Call of the Deer

Bugling elk. Photo: US Forest Service.

Bugling elk. Photo: US Forest Service.

The deer family is composed of deer, caribou, elk, and moose. Con Slobodchikoff, in Chasing Doctor Doolittle, describes communication within the deer family (and many other species). He says regarding elk:

The bugling starts off as a long, eerie low-frquency screeching sound, followed by a series of three or four shorter sounds kind of like someone scratching glass on concrete. The first time one of my graduate students, newly arrived from the East Coast, heard this sound on a dark evening in the mountains he was startled and disoriented.… I told him he had heard the aggressive call of a male elk (Cervus canadensis), advertising his presence to other males and perhaps also to any females that happened to be nearby. When you hear it for the first time, it can be pretty terrifying.

Here is a male elk bugling:

 

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) Close portrait with frontal view of stag roaring during the rut, with mouth open. England. Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), England. Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques.

Dr. Slobodchikoff goes on to discuss the call of the Red Deer stag:

Although red deer (Cervus elaphus) are similar in size and shape to elk, and in fact were thought for a long time to be the same species of animal, their calls are very different. Red deer are found in Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. They have a roaring call that advertises their aggressiveness toward other males, and they make this call during the mating season when they are guarding a harem of females. Depending on the size of their opponents, the males can vary the base pitch of their roars, making the roars sound deeper when they are faced with a larger opponent. This gradation in the base pitch of the roars probably conveys information to challengers about the males’ willingness and ability to fight to defend her harem.

 

Source:
Con Slobodchikoff, Chasing Doctor Doolittle: Learning the Language of Animals (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012) 185-186.

Leave a comment

Diana and the Deer

Diana. Photo: Leochares.

Diana. Photo: Leochares.

August 13 marks the start of an ancient Roman festival to Diana. Torches were carried in processions in honor of the goddess with the aim of averting storms which might imperil the ripening harvest. The torch is one of Diana’s symbols, as she is the goddess who governs light.

Thinking of Diana as goddess of light fits with another of her symbols, the deer. In earlier posts I wrote about how deer migrations are so closely aligned with solar rhythms that in many cultures deer goddesses are also sun goddesses. Many other animals have rhythms ruled by the sun that are noticeable to us, of course, but deer were once a staple in the human diet.

Leave a comment

Cave Art of Deer

The following was posted about a year and half ago. I am re-posting it now because it fits with the deer theme I’ve been focusing on this summer.

Doe on ceiling at Altamira Cave, Spain. 16,000 bce.

Doe on ceiling at Altamira Cave, Spain. 16,000 bce.


Megaloceros. Lacaux Cave, France. 17,000 bce.

Megaloceros. Lacaux Cave, France. 17,000 bce.


Lascaux Cave (replica)

Lascaux Cave (replica)


Altxerri Cave, Spain. 36,000 bce. Head of reindeer with fox head inside. Photo Gipuzkoa Kultura.

Altxerri Cave, Spain. 36,000 bce. Head of reindeer with fox inside. Photo Gipuzkoa Kultura.

Lascaux. Photo Professor Saxx.

Lascaux. Photo Professor Saxx.


Lascaux. Photo Pline.

Lascaux. Photo Pline.

Leave a comment

A Momentous Occasion

Finally. How can the week go by without a feminist American blog commenting on this? But really, what more is there to say?

Every time I started to get enraged by all the misogyny from the Left and the media that has characterized this primary, I had to take a breath and remind myself “Hillary is winning.” When I got too disgusted by all the lies and double standards I even sent her a few bucks. And now, she has earned the nomination.

I won’t say she was given the nomination, because women in this country have never been given political power – we have fought for it. But this is not just about politics. Though the hug between President Obama and Hillary Clinton gladdened my heart, I have not always agreed with Barack Obama. Sometimes I liked what he was doing and other times I was critical. Clinton is still a nominee for president, not the one filling that office, and she has had no chance, yet, to earn my displeasure. I am sure there will be times when I happy with her and times when I am in disagreement. But I will always be proud of her and of all the women and men who voted for her. It’s about time.

 

Leave a comment

Really Big Deer

Irish Elk from Lascaux cave painting.

Irish Elk from Lascaux cave painting.

The Scottish goddess Cailleach Bheur roams the hillsides herding giant deer and drinking their milk. Cailleach, under various spellings, has been characterized as a deer, hare, cat, grain, serpent, gray mare, mountain, stone, and hag goddess, or as a hag goddess alternating with a maiden alter-ego. The pervasive characteristics of this deity are: female, old, and very large (even giant). I believe Cailleach is a word for a pre-Celtic concept of ancestress, and hence we should expect to find many Cailleachs. The deer Cailleach may be a reindeer, since milk and herding are part of her lore. Reindeer were indigenous to northern Scotland up to the thirteenth century. Alternatively, the deer Cailleach may be Red Deer, who also live in groups and are larger than other European deer species. Another possibility is that the deer Cailleach could be an Irish Elk, a huge species of deer (not elk) that inhabited much of western Eurasia through the Ice Age. It is speculated that the changing climate could not support the Irish Elk, but the species was able to survive in isolated pockets throughout the Neolithic, documented in the foothills of the Ural Mountains even in historical times. The male Irish Elk had beautiful, formidable antlers.

The Scottish word for shape shifting, fith-fath, literally means to take the shape of a deer. It is easy to see why deer, having such a fey quality, would be equated with this concept. Deer are crepuscular creatures, active in the gray periods of the day, and seem to appear and disappear at will. I once stood next to a doe in an open forest and did not see her, so invisible did she make herself. It was almost like she transformed herself into a tree. I have also heard anecdotes about women changing themselves into deer – always women for some reason – and I have even witnessed this phenomenon myself.

Comments Off on Really Big Deer

Year of the Reindeer

Caribou in Denali National Park. Photo: Derek Ramsey.

Caribou in Denali National Park. Photo: Derek Ramsey.

The fable about reindeer living at the North Pole is almost true. They don’t live right on the Pole, but indigenous migrating wild herds today live in or near the Arctic Circle, and semi-domesticated herds reach only a bit further south. In North America, migrating caribou species, which are similar to reindeer, live in northern Canada and Alaska. The non-migrating Boreal Woodland Caribou, extending into the southern Canadian provinces, and the Wild Forest Reindeer of the Russian Altai-Sayan region (bordering Mongolia) are endangered.

Reindeer migrate in late spring from taiga to tundra, where they have their babies relatively isolated from predators. After giving birth, the females shed their antlers. Males by this time have long disposed of their heavier antlers, which would make the dangerous spring migration across hundreds of miles more cumbersome. Females and juveniles keep their antlers through the winter to dig through snow and brush seeking nourishment. An elder doe leads the herd on the trek north. Reindeer hooves are well adapted to ice and slippery bog, and reindeer are strong swimmers. In the northern territory the calves fatten with the rest of the herd on lichen and other tundra vegetation. During the fall and winter, in the scrubby forests of the taiga, they will also eat berries, willow, birch, grasses, and other forest plants. Their eyes undergo structural changes as the year darkens, allowing them to utilize the light waves they screened out during the glaring arctic summer.

Next week: Reindeer in the Ice Age.

Migrating caribou herd. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife.

Migrating caribou herd. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife.

Comments Off on Year of the Reindeer

New Moon, New Values, New Country

Chart calculated by Astro-Dienst www.astro.com

Chart calculated by Astro-Dienst www.astro.com

 

I was told by my personal astrologer over twenty-five years ago that when you have a new moon on your birthday, that means a new life. My own observations have born this out. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a solar return is just a birthday chart, a chart of how planets are aligned at the exact time of a yearly anniversary. Obviously a new moon solar return, while not a rare, is very infrequent, so it’s worth a careful study when it occurs. The new moon solar return I went to look at is that of the USA, which occurred this past week. A solar return is ordinarily a forecast of the year to come, but a new moon occurring on the same day means that events in this year will have a very long shadow.

I have used the origin date, place, and time given in Carolyn R. Dodson’s Horoscopes of the U.S. States and Cities (American Federation of Astrologers, 1975). You may see other charts for this solar return that look much different, if they are using a different time or place of birth.

At first glance this looks like a scary solar return, with the stellium of inner planets opposing Pluto. Astrological charts for countries and politicians have a reputation for being formidable, however, so hard aspects are not that unusual. Analyzing the astrological charts of countries is a highly specialized area, and I’m probably in over my head. I’m an Aries, though, so I’m not going to let that stop me.

There is a close grouping of planets, called a stellium, mostly in the second house opposite Pluto in the ninth house. I read this as conflicts involving legal institutions, formal religious structures, and other nations. These conflicts will touch the way the country communicates and will change some core values. There is a lot of energy in this opposition, striking deeply held emotion. The result will be a change in the way the population of the country sees itself as well as other nations. The grand trine between the stellium, Chiron, and Mars suggests that the change in values will not meet with much opposition: it will be the result, not the cause, of political struggle.

There is an interesting phenomenon in this chart known in astrology as a magic square, which is not the same thing as the magic square in alchemy and mathematics. This magic square is the geometric square in the chart, in this case aspects with Chiron, Mercury-Moon-Sun-Venus, Jupiter, and Pluto, forming a square. This is a harmonious and powerful combination, but so rare I have no experience with it.

There are some hard aspects with Venus in this chart: Venus square Uranus and Venus opposite Pluto. As a feminist I like to see conflict with Venus in a group chart, since Venus often represents women. Advances in women’s rights always come with social disruption. In this chart I see women speaking out about secrets (Uranus in the twelfth house) and attempts by legal or religious institutions to act in opposition to women’s values. There’s no assurance on whether this will result in more or less freedom for women, only that there will be a conflict in this area.

Though I see conflicts with other nations in this chart, it doesn’t look to me like any great escalation of armed conflict. I think conflicts will be in the area of trade, possibly an urge toward protectionism since they involve a second house in the sign of cancer.

Okay, but what people really want to know is, who will win the presidential election? Astrologers who know more than I answer this question by looking at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s natal charts. However, I will say that looking at this chart my money is on Clinton, since conflicts are pointing like an arrow toward Venus. Also there is what’s known as a T-square in the right side of the chart, the squares involving Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto. Jupiter being in the fifth house of children, with Venus in a harmonious sextile, says to me that there will be a focus of energy and opposition involving children. Concern for child welfare has remained a steady source of interest for Clinton throughout her political career, despite intense right wing opposition to monetary investment in children and a tepid support for children’s issues within the male-led liberal/left political spectrum. Political conflict related to children would most plausibly be initiated by Clinton.

Comments Off on New Moon, New Values, New Country

Deer Reader

Photo: Capillon.

Photo: Capillon.

 

I’m studying deer this summer and will be sharing tidbits now and then about this magical animal. This is a Sumerian copper plaque dating to about 2500 B.C.E. from the temple of the goddess Ninhursaga. It shows Imdugud, also known as the Anzu Bird, protected by two stags. Imdugud has a lion head and the body of an unknown bird. Imdugud is identified in Mesopotamian literature as male, though this particular image looks like a lioness to me. Imdugud is the bird who steals the Tablet of Destinies from the god Enki. Eventually Enki recovers the Tablet with the help of his turtle familiar. Enki is called the “Stag of the Abzu.” The Abzu refers to the underworld freshwater kingdom that fed the marshland of southern Sumer and the stag is probably the Mesopotamian Fallow Deer, but the title is still cryptic to me.

Source:
Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Comments Off on Deer Reader

At the Bottom of Moose Pond

tads

The waters of Moose Mountain Pond were unusually clear when I was there Saturday, and I saw lots of these creatures underwater, so ugly they’re cute. The sounds of bullfrogs around the pond told me what these things are. This made me think about how fascinated I was as a child with the bottoms of creeks, rivers, and ponds. My brother and I would spend hours wading in the creek looking at things. It was a parallel universe that I thought about quite a bit, one that I could examine but not really enter. Today I see parents and grandparents tagging along with children carrying little nets, sharing the excitement of the underwater world while teaching the children to be gentle and not harm the objects of their curiosity. Summer is here, finally, and there are all kinds of worlds to explore beneath the surface.

tads2

Comments Off on At the Bottom of Moose Pond

Turtle’s Choice

snappersmall

I was driving back from town this week and saw this snapper laying her eggs on the side of the road. It didn’t look to me like the best place to do that, but I guess I don’t get to decide.

Turtles are sacred to the Greek goddess Gaia and the Sumerian god Enki.

Comments Off on Turtle’s Choice