29 August 2007

The Horned God

Above is a line drawing version of "The Sorcerer" or the horned shaman from Paleolithic cave art found in modern France. The figure is quite obviously therianthropic, meaning it blends human and animals’ forms into a symbolic image. The trouble arises when one tries to pin down the meaning of said symbology. The most commonly held theory is that the image portrays one of the earliest spiritual leaders, a shaman, in the course of a ritual or trance. Pre-historic shamans used the same techniques that later shamans use to induce trance and work magic: chant, dance and various hallucinogenic or otherwise psychotropic natural substances. These shamans were the medicine men, and possibly women, of their society; they were learned herbalists and healers, intermediaries between the people and the gods and the natural world, practitioners of the earliest religion and magic. These historical horned shamans are the ancestors of later gods such as Cernunnos and Pan.

Cernunnos is probably the most easily recognizable and most popular of the Horned Gods. His name is literally "the horned one". He was worshiped all over Gaul (mostly present-day France) and in Britain; hence he is a Celtic deity. He has the antlers of a stag and is thus the lord of the wood and wild things. He is also sometimes accompanied by his symbols the torc, ram-headed snake, the stag and purse full of money. He is the god of fertility, life, animals, wealth and the underworld; he is a Great God. He is the Celtic British leader of the Wild Hunt, which makes its way across the land by night sweeping up evildoers. He is reborn every year at the winter solstice after the longest night of the year, or Yule, falling at about 21 December in the northern hemisphere, joins with the Great Goddess at Beltaine, around May 1, reaches his full strength at the summer solstice, around June 21 and dies at Samhain, October 21, which many pagans consider the end of the year; all so he can be reborn again at Yule. Most historical records maintain that Cernunnos traditionally dies at midsummer and that's very likely true. But we neopagans have felt it necessary to lengthen his life until Yule. In Gallo-Roman images he is shown alongside other Celtic deities as well as Jupiter, Vulcan and other Greco-Roman gods. After the coming of the Anglo-Saxons he became Herne the Hunter worshiped somewhat in England but more so in Germany and France.
Pan is the Greek god of shepherds and flocks, most popular in Arcadia. He is a son of Hermes the messenger god. Pan is a satyr with the horns, feet, hairy body and mountain climbing abilities of a goat. His attributes include a shepherd's crook and a crown of pine needles. As a part of the retinue of Dionysus his overwhelming lustful appetites lead him to chase nymphs throughout the forest. He is another descendent of the Paleolithic horned shaman.

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