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Where the White Stag Runs

Boundary And Transformation In Deer Myth

By Ari Berk

[Snip] At this time of the year, the deer venture often into our realm. Last night in my front yard, a herd of deer—thick and wooly–looking with their winter coats—were feeding on fallen rowan berries. This morning, their tracks could be seen making spirals in the snow around the base of the rowan tree and wandering off down the street, marking their path back to the woods. Though deer are certainly not rare (especially here in Michigan), their appearance brings the feeling of wilderness close, reminding me that we are only ever a few paces away from the forest, from the wild, from the edges of the living storied land.

As long as people have lived or hunted alongside the deer’s habitats, there have been stories: some of kindly creatures who become the wives of mortals; or of lost children changed into deer for a time, reminding their kin to honor the relationship with the Deer People, their close neighbors. And there are darker tales, recalling strange journeys into the Otherworld, abductions, and dangerous transformations that don’t end well at all. But all stories about the deer share some common ground by showing us that the line between our world and theirs is very thin indeed.

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