August 01, 2008

Deer Woman lore

Some Deer Woman lore for the makers of "Doe Woman," one of the Creative Spirit script competition winners:

Deer WomanDeer Woman, sometimes also known as Deer Lady, is a shape-shifting woman in Native American mythology, in and around Oklahoma, The Western United States and The Pacific Northwest.

She allegedly appears at various times as an old woman, or a young maiden, or a deer. Some descriptions assign her a human female upper body and the lower body of a white-tailed deer.

The Deer Woman is said to sometimes be seen as a beautiful woman just off the trail or behind a bush, calling to men to come over. Deer Woman is often said to have all the features of a normal young woman save for her feet which are shaped like deer hooves and her brown deer's eyes. Men who are lured into her presence often notice too late that she is not a natural woman and are then stomped to death.
Deer Woman MoonDeer Woman is the most beautiful woman form ever imagined by any man. Her shape and smile draw men in and then she speaks her promises of comfort, attention, and interlude.

Many a man have fallen victim to her. She steals his Spirit with her embraces and entanglements. She leaves him when he sleeps, taking away his reasoning, his sense of balance, his heart, and his Spirit.

When that man awakens, he searches endlessly for her. He can never love another because his heart has been stolen. He becomes a fool in his vain attempts to find her and loses track of his other opportunities and responsibilities in life.
Deer Woman and the Living Myth of the DreamtimeDeer Woman's specific magic and myth surrounds marriage and courtship rituals. I write of Deer Woman from the Cherokee/Muskogee/Seminole/Choctaw perspective because this is what I know. But other cultures have encounters with Deer Woman or Deer Man. Ella Cara Deloria recorded several traditional Dakota and Lakota narratives which mirrored the Southeastern tribes' Deer Woman stories. The Karuk, according to the Karuk artist and storyteller Lyn Risling, have stories of the Deer Woman in which the spirit is associated with fertility and maturation rituals and prepares young women for marriage. The Southeastern stories are similar in that young people must be instructed in the choosing of a societally-approved mate in order for cultural survival and regeneration. In these stories, a beautiful young woman meets a young man and entrances him into a sexual relationship. The woman is so beautiful that the young man is often swayed by her beauty away from family, home, community. If the young man is so entranced as to not notice the young woman's feet—which in the case of Deer Woman are hooves—then he falls under her spell and stays with her forever, wasting away into depression, despair, prostitution, and ultimately, death.

The Deer Woman spirit teaches us that marriage and family life within the community are important and these relationships cannot be entered into lightly. Her tales are morality narratives: she teaches us that the misuse of sexual power is a transgression that will end in madness and death. The only way to save oneself from the magic of Deer Woman is to look to her feet, see her hooves, and recognize her for what she is.
Deer Woman or Skinwalker?I walked down the small road, admiring the beautiful trees and the fresh air, then I reached a bench that was shaded by a tall willow tree. I sat down and looked at the sparkling water of the river. After a few minutes I got up to start walking again. When I looked slightly to my left, I saw that I wasn't alone. I saw a woman with dark skin walking my way. As she got closer, I saw that she was very beautiful. She had long, dark brown hair down to her waist and skin as smooth as a baby's. She wore a long buckskin skirt that covered her feet and a long-sleeved V-neck shirt with a beaded tan colored vest. I also noticed a Native American styled necklace tied around her neck. It had bone beads and an antler piece in the middle. I remember it so well because I have one similar to hers that I wear everywhere I go.

I noticed she was walking on the grass just an inch away from the concrete trail. I though that was a bit strange, but I shrugged it off. As we passed, I gave her a smile and said, "Hello." She didn't reply, she just gave me a little nod, a smile, and continued walking. I listened to the sound of the rubber soles of my high-top shoes scrape on the road and then I heard a strange clopping sound on the concrete. I turned around, and all I see is the woman. I looked at her feet. "It must be her shoes," I thought. And as I turned back to continue walking, her foot flashed from under her long skirt. It took a few seconds for my brain to register what I saw: DEER HOOVES!


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The Deer Woman still is a part and parcel to modern Native mythology. 'She' still appears at pow-wows and late-night '49's when young Natives gather. There is a reason for her presence, but white EuroMen never will know why...
All Best
Russ Bates

Anonymous said...

Lakota author Frances Washburn's novel "Elsie's Business" (2006, I think) is another modern take on the deer woman, and a great read.