The Deer is called Wa-wa-shkesh’-shi in Ojibway and A-tik in Cree .
The Deer is seen as having keen sense of smell, a pleasant scent, grace, swiftness,
using other methods than force to reach your goals .
Deer is also associated with gentleness, caring love, sensitivity, graceful beauty, innocence and keen observation. Because of their well developed senses, it is said Deer can see through illusions and guide through chaotic situations. People with deer medicine can also learn to detect subtle movements, hear things unspoken and to use their intuition to avoid dangers.
In what is nowadays called the Celtic tradition the hunting of a Stag was symbolic for the pursuit of wisdom.
In Celtic mythology, the Deer is a magical creature, able to move between the worlds. In many tales humans are transformed into deer. For example, St. Patrick was said to have transformed himself and his companions into deer in order to escape a trap laid by a pagan king. In the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, the Stag is one of the oldest Animals in the world, along with the Blackbird, the Owl, the Eagle and the Salmon.
The antlers of the Stag are compared to Tree-branches and thus may represent fertility. Since they are shed and regrown every year, they may also symbolize rejuvenation and rebirth. Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God, was depicted with the antlers of a Stag. He is said to be a god of fertility and plenty, and to be the Lord of the Beasts. According to some, his antlers symbolize a radiation of heavenly light. Images of Stags were supposedly used to symbolize Cernunnos in non-human form.
The hunting of a Hind was symbolic for the pursuit of sensuality and intuition, especially when done around full Moon. But this motive is also found in Greek mythology, where one of the tasks of Hercules is to capture the Hind of Mount Ceryneia. This Hind has golden “horns” and hooves of bronze and it took Hercules a full year to capture her alive. This he accomplished by shooting an arrow in the front legs, between bone and tendon, so that no blood was spilled.
Another Greek myth tells of how Actaeon followed a Stag during the hunt and came upon a valley where the goddess Artemis happened to be bathing. Artemis was furious when she discovered the mortal Actaeon watching her naked and turned him into a Stag. Then, she set his own Hounds upon him and they tore him apart.
Another tale recounts how Artemis killed two giants who had tried to violate her. She turned herself into a white Hind and walked between the giants; when they tried to strike her with their javelins, they killed each other instead.
To the Pawnee, the Deer is a guide to the light of the Sun.
The Panche Indians of Colombia believe that human souls pass into the bodies of Deer after death and therefore eating the flesh of Deer was forbidden to them. In ancient Mexico, Deer were sometimes depicted carrying the Sun.
In Cambodia and ancient China the Stag was also associated with the Sun, though in a negative way, since was thought to bring drought. The Chinese god of Salaries, Lu-shing, was often depicted riding on a Deer. In China the Deer still symbolizes immortality and nobility.
Ancient Norse mythology tells how 4 Stags browse the foliage of the World-Tree Yggdrasil, in this manner eating away the buds (hours), blossoms (days) and branches (seasons).
Marija Gimbutas tells us, that the Deer is the primeval Mother in pre -Christian time in Europe.
Even up to this century in northern Asia a pregnant Deer is the symbol of Mother the Life-Giver.
This is also the reason, why Reindeer are so highly revered in pre-Christian Europe: Here you have a female Deer that has antlers which are synonymous with the branches of the Tree of Life! So the Live Giving Mother Creature carries the Tree of Life!!
Saulee, the Slavic Goddess of light and family went across the heavens in a sleigh pulled by female Reindeer and she threw pebbles of Amber into the chimneys of the people. Amber being the representative of the tears of the sun. Now guess what: This happened on the Winter Solstice!!! Thousands of years before Christianity!
And nowadays Saulee is replaced by a jolly old guy in a red and black smith’s uniform and a bunch of male Reindeer…. Oh and by the way:the black, silver and gold colors of the traditional garb of the smith and smith craft – which stands for the transformation of metal into liquid and into another shape – was and still is synonymous with the power of the shaman in Northern Europe, the Baltics, Russia and Siberia.
Our Maral in the Altai is a subspecies of Cervus canadensis (named “Elk” or “Wapiti” in North America) found in the forest hills of SouthernSiberia, NorthwesternMongolia, and Northern China. It is sometimes referred to as “Siberian Elk”, but this is misleading, as in Eurasia the name “Elk” is mostly used for Alces alces (known as “Moose” in America)
The word for a Maral doe in Uryanchai is Ulug khülbüs = Mighty Deer Spirit
It is this Maral that is/ was depicted again and again in Scythian art, on tapestries, as sculptures, as gold ornaments and as tattoos. Spectacular finds have been unearthed when the Scythian burial mounds = kurgans were excavated. Somehow, from the time when I was little and listened to my father’s stories of the mighty warrior lords of the Eastern plains and their gold laden graves.(First systematic excarvations of kurgans took place in the 1920ties )
From his tales I always has the impression, that the Scythians were ‘our neighbors to the west… Somehow, I still can not quite shake that deeply ingrained idea.
I also remember well, how exited my father was, when news spread about finds at the outskirts of Gorno Ataysk in 1961 and proved, that people had lived there during the time of the Mammoth hunters.
I wanted to write extensively about the beautiful Deer tapestries and the gold finds, flying, running and kneeling Deer , often female with huuuuuge flowing antlers that carried Yölle, the Sun through the night…..
Before doing so however, I checked the net to see, what is already there and found a flood of websites and magnificently written blogs about this subject soooo dear to my heart.
I feel, I just can not compete- or do a better job in telling the tale; so,here are my favorite sites: