I have really missed the Pagan Blog Project. It hasn’t happened in a few years, so I thought I would do one of my own but on a specific topic – Herne the Hunter.
When I am able I will be following the alphabet, and creating a blog based around a subtopic of that letter. This is not going to be a 101 crash course on Herne. This is for those who work with Him, who know His story, who don’t need to be explained everything from the beginning. If you’re looking for that, check out the 30 Days of Devotion that I have done over the years.
Then come here.
First up… A is for Antlers… and Deer. And no, I don’t believe I could be more cliché.
Herne has a glaringly obvious connection with antlers. He has them. They are there, atop his skull. They are a part of him.
His aspect comes from his mythos. The antlers that pierced his abdomen were placed upon his head during his healing and recovery. And whether it was days, weeks or months between the accident with the stag and his suicide, the antlers followed him into the afterlife.
Outside of a UPG or SPG (unverified/shared personal gnosis) knowing, we know that this is how Herne presents himself through the earliest (publically available) written description of Herne from Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’.
There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns…
“…with great ragg’d horns.” I love that imagery. I’ve always pictured it as antlers covered in vines and grass and twigs, as I imagined that (in the early days especially) he would need to get used to having them protruding from his skull. He would need to get used to the weight of them, moving with them, and the changes in spacial awareness.
So why did he come to present himself first as a Spirit of Windsor Forest, then later as Deity, with antlers?
We can see with images throughout history of the importance of antlers within aspects of fertility, of masculinity, (of femininity when looking at Elen of the Ways, so a balance of energy in that regard) but also as a representation of man’s connection with nature. I can’t talk for the British Isles as I’m an Australian who’s never stepped foot there, but from the story of Herne and the knowledge that a white stag is so incredibly rare that the King must have the honour of bringing it down, we can see the importance of stags within the animal kingdom at this stage in time.
If you have been watching The Crown on Netflix, there’s a scene in the early stages of season four where the Royal Family are around the table eating and discussing who would have the honour of bringing down the largest stag to have graced the Royal Grounds in an age.
Antlers are shed. They are regrown each season. The males use them in the rut, to combat each other for superiority, for rites within the herd. Within those few examples we can see it as an aspect of death, life, regeneration. As an aspect of strength and power. And to feel them grow each season, pushing through bone and sinue… the physical pressure and change and the ability to with stand that each season speaks to the strength of the animal, and in turn Herne.
Did He choose to come to Spirit with antlers? Was it apart of the spell that the Magi cast on Herne to assist with His healing? Was it all coincidence? Does He shed his antlers? How does Herne feel about them? Outside of UPG/SPG, who knows. One would assume he is used to them after 620 years from death (or there abouts).
[ Yes. When the math is done, given his connection to King Richard II, Herne would’ve died around 620 years ago. ]
In a rare book on Herne, Herne the Hunter: a Berkshire Legend by Michael John Petry, it is mentioned that the Berkshire region to which Herne hails has very strong Anglo-Saxon connections, moreso than Celtic. That “…there is certainly no lack of evidence that among the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic tribes the stag was regarded as a symbol of political authority and kingly power.” Could Herne have chosen to come back with antlers as a way of showing authority over those who wronged him? Could it be his claim to the forest, his claim to the land he held so dear?
Unfortunately I seem to have created more questions than answers, but for those who work with Herne we can use these questions to ask Him, to get to know Him better, and maybe in ways we hadn’t considered.