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Horned God in Everything but Ice

December 22nd, 2007

In honor of the Winter Solstice, a by-no-means exhaustive gallery of forms of the horned god.


Cernunnos, Celtic god of fertility, death and wild creatures, from The Gundestrup Cauldron, 1st century BC.


Pan, nature god, on a Roman memorial frieze, 1st century AD.


The Sorcerer, primal shapeshifter of the cave paintings at Trois-Frères, France, circa 13,000 BC.


Michelangelo’s “Horned Moses”—representations of Moses with horns for the most part derive from an ambiguity in the Hebrew scriptures, in which a description of Moses’ physical appearance upon returning from Mt. Sinai can be translated to suggest either horns or rays of light protruding from his head. There’s a lot of fun (mostly specious) debate, though, as to whether Michelangelo might have been intentionally acknowledging Christianity’s pagan past.


Pashupati, Lord of Animals, an incarnantion of Shiva, Indus Valley circa 2,000 BC.


Herne the Hunter, a restless ghost that has haunted Windsor Forest since the era of Shakespeare, here illustrated by George Cruikshank, 1843.

A couple of other horned gods I can think of that I don’t have pictures for:

Gwyn ap Nudd, mythical hunter from Welsh Mythology, leader of the Wild Hunt, usher of souls to the afterlife, featured in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles as Gwyn the Hunter.

Oromë, huntsman of the Valar, from Tolkien.

Anuket, the gazelle-headed Egyptian fertility goddess of the Lower Nile.

Actaeon, the hapless forester of Greek myth, who, as punishment for having stumbled upon Artemis bathing au naturel, is transformed into a stag and harried to his death by the huntress and her hounds.


And, of course, I couldn’t really have gone without letting slip a hint of geekdom.

Happy Solstice.

   Art, Religion | 8 Comments »



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8 Comments »

  • Krista says:

    yes indeed, very cool
    but my favorite is still the horned god in ice

    happy winter solstice

  • mjd says:

    Why, thank you! Glad you liked it.

  • Spacehawk says:

    Wow, thank you for this!

  • scott andrews says:

    happy horn-ed solstice to you as well!

  • Hey man. He no longer sports the horns, but let’s not forget that Santa Claus is clearly the Wild Hunt, or Wotan, or Old Man Winter, at least as much if not more than he’s St. Nick.

    Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Cool Kwanzaa. Silly Soltice. Awesome Eid ul-Adha. Novel New Year. Etc. etc. It’s really a magical time of year.

    • mjd says:

      Ha! Thanks, Ian, that is a great link. Robert Anton Wilson is awesome.

      I have never really made the effort to figure out the progression from Santa Claus back through that jolly bearded giant who plays the ghost of christmas present in A Christmas Carol to his pagan progenitors. But I bet it would be cool. Next winter, maybe.

  • lizsmith says:

    The Song of Amergin:
    I am the wind upon the sea,
    I am a wave upon the ocean,
    I am the sound of the sea
    I am a stag of seven tines,
    I am a bull of seven lights,
    I am a hawk upon a cliff,
    I am a teardrop of the sun,
    I am the fairest of blossoms,
    I am a boar of boldness,
    I am a salmon in a pool,
    I am a lake on a plain,
    I am a mound of poetry,
    I am a work of skill,
    I am a battle-waging spear,
    I am a God who fashions fire in the mind.
    Who but I knows the secrets of the stone door?
    Who has seven times sought the Places of Peace?
    Who, save I, knows the ages of the moon,
    The place and time the sun sets?
    Who calls the kine from Tethra’s house,
    And sees them dance in the bright heavens:
    Who shapes weapons in a fort of glass,
    In a fort that harbours satirists?
    Who but the poet, the singer of praises,
    Who but I divides the Ogam letters,
    Separates combatants, approaches the Faery mound?
    I, who am a wind upon the sea.

    [Last year, the theater show I’ve been directing had the death and rebirth of the Stag King as its central theme.]

    Enjoy the Returning Light! 🙂

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