Friday, May 14, 2010

Cernunnos: The Astronomical Connection

Sometimes, if you poke around, evidence can be hidden in plain sight. An article which we republished a couple of years back, entitled 'Strange Occultic Tradition Excavated in Valle Camonica' (Silvano Danesi; 1999;, is a good case in point.

Before we go on, we would like to point out that the development of an honorable, historically accurate, and folkish "Cernic Rite" is now a part of the mission of the Camonica Club.

When reading Silvano Danesi's article about the excavation near Cevo, Brescia (Val Camonica), it's very clear that this occultic traditon was deep in astronomy. Early man, for so many thousands of years, looked to the stars for answers to many of the same questions that we ask today. Questions regarding god, the meaning of life, the spirit world, man's place in the universe, the cycle of life, as a compass, the cycles and patterns of the stars in relation to the earths seasons, and even astronomical patterns which repeat at longer patterns than just once a year (ex. "every twenty years").

It should be pointed out that "occultic" simply means hidden, therefore is neither good nor bad in of itself. As has been acknowledged more and more in recent times, most people have separated themselves from the natural world. Nothing reflects this more than the fact that many, or most, people don't even really see the stars in the sky due to the lights emitting from the urban sprawl. When viewing the night sky in a basically rural area, we can see the type of sky that the ancient Camunians saw. 'Our Haunted Planet' (1971), by the late John Keel, gave a deep look into the ancient past; as well as providing possible explanations for the direction of early man.

The Cevo site links the ancient past with the Middle Ages, spanning thousands of years. The megalithic circles connect complex ancient astronomy to the origin of Cernic tradition. One of these altars is in the form of a serpent's head, and is clearly tied to the Ofiuco constellaton, which was percieved by it's shape and symbolized by a man holding a snake. This early serpent cult represented the beginnings of what was to become Cernism. As the article stated: "local legends and feasts of the pagan hinterlands have survived and give the idea of an ancient cult linked with the serpent."

It should be noted that many stone formations were once foundations for structures. In the article, it's also interesting to note that these mostly circular standing stone altars are simply referred to as "churches." As stated in the article, the "Androla Chapel" has probably the best view of the sky in the Camunian Valley. The evolution of this faith over the centuries can be pieced together, and would include influence from the ancient Camunni, the early "serpent people," the Celts, and later Cernic witches who apparently also made use of the deep dark nearby tunnels leftover from ancient copper mines.

The legend states that the witches guarded the serpent of the golden ring in the Androla caves and the serpent is an element of great importance for the study of local traditions and in identifying possible ancient cults. In Andrista, for example, the tradition of the Basilisc is still observed. It's interesting to note how "the serpent" and "the golden ring" sound a lot like the snake and the torc of the depictions of Cernunnos (see image above).

From the article: "In January, according to traditions, the Brescian valleys and countryside, especially in Val Saviore and in Franciacorta, see the arrival of the Basilisc, a serpent that the legend says is stumpy with cows horns on its goatskin head." It continues: "The Cernunno is associated with many animals, but particularly with the bull and the stag and is similar to the mythical serpent with a ram's head (goat – ram). Usually the Cernunno is represented with stag's horns, accompanied by a serpent with a ram's head."

Many aspects of the ancient life in the valley, and the surrounding regions as well, were named after the Basilisco (from basilìskos, little king – the king of serpents). Everything from festivals of the seasonal equinox, to place names, to various local dishes, etc. They would seem to be connected in some way to the harvests and harvest festivals.

The "cult of the serpent" seems to have been mainly associated with the Celts, which would seem to mean that it was from a period after the ancient Camunni, which would be about 500 BC. This cult was also present in other parts of the nearby northeast Italian peninsula and southern ancient Germany. The basic gist of all of this is that the god Cernunnos was most often represented as a man holding onto a serpent and a torc in each hand. All of this originates with the Ofiuco constellation, and ultimately goes deep into pragmatic astronomy as it relates to our planet. It appears that the deeper that one wants to go, the deeper that it will take you as far as the meaning of all of this.

The article goes on to state: "The reference to the serpent, however, could infer stars of particular interest when aligning the megalithic circles. The symbols of the Zodiac, correctly interpreted, should be based on 13 and not 12 signs. In fact, the ecliptic, in fact, after Libra enters Scorpio which occupies only a few degrees (241-248) and then in Ofiuco, which occupies from 248 to 266 degrees. Sagittarius arrives after Ofiuco. The Ofiuco constellation, associated with that of the Serpent, is represented by a human figure holding a serpent in his hands and sometimes entwined with it. The name derives from the Greek ofiòkos, or 'he who holds the serpent.' In the period between November and January, Ofiuco is particularly evident in the sky to the East, before sunrise. Therefore it is not improbable that 'he who holds the serpent' or Cernunno, was identified with Ofiuco.

"If we observe the sky of 1998, we see that the sun rises (at 7.40) for the first time in Ofiuco, abandoning Scorpio, on December 1st and rises for the last time in Ofiuco (at 7.55) on 18 December. The day after, 19 December, the sun rises in Sagittarius. In 1998, therefore, the period influenced by the presence of Ofiuco as a reference for sunrise goes from 1 to 18 December. If we now leap back to 500 B.C., in this period the Celts at Cevo could observe the sky through their megalithic finders. The sun rose at 6.50 in Ofiuco on 1 November leaving Scorpio where it had remained until 31 October. The sun remained in Ofiuco until 18 November (when it rose at 7.15), then to pass, on 19 November, into the sign of Sagittarius. The period influenced by the presence of Ofiuco in 500 B.C. was therefore that between the 1st and the 18th of November.

"Festivities linked to the serpent, therefore, will all probability can be collocated in the period between November 1 and 18 (now December 1 and December 18). A period in which there was the Celtic New Year which began at Samain (the solar rising of Antares with the Moon in a particular position) granting the possibility of contact between the human world and the divinities. The period was dedicated to Lug in his acceptance of Cernunno and the goddess Morrigan."

The article then goes on to many other facinating traditions and connections, many that directly tie in Cisalpine Gaul to Gaul itself. It also seems to prove that their were indeed Druidic traditions in Cisalpine Gaul, but the jury is still out on that as it's generally believed that their were no Druids there. There have been more than one study on this which say yes however.

It concludes: "Visits and the first surveys can reasonably lead us to affirm that the localities Androla and Molinello (we could add Dòs Merlin at Saviore) were places dedicated to the cult and observation of the sky. It is equally reasonable to think that the megalithic circles, dolmen and stone constructions are to be associated with the traditions relative to the 'serpent', or “divin biscio” (divine snake), which represent the survival of ancient cults concerning Cernunno (the Celtic god Lug), associated with the Ofiuco constellation. The number of places visited allows us to say that Cevo, with suitable studies and appropriate surveys, should be an area of considerable archaeological and anthropological interest."


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