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Museum Masterpieces Herne



Height 10"

Cold Cast Bronze

In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He has antlers upon his head.

The first literary mention of Herne is in William Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor, though there are several theories attempting to place the origins of Herne as predating any evidence for him by connecting his appearance to pagan deities or ancient archetypes.

In his 1929 book The History of the Devil – The Horned God of the West Herne R. Love Thompson suggests that "Herne" as well as other Wild Huntsmen in European folklore all derive from the same ancient source, citing that "Herne" may be a cognate of the name of Gaulish deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English "horn" is a cognate of the Latin "cornu" (see Grimm's Law for more details on this linguistic feature) explaining that "As the Latin cornu changes into horn so might Cerne change into Herne." and adding "In any case the reader may also be prepared to recognize Cernunnos and the older magician, who emerge as the Wild Huntsman. My assumption is that these two forms have been derived from the same Palæolithic ancestor and can, indeed, be regarded as two aspects of one central figure, will help us to understand the identification of Herlechin and Herne, whom I will take as the most familiar example of the huntsman." Some modern Neopagans such as Wiccans accept Lowe Thompson's equation of Herne with Cernunnos (which they further connect to the Greco-Roman god Pan). Herne however is a localised figure, not found outside Berkshire and the regions of the surrounding counties into which Windsor Forest once spread. Clear evidence for the worship of Cernunnos has however been recovered only on the European mainland, and not in Britain. "Herne" could be derived ultimately from the same Indo-European root, *ker-n-, meaning bone or horn from which "Cernunnos" derives. However a more direct source may be the Old English hyrne, meaning "horn" or "corner", which is inconsistent with the Cernunnos theory.

In the Early Middle Ages, Windsor Forest came under the control of the pagan Angles who worshiped their own pantheon of gods, including Woden, who was sometimes depicted as horned, and whose Norse equivalent Odin rode across the night sky with his own Wild Hunt and hanged himself on the world tree Yggdrasil to learn the secret of the runic alphabet. It has been suggested that the name Herne is derived from the title Herian title used for Woden in his role as leader of fallen warriors (Old Norse: Einherjar). Another Wild Hunt-associated folkloric figure, King Herla, started as the Old English Herla cyning, a figure that is usually said to be Woden, but was later re-imagined by Walter Map in literature as a Brythonic king (see Herla) who after travelling to an Otherworld returns to find his lands inhabited by Englishmen, has a name that has also been connected to Herian and thus also possibly to Herne.