Cascadia Druids: White Mountain Druid Sanctuary Blog

White Mountain Druid Sanctuary (WMDS) is a Druid inspired Pagan site in Trout Lake, Washington. This blog describes the planning and creation of the Stone Circle, Shrines and physical surroundings that are being built there.

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Encounters with the Kindred, Part 2

Cernunnos Shrine June 2017


In the last post, I described UPG, unverified personal gnosis, quite a bit without saying it.  This is the unique experience that each individual person has with any particular Kindred.  Another way of describing it is an experience that is not necessarily based on artifacts or stories discovered about a deity, nature spirit or ancestor.  There are some historical interpretations that are considered truth - UPG wouldn’t necessarily be about that either.  


As I follow the path around the Stone Circle at White Mountain Druid Sanctuary, I encounter the Shrine to Cernunnos.  It sits directly opposite the entrance to the Stone Circle.  Kirk started building the Shrine last summer and we started raising money for it the fall before that.  In a couple weeks, it will be complete.  


It was my idea to start crowd funding the Shrines.  Kirk has been paying for them himself up until this Shrine (which is lovely and generous of him) but we wanted to have the building of WMDS become a community effort and crowd funding allows people from all over the world to fund a project that they believe in.  And Patreon allows people to fund ongoing projects - ultimately we went with them and our crowdfunding efforts live with them today.


When I first started conceiving the crowdfunding idea, I knew very little about Cernunnos.  As I have searched for ways to describe the magic and beauty of WMDS, I have developed a relationship with him.  I’ve made countless offerings thanking him for his help in all our efforts to raise money and build his Shrine and asking for his assistance in our ongoing work.  


I started to get a sense of him beyond the images of artifacts and the plans for the Shrine.  Where was this feeling of peace and understanding coming from?  In the past few months, when I think of Cernunnos, I have the sense of an old, very old, tree that emanates calm and stability and patience.  His face sometimes looks out from skin made of leaves or bark, or sometimes his face is furry like the stag that matches his antlers.  At times he is shaped entirely like a man and at other times like a satyr.  My UPG.


Pillar of the Boatman including image of Cernunnos with torcs on his antlers


As a god of liminality and the forest (which are titles agreed upon by many scholars), it makes sense that his image for me shifts about.  A liminal space occupies an area at or around a boundary.  The beach is a liminal place where the sea and the land meet.  Cernunnos’ common image with antlers implies a being that bridges the boundary between animal and human.  The torcs he commonly holds in artifacts imply a being with an access to wealth - a bridge between the wild and civilization.  As a god of the Underworld (due to images of hounds around him on the Gundestrup Cauldron), he bridges the living and the dead.  My understanding of him as a liminal god is my UPG.


Gundestrup Cauldron, inside panel image including Cernunnos, torcs and hounds


In some ways, I feel like I am always transitioning, or perhaps I focus on my movement in life more than where I am standing still (metaphorically speaking).  Perhaps this is why Cernunnos appears as a great comfort to me.  Change is unpredictable at times and it feels stabilizing to have the such a calm presence around me.  


Standing before his Shrine now, I can see interpretations of him in the art and decorations adorning the walls.  I feel his presence and a sense that he is pleased with the way we are conceiving of him.  Is my sense true?  To me it is - it is a true experience for me.  UPG.  I understand that someone else may have a different experience - their UPG.  


The Reims altar, Deo Mercurio, including Cernunnos seated with coins falling out of a bag


In ADF, we are prickly about this because we consider it extreme arrogance and hubris to assert one’s own UPG as the truth for others.  There are some questions that naturally arise from this line of discussion.  How do I know I am not just imagining something?  It is interesting that we think that if more people imagine a thing, it must be “true,” but a single person imagining something can be discounted as fantasy.  Perhaps part of the allure of “believing” in the Kindreds is its very questioning of the nature of “Truth” and “Reality.”  


Val Camonica rock drawing of Cernunnos


Because there are so few artifacts for Cernunnos, we have to make up a lot of UPG just to talk about him.  I created a ritual to Cernunnos for Summer Solstice (a liminal time, the turning of the longest day to shorter ones).  I showed people the most common artifacts of him and did A LOT of guided meditations to allow each listener to create their own UPG about this god, or even whatever Kindred they wanted.  After all, perhaps Cernunnos had nothing to say to them that day, but an ancestor had something urgent to convey.  


As you can see from the opening image, we have used UPG for the main image of Cernunnos.  


Cernunnos artwork hanging in his Shrine at WMDS 


The art above is based on Kirk’s UPG with Cernunnos.  Perhaps our ancestors really were more accepting than people of our day and age in some ways.  How could a person assert one’s own personal encounters as true for others?  Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick assert “Pagan religions always interact creatively with their neighbors, their deities developing or being assimilated under such influence” (A History of Pagan Europe, pg 10).  One can imagine early tribes meeting, sharing stories and practices, and those influences then subtly changing how each tribe did things before.  We are a time period encountering the tribes of the past and their spiritual behaviors and we are being changed by them - we are accepting, and assimilating their thinking into ours, allowing ourselves to be forever changed in how we view and interact with the world.  This way of being seems to require an acceptance of UPG as valid and “true” for each person, or group, or civilization.  Afterall, every image and story had to start out as UPG for someone who then shared it and the more people who accepted it, the less “unverified” it became.  

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We are Cascadia Grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). Our local Grove serves the Puget Sound area. We meet 8 times a year to celebrate the equinoxes, solstices and the cross quarter days (including Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). We also support the planning and building of White Mountain Druid Sanctuary in Trout Lake WA.


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