Thursday, 7 June 2007

Shamanic Interconnections

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"Herne the Hunter." Online Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
http://www.britannica.com/eb/art-5906

When I was a kid my mom had this book of old English folk tales. My favourite story was Herne the Hunter. Herne rode with his pack of hounds wearing a hat decorated with stag antlers. There are many variations on the story, but the stag horns he wears remain a constant through them all. The reason there are so many legends is because Herne never existed. He is based on a Celtic god called Cernunnos..

..and Cernunnos is linked to the Greek god Hermes (or Roman Mercury)

..and the even more ancient god (depicted on seals dating back to 3,000 BC) found in Nepal and India called Pashupati..

..and some historians believe that both Cernunnos and Pashupati are based on prehistoric Neolithic shamans.

You can find an example of a Neolithic "shaman" in the 12,000 year old cave paintings in Ariege, France here

About.com says this about Cernunnos:

His Celtic name is unknown, although he may be associated with Derg Corra, the early Celtic "Man in the Tree." Cernunnos is a Roman name meaning "horned one." He is often associated with Herne the hunter, a character of British folk myth, and the "Green man" of European architecture. Roman invaders associated Cernunnos with the god Mercury.

The reason we don't know his real name is because the Celts had no written language, but they did leave us their art. Over 60 known depictions of the Horned god have been found in Europe, spanning a time period of over 500 years. The most famous depiction of Cernunnos is probably the one from the Gundestrup Cauldron, which was found in Denmark. Here, as in most of them, he's depicted as a man with stag horns sitting cross-legged in the lotus position. He's also usually surrounded by animals, especially a stag, and he's often shown holding a very odd animal - a snake with ram's horns.

The ram-horned serpent is particularly interesting. The serpent occurs in myths all across the world, and is nearly always associated with knowledge. Usually these associations are purely pagan, but remember that it was a serpent that tempted Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. It is also commonly associated with death and the otherworld..
Quote from here

There is undoubtedly a connection between our modern horned devil and the Celtic Horned god. Since Biblical references never describe Lucifer as horned it is most likely that the early Christian church transformed Lucifer into the Horned god because of the snake-knowledge link, or because by making the opposition Celtic god "evil" they could more easily persuade his followers to convert to Christianity. So the angel of light was transformed into a Neolithic shaman wearing horns and carrying a hunting weapon? Maybe!

The god Hermes/Mercury carries something that echoes the twin-spiral theme of that ram-horned snake - a staff entwined by two snakes. Hermes was originally a herdsman, he was called "Master of the Animals". He eventually became a messenger and leader of souls to the underworld. Bringing messages from the Otherworld and helping the dead pass over are both traditional shamanic roles.

Shamans "travel" in trances or meditation - both Cernunnos and Pashupati are depicted in meditative positions.

Cernunnos on the Gundestrup Cauldron

Pashupati depicted on a seal

Traditional shamans wore animal skins, horns or feathers to heighten the mental/spiritual link between themselves and those animals - just as Pashupati and Cernunnos do.

Shamans believed their connection to animals allowed them to control them, a highly valuable skill to a Neolithic hunter!
Herne is the hunter,
Hermes is a herdsman and "master of the animals",
Pashupati is a shepherd and sometimes called "Lord of the Animals"
and Cernunnos, the Horned One, is both lord of the hunt and the animals.

So how does a symbolic shamanic figure depicted as a god in India end up all over Europe?

The answer may lie with the Celts. These nomadic people seem to have originated somewhere on the Indo-European Plateau. There is historical evidence that they were living around Kazakhstan, East of the Caspian sea, before 2,000 BC. They had many different tribes and clans. Each group had their own favourite gods, but one god they all had in common was Cernunnos. They were an adventurous wandering horse-loving people who roamed extensively through both Europe and Asia. Long before the Romans began conquering Europe the Celts had already expanded as far as Britain and into Asia as well.

Did the Celts take the idea of the shaman from Asia or did they have their own shamanic ancestral past, same as those ancient people who painted their shaman hunters in the caves in France? One thing is fairly certain - there are far more connections and links between cultures and continents than we often realise. Take a look at some of the Tungus people here and you'll see what I mean. They look more like the "Indians" you'd see in an old Western movie than Eurasians.. and their "shaman" is dancing wearing reindeer horns on his head.

When the first peoples made their way from Asia into the Americas did they take the idea of the "Saman" with them?

Perhaps the Indigenous peoples of the Americas practice Shamanism after all?

10 comments:

  1. Interesting, though I can't comment much as I don't know much he he...but I have a friend who's into Celts and Celtic culture he he he...

    And yeah, who knows what our ancestors did ages ago? Yet sometimes it's funny when we believe that we "own" a culture - and then find out it's a combination of other cultures altogether...hmmmm...interesting...

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  2. Hi Amel

    What I love is the more you dig into ancient history - the more you find all of us are connected in the past more than we realise. The world really is one huge family that kept expanding.

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  3. Well said, M! I just wish more and more people realize that, as well. :-)

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  4. On a completely unrelated note, I like your background image. I'm stealing it, bwahahahaha! :)

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  5. Anonymous, if you ever venture back I can give you the link to the free backgrounds place it comes from. They had it in gold as well as blue. :-D

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  6. Great post-perhaps the Celts and Indians shared a common culture at one time? Makes sense as Sanskrit is an Indo-European langage.

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  7. Hi Kevin

    thanks! Actually an Indian friend sent me a website once, where a historian had done research onto the links between the two. Unfortunately I lost the link - computer harddrive crash.

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  8. Very nice writing, thanx!
    Interestingly is the link between all shamanic cultures which are mostly the plants and mushrooms used for travelling to the other world, as the tungus people use the fly agaric and the ojibway indians in america still use them, while other indians like the aztecs, used psilocybin mushrooms.

    In the Rig Veda of the Hindu there is mentioned a plant named soma, which is according to Gordon Wasson also another name for the fly agaric.

    I've written something about this, unfortunately it's in dutch, but you still can have a look at my blogspot page if you click my name. peace!

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  9. Hi Davy

    Thank you for the interesting comments.

    I have another post you might find interesting here: http://crows-feet.blogspot.com/2007/05/confessions-of-karaoke-psychic.html

    It deals with the effects I had from another source - anaesthetic.

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  10. Hey very nice blog!

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