Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Why I Don't Call the Horned God 'Cernunnos'

The Horned God is assuredly one of the preeminent (and, I would contend, patron) gods of the Pagan Revival, and I would be willing to hazard a guess that in English-speaking Pagandom at large, He is named by the majority of His votaries as “Cernunnos.”

(Writer and thinker Ceisiwr Serith once remarked to me that an image search for “Cernunnos” turns up mostly modern, and very little ancient, art.)

But though the Horned is my heart-god and I offer to Him daily, I myself never call Him Cernunnos.

Why not?

To me, names are culture-specific—one could even say culture-bound—material. “Cernunnos” is a specifically Gaulish name, bound to a particular language, place, and people. I'm not a Gaul, I don't live in historic Gaul, and I don't speak Gaulish. Therefore, though I honor the Name and recognize it, I don't use it.

The same with “Herne,” “Pan,” or most other historic Names that you'd care to mention.

Thankfully, I don't have to. My people—the Tribe of Witches—has a vast lore to draw on, and it is out of this that I generally name Him. He is a god of many by-names: 169, they say (= 13 x 13). Some day I'll write that Book of Names, and for each Name, a story.

Then there's the heart-name by which I know Him, for intimate use, which I had from my teacher. I won't write it here, though it's no secret. (You can read of it, along with much other wisdom, here.)

As a god—as one would expect—the Horned shows Himself differently to different peoples in different times and different places. For this reason, He is known by many Names, and I honor them all, nor do I find any fault with those who choose to call Him by one of His historic Names.

But He of the Horns still speaks to us today, just as He spoke to the ancestors, and it may be that He has Names for this time and this place. It may even be that He will whisper His secret-most love-name to you, best beloved.

All we need do is keep listening.


Above: Thalia Took, Cernunnos


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz Tuesday, 12 February 2019

    Asking for a blessing/prayer/vocal offering to the Horned One that resonates strongly with you. Many thanks.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 13 February 2019

    From your lips, Kyle, to His pointed, leaf-shaped ear!

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Wednesday, 13 February 2019

    Plus, Cernunnos is an antlered god, not a horned god :) Am I the only pedantic when it comes to this lol? Great blog post, great blog!

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 13 February 2019

    Thanks Joanna. Personally, I'm a big fan of precision in language. If that's pedantry, so mote it be.

    The issue that you raise is so interesting that I'm planning to devote a post to it in the near future. Stay tuned!

  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz Wednesday, 13 February 2019

    Indeed, I don't think of him as antlered, but horned. I was born under the sign of the ram, was raised around cattle. I see the horn, not the antler.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Wednesday, 13 February 2019

    Wait. What? We can't say Cernunnos because we aren't Gaulish? Can we say Ishtar if we aren't Babylonian? Can we say Diana if we aren't Roman? Can we say Brigid if we aren't Irish? Can we say Thor if we aren't Swedish or Danish? The implications here are extensive.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 16 February 2019

    Well, of course how you, or anyone else, conduct your spiritual lives, Greybeard, is no business of mine.
    But if one accepts my premises, yes, I think that's a reasonable conclusion to draw from them.

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