Posted by: Jane Valencia | December 27, 2009

Deer Magic

Deer Magic 1 art by Jane

The Deer are on the move in my life. It all started when I brought my new website online,, even though it is very much in a fledgling form.

The next morning I read a post by Suzanne Falter-Barns entitled A Transformational Accident on her Get Known Now Blog about hitting a deer and killing it, and teachings that resulted for her from the accident.    In this tragic synchronicity, I just had this sense: go forward with the Deer.  They are leading you somewhere!

The Deer Dance

Suzanne posted a follow-up article More Lessons Learned From Hitting The Deer, which featured a YouTube video, a Yaqui Danza del Venado —  Deer Dance — held in Sonora, Mexico. Here, a man–blindfolded!–dances as the Deer, and is hunted and killed by hunters.  I’m awed by the cycle of beauty and death enacted by the dancers. To me this Danza del Venado honors the exquisite sensitivity (symbolized by the blindfold on the dancer), the unique dance of life, and gifting nature of the Deer in a particular music and art form. We need to eat. And whether we eat plants, fish, animals, eggs, something usually dies so that we may be nourished. May we all honor and bless the unique lives we consume.

The Deer Scroll

Then I came upon this astounding experience of Japanese Renaissance art, calligraphy, and poetry known as the Deer Scroll, in which images of deer, symbolic of autumn, are interspersed with autumn poetry (or the other way around!):

In reading about this hand scroll and its restoration, be sure to continue to the  second page and continue to the bottom, where you can click to a link that allows you to virtually experience the Deer Scroll as if you are unrolling it and gazing upon the images of the deer in all kinds of action, and reading the poetry.  A lovely experience!

If  Deer are symbolic of Autumn,  then it seems to me that they well represent Autumn’s beauty, abundance, sense of transition and transformation, connection with the ancestors and the Otherworld, and loss and grief.  In Celtic tales, Deer often lead the unsuspecting hero into the Otherworld, and into magic and destiny.  Autumn is a time of bounty, creative expression, and a turning toward the close.  Deer, for me, have that bittersweet quality about them.  They can be so abundant (“oversized rodents”, I once heard a disgruntled gardener comment), and yet, I always feel blessed and graced when I experience them, as if I brush against the wild true heart in myself.

Who Is The Animal That Is Leading You?

And so, beginning with my own little threshold that is my new website, I venture into the forest of my own story, my own personal fairytale in the making.   I encounter Deer in her many forms, how she appears in others’ stories, how she is art as much as wild nature.  After experiencing the Deer Scroll, I created a pair of deer banners (one is to the left), realizing that I might discover my own forms of Deer if I allowed myself to plunge into the weaving.

Is a particular animal leading you through the leaves of your life?  What story do you glimpse?  What might happen if you followed that animal, absorbed its medicine ways, its teachings, just how it is both in the wild and with humans?

Please comment here with your tales!  I’d love to hear them!



  1. At a women’s retreat near Ashland, Oregon, recently, I heard tell of one woman who’d seen a huge buck on one of her walks, along with a boulder that looked like a grizzly bear. After an evening of dancing and dreaming, I woke early, energized and determined to find the boulder and hoping I’d see a deer. Ice-sheathed leaves crunched beneath my shoes as I excitedly followed my feelings. On the mountainside to my right, I heard the high-pitched keening call of what I thought to be a huge hawk, whom I saw sitting at the top of a tree, tall and golden in the rising sun. (I was later told that this was a golden eagle.) Making my intention clear in my mind—-to find the boulder and see a deer—-as if on cue, the bird suddenly stretched her wings wide and flew off across my line of sight and over the valley with the snaking stream and rocky shores. Following her lead, I picked my way down to the stream and quickly spotted the huge boulder with its close-set eyes and chiseled grizzly head. After touching the rock, I climbed back up to the road, hoping now to see a deer, but I was disappointed to hear a car pass and then brake suddenly before driving on—the owner of the land was returning with supplies, and I was certain he’d braked for the deer I’d intended to see. Feeling like a tracker, I watched the road for any signs of this having been true, and sure enough, just ahead I saw a small fist-sized wad of almost-steaming green cud, with deer-hoof tracks leading away. I’d missed seeing the buck, but later as I left the retreat to return home, a doe shyly bounded across the road, stopped and looked back at me curiously. I waved to her and felt honored, my experience complete.

  2. Your artwork is lovely and inspiring, Jane. Thank you for the link to the Deer Scroll and accompanying poems. I will enjoy them again and again.

  3. “I am a stag of seven tines”, Song of Amergin. I see many deer on my morning walks. They are on top of the hill I go up each morning. Because of my work with my horse who is a prey animal like the deer I have been learning how to use body language and intent in order to walk among all the deer I usually encounter in the early morning. Sometimes I walk past them just a few feet away. Once I walked down one side of the road and a doe joined me walking down the other side of the road. More than once I have stopped and had a deer walk towards me. That is almost unnerving.
    This morning in a light snow I saw no deer all the way out. As I was returning I began to think about the deer scroll, autumn, male deer in their antlers seasons. I walked around a slight curve and there in the middle of the road was a beautiful stag with large antlers.
    In Celtic lore stag brings qualities of grace, majesty, and integrity. Hind or doe is gentleness, grace, subtlety, and femininity. She invites us to explore the Otherworld!

  4. Chris and Joan, thank you so much for sharing your Deer journeys … I feel as if I’m sitting at a campfire with you both, under the stars, and in forest and mountain, and the Deer are stepping from the mists of dream, Otherworld, and our personal encounters, to share their nature, and take us deeper into our own wild realms. Thank you!

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