I wrote this after meditating and doing a ritual working with Cernunnos.
I have a blog post I did a while ago about Cernunnos specifically and my first real experience of him. I have also wanted to write more about him, and some of the other deities I have a strong relationship with, but that had been something kept more in the back of my mind while I worked on other things.
I also wrote something that was along the lines of general advice to people seeking to find and start a relationship with a god or goddess, because it’s one of the most commonly asked questions in Paganism.
So this piece is sort of related to those two things, but I hope to turn this into more of a series of more personal experiences… this in keeping with a stated goal of mine to try and take a more personalized approach to writing this blog.
A comment left on one of the other pieces really got me to thinking about ‘difficulty’ in terms of connecting with Cernunnos, and what might contribute to that, and I began writing a response (because I try to respond in a timely fashion to all comments posted here) but found that my response was lengthening… considerably… and I didn’t really want to do that. So, I decided to finally get to work on ideas that had been banging around inside my skull for some time and just needed a nudge to get them going.
The comment made mention of a possible difficulty connecting to Cernunnos because of the predominately Christian concept of god that most people, especially Pagans, have in their background. I thought about this for a long time and I think I came to a conclusion that makes sense to me. I don’t know if it would be the same for others, but I’m not really speaking for others, so that’s okay.
I sometimes wonder if having problems or difficulty connecting with Cernunnos isn’t as much about the concepts of God that are different between He and other religious beliefs, but as more of a lack of connection with who and what he is on his own.
To explain more of what I mean:
I had separated from a Christian concept or understanding of God when I was pretty young. I remember being agnostic basically before I even got to high school, so for me, the Christian god was already out of the picture by the time I really began studying and practicing Wicca. But I had also always lived in the city, and the main thrust of Wicca and indeed most Neo-Pagan traditions is being ‘earth-based’. I felt partially that I would never entirely get to that point or level because when I looked out the window I saw more blacktop and concrete than I did grass and wildflowers.
Connecting to the Goddess and understanding feminine deity was easy because it was a divine being that ‘looked like me’. I am also female, so everything that I am, I could see in her also. The first Goddess that I really connected to and still have a very close association with is Athena — she’s not a typical ‘Earth Mother’ type, but a goddess of cities (Athens especially) culture, strategy and planning, learning, education, crafts and skills, and numerous other things.
Again, I didn’t really have to try to find a connection with her. We just clicked. There were other hints given that she had an interest in working with me as well, which I accepted pretty easily, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
Because Athena is nominally part of the Greek pantheon, and because that was the pantheon I had the most knowledge of at the time thanks to school and personal study, the first gods I looked at working with were Apollo and Hermes.
I thought of Apollo because of his strong association with music and poetry, two things I am passionately involved with and interested in. There was also an abundance of ‘solar god’ references in most of the books I was reading at the time and I thought he would be a good fit. Let me state that I don’t dislike Apollo, but I found through working with him that I don’t really want to work with him. He seemed very… Needy? Clingy? Snobby? Aloof? I am not quite sure how best to describe him, but that’s kind of the jist of it. I don’t know if he is like that with everyone, or if that was just my own personal experience with the way our personalities fit together, but I never really got past a ‘name only’ or ‘formal’ sort of relationship with him.
I next tried Hermes, who had an entirely different energy entirely and I am happy to say that even though at the time, he had a ‘not right now’ sort of message for me, over the years we have gotten to be very close.
But I didn’t have anything beyond a ‘name only’ sort of connection with any male deity until I was out of the city, staying in an almost-isolated cabin for a few days, completely surrounded by people who accepted and practiced this way of life. I had detatched’ from everything that you could consider mundane, and I really really REALLY wanted to form a connection with God at the time that this occurred. I think it was a combination of all of those different things together that facilitated my experience. I think that I was staying in my head too much, I was studying gods and not experiencing gods. I was trying to find him in books and essays and things of that sort instead of coming to know him in the land. I think a lot of times that is the same issue for others. Yes, there will be a calling in your heart to walk the Pagan path, but that involves WALKING. Get outside, get in the sun the wind the rain, walk barefoot and touch the earth, smell flowers and rub the bark of a tree. I couldn’t connect with a god of the Earth sitting in front of a computer or with my nose in a book and it took me a while to actually understand that. If I hadn’t had that particular situation to meet him, I don’t know how or when he would have been the one to make himself known to me, but looking back, I know that he was always there even when I was a young child.
I know this because I was absolutely enthralled with deer when I was little. I could not get enough of them. I drew them, on everything, and I wasn’t exceptionally artistic, but I was constantly drawing scenes of deer and figuring out how to draw antlers… that was a tricky thing. Again, I lived in a city and seeing deer was a very rare thing for me unless I was at a park and they decided to show up, which didn’t happen very often.
I also remember reading Bambi when I was young. I don’t mean the Disney version. I read the book by Felix Salten, the harsher, more poetic, real story written for an adult audience. It has stayed with me for my entire life. I read it before I was ten years old. I know this, because I did an oral book report on it for my fifth grade class and I had already read the book by then, but loved it so much I wanted to use it for my report.
I was also hopeful of the chance to get to see the Disney film at some point as well. This was before VCRs (and certainly before DVDs) were really common so the only visions I had of my beloved story were bits and pieces of it that would show up in different Disney specials. When it was finally released to theaters, I was ecstatic. My mom took me to see it, I think she brought my younger brother along too, but I don’t really remember. I loved it, but wondered why it was different than the book…
That’s something that has also always stayed with me as it was my very first experience of seeing something on film that I had read the book to and realizing that usually sucks.
I went back and saw it two more times by myself. It was the first film I ever caught the bus by myself, I bought the ticket by myself, and I sat in the theater by myself, way up front so that I was as close as possible to the screen. It was also the first film I had ever seen multiple times in the theater, but I knew that it was a precious thing, to see a movie. Like I said, VCRs weren’t common, and the movie wasn’t on tape. I wanted to soak up every bit of that story and its artistry as I could, sucking it deeply into the marrow of my soul so that I could remember it and visualize it whenever I wanted to see it again.
I loved that Bambi’s father was royalty. The deer were the princes of the forest, crowned with their magnificent rack of antlers. I swear I remember Bambi’s father being called the Stag King in the book, but that was so long ago that I can’t say it with 100% assurance. I think Disney, or maybe American translators of later editions changed his title to Great Prince. So the impression was instilled in me from a very early age that stags were linked to royalty, and that one stag in particular above the others was singled out for special attention. I don’t know where the book came from in my home as a child. I just remember that it was old and I found it on a shelf one day and decided to read it.
The idea that a god had antlers was amazing and sort of like, “Well… yeah… Duh.” to me at the same time. That connection that I had with deer and the later understanding that I had of Cernunnos, to me will always let me know that a God will make their presence known, but it may be in subtle ways that will just sort of sneakily influence you so that you can be ready when the time comes for them to truly reveal themselves to you. Bambi taught me about care and concern and compassion for the natural world in a way that really spoke to me living in a city environment. I can’t say for certain what my understanding and connection would have been to Cernunnos had I never had those childhood experiences with Bambi and the rare chance to see deer. But I did, and I am grateful for it, and for him.
Also, if Cernunnos had an anthem, this would be it.