A Divine Family

Child God

Cernunnos – “The Child God”

According to Caesar and others the name of the Celtic god was Dis. Dis like Chronos ate his young, but unlike Chronos, who does so to keep his power, Dis eats them when they are maimed and spits them back out whole. (The use of cauldrons in Celtic lore is symbolic of this.)

Although often pictured as male, Dis is not a gender specific word. Rather, it is familial, that is, a “family name” denoting a trinity of sorts consisting of father, mother, and child; experientially separate, but “theologically” one. This by the way is the Eastern Church’s definition of the Trinity. An example can be seen in the Celtic “Child-God,” who’s name is both Cernunnos (male) and Artios (female). So-called statues of Cernunnos are often depicted as male and female. Both Cernunnos and Artios are the child-god names of Dis. Dis, we must remember is father, mother, child simultaneously. We see echoes of this in Irish and Scottish Christianity were Mary and Joseph both have equal billing with the baby Jesus.

In Celtic spirituality, Dis equals YHWH, the name given to the God of the Hebrews (Exodus 3:14). In English we translate it as “I AM THAT I AM,” however, YHWH literally means, “The Unknowable Knowable God” or visa versa, “The Knowable Unknowable God.” YHWH does not equal “father-god.” In both Celtic and Hebrew spirituality God is unknown, but yet known through the divine parent-friend relationship that God has with his creation.

Celtic pilgrimage is about experiencing the hitherto unknown aspects of God as parent-friend. To do so requires dying to self and being reborn as a child of God. It is a progressive experience. Conversion is merely the starting point, that point in time that one realizes the need for a quest to become more like God’s Child, in Christian parlance, to become Christ-like. Conversion is not a “salvation” experience in the sense of “accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.” Conversion is simply turning away from making one’s self of life to making God lord of life. And as previously said, it is progressive. We will struggle with the question of who is “lord”?

Back to the family aspect of God. Although the names of the Celtic god are gender-specific it is wrong to think of the divine aspects as such. It would be better to thin k of them as “nature-specific.” For example, the father is the numinous vigor and the mother is the numinous kenesis. Vigor = “giving life,” or the “breath of life.” Kenesis (kenetic) = “changing the state of energy (nature), in other words, nurturing growth.

In Celtic spirituality both are aspects of Grace. Celtic Christianity identified Grace with the divine creative song, Oran Mór, which equates with the Christian Logos, or Christos, but never with the man, Jesus. Specifically, Grace is both “Father” (vigor) and “Mother” (kenesis).

Dis-pater Anu/Danu Cernunnos/Artios Christ
(Cruither/Goibnu/Dagda) (Boann/Shannon/Brigit) God of harvest/earth = Creation Friend Friend
Young Warrior Muse Infant
fostered (fostered) Boy in Temple
Warrior Maid Dies Dies

The nurturing, protective spirit is typified by water. For example, Mary and Marium come from mor/mar, meaning water. The Oran Mór, is literally the “Great (Water) Song.” In the bible we have Moses floating in the bull rushes. Elsewhere in the scriptures, the parting of the sea, Jesus walking on water, water into wine, etc. These each speak of the rite of baptism, which is symbolic of both the washing of the person and a new birth. Baptism is sacramentally a life-changing experience. Wells, the coracle (vessel) of Celtic myth, just like the “boat” of Moses are symbolic of the cauldron where in Celtic myth the maimed and un-whole are healed. The water speaks of the new beginning, the vessel of the mystical/spiritual pilgrimage.


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