Monday, January 4, 2010

"Cernism" and the Camonica Valley

This entry is something of a continuance to the October 25, 2009 Padanian-American League blog entry entitled "Cernism: Finally giving a proper name to an old tradition." The subject of the Celtic pagan deity, known today mainly under the title of Cernunnos, can be a little bit confusing when we try to search for an origin. Although usually attributed as being born from Celtic/Gallic culture, there seems to be at least some overlap with the Germanic world. Also, to add to the confusion, as stated in the Wikipedia Cernunnos webpage: "The earliest known probable depiction of Cernunnos was found at Val Camonica in Italy, dating from the 4th century BC, while the best known depiction is on the Gundestrup cauldron found on Jutland, dating to the 1st century BC." However Wikipedia does clarify part of the issue, as it went on: "The Cauldron was likely to have been stolen by the Germanic Cimbri tribe or another tribe that inhabited Jutland as it originated from south east Europe." One of the best depictions of Cernunnos exists on Gotland Island near Sweden (see Wikipedia link above for a good image of it). Despite that, the tradition clearly is most identified with the Celts.
Although there was some later Celtic influence at times in the Camonica Valley, it does seem odd that the earliest depiction of Cernunnos is found there. That is, the earliest depiction anywhere in Europe. The ancient Camunni were not Celtic, but an Alpine tribe, with roots that go back many thousands of years. The roots of Celtic culture has been strongly linked to what is today the southern reaches of the German-speaking world. Could this spiritual tradition have been passed from the Camunni to the earliest Celtic tribes of the more northern Alpine region? That might seem like a stretch, until we consider that there was a distinct type of culture in the Camunian Valley that has been estimated as being as old as ten thousand years. Scholars seem to at least give a safe estimate at about eight thousand years, but still very old. The Hebrews only go back six thousand years!

The "Cernism" article was mainly to put out the idea that Cernunnos is basically the origin for what passes as modern "Witchcraft" or "Wicca." Wicca is eclectic and universalist, and is only very loosely tied to ancient European Witchcraft. In other words, to add Cernism to the lexicon of neo-paganism once and for all, and present it as an alternative for those who have been disappointed with the direction of Wicca.

The answer to the question of the true origin of the Cernic tradition may never be definitively satisfied. One thing is certain, Cisalpine Gaul, and more specifically the little ever-spiritual Camonica Valley, were a very early part of it. Also, it strongly defines the chief, pre-Roman, spiritual tradition of most of Western Europe.


2-5-13 Addition: I wanted to add a small item from the news in the last week to one of the posts regarding the Cernic tradition... one that I thought was relevant to it. Leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, and also regarding professional athletes from other sports, a small degree of controversy surrounds the use of a performance-enhancing product called by some "deer antler spray." To quote the the UK's 'Daily Telegraph': "Manufacturers claim the product is made from the velvetlike tissue that covers the antlers of male deer..." (see also 'Does Deer Antler Spray Work?' from Although perhaps only in a superficial way, this concept ties into the perception of how the antlers of a stag were considered a symbol of male virility, strength, and courage in ancient European cultures. Cernunnos was a "stag god," and was depicted as a man with antlers.