Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Herne the Hunter

In Celtic mythology, the Lord of the Forest and of the Forest Animals, usually represented with stag's horns. He is probably derived from an older deity, Cernunnos, the Horned God, likewise Lord of the Animals. The symbol of Cernunnos/Herne was so important to the Celts that the Christians adopted the horned image as that of the Devil and the epitome of Evil. Herne has been linked to the Wild Hunt, although this confuses him with Gwynn ap Nudd, Lord of the Underworld. Herne is also mistakenly associated with Robin Hood as the Wild Man of the Woods, another confusion of Archetypes. Herne was a Liminal Being who guarded the sanctity of the Forests and the Portal that led to the Otherworld. Today Herne is closely linked to the forest in Windsor Great Park, where he is still believed to exist as the spirit of the Great Oak; he is depicted in this form in Windsor Castle (1843; vt Herne the Hunter 1920) by W Harrison Ainsworth. He also figures as a representative of ancient powers in The Moon of Gomrath (1963) by Alan Garner and Too Long a Sacrifice (1981) by Mildred Downey Broxon; in both novels his spirit is reawakened (see Sleeper Under the Hill). He is recognized as part of British heritage in The Box of Delights (1935) by John Masefield, but is most richly depicted in A Wizard Abroad (1993) by Diane Duane. In modern fantasy that embraces New Age perspectives with Celtic imagery (see Celtic Fantasy), Herne is a useful Icon of the old world's worship of Nature. He is always likely to appear, or at least be referred to, in works drawing upon those beliefs, such as those of Charles de Lint. [MA]

further reading: Herne the Hunter, A Berkshire Legend (1972) by Michael John Petry.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.