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Cerne or Cernunnos, pagan deity representing winter and the hunt. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.

Cerne; Cernunnos

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The name of the great pagan deity, representing winter and the hunt, depending upon the country in which he was worshiped. Names were recorded from early times in the Near East, but in western Europe there were no written records until Roman times. The Romans named the god Cernunnos, meaning "The Horned One." In some areas this has become Kernunnos, in others it has been shortened from Cernunnos to Cerne. In English it was Herne, the Hunter.

In the north of Gaul his image was found carved on an altar stone (now in the Cluny Museum, Paris) discovered under the cathedral of Notre Dame. The figure is similar to the Paleolithic painting of the Sorcerer (see Cave Art) in that it is a bearded human male head with the antlers of a stag.

Herne has long been recognized as the spectral figure who, accompanied by his hounds, ranges over Windsor Great Park at the full of the moon. French and German folklore contains references to a similar figure in the French Fontainebleau and the German Black Forest. Kernunnos is the name by which Gardnerian Witches refer to the Horned God.

Generally considered to be a representation of Cernunnos, a great white figure is cut into the chalk hillside at Cerne Abbas, in Wiltshire, England, and displays a fully erect penis as a sign of his potency.