The wonderful base plate is the centerpiece of the Gundestrup cauldron, everything revolves around it. The greatest mystery of the cauldron are of course the figures that adorn this vessel and which have a connection with astronomy.

THE DRUIDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 4 The bull with the golden horns.  Gundestrup's Cauldron Bottom Plate

Gundestrup cauldron, 1st century BC, base plate, © Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet

Yet another detail catches the attention of the attentive observer. The bull in the Gundestrup cauldron has no horns.

THE DRUIDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 4 The bull with the golden horns.  Detail of the Gundestrup cauldron

Detail of the Gundestrup cauldron, 1st century B.C.

Several authors have attempted to address the problem. The most obvious seems to be that the horns are of a different material from the rest of the cauldron.

It has a very beautiful head which lacks the horns which must have been of another material than the metal of the plate[1].

The materials used for the cauldron are not insignificant since they contain a symbolic charge.

It is once again to the ancient Greek texts that we must turn to find an answer.

Nestor, the old chariot driver, spoke up and said:

“Make haste, my children, to make my wish come true;

Among the Immortals, I must invoke Athena,

Who took part in the great feast offered to our god.

Let one go and fetch a heifer from the field;

Let him bring her back quickly and let the cowherd come after her;

Let another one, in the dark ship, go and fetch the companions…

Valiant Telemachus and leaves only two aboard;

Have someone else bring us the gilder Laerkes,

That he may cover the horns of this heifer with gold.

The rest of you stay here, but tell the handmaids

to make ready a feast throughout our glorious halls

And to bring us the seats, the wood and the clear water. »

So he spoke, and they all set busily to work. We saw coming from the fields

A heifer and, shortly afterwards, from a shapely ship,

The companions of Telemachus, then the goldsmith…

With the tools of his craft, the bronze implements,

The anvil, the hammer and well-made tongs,

Used to beat gold. Athena also came to enjoy

Sacrifice. It’s Nestor, the old chariot driver,

Who gave the gold. The goldsmith prepared it, then covered it up

The horns of the beast, to please the goddess…[2].

Homer’s text clearly states that the horns of cattle sacrificed to the gods are covered with a thin layer of gold applied by a craftsman goldsmith. The image on the base plate shows us, without a doubt, the sacrifice of an enormous bull, the animal having collapsed after the death blow delivered by the figure armed with a sword. It is a dying bull that is depicted on this base plate and its horns are therefore covered with gold. The symbolism of this sacrifice will be developed in a future article. In any case the hypothesis of horns of a different material, gold in this case, which decorate the bull’s head must therefore be taken into account.

THE DRUIDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 4 The bull with the golden horns. Rhyton in Stone

Stone rhyton (libation vase) in the shape of a bull’s head from the Minoan site of Knossos, neo-palatial period (1600-1500 BC), Archaeological Museum of Heraklion (Crete). (Photo Carole Raddato)

Yet until now the bull is often symbolically associated with the moon.

The eastern Mediterranean lunar deities were represented in the form of a bull and invested with the attributes of a bull. Thus … the moon god of Ur was called the powerful, young bull of the sky or the powerful, young bull with sturdy horns. In Egypt, the deity of the moon was the Bull of the Stars. Osiris, lunar god, was represented by a bull. Sin, lunar god of Mesopotamia, was also shaped like a bull.[3]

The bull is therefore generally considered to be a lunar animal, related to the night. The perfect horn of Shiva is the lunar crescent. This very ancient assimilation is attested in Egypt and Babylonia.[4].

The horns are reminiscent of the curvature of the crescent moon.


Lascaux cave: the bull room; panel of the unicorn, second bull (C) Ministry of Culture.

And above all, need we remind you, the cauldron of Gundestrup’s cauldron is a silver object. This silver symbolically evokes the silvery reflections of the moon[5]. However, in a previous article we put forward the hypothesis that the golden horns of cattle refer to a celestial event that took place during Prehistory.


See [SEASON 1 EPISODE 3], a strange symbol from the mists of time.


On the Gundestrup cauldron we find the association gold and silver. The bull and the rest of the cauldron in silver and the horns in gold. These considerations join the lunisolar symbolism of the golden sickles used during the mistletoe gathering by the druids[6]. The gold represents the sun and the sickle the crescent moon and the bull’s horn. This goes even further, because the Celtic festivals are also based on a calendar in which the sun and moon also have an influence.


A lunar-solar calendar, such as for example the Gallic calendar of Coligny[7], is based on the annual cycle of the sun of 365 days for counting the years and on the regular cycle of the phases of the moon for counting the months of approximately 354 days (12 × 29.5). In order to match the cycle of the seasons (Sun) with the cycle of the months (Moon), the time count is adjusted approximately every five years with two additional months.

THE DRUIDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 4 The Coligny calendar

Gallic Calendar of Coligny, Gallo-Roman Museum of Fourvière, Lyon, France

The most important feast of the Gallic calendar, called Samain in Ireland and Samonios in Gallic or Trinox samoni (the “Three Nights of Samonios”), takes place on the first three nights of the second half of the month marking the beginning of the Celtic year.

THE DRUIDS SEASON 1 EPISODE 4 The Coligny Calendar

Decoration of the Coligny calendar, the month of samonios


See also:

Appendix 5 [The Coligny Calendar]



[1] L’Archéologue n°36, juin.-juil. 1998, Artistes et artisans celtiques, Paul Verdier, Astronomie celtique, L’énigme du chaudron de Gundestrup, p.23.

[2] Homère, L’Odyssée, III, v. 417-472, Traduction F. Mugler, Éditions Actes Sud, Arles, 1995.

[3] Jean Chevalier et Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionnaire des symboles, Robert Laffont/Jupiter, Paris, 1982, p. 931.

[4] Jean Chevalier et Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionnaire des symboles, Robert Laffont/Jupiter, Paris, 1982, p.931.

[5] “In the correspondence system of metals and planets, silver is related to the Moon. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionnaire des symboles, Robert Laffont/Jupiter, Paris, 1982, p.75. In contrast, gold is related to the Sun.

[6] See Pliny’s text about mistletoe harvesting by druids [SEASON 1 EPISODE 2].

[7] The Coligny calendar is a large bronze table found in pieces in Coligny, Ain, France, and dated to the 2nd century. Its reconstitution revealed that it is a calendar used to fix the dates of religious holidays as well as good and bad days. It is on display at the Lugdunum, the museum of Gallo-Roman antiquities in Lyon. It is a capital epigraphic source for the knowledge of Celtic Antiquity, which provides information on the Celts’ conception of time, their knowledge of astronomy and the druidic tradition. The longest text written in Gaul that has ever reached us, it is also a linguistic document that contributes to the knowledge of the vocabulary of this language. (Source: wikipedia).