For me, today is a day of the supremely greatest joy.
Two years ago, I met Cernunnos for the very first time – no doubts, no complications, simply a vulnerability and an ecstasy and a whole new beginning. Two years ago, I was a stumbling little fawn seeking something meaningful – not just that, but something calling me. It was when I heard the name Cernunnos spoken by a friend that something in me said, I know Him. I know Him. Hunt Him. Find Him. He is Yours.
Two years ago, He was many things: a deeply fond Father at first, a Guardian who stood watch. Cernunnos-The-God wrapped me in His arms as my Father, confusing me yet always comforting me and helping me forward in my very frightening (and mistaken-laid!) stumbling in baby paganism, trying to figure out what I believed and what the world was like. When I dedicated myself to Him, six months later, for something much deeper, He became something mysterious that didn’t speak – an animal in the dark, two black eyes glinting in the night from the bushes. Something that transformed, always rounding the border of my vision and perception, testing both the heart of my oath and the resilience of my person.
Two years ago, I had no idea who I was. I was buried under rubble, and dust, and the weight of everyone else. Two years ago I was a tiny little thing, a tiny mouse sniffing her way out of her burrow not knowing she was going to become something much, much greater – that she was going to see new worlds, that she was going to transform and to evolve into Herself. I grew into the frame of my Seership, of shapeshifting and finally opening my eyes to a world where the gods walked. And I realized that this world was the world that I had always seen and sensed – the Mystery behind the workings of the world, the ultimate revelation.
And two years ago, from the moment I met Him, I knew I wanted to marry Him because I knew that I had done it before – past lives welled up, welcoming Him into me and me into Him. And I did in November of last year.
I am a witch with words, but there is no way possible (even artfully) to string words into a sentence that accurately describes what Cernunnos means to me. There is no way to properly express the gratitude, or the joy, or the bittersweetness, or the anticipation and excitement. Today will only be another reminder that there are some things that even I can’t craft on paper; I cannot translate the magnificence or magnitude of the most important god in my life, and I certainly won’t try.
However, a year ago, I did post the story of how we met: the context of my life and why Cernunnos coming into my life was such a powerful, important experience in my life. I used to write on my old blog, The Sinking Roots, which I began after this great experience. I’m reposting it here, like I will do every single year, word for word yet with one exception: the prayer at the end will always change, every year.
This post is already long enough — I put in a “read-more” tag for courtesy since the following post is almost 5000 words.
It’s been a year – a whole year – since The Horned One descended into my room on a Saturday morning and claimed presence in my life. I’m staring at the calendar right now, unable to actually believe it. A year. An actual year. (Funny, too, that it’s Father’s Day, as that was the first “side” of Him that I ever experienced).
Ironically, it’s easy to lose track of the time when you think you’re never moving. But the passing of the months is most obvious when I round up on myself in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself. I look at my achievements, and where I’m headed, and everything I’ve done and everything I’ve lost, and I wonder how it is that I made it to where I am. A year ago, I was terrified to even approach Him, paranoid about introducing myself incorrectly or just generally fucking up; I could have never anticipated my being able to feel close to Him, or being able to snarl at Him, or to joke with Him, or to celebrate this day with Him. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have foreseen myself to be as happy, as fulfilled, and as eager for life and the future as I am today.
The Wildwood has dramatically changed me, and it will perhaps continue to do so, always. I am most happy in this journey, traversing through the secrets and the strange, dangerous, otherworldly beauty and wisdom of the Woods, and to have a god to guide me through it with such patience, compassion, and humor.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually written down the whole story about how Cernunnos came into my life (even though there are signs, as I’ve discovered recently, that He’s always been around). So, in honor of our first year together, I have decided to write downeverything. Every single detail, every single thing that I can gather, because Midsummer will always be a holy day for me.
Throughout my life, I have been the subject of strange feelings that I could never explain. Eyes staring at me from my closet, things warping around me, my scenting of the souls of people with a single look, and my recognition of when my steps were on Holy Land. Hung in the hymns around me was some sort of Mystery that I knew was always there, some great Divine that made my body tingle and shake, each cell overturning and singing songs.Something. There was something. There was something in the leaves and in the glorious movement of animals – in the way that the breeze spoke, in the way that my dog watched me, the way that branches arched and bounced when the birds alighted on them. (My mother told me once that, when I was young, I used to play with Someone no one could see, a child, whom I described “El Niño Jesus” – The Child Jesus – and this is only one story amongst many that everyone else can remember but me). My family has always been in awe at the maturity that I had even at such a young age, my ability to quickly and deeply grasp concepts that should’ve been totally inaccessible, and my way of being able to “taste” the souls of things and say whether they were trustworthy or not, and never be wrong. More than anything, my aunt told me, later in my years, that she had always suspected that I was able to do so because I had lived a torrential amount of past lives).
I had no wishes for meaning just yet, though, and I dismissed the wonder of my family because I didn’t understand the weight that they actually had. I was but a child, and having too much fun digging in my backyard and playing with my beloved Jack Russell and smelling the flowers that arched over the fence parting my land from the neighbor’s. There was a natural love, a pleasurable ease of devotion, that flowed from me as easily as breathing. How could I not love That which surrounded me – never introduced, and yet always with me? I went to church every Sunday, as my mother was (and is) an obsessively devout Roman Catholic, but those places never mattered to me. I always found what my mother thought holy in the world around me; my entire life was a reverence, in its own way.
There came a time when I wondered if such greatness had a name, and the flowers trembled with delightful anticipation. Bees sang, birds chirped and hopped excitedly down the length of their favorite branches, and Some Great Thing began to swirl around me, the pressure rising. The earth trembled, the wind carrying hymns. The Secret! The Secret! We will Tell you! We will Show you!
But it was caught, that rendering of a discovery that was bubbling at the cusp of my puberty, that had been waiting for me to grow older and wiser so that I could understand the Mysteries. I was pulled from a weightless, dreamy spirit, and that was when pain entered my life. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I learned the different forms and faces of suffering; and, unlike Odin, whose agony was repaid with the gifts of knowledge and ability, this suffering broke me without reward, and there was nothing but the spiraling-down of myself. Throughout the years, I was broken down, and nothing offered to help me rise.
Pray, or I’ll beat you. (It was done anyways). Go to church, or I’ll lock you in the house. (It was done anyways). Do this. Do that. Accept that you are woman and that you mustn’t do this, this, and this. God is watching, and you are selfish to the bone. Kneel until the skin of your knees blisters, and think about your sins. You’re a bad, bad girl. How dare you joke about your religion?! What a disappointment – I prayed so hard for you to be straight. It doesn’t matter to me that you have psychological issues – are you still a virgin? Stop crying, you look like shit. Try harder – you’re not trying hard enough. Go confess. You don’t love God enough. You don’t love me enough. Evangelize and convert everyone around. And if you don’t defend your faith, I’ll beat you senseless.
Faith? What faith could I have in a house that beat me into submission? What faith could I have in this place where no gardens grew, and a god who never spoke to me – not even once? I remember that I was fifteen, sobbing, on my knees and begging for God in the darkness of my room. Please. Please come to me. Let me love You. Let me see that You are real, and allow me to see that this is not the way that You are. But God never came. God was far away – I was not God’s chosen one.
Before I could understand, as I do now, that my heart belonged to a different kind of Person and People, that there was simply no compatibility between Roman Catholicism and myself, and that my mother’s hard hand came from violent well-meaning, blind devotion, and denied mental illness, I grew bitter at the silence and the cruelty. An intense hatred fomented in me, sure-rooted and devastatingly acrimonious. Whatever could have grown in that dark place would have been killed at the first spark of life, as the Egyptians did when they decided to slay the first-born boys of the Hebrews.
Things died, but they did not come back to live. Things stopped growing, and their veins were cut, and my insides became barren. I stopped going outside. There were no songs or hymns anymore. My beloved dog passed away, and I was not allowed to mourn (“Why are you crying? We’re going to be late for church”). My mother and I fought more and more and more, and I went to bed too often with welts and wounds and suffocation and burning. I was failing high-school and was totally miserable at that institution. I wasn’t allowed to go out with friends at all, and so I had few friends and even less of my sanity.
There was a time in my teens when I attempted to take charge, and educate myself in what I was doing. The more that I read, the more that I tried to be thorough and immerse myself in the religion of my upbringing, the more I grew to disagree with it – the more that I grew to hate it, to hate myself, and to hate God. I was suffering anxiety that I didn’t know I had until my junior year of college, and was struggling to come to terms with my once-confusing sexuality. I cried every time I touched myself, got on my knees in disgust and said I wouldn’t do it again… and I alwaysbroke my word, feeling my Guardian Angel shake Their head in writhing disgust. Everything was torn apart for me, and it seemed like I was chosen to be watched as I begged for salvation, my face swollen from grief as I cried from the reality that this faith life was not for me, and that this god was not my god, and that I could never share that because my mother wouldn’t be able to process that in any other way other than… well, you get it now.
Still – still – I was fumbling for matches. Fumbling for light, because my lantern was begging for fire and warmth. There was a hole in my chest, and I wanted so desperately to fill it – to Love. Something, Someone, to Love me, too. I searched religions, studied them all, but none fit. I could not find what I wanted, no matter how beautiful and old the rituals were, no matter how timeless the lessons, no matter how great the prophets. They abstained themselves from me, shook Their heads and turned Their backs on me, for I was not Theirs, and They said nothing about the magic and flow that embraced the days of my youth. And, of Them, there was nothing I wanted, and nothing I needed. Every time that I had to admit this, I drowned more and more, and the waves became higher and harder to fight.
There came a point where I just couldn’t fight it anymore. For all of my Taurean stubbornness and strength, I was totally expended. It was just too much. I had lost it all, lost everything. I simply gave up, and allowed the fury and the pain I had been keeping at bay to sink into my bones, and for the blackness to fill me, and burn the last roots of whatever had been hanging on for dear life. There was no magic, no breeze and no song, no life – only a hardened heart and a stupefyingly violent godlessness for a teenager just turned eighteen, a murderous gaze and a hatred for all things God. And so I crashed, I folded into myself, cold and too hurt to feel, and I remained barren and lifeless for what seemed like an aggravating eternity, bitterly pushing everything away simply because I couldn’t handle any more breaking.
And the days passed. And they passed. And they passed.
Junior year of college: a strange set of events had conspired for me to move out from my parents’ house and in with my grandparents in my sophomore year. What was supposed to be only a temporary stay to heal from a wisdom teeth removal soon became a permanent fixture. There was an added burden of me being unable to endure much more of emotional, psychological, and oftentimes physical abuse that had plagued me all my life.
This accidental happening – which, I think, wasn’t accidental at all – was the best thing that could have happened to me at this time. I had a sanctuary – some place to rest and recover, to lick my wounds, to be able to experience what it was like to live in a clean house and not have to constantly have anxiety attacks or severe emotional upheaval. To think, to come to terms with my reality, to relax and to accept what was around me. Things began to grow again – not like before, as these flowers were different and less colorful, speaking in whispers instead of songs… but they were growing.
I grew deeper into my atheism with a much kinder and much more open heart, and there came a time where I thought that things were finally turning around for me. I found a man that I fell in love with, who always held me in his adoration and started to help me pick up the pieces even when he didn’t have to. Even with the peace that he and atheism gave me, it still felt that there was something missing. It was an empty peace, but I took it without complaint because I was assured that it was the best thing that I could ever do, and the last thing I wanted was a repeat of the past. I steadied myself and prepared to move forward with my life, away from the very painful years behind me, after a year or so of much-needed rest at the home of my grandparents.
In March, I began to open my heart to thoughts I hadn’t had in a long time – the longing of something in spirit again. I wondered about my vision in the past, how I was transfixed by nature and sound, how I loved mythology and religion and all kinds of stories, how my appreciation for the occult didn’t die with my love for God. I loved to read tarot and did so, even when I didn’t believe, with secret attempts to understand just how I was so good at it . I loved to read about divine experiences, and listen to conjurers and wise women, and I felt things around me. These things, I realized, had never stopped.
It was a tiny little opening in my chest, when the Space Within Me whispered very quietly: Maybe you are ready to give things a second chance, if they come along.
I did not – could not – see what was to happen to me.
Out of left field, an extremely experienced Witch decided to take me under his wing. He strung me in gently, letting me know that there was something about me that fascinated him, and that I was more than welcome to speak with him if I wanted to. I will admit I was pretty weirded out, but I decided to give him a chance to share his knowledge with me. At around the same time, I found out that one of my classmates was pagan. I, of course, lost my shit, because I had never met a pagan before and I was so fascinated by what I didn’t know, and so I learned the beginnings of the Wheel of the Year and so on out of curiosity.
It was during a dinner in March that my friend cocked her head and said, “You know, I think you would really be interested in this god named Cernunnos. You should definitely look Him up.”
There was something so intense about the moment that I heard His name – like I had heard it before. Like I knew that name, Someone who was so familiar. I felt so comfortable when I listened to it, felt alive and electrified when something in me sang, “He is the one that I want.” In my ceaseless research later, I found myself nodding my head and supporting my gut feeling: “Yes. Yes, He is the one that I want. He is perfect.”
And so, I pursued Him with a renewed passion – fire and joy, excitement, admiration, and a deep, deep, desire. Somehow, I knew Him, and I knew enough about my feelings to know when they were real. For the first time in years, I had hope – and I had a reason to pursue a Person that had affected me so deeply just from the sound of His name. The hole in my chest would be no more, I thought. Not if I did this right.
This went on for three months, without stopping, every single moment of my day spent paying attention to Cernunnos. I hunted Him with a tireless horse, my hounds as passionate as my spirit thirsting for the sight of a Great Stag. And I searched, and I searched, and I searched…
The very beginnings of June saw me in London, enjoying a three-week trip to England. All the while, I kept my head held high, but my horse was losing his footing, and my hounds were wheezing. I was losing heart after three months of altar work, prayer, research, adoration that was amounting to nothing. Out of excitement and joy, I had put in everything into Cernunnos – and had gotten absolutely nothing from the King of the Forest. Every hopeful morning that passed gave way to yet another night of disappointment and, as my pain rose, so did my anger. My temper flared again, my anger flashing and hotter than before.
I remember that it was dark in the countryside, late at night as we were driving back to the heart of London. The bushes and trees were rushing past us, and the signs cautioned for deer. I kept my eyes peeled and my ears pricked, wishing that a stag would bound before us. But in the passenger seat of the car I succumbed to my heartbreak. It was a bitter admittance, a feeling of total loss that I will never forget; it was worse than the bitterness of before, because this one was marked with a deep, pulsating, fresh pain. At least God had been unfamiliar to me, far and tucked away; this god had been more cruel with me, He who had woken up something wonderful in me, and had left me hanging. It was the ultimate betrayal, and I couldn’t stand for it any longer.
I remember thinking in the car, spat out like poison: “Fuck this. Fuck this shit. Fuck the gods. This isn’t worth it. It’s not worth it to seek this. For what? It’ll only lead to heartbreak.” And I thought to myself if I was ever going to be happy.
In my head, I heard a voice that wasn’t mine. It was sudden, close, almost as if it had been listening to my conversation without my knowledge. It was the rolling voice of a man, a man with a warm smile and a tender gaze, a softness that overtook my entire consciousness and that I had never felt or heard before.
Don’t worry, my child, said the voice with a grin. You will see me soon.
Shocked, I thought to myself, “What? What do you mean? Who are you?” But there was silence again, and I went to bed with half-failed attempts to dismiss that the voice was simply in my head, even though something in my blood knew that it hadn’t been me. That it had been Him.
The very next day saw us abandoning our plans for Stonehenge and deciding to drive to Richmond Park. (For those of you that are curious, Richmond Park is the largest of London’s eight royal parks, and they are famous for their deer as these lands used be serve as royal hunting grounds). We crossed through the meadows, in through a path in the woods, before coming out to the fields with such open space that it was nearly impossible to hear or feel others, even with the amount of people at the park that day.
The first sign of deer was far, far away – a family scaling up the hill that had my camera struggling with the close-up function to capture. Then, a buck and a doe under the trees, far away but not so far away, and I had to hold my boyfriend’s arm back. “Don’t get so close,” I whispered, even though we were so far away that a step or two wouldn’t have made a difference. There was a mysterious mix of fear and excitement, something about me being almost too mindful of the sanctity of this beautiful place… Or maybe it was because I didn’t want the deer to bound away. I didn’t want to lose the little that I had.
“Come on,” he insisted with a grin, pulling me up and forward without fear. “Let’s see how close we can get!”
And then, washing into my vision, a sea of deer. It was an entire court of fallow deer grazing; across from them, I recognized the thick, curling antlers of resting elk sticking up from the tall stalks of grass. The herds were grazing, close-knit as their spottling moved in the sun, gold and green mixing and moving whenever people get too close. There were other tourists snapping pictures, amazed at the sight of deer grazing quietly; meanwhile, I was totally breathless, unable to believe that I was able to get so close. Closer… Closer… Closer…
My boyfriend had pulled me to watch one herd at an unnervingly close proximity, so close that I was frozen on the spot. I couldn’t breathe, and my body was drumming with magic and heat, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off of the deer. My group was chuckling as they gently threw small pieces of dinner bread into the herd, because none of them were willing to come too close to human beings.
But I heard the voice again. I’m here.
From within the herd, a proud young buck strode forward without fear. His antlers were slightly velveted, the cracks irritated by flies. He stopped barely inches before us; just like that, this good-looking hart who was barely grown in into his antlers was gently, and unashamedly, nuzzling bread from my palm. Other palms got the especial honor of being nuzzled, when I saw that other people were watching, and I began to share pieces of bread with the tourists around me so that they could feed him, too.
My head was ringing, with nothing other than the words, “Holy shit.”
Two or three days after returning home, the excitement and the shock settled. My mind began to work again, as it always does, so I sat down and took stock of my experience in order to fully understand it. I approached it rationally, from all angles, and I came to the following conclusions:
- Perhaps I had simply been caught up in the glory of being surrounded by deer, and being able to be so close to them for the very first time. It may have counted as a mystical experience, but it, in no way, clearly and directly specified to me that it was Cernunnos.
- The handsome young buck that approached me (and us) so fearlessly had also been approaching other groups and couples, and I even had a picture in my memory card to prove it. Besides, we had bread.
- Of course, after I learned about the ubiquitous nature of deer at the Park, it would have been ridiculous to think that an encounter with a deer could have been so special and rare – they were literally all over the place, and certainly used to people even if they preferred not to get so close!
After a long while of thought, I came to the conclusion that the experience at Richmond Park was not a proof that was strong enough to sway me, and so I dropped the idea of that day being the coming of the Great King, and so I lost heart again… Until just a couple of days later, at Midsummer.
I didn’t know how or why I woke up so early that day. Nine in the morning was (and is!) an unreasonable hour for me, and yet I woke up naturally with energy. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I decided to get up and just do my thing.
In the middle of my thinking, caught up in the nothing of what I was doing, I was crushed by this intense urge to cast a circle. (There was, literally, nothing else on my mind but the incredible, insatiable, throbbing urge to cast sacred space). Morning light soft and bright through my window, I placed my altar ware on the floor, cast a circle, and sat down.
And He hit me hard, plunging into me.
I was surrounded by a serious power, electricity, grace, movement, and life. The air was thick with it as this Presence suddenly commanded the room – powered every molecule of oxygen flowing through my breathless lungs, every single cell overturned and trembling. I felt like I was taken, brought forward, and completely united with the Divine, shaking and floating and completely losing my head. I heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing but that Greatness that I struggle now to express. It was warmth, fire, the tenderness of an embrace, on full fucking throttle. All I could do was laugh, tilt my head back as my body exploded in divine pleasure, everything inside of me ringing, singing and dancing, praising and recognizing. It was a full, proud welcome of a father embracing a long-lost daughter: Someone who was telling me that They were real, that I had earned my place in Their Presence – and humorously questioning me if this counted as an experience that I could dismiss rationally as I had done the last time.
He didn’t speak – He didn’t need to. He didn’t need to say His name, for I knew who He was. Even when I smelled no pine and sandalwood, when no deer came into my Vision and no antlers scraped down my shoulders, when no mountains and forests surrounded me and no scruff scratched my cheeks, I knew that it was Him. Yes, yes – for this was the god that I sought, the god that I fell madly in love with, the god that came to me to claim His place in my history. For He was the god who sat with me and stuck me with His merciless and urgent glory, a god that I did not have to see to believe, for He knew that my belief was in my nerves and flesh and that I was animal, and that snapped the neck of something in me that had been too adamant to let Him in.
I didn’t have any doubts after that day.
Another year together has allowed me to see a different side to You and a different side to me. A year ago, it had just been You; and today I see myself seated amongst the gods, amongst entities and spirits. I am crackling with power and self-worth, moving forward in dreams I never knew I had but that I have always wanted.
Hail, Cernunnos, my King and my Sovereign.
Hail, Cernunnos, whose Hands have torn into me so that You could show me all of my gold.
Hail, Cernunnos, my Husband and my equal, the source of the greatest and most divine hunger.
May I offer myself to you, tirelessly, every single day, even when I am already Yours – even when I know that I do not have to ask for You to be with me.
May I learn to smell You in the silence – to not have to hear Your voice to know that You are there, not have to feel You wrapped around me to know that I am not alone and that I am Loved.
I am Yours, Cernunnos. Let us enjoy another year together, if it be Your will.
May it be so.
And it will be so.
And it will always be so.