Celtic Cernunnos Symbolism
The Celts were a highly spiritual people. They were also polytheistic, meaning that they believed in many gods instead of just one like many of the major religions still in play today. Their gods were both fearsome and powerful, but also kind and merciful. For many years, the Celts worshipped many gods. Later, many of them converted to Christianity and their gods were pushed to the side. However, because of ancient writings and drawings we still know about their gods today. One of their gods was Cernunnos.
Cernunnos was mostly a benevolent god for the Celts. This god was worshiped all over ancient Gaul by the Celts and later worshiping of this god was accepted in Great Britain as well as in parts of France. Cernunnos was depicted as looking mostly like your average human man. There was one thing that set him apart though. He had large antler-like projections coming from the top of his head. In most drawings, they appear to be the antlers of a stag. This was no minor god to the Celts.
Cernunnos governed over many important aspects of Celtic life: the circle of life and death, wealth, animals in general, and fertility. Cernunnos symbolism is also said to have held domain over the underworld and astral planes. Unlike in many other religions, just because he rules over the underworld it doesn’t make him inherently evil. If you are worried about that aspect when thinking of getting a tattoo of this god, stop worrying. All ancient gods have their good and bad sides. It all depends on how you look at it.
Much of the symbolic meaning behind Cernunnos, or a tattoo of Cernunnos, comes from simply what he is the god of.
Cernunnos Symbolic Meanings
It’s a bit strange to have a male god govern over fertility, but it’s not unheard of either. Fertility is highly important when it comes to having children, but also raising animals as well. You would want healthy children to become warriors and healthy animals to eat. It would not be crazy for some of the Celts to sacrifice to this god for this reason. This also throws in a little bit of symbolism for male power instead of female because Cernunnos was said to be male. Sexual power is also important here, as that is needed if you want even a hope of having a child.
Wealth is not just only measured in coins, but this god was often drawn carrying a bag of coins so it can’t hurt. This has a lot to do with how a person gains money in the first place. In the case of the Celts, much of their wealth came from what they could scavenge after a battle. Because of this Cernunnos can also be related to aspects of the war like strength, power, honor and male power again.
Animals were highly important to the Celts back then in the same way that they are important to people now. Raising and selling animals relates back to Cernunnos domain over fertility and well as well. This shows that Cernunnos can also symbolize the connections within the world. Unity and stability are also important themes here.
#4. Life & Death
Life and death, the circle of life, the beginning and end, are all names for the same sort of thing. Humans do not have much control over when they are born or when they die. That is all attributed to Cernunnos. Ultimate power, balance and cycles are important symbols here.
Now that you know more about Cernunnos and his symbolism, you may be even more encourage to get a tattoo of him. If you are not so convinced, then you can read more articles about symbolism on this site and you might find one that seems to speak to you. Whether it be Celtic or something else, you can be sure to find the symbolism you are looking for.