and darkness. As such, he is a God of agreements, contracts, merchants, and travelers. I also see him as a God of communication, an Opener of the Way, who can be invoked to bear prayers to the other Gods, as well as a psychopomp, a Guide of the Dead. He may be able to function as a spiritual initiator, as well. Kondratiev, in The Apple Branch, adds to this an elaborate seasonal mythology, in which Cernunnos stands for the giamos principle. Phyllis Fray Bober, in her 1951 article Cernunnos: Origin and Transformation of A Celtic Divinity, argues that Cernunnos is in fact Dis Pater, the Celtic lord of the Underworld and the Dead. Certainly, this would be in keeping with Cernuunos’ role as a psychopomp.7
- Ceisiwr Serith, Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way, http://www.ceisiwrserith.com/therest/Cernunnos/cernunnospaper.htm; Kondratiev, Basic Celtic Deity Types; Green, Dictionary, p. 59 ↩
- Kondratiev, Basic Celtic Deity Types ↩
- Kondratiev, Basic Celtic Deity Types, Serith, Cernunnos; Mackillop, p. 86 ↩
- Mackillop, p. 86; Serith, Cernunnos ↩
- Serith, Deep Ancestors, p.p. 59-60 ↩
- Green, Dictionary, pp. 59-62; Serith, Cernunnos ↩
- Serith, Cernunnos; Kondratiev, Apple Branch, pp. 99-102; Phyllis Fray Bober, Cernunnos: Origin and Transformation of A Celtic Divinity, pp. 13-51 ↩