At Beltane the Horned God is lover, in full antler, Lord of the Wildwood, but it is actually around Samhain that the stags are at their prime, not Beltane. Have we placed that role upon Cernunnos and Herne? We actually know very little about the former, and Herne is deeply associated with the Wild Hunt. It seems that we may have placed the virility of Pan onto Cernunnos and Herne, maybe because Pan’s Arcadia seems too far away from the rolling hills and rain of Albion.
Or have we?
Last Sunday a men’s group I work with took a pilgrimage to be with the rut. It’s an amazing experience to be with the deer, and there is no event I know that brings me closer to my Man than this one. It’s primal, instinctual, powerful. The stags seem like the lions of the savannah, so proud they are. As we walked among the deer this topic came up, of the fully antlered Horned God being seen at the opposite time of year to the stags. The question arose: could we actually see the Horned God without antlers? The stags lose theirs around Yule and grow new ones each year. Do Herne or Cernunnos reflect that? None of us could imagine him without his antlers, nor the small velvety horns the stags actually have around Beltane. He is the Horned God, always. Forever in his prime.
So although the stags may not wear their fully formed antlers at Beltane, I see the Horned God of nature, the Wild Man, the Lord of the Wildwood as unchanging, ever present, ever horned.
This is the power that we can feel and experience in Autumn, as we walk among his animals during the rut. If you’ve never experienced it, get out there and find them. It’ll be happening for another week or so.