The Stag and Reindeer in Mythology


Deer mythology is as ancient as it is ubiquitous.

In Hinduism the golden deer is the shapeshifter Maricha. In the form of the golden deer he tempts the beautiful Sita and paves the way for her kidnapping. The kidnapping and subsequent war is on the same scale as Helen and the Trojan war.

In ancient Greece they spoke of Ceryneian, the golden and horned hind which possibly describes a reindeer from the mythical land of the far north, Hyperborea. The capture of Ceryneian is Heracles’ third labour.

The Celts celebrate Cernunnos, the horned-one, god of the forest and animals.

In Hungary they speak of the Wondrous horned doe, and her stag child which is the sun. (Also possibly a reference to reindeer from the north.) The mother deer holds the sun and the firmament of the cosmos in her horns.

The Deer Woman of the Potawatomi, Creek, Omaha, and Ponca tribes is both woman and deer; benevolent to women seeking a child, and malevolent to promiscuous men.

As fall deepens and winter approaches even in the Western world, as removed as we are from the wild forest of deer, we too recall more recent myths of these beloved animals. Happy fall, let us make way for a warm and happy winter.


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