I received a question on how I made my Nehalennia bindrune, so I figured I’d make a quick post about my process.
First really quick: a bindrune is a symbol which combines different runes, in this case using the elder futhark. They can be used for magical purposes, combining their different properties towards a certain outcome. In this case, I use them as a symbol for a specific deity, combining their different areas of rule into one powerful symbol.
So step one is brainstorming. I usually sit with a crappy notebook and just jot down all the things I want to incorporate into the bindrune, or the domains of the deity I wish to make this bindrune for. This is a messy process and can take several days or weeks, depending on how smoothly this goes. Cernunnos’ bindrune came together super quick, only a few days, for example, while Baduhenna was a lot more nebulous, taking several weeks to get right.
For the Nehalennia I settled on four runes of the elder futhark. Raidho: for travel, in this case across the North Sea. Laguz: for water, since Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North Sea. Fehu: for material wealth, most of her followers were hardworking merchants, and Nehalennia is a Goddess of prosperity as well, so I associate Her with reaping the fruits of your (hard) labour. Gebo: for gifts, relationships, and exchange. She is the Goddess of the harvest, and keeps the ships safe on their travels, but it comes with a price – and exchange – in the shape of an altar stone commissioned for Her. She gives, so much, but she does expect things in return. A relationship of equals.
After I made my choice it’s as simple, and as complicated, of trying out different combinations until one feels and looks right. For some runes this is very quick and can happen in one doodling session, like the Cernunnos rune or the Nehalennia rune. For others it takes multiple sessions to figure out something that works, like with Baduhenna.
A parting note: for some it is important to not include the reverse or mirrored versions of the rune, since their meaning is different and often opposite of the upright one. For bindrunes, I do not have this belief, because I am using the meaning of the upright runes to built something new, while still holding the original meanings. They lose their individuality (a bit) to join into a conjoined and new symbol, with new meaning. But, this is for every individual practitioner to decide.
I got a question on Twitter by a follower who wondered if I have any information about the Goddess Cernuna. I must admit, I’d read the name once in passing, while reading about Cernunnos, but I never really dove further into it, thinking that it was simply a modern pagan’s wishful thinking. After the question, however, I got curious. Is there a female counterpart to Cernunnos? Do we have evidence of a Gaulish female antlered Goddess?
Short answer: sort of.
Above is a bronze statue of an antlered woman, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia and a patera: a gallo-roman offering dish. The statue is currently in the British Museum, but was found at Broye in the Haute-Saône (Franche-Comté). Interesting is of course that she had antlers, and the fact that she is sitting crosslegged, something that most Cernunnos depictions have as well.
Another antlered goddess, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia was discovered in Puy-de-Dôme. Her other hand is empty but was likely holding another patera. She can be seen in the Musée de Clermont-Ferrand.
The cornucopia is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The patera is one of worship, of leaving offerings for a deity. However, often the figures holding the patera would not be the deity themself, but those who would bring offerings to them. So are we looking at statues of Goddesses, or of priestesses? Horns (or antlers) indicate a link to nature and the hunt. Which would make these potential Goddesses a Goddess of nature, the hunt, and abundance (and perhaps the harvest).
There is also mention of a relief of a horned (not antlered) Goddess found on a piece of pottery in Richborough, Kent, but I wasn’t able to find an image of this.
Of course we know next to nothing about these figures. Their name, or what their attributes entailed. Cernuna or Cernunna would be a suitable name, meaning “horned” but whether or not She would have a link to Cernunnos is impossible to know. And if She did have a link to Cernunnos, what would it be? Is She His consort, His wife, His sister, His female form? An interesting concept to think about.
Sources: We Are Star Stuff – Cernunnos We Are Star Stuff – Horned Goddesses DeoMercurio – Cernunnos Noémie Beck – Goddesses in Celtic Religion Ceisiwr Serith – Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way Sharon Paice MacLeod – Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld: Mythic Origins, Sovereignty and Liminality pg. 152-154 Miranda Green – Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art pg. 26-27 Miranda Green – Animals in Celtic Life and Myth pg. 237 Georgia Irby-Massie – Military Religion in Roman Britain pg. 100
I discovered witchcraft and paganism in the late ’90s, early ’00s. Our household didn’t have internet yet (gasp! I know!) so all I had available to me were books and the computer in the school library. Back then the only books we could get, especially here in the Netherlands, were wiccan. Wheel of the Year, God and Goddess, circle of protection, wiccan rede, the whole shebang.
The Lord and Lady. I found the idea of that duality fascinating. (Not so much anymore, but that is for a different post) I didn’t come from a Christian background and the times that I’d been to church had been overall a pleasant experience, though not for me. So I didn’t have a problem with a male deity in my path. And, on the other hand, while I found the idea of a female deity empowering and logical, I didn’t have the feminist revelation that most other Goddess-worshippers seemed to have. (That has also changed quite a bit) So for me it was logical. A man and woman, mother and father, who together create all life. Sure, their progression through the wheel of the year seems a bit wonkey, but that’s minor hiccup, right? (Oh how times have changed)
I named my God Cernunnos, the Horned One, Lord of the Wild. And the antlered figure was something that I was very drawn to. The untamed, the wildness of nature, all things that called to me. The Goddess changed for me, many times, but Cernunnos stayed.
Then, I started learning. I learned that the Lord and Lady were actually supposed to be named Gods, but probably not Cernunnos, but Pan. I learned that we didn’t know anything about Cernunnos, except for the pillar where his name appeared on once, and that’s it. I learned that the aspects that wicca had placed on him: masculinity, virility, sexuality, the forest and woodlands, were not per se for Cernunnos at all. Instead they were for this Horned One, who might be Pan, but who had become this melting pot of all antlered and horned deities who were tied to nature.
But then who had I been calling upon? Who had I been talking to and who had I seen in meditation after meditation? I stepped away from the name Cernunnos, found it not fitting. I didn’t read further into His lore either. My mistake. It also bothered me that everyone seemed to have this Horned One as their male deity. Did I then really have a bond with this deity, or was it just because it was what’s done? Did I even want a bond with a God that allll the other pagans and witches worshipped? (I had a bit of a problem with “popular things”) I started doubting the experiences that I’d had. My second mistake.
My path changed and changed again. I became an atheist secular witch, not believing in the Gods at all. Later I began to see them as Jungian Archetypes, as aspects of myself that I drew to the front when I called upon the Gods. But neither felt right. I realized that even though my logic was saying that they couldn’t be real, that they couldn’t have influence on this reality, our reality, that my heart didn’t care. I believed again. I found two Goddesses whom I am both devoted to; Nehalennia and Baduhenna. I reconnected with whom I had called Horned One for years and restated my devotion to Him as well.
The fact that the Horned One remained nameless started to grate. I had names and titles for my Goddesses, but not for Him. I also had finally truly disconnected Him from the wiccan version of the Lord. This after doing quite a bit of shadow work on, amongst other things my wiccan roots, and gender and deity. The realisation that masculine- and feminine energy meant nothing when talking about deity. That even though the Horned One was a sexual creature, sexuality and masculinity were not the things that I, personally, associated Him with. (Again, this is for a different post) So I started looking into antlered deities again.
I came upon Cernunnos, of course, but this time I stayed. I read and listened. I learned about who He might have been, what the scholars and historians think based upon His imagery. What other pagans, those not so influenced by the dogma of duality thought of Him. And I read. And I read it again and again until finally that one thing registered in my brain.
Cernunnos, meaning “Horned One”.
I reached out to Him, my antlered Lord of the wildness and hunt. “I’ve been calling you by this name the whole time, haven’t I?” “Yes. It doesn’t matter in what language you say it, I’ve always heard you.”
And so He is named once again. Cernunnos. But not after the masculine half of the wiccan duality. Instead after the ancient, antlered God that has been worshipped by many, many names all over the continent, if not the world. The Gaulish Cernunnos with the horned serpent and torc. God of the forest and the hunt, Dweller in the liminal, Lord of animals and the chthonic roots. And so He is named…