Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween 2021 - The White Fallow Deer (Updated Nov. 7, 2021)


 

"They chase me through the forest green with hounds and hunting men,
and it is my own brother dear that rides with them.
Oh beg him now to stay his hand and hold his hounds at bay,
for I can break this curse if I can make midday.

Oh son , will you not stay inside and will you leash your hounds ?
For that white hind you hunt each night is your own blood.
I will ride the forest green and I will not stay my hand
and I will claim the finest hind that roams the land.

Three times they chased her down, three times she's run away.
The fourth time that they chased her down, the white hind they did slay.

Oh son of mine I beg of you , where's my daughter dear ?
I hear a young girls voice ring out sweet and clear.
My heart is on the table and my blood is on the floor.
My bones are roasting on the coals, I'll return no more."


- Lyrics from The White Hind... a ballad which is based upon the traditional French song, La Biche Blanche (a video appears after the jump) which tells the tale of a young girl who uncontrollably transforms into a white doe (or hind) - due to a curse - and is eventually slain (in deer form) by her brother. Versions of this story seem to have emerged world-wide over the centuries: For instance, here's one from North Carolina.   (Note: for a visual treat see The White Hind - on this page - by sculptor, Beth Cavner.)


"In Celtic cultures, the white stag traditionally symbolizes the world of the dead or the Otherworld. As a matter of fact, many other cultures also see the white stag in the same way.

In Arthurian mythology, pursuing the white stag was a symbol of our yearning for immortality or the next life."

- Via an article found here. 

 

" SIR – Something terrible will befall us if we shoot a white deer (report, March 9).

Take a lesson from the legend of Herne the Hunter, who was said to have saved Richard II from a white hart while the king was hunting in Windsor Forest. Mortally wounded, Herne had the deer's antlers bound to his head by a wizard to keep him alive. Herne was later found, hanging from an oak tree...

Clearly Herne is of much greater mythical antiquity than Richard II, but the king did bear a white hart as his heraldic badge. To kill a white deer is more foolhardy than brave."

- Excerpt from a letter via an article found here as was the source of the medieval painting above. 

 

"The tale comes from Kilmersdon, in the eastern Mendip Hills in Somerset. It concerns a lord who was weighed down with the woes of the world: there was a great pestilence among his people, and despite all his efforts, nothing the lord could do would stop the death and pain and sorrow from spreading across the land.

He was riding through the woods one evening with a heavy heart, when through the trees he saw a flash of pale fur, and a white hind bounded across the path in front of his horse. The lord followed the deer through the trees, picking his way through the ferns and brambles as quick as his horse would allow, but after a few minutes it had disappeared.

After that time, though, the lord was filled with inspiration and hope. His chance encounter with a white deer in the woods had refreshed his spirit, and allowed him to look at the situation in a new way. Following the lord’s directions, the people around him soon started to pull together, make plans, and work to improve the situation as best they could. Slowly at first, but then more and more under his lead, the community of that place found fresh energy to deal with the illness facing them, and to find a way through to the other side and renewal ahead."

- An excerpt from a folktale found here.

 

"A rare white deer was shot dead by police after it was spotted running through the streets of a town.

The RSPCA said it had advised police to 'leave the deer as it would make its own way back home' eventually.

But Merseyside Police said officers decided to euthanize the deer after growing concerns it might be dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said that while the deer could have been sedated 'this needs to be done with caution in a public area such as this one, as the deer could startle and run when hit by the dart'.

- From this BBC 2021 news article.


***


My Halloween post this year was inspired by an actual event that occurred in the UK recently (see article excerpt directly above). The sort of story - animal gets stranded in traffic and then is shot for the public good - that would quickly slip through the cracks and no one would be the wiser for it... but, I couldn't let that happen. Instead, I thought I'd honor the death of this particular white stag, although many of its kind continue to be slaughtered by hunters all over the world (despite its protection in some areas). Its head apparently makes a valuable trophy... although "trophy" for what I can't imagine. Surely it takes no real skill to kill an animal with a high-powered rifle. Worse still - and to highlight the depravity of this particular enterprise - one stag was stolen from a zoo in Germany and then beheaded (article link)!

Another disconcerting element of the BBC news article, however - along with the fact that all human parties involved were incompetent - was that there was no mention of the history of this particular animal. That a white deer is a relative anomaly never seemed to enter the equation, let alone the ancient folklore which surrounds it... which is odd; a great deal of white deer mythology originated in the UK!

Question: is actual progress being made when we lose touch with the roots of our narratives? Are we evolving when we subtract emotional content and mythological meaning from existential fact... or are we more profoundly floundering in the dark?

Consciousness is often defined as a level of awareness... with humans at the top of the ladder and all other forms of life falling somewhere below. There was even a time in human history when only humans were said to possess consciousness... and this wasn't very long ago. Now it is assumed that even plant life has some variety of awareness. Of course, any lover of plant-life could have told you that... it goes without saying.

Any lover of animals could tell you that animals are generally more aware of their environments than humans are; especially animals in the wild. Does this mean animals are more conscious than we are? While it's true that "lower" life-forms cannot express themselves as humans do, I'm not sure that this has anything to do with consciousness. Perhaps it doesn't. Nor may it have anything to do with intelligence. An ability to
express oneself may simply rely on the level of sophistication of ones physical capabilities; and nothing more; the tools of the trade, so to speak.

In any case, it is due to this established hierarchy of consciousness, that a wild animal wandering through traffic might be deliberately killed. If it was a human - a child for instance - traffic would be halted and the human would be effectively saved. Not so, the wild animal.

There are those who assume that in an effort to evolve we must suppress (or remove) the vestiges of animal consciousness from the human entity... either by law (governmental, scientific or religious). Or, if all else fails, via technology: by replacing, replicating, or modifying human entities into programmable machines. That fiction.

"Oh son , will you not stay inside and will you leash your hounds ?
For that white hind you hunt each night is your own blood."

However, there are others who intuit that true evolution entails regaining the missing elements of animal consciousness - and its connection with the natural world - which the human entity has somehow lost along the way. For these people, there is no real, vital separation between animal life and human life.

Guess which type I am... and (then) have a Happy Halloween and a glorious Celtic New Year!

Below is the video mentioned previously (La Biche Blanche) (Note: the video which originally appeared here has been replaced), and directly below that is a contemporary tune with a traditional flavor by Martha Tilston entitled Stag's Bellow. (Don't be fooled by the title; the song is lovely.)








2 comments:

  1. All too often it is for "public safety" that animals are destroyed -- as if it is somehow invasive for nature to exist alongside humankind. This is the modern attitude and it is sheer madness. A sad note for our "progression". But Happy Halloween nonetheless! May all your haunts be thought provoking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh, kind of like: all my thoughts are haunt-provoking... but I appreciate the sentiment! Happy Celtic New Year!

      Note: The Wifi connection is so bad at the place I am currently living that it took me about 5 hours (!) to complete this post as it currently is, but I intended to add more information. Not possible. This reply may not even go up... who knows?

      Delete