Symbolism of the Deer
In Northern European Folklore animals are believed to be endowed with supernatural powers and the deer - stag or hind - was considered to be a mystical guardian of the forest. According to Celtic myth, Otherworld deities sent a white hind or stag to guide chosen humans into their realm. They were believed to appear to humans at the beginning of a change or a journey. The appearance of the white hart was a sign to Arthur and its knights, that it was time to embark on a quest. It was considered the one animal that could never be caught so it came to symbolise humanity’s never ending pursuit of knowledge and the unattainable.
Christianity managed to appropriate the white hart for its own purposes. The stag came to symbolise Christ and its presence on earth. A white hart appeared to David I, King of Scotland in a moment of truth and its antlers turned into a cross, which induced David I to redeem and change his life. The yearly shedding and regrowth of its antlers are a christian symbol of rebirth and renewal. To the pagans this phenomena points to female fertility.
The animal combines male and female elements. The stag represents independence, pride and purification, its antlers stand for strength, fortitude and virility. He is king of the forest and protector of its creatures and represents the Sun, warrior’s virility and fertility. Many Gods are represented with a headdress of antlers. The white hind, on the other hand, represents gracefulness, subtlety and femininity. It came to symbolize harmony and peace. In some Pagan legends, there is a correlation between the shape of a pair of horns and the crescent moon. The image of a stag with a full moon between his antlers represents both the male (the antlers) and the female (the moon) aspects of the Divine.
I am interested to bring together opposing elements in my work: organic - man made, soft - hard, totemic - kinetic, male - female, menacing - nurturing. Their combination represents the duality of nature: nurturing and benevolent but also menacing and deathly.