Running with Cernunnos

Along with all and sundry, I’ve been tagged by Slade of Shift Your Spirits to talk about money — everybody’s favorite topic. Slade’s got a neat twist on it that’s worth exploring: an exercise he picked up from Morgana Rae. Since money is such an abstract concept — for many of us, it simply flows in and out of our lives, and we’re never sure exactly how much we have, or why — he suggests we personify money and establish a relationship with it. Give it a face, give it name, and think about the relationship you have with it. Is it a healthy relationship? Is there plenty of give-and-take? Is Money someone you’d want to take home and meet your mother?


And the exercise takes it a step further: once you’ve figured out who Money is, figure out who you want Money to be. If Money isn’t Mr. or Mrs. Right, dump the loser and create a new Money for yourself — someone with a nice smile, who makes you laugh, maybe even takes you on whirlwind tours of Europe and lets you use that little vacation villa in Aruba whenever you want.

When Slade first mentioned this exercise back at the beginning of March, I thought it was a great idea, so I’ve been working on it for several weeks. The first part of the exercise was to figure out who your “Old Money” is: what has your relationship with money been like in the past? I’ve realized I actually had two kinds of money in my life, and so I needed two separate personifications.

Old Money

The Rich Heiress. This is the conception of money that I got from my mother; and in fact, my mother could easily have been “the rich heiress” herself, if (a) she had actually gotten the money she was entitled to, and (b) she hadn’t decided to live the life of a Zen ascetic. My mother’s family was rich, but the family’s assets came under the control of her uncle, who never did a lick of work of his life, and frittered away almost the entire family fortune by living high on the hog for 30 years. So this old Money really was Old Money. In my mind, Old Money was an older woman, filthy rich, and obsessed with keeping up appearances. I would bump into her at parties, where she was always dressed in a sequined evening gown with pearls and gemstones everywhere, smoking a cigarette. She valued witty, cynical conversation, but had nothing but disdain for a hard days work, or the poor, or the helpless. Everything was about who you knew and what parties you attended. If you played her games and fawned on her, she might give you an allowance; but I despised her and would have nothing to do with her.

The Plant Manager. The only other version of money I knew was my father’s version, and in this case, my father (who was a textile plant manager for many, many years) was a pretty good match for the personification himself. The plant manager would hire you, depending on what openings were available, and he’d work you hard — always according to what he needed you to do, not according to what you wanted to do, or were even necessarily good at. He would work you hard, and keep you in line. And he worked you long hours, and keep you away from your family, and your hobbies, and only grudgingly give you a vacation every once in awhile. And he wouldn’t pay you a whole heck of a lot.

New Money?

The next part of the exercise requires that a New Money be chosen — a new personification that lets you have a healthier relationship. I did what I always do for these exercises: I ruminated and meditated and stared off into space. Part of that process I’ve documented in this post.

But I could not come up with any New Money that I wanted to have a relationship with.

Maybe I’m just not ready to commit right now. Maybe I feel like I want play to field a little bit more before I settle down again. Maybe it’s just that all the candidate New Moneys I’ve been dating have fallen short in one way or another — it turns out they have ties to the government, or to big corporations, or something. Or maybe it’s because all the New Moneys seem to have little strings attached somewhere — oh yes, they’ll do great things for you, but you gotta give up this and this and this…

Maybe the perfect New Money is waiting out there for me somewhere; maybe I’ll find it someday. But here’s the kicker: I don’t want money. I want freedom.

Freedom from Want

In my earlier meditation on money, I saw myself as a wolf that was breaking free of a halter. The wolf is a beast destined for freedom; the halter was my hang-ups about money. I had gotten the idea that having gobs of money was an unhealthy attachment. But money gives freedom in our society; and freedom is our destiny.

In the Celtic pantheon, Cernunnos is the one to go to for freedom. He is the old Horned God, close relative of Pan and patron of the animals, the woods, and the wildness in each of us. I had asked Apollo to appear to me before, and that had worked well. I appealed to Cernunnos this time, and asked him to show me the way to freedom.

Run With Me

He came. The first couple of times I saw him, he was somewhat hazy and indistinct. When I could see him clearly, he was extremely tall, perhaps seven or eight feet from hoof to head. That goes up to nine or ten if you count the horns, which sprout straight up and back from his head like those of an antelope. He has a mane of curly hair, brown like a bear’s, and a bushy goatee. He wears nothing, neither on his human torso nor on his legs — which are usually the hind legs of a hooved animal, but not always. His eyes are piercing, and change color depending on his mood.

The first time I could see him clearly, he simply said, “Run with me.” And without further ado, we were off — him on all fours, galloping like a horse — I couldn’t see how he used his arms to do that! He kept his human shape above the waist, and yet he galloped exactly as a horse would.

I kept up with him, running along on my two legs, completely effortlessly — somehow I was swept up in his wake and drawn along. Still I could feel the speed and the joy of the exertion: we had leapt directly into a runner’s high. We ran — over the grassland, along the beach, over the hills and into areas of my little “visualization land” that I’d never visited — in a few moments of exhilarating speed we covered every inch of the territory I had explored on foot; and then we crossed the edges, discovering — or creating — new territory as we went. It was breathtaking, and left me giddy and gasping.

After he did this to me a couple of times I was a little less eager to seek him out. Maybe I should have had more faith, but honestly, it was exhausting and I didn’t think that I was learning anything. But the next time I meditated, I found he was there waiting for me.

“Come on,” he said, and we were off. But this time, as we ran, he spoke.

Conversation with the Horned God

“Why are you afraid?” he asked me. He was as simple and brusque as a policeman asking for license and registration. But he wasn’t shouting as we were running, or anything like that — his words simply appeared in my mind.

“I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong choices,” I said. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle the responsibility.”

“You’re human being,” he said. “Making choices is your right — and your duty. You’re a good man with a conscience. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, but that’s expected.”

Then he communicated something completely unexpected, not with words or with thoughts in my head, but with a pure bolt of feeling: love. I struggled to understand; and then I realized that Love, he was saying, was the basis of righteous judgement.

“But most people don’t have much money,” I said. “Why should I have that freedom when others don’t?”

“They should have freedom, too,” he said. “It’s not your fault they don’t.”

We were headed directly into a forest I had occasionally explored the edges of — one that I suspected was inhabited by fairies and other mysterious wild things. The woods were alternately dark and light as we dashed through thick underbrush and open glades.

“But what if everybody had money? ” I asked. “Not everyone would make great choices. Not everyone is ready for it. There are some terrible people in the world… if they all had complete freedom, what would they do?”

For the first time, he stopped and looked me in the eye. His eyes were golden-green. His thought flashed: Using your Free Will is the fastest route to growth.


As I stood, trying to absorb this, he was off again, and I could do nothing but follow after. Now he picked up speed, and headed directly for the heart of the forest. I expected it to grow darker, but instead the trees thinned, and suddenly I saw it: a towering presence, magnificently gigantic, like a great wooden mountain — a tree that went up taller than any skyscraper, puncturing the heavens. The roots wound among the oaks and rowans of the woods at its feet like bus-sized snakes.

Cernunnos dashed straight up the tree, headfirst, like a squirrel; and I saw that his hind legs had changed to become squirrel-like. I was pulled up after him, up, up, and up, as fast as a climbing rocket; in seconds I could see the edge of the forest, the edge of my “visualization land”, and the great sea beyond it. We were far higher than the mountaintops. Then Cernunnos left me behind, zipping up and losing himself among the branches, and I continued to rise alone.

Unexpectedly I was at the top. There was no sign of Cernunnos. The World Tree tapered abruptly to the thickness of a rope, and ended in a strange twisting ascending spiral. The spiral tendril was wound around a bolt of yellow-white light descending from some unguessed height.

The top of the tree was somehow connected to — hanging from — drawing life from — pure energy from above.

More to Come

I feel like Cernunnos is still laying the groundwork for me. I have a very long way to go, but almost daily, I get hints of where I need to be focusing my attention — energy, leadership, honesty. It feels like I’m slowly, slowly shifting an iceberg.

It’s not about being granted freedom, or earning freedom, or being good enough for freedom. We’ve already got it; we can’t get rid of it. Instead, it’s about accepting it — as a gift and as a responsibility.

This post was written in early 2007. You may be interested in some of my later thoughts on financial independence in my series on Zen and the Tarot.

14 responses to “Running with Cernunnos”

  1. Once again Jeff, you write with a beauty that makes me nearly cry. Cernunnos is a god I’m constantly drawn to but I can’t seem to make that connection. A friend told me of an experiance he had with Cernunnos and it was very very similar. Intresting. Thanks again.


  2. I LOVE your visualizations.

    I adore These Posts. I think they represent all your best strengths as a writer.

    I’ve had to double my subscription to Druid Journal with Feed Reader and Email – I’ve got a baseball glove on one hand, and a butterfly net in the other – and I can’t wait for the next installment.


  3. Awesome. Your meditations are incredibly, and so visual, and I feel privledged to be able to share them through your writings.
    I can relate to your fears about accepting abundance too… why me when so many others lack? Yet who are we to judge the path of another’s life? All we can do is the best possible on our path… and that includes using and accepting whatever tools are at our disposal. Accepting our own abundance allows us to share it with others, manifesting even more for everybody…


  4. Kitsune, thank you. I’m sorry you haven’t been able to make the connection to Cernunnos. I did it by reading whatever I could about him (there isn’t much), and then, a couple of times during meditations, beseeching him for help, and offering him service. Doing this during a meditation sort of opens a channel — when you’re meditating, you’re entirely focused, so you can send a clearer message, and the gods and spirits can hear you better.

    An aside — in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which is fantasy fiction, one of the “rules of magic” is that it’s devilishly difficult to read a human mind, because it’s always full of random thoughts flashing hither and thither, focusing now on one thing, now on another, now in the past, now in any number of possible futures, etc., etc. While of course Terry’s work is fiction, I rather think he’s on the mark here. Gods and spirits can’t make a connection with you easily unless your mind is quiet — as in meditation.

    I’d be really interested to hear about your friend’s experience with Cernunnos, if you can share it.


  5. Thanks, Slade! I’ve got a double subscription to your Shift Your Spirits, too. 🙂 The feed prompts me to go see your post immediately when it appears, and then the email prompts me to read it again in depth. I’ve got to read all your stuff at least twice to get everything out of it.


  6. Kara-Leah, I think you’re right. Here’s a sore spot I’ve been wrestling with: Who are we to judge the path of another’s life? And yet we’re called to do this all the time. It’s made all the more obvious when you have a pile of cash to dispose of. Where do you put it? Toward which causes — toward which charities? And of course if you choose none or all, that’s a choice too. Part of me wants to refuse the money until I have a good answer…


  7. Yaknow, some martial arts master once told me that money (as an abstract concept, not as a personification) is very taoistic… Its value is not in the having, but in the using. A wheel’s usefulness is greatly diminished without the negative space of the hole where the axle goes, just as a bowl is useless without a negative space to contain objects. Money is only valuable as it is being spent; otherwise currency is just a bunch of cotton and ink and small bits of metal.

    Once the currency is out of your hands, you can’t direct where it goes… just as you can let water evaporate, but you can’t direct where the clouds carry it. You can predict the winds, but not always accurately. Money becomes a gas or a fluid in an economy, going to where it is easiest to flow… The trick isn’t in forcing the money, as that’s like pushing on a river… rather, make it easier for money to flow in the direction that you want it to.


  8. I don’t think there really is any such thing as a ‘good’ answer as to how to use money… Like anything in life, we can listen to our internal guidance and feel our way through things. You’ll know which charities to donate to, or what projects to create based on what speaks to you, and what fills you with passion…
    Me thinks the part of you that wants to refuse the money until you have a ‘good answer’ is the part of you that’s resisting abundance because of fear… trust yourself, let go, open your arms and welcome it all in! Money is meant to be fun! It can be used to create so many wonderful things and events and projects… just for ‘fun’… yet things that have a wonderful on flow of love and joy.
    I agree with you Adam, money in and of itself only holds ‘value’, because we all agree that it does… in it’s essence, it represents a flow of energy.
    Spiritually minded-folk who are mindful and conscious could perhaps be more skilled at increasing the flow of money… not increasing the ‘amount of money’ as such… but the flow. $100 sitting in a bank does only a few people benefit (the owner of the account and the bank). $100 passed on to a shopkeeper, passed on to a healer, passed on to an artist, passed on to a farmer, passed on to a teacher… that same $100 benefits 5 people. And by making conscious choices about who we allow our money to flow to, we can choose to keep the flow centred on like-minded people. This is why I choose not to flow my money toward corporations like MacDonalds anymore… and instead try and flow it toward the local farmer’s market…
    Sorry this is so long… I think I might have to write an article about money… I’ve discovered I have a lot to say about it!
    Thanks for letting me share!
    Much joy,


  9. Adam and Kara-Leah, you’ve both given me a lot to think about. It may be that I am being too fearful, too controlling… Or, another way to look at it, expecting too much of myself. As you say, it seems like the only thing we can do is allow the money to flow where we want energy directed.


  10. […] the only gods that I’d contacted were ones that I had specifically called out to (Apollo and Cernunnos); so Odin’s sudden arrival was very unexpected. But Odin said that in fact he’d been in […]


  11. […] of the forest is the World Tree itself, which I described encountering for the first time while Running with Cernunnos: We were headed directly into a forest I had occasionally explored the edges of — one that I […]


  12. […] jobs, been divorced and affianced, and gotten a cat. I’ve written about spirits (evil and good), phonosemantics, choosing your religion, tossing your television, the Law of Attraction and the […]


  13. […] Contacting spirits, guides, and even gods […]


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