For me, the highlight of the exhibit was the magnificent Gundestrupe Cauldron, an enormous silver bowl dating from between 200 BC and 300 AD. It is a spectacular sight, ornately decorated both inside and out with pictures thought to depict ancient Celtic legends. Among Pagans, it is perhaps most famous for its enigmatic depiction of a figure with antlers, gripping a torc in one hand and a snake in the other, surrounded by wild animals. We do not know who this man is for sure, but among Pagans he is commonly identified with the Horned God, sometimes called Cernunnos or Herne the Hunter.
Seeing the famous Cernunnos figure in real life, after seeing the image so many times in photos or reproduced as statues or items of jewellery, left a deep impression on me. I have to say that after seeing this image, it does seem likely to me that it depicts a God. His strange, meditative pose, his interaction with the snake, and his animal companions, certainly seem to suggest a powerful spirit of the forest and nature.
But what impressed me most of all was not what this figure may have originally symbolised, but what he represents now. To modern-day Pagans, the Cernunnos figure is an icon – and I mean this very much in the religious sense of the word. He has become a symbol of the Great God and the spirit of nature, and represents a link to the ways of our ancestors. So for me, as a Pagan, going to see the Gundestrup Cauldron was very much a pilgrimage, evoking the same emotions that Christians, and members of any other religion, must feel when they visit a significant place of worship or see a famous relic or icon.
The Celts exhibition runs until January 31st, and I very much recommend going to see the Cauldron and all the other incredible artefacts while you have the chance!