Deer Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

deer

Mankind’s intimate involvement with the deer since prehistoric times has created a rich seam of myths and symbols that furnish our imagination. Thus, we find deer symbolism, myths, and legends associated with the deer as objects of hunts, as lusty animals rutting violently, and even as symbols of good luck. Let’s find out what deer omen means in this guide.

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Deer symbolism and meaning

For many tribes, the deer symbolic meaning is the hunt. Although man no longer depends on the deer for survival, many still hunt for sport and ceremonial purposes. 

In many cultures, it is an old tradition for a man to bring deer meat as a sign of prosperity.

In the Buddhist culture, the deer has become an important symbol of the Buddha’s teachings. The Dharmachakra – the wheel of transformation – depicts a deer sitting peacefully on a lotus. 

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Dharmachakra itself stands as a symbol of creation, sovereignty, and protection. The wheel and the deer head symbol, therefore, became the standard emblems for establishments that transmitted Buddha’s teachings.

In China, the deer is a sign of good luck, happiness, longevity, and fortune. In fact, the Chinese word for deer (lu) is the homonym of the Chinese word for abundance and also synonymous with the Chinese word for income.  (1)

Deer Native American symbolism

The painted deer remains one of the most important Native American symbols within Native American art because it is still highly valued as sacred and useful. It is a symbol of continuity, prosperity, longevity, food, and even abundance. 

For thousands of years, the Native Americans have hunted and eaten deer meat – known as venison – and made clothing from its skin. Navajo tribes would sing to the deer to call them. Mexican tribes considered the deer very sacred and sacrificed them in ceremonies.

Hopi, Pueblo, and Zuni artists commonly used deer symbols in artwork. The Cherokee were skilled hunters that hunted big game like deer. 

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To lure the deer, they wore deer antlers, deerskin, and even made deer calls. Huron Indians were divided into many clans like Bear Clan, Deer Clan, etc. 

They even used the Native American deer symbol. Contemporary Maidu tribes that are still found in reservations along California have undergone revitalization and regularly performed Deer Dances. The Maidu recreate these dances and ancient celebrations on occasions like the salmon returning upriver, etc.

If you are in some parts of Arizona during the Lenten season, you might have an opportunity to see this traditional Deer Dance.  Through the traditional dancing, the natives believed that the spirit of the deer would cooperate in the hunting expedition.

Deer Eastern Symbolism

Chinese folk paper-cut of a plum-blossom deer is a symbol of officialdom and prosperity. 

It carries a sacred fungus of longevity in its mouth because of the belief that it can locate the fungus, and it has three or four-pronged antlers and summer spots. 

The name ‘plum-blossom’ signifies that the deer’s white spots resemble the plum’s blossoms.

When associated with Shiva in Hindu iconography, the deer omen denotes sovereignty over nature and symbolizes the lord of all animals, humans, and the King of the Forest. 

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In Ramayana, the Hindu Prince Lord Rama’s wife Sita is kidnapped by the evil demon King Ravana disguised as an injured deer. This leads to a war between Rama and Ravana, which eventually becomes the symbol of Good versus Evil.

In Japan, deer significance is very sacred. It is considered the messenger of Gods and is associated with longevity and prosperity. Deer are also associated with love and, in this connection, are often depicted surrounded by autumnal leaves calling heartbrokenly for their lost partners. 

Deer antlers are ground into love potions, while dried antlers are used for making pipes and musical instruments. The deer was also the vehicle of Shinto deities. Deer is very important in Buddhist traditions. (2)

Deer Christianity symbolism

The Female Deer is one of the symbolic animals accepted since early Christianity as an allegory of Jesus Christ and the Christian Disciple. Ancient naturalist poets like Pliny likened the deer to the enemy of snakes, stalking them with hate as far as the Underground. 

However, an older concept links the deer to Apollo or the God of Light. The first words in Psalm XLII made the deer an ancient Christian symbol and the emblem of a soul longing for God. “As a thirsty deer longs for water, so do I long for God.”

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The most beautiful symbol of Christian married life can be found among many artistic images of early Christianity – a deer and a female deer embodying the Bride and Groom, drawing their consolation from the same source of faith. Together they pray to God for their happiness as God is the real source of Life. (3)

The deer biblical meaning, because of deer characteristics like simplicity and innocence, symbolizes the Faithful. It is often represented as stooping to drink from the four rivers of the Evangelists, the rivers of the Gospel, and so typifies those desirous of baptism. 

Although deer were depicted in early Egyptian temples and died out in that country before the Christian era, they were sacred to Isis. Deer are also mentioned frequently in the Old Testament and considered as clean meat by the Hebrews.

Deer Celtic symbolism

The ancient Celts believed that the spirit deer were symbolic to the fairies and ancient divinities and this may have led to the traditional belief of deer pulling Santa’s sleigh. 

In the Medieval Period, deer symbolism survived in England and the Durham Castle was said to have been built on the site of an original deer shrine – Duirholm – Meadow of the Deer. The place was a pagan pilgrimage Center for four centuries prior to the Christianization of England. (4)

In grave findings, the deer have been documented as a divine symbol throughout Europe ever since 2000 B.C. 

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This could be because of several deer behaviors that humans can relate to. The growth rhythm of its antlers is likened to the sowing and harvesting of grains. In addition, antlers could be used as a burial tool. 

To the Celts of the Haltstatt period, the deer became an object of ownership and sacrifice. They depicted deer on pottery, in jewelry, on coins, and in drawings. 

The deer was the symbol of the Celtic God Cernunnos – Deer God – who had antlers. In Irish and Welsh literature, the deer is often connected with female persons. 

Among the Gauls, the deer is the lord of the Animals. The deer antler symbolism represents the trees and it also became symbolic of abundance, fertility, renewal.

Deer African symbolism

African clans have special holy totemic animals, which are emblems of group unity, but these tribes often ate these animals as well. 

The deer is one such totem animal important to many African tribes. Even today, tribes in the town of Winneba hunt and eat their sacred deer during their annual Akwanbo Festival when the normal taboos are relaxed. 

In early times, the beginning of the Nyantor Festival – which marked the beginning of harvest-, also saw deer sacrifice to the King. Two militias would converge at the edge of their forests to make loud noises and frighten the deer. 

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The deer would panic and many would get trapped and killed due to it. The first dead deer would be brought to the King. The king would remove his sandal and step over the deer three times while reciting an ancient prayer. 

The deer is then taken to the shrine of Otu. The horn of a deer or an antelope indicates the fighting spirit of a clan and its chiefs. They are usually carved in caves, on pots, and in the artwork. 

In the Damby Tradition of the Kono People of Sierra Leone in West Africa, the Dombah Tanu-Tinu tribe is prohibited from eating deer meat or even touching its skin. Keh- the ancient word for deer- is depicted by the ancient symbol of the first human created. (5)

Deer in dreams

Deer dream embodies gentleness. This gentle animal teaches us unconditional love and dreaming of one often means some loved one who has passed is messaging you from the afterlife. 

The deer in dreams tells you to walk gently on this Earth in balance, and beauty, and in honor of everything and everyone around you. 

The deer symbolism is that you must be kind to nature and respect her and honor the abundance we have around us. Treat everyone and everything as our equal; treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated. 

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It encourages us to demonstrate honesty and trust and also get connected with our spiritual side. Dreaming of deer means you must be mindful of your actions. We all have the deer characteristics within us, but we sometimes forget about them. 

Many are unaware of the deer’s spirit and remain disconnected from the world. White deer symbolism in dreams is especially powerful owing to its rarity. The deer is always in tension, ready to quickly spring away if there is danger. 

This is symbolic of letting go of control. Lovers know this very well; building trust takes time. Deer antler symbolism is linked to renewal, rebirth, and hope, as they shed and reform every year. (6)

Deer encounters and omens

Is seeing deer good luck? Many people want to know what does it mean when you see a deer and the symbolism of deer sighting.

These days, it is not uncommon, deer in backyard meaning as man has been occupying more and more of the natural reserves and forests meant for this animal. 

Seeing a deer is indeed good luck, good fortune, and abundance. Shooting a white deer will definitely bring bad luck. The Indians believe that the sinews of the deer bring good luck.

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To see a deer running on water is a bad omen. Some Natives kept the bones of the deer they killed in their huts; otherwise, they would not be able to hunt and kill again. 

Keeping a deer will bring prosperity to its owner. Seeing deer with gray coats in October means a long cold winter lies ahead. Some Native tribes believed that killing the deer would invoke the wrath of the Great Spirit. So, they prayed before killing one. 

A deer chased by dogs comes to you for protection is a good omen. Go ahead and touch it. Turks and Albanians consider it a bad omen to kill deer. Koryaks of Siberia believed it bad luck to sell live deer. (7)

Deer mythology and folklore

Deer in mythology is popular across cultures. In Meso-American myths, Deer can be highly symbolic or portrayed as a fool. One story in the Quiché Maya book, the PoPul Vuh, tells of the Hero Twins grabbing Deer by its tail when they found it nibbling corn in their garden. 

Because their lives are so intertwined with nature, Native Americans are keen observers of the sky, stars, and planets, which figure prominently in their mythology. As a result, they have many stories and legends about deer. 

Likewise, the deer, which is still common in the mountains, was the principal dependence of the Cherokee hunter and is consequently prominent in myth, folklore, and ceremonial events. 

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According to Lakota folklore, Deer Woman – a shape-shifting deer and woman hybrid – will appear to a hunter when he is hunting far from home, unsuccessfully, and has grown lonely, hungry, and tired; appearing as the most beautiful woman, he has ever seen, with long shiny hair and sparkling eyes. 

The woman invites the hunter to her lodge and seduces him. When he wakes up after a night of passion, the Deer woman and the lodge would both have disappeared. 

he hunter is totally captivated by the woman and some may say he has lost his soul to her for throughout the rest of his life. He will think of nothing else but looking for her. (8)

Deer spirit animal

Deer spirit animal symbolizes that you are in some dangerous or life threatening situation or wish to seek a protected environment. 

Therefore, you are always high strung and hold tension in your body. You must seek a nurturing company around you. More than anything, the deer spirit animal is asking you to trust your gut instinct. 

Be gentle with yourself and others. Walk gently and observe the nature around you. You are poised for an exciting adventure, so be prepared. Elk, caribou, antelopes are all different forms of deer. 

When they show up as spirit animals, you must take care of your Inner Child. Pace yourself, eat nourishing food, and build up your stamina. 

Stag symbolism as a spirit animal also means that this is an intuitive time, so pay close attention to what is happening around you. There may be an opportunity for you to release something that no longer serves you. So be prepared to enter a new phase that brings new opportunities. 

A white-tailed deer symbolizes that you are entering into a phase of abundance but getting there has not been devoid of sacrifices. Now is the time to relax and let off some steam, so meditate on the deer and ask for its gentle guidance. (9)

Deer totem animal

It is said that the deer totem animal brings messages from supernatural sources and is a messenger of spirit. Those with deer totem have a calm, quiet nature. 

Deer has a pacifist personality, is always alert, and quick to flee any alarming situation. You are sensitive to the needs of others, as well as your safety. 

You are careful and cautious and that is fine as long as you are not phobic or refuse new opportunities. 

Always pay attention to the deer totem animal spirit within you. Male deer have antlers, which are the fastest growing animal tissues. 

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They shed these each year only to grow new ones. However, stags cry when they lose their antlers, according to a myth. 

This annual shedding is actually symbolic of growth, rebirth, and transformation. Stag symbolism means the same: it means that you should be prepared for a new phase and not cry over the past. 

Native Americans believed that the antlers on the male deer were actually antennae that connected the deer to inter-dimensional beings. 

That is how the deer picked up interdimensional communication and messages from the spirit world. Meditate on the deer and seek its wise counsel. Ask it to guide and protect you from harm. (10)

Deer power animal

The key words connected with the deer power animal are grace, kindness, listening to intuition, gentleness, and innocence. 

Deer is such a soft, kind, and graceful animal that brings forth this gentleness for you. Deer is a woodland creature, very connected to the earth and roots of wisdom. 

The reason a deer has come to you as your power animal means that you should be on your guard and be alert to any situation that could be dangerous to you. 

Meditate and be mindful. Be constantly aware of the surroundings. 

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If you see a mother deer with its doe, it is a message that family is important. The deer power animal is also signifying that you should act with gentleness and calm. 

That is the best way to handle any situation. Deer totem may also strongly suggest that you spend time with an ailing grandparent. 

It may also ask you to make some changes; make sure those changes are of a lasting nature. The deer power animal also asks you to get back to nature. 

Slow down and explore your surroundings as well as yourself. Because only when you connect with yourself can you truly form more meaningful relationships with others. (11)

Deer tattoo meaning

Deer spiritual meaning is very deep and that is why a magical deer tattoo is just the thing you need if you have always felt a spiritual connection with a deer.

A deer symbol tells you that you will always have a spiritual guide in the form of a deer and that the deer will watch over you, provide you with food, warmth, and love. 

The spirit of a deer will always be with you.  Therefore, many people opt for a deer tattoo over their hearts, usually a stag spirit animal with antlers. 

The antlers’ tattoo meaning symbolizes rebirth, re-growth, and transformation. Just like the moon waxes and wanes, so do the antlers which shed to make way for new ones. 

Consider the deer tattoo as a message from God, a spiritual reminder that you are worthy of God’s love and that He is watching over you no matter what. Native Indians often tattooed deer on the thigh of a tribe member to show he had been made a warrior and chief. 

Thus, a deer tattoo also represents a leader, a warrior, and a fighter. At the same time, it asks you to get in touch with that gentle and soft side, asking you to solve all issues with love instead of hate.

Conclusion

As can be seen, deer symbolism varies from culture to culture. But, it typically means gentleness, awareness of surroundings, unconditional love, and mindfulness. A deer represents innocence, kindness, grace, and good luck. Seeing a deer is usually a good omen and means that your spirit guides are watching over you.

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