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.
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