Gundestrup Cauldron

June 06, 2014

This is one of the most celebrated sections of the Gundestrup Cauldron.  A Celtic deity sits cross-legged, wearing antlers and a torc.  He holds a second torc in his right hand and a ram-horned snake in the other.  A stag and a wolf flank him and pay great attention to his actions.  Around them, other animals are disporting themselves, a lion, a deer and a boy riding a dolphin.
This god is usually identified as Cernunnos, largely on the strength of a similar image on a Gallo-Roman altar from Rheims.  There, too, the horned deity squats cross-legged, emptying a sack of grain or coins before a stag and bull.  Cernunnos was a god of nature, fertiliity and plenty, this is confirmed by his attributes.  The ram-horned snake was a common Celtic motif, combining the fertility symbolism of the ram with the sense of renewal that was impliicit in the snake's ability to shed and replace its skin.  The torc, as a highly regarded status object, could easily be seen as a token of abundance, roughly equivalent to the cornucopia.  The theme of fertility is further brought out by the low-relief tendril pattern which spreads throughout the whole plate.



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