THE APPEARANCE OF DEER WOMAN
I have had numerous encounters with apparitions, entities, creatures, and spirits. Some of which were believed to be only myths, imaginary, or fictional metaphors; serving only to teach a moral to a story. This particular story may debunk one such ‘fairytale’ as to be true. It has roots relating to Native American folklore, which I feel are typically very real—as others including myself have observed these so-called mythological beings. We hear about the giants, creatures, watchers, and gods who walked the Earth; then so did those in Native American legends. The ancient accounts and ‘oral record keeping’ of our mysterious history, dating back to Creation, are abundant. Even today, evidence such as ruins, sacred texts, and artifacts are unearthed each year; how much more proof remains buried, unreachable, sealed, or even kept in private black-market collections?
I have always speculated on how one is able to see these beings; if one must be gifted, blessed, cursed, pure, chosen, a child, enlightened, or just lucky. A large number of these entities undoubtedly remain among us; perhaps deep underground, below the depths of the sea, hidden within unseen realms, banished to the wilderness, or merely choose to remain fortified and secluded. I was just a child, barely out of kindergarten, when I met one known spirit of legend. I will never forget it.
I would frequently skip school when I was a boy. I did not like the intimidating environment, I felt unwelcome, and sensed I did not belong. Some of the students would bully me for being Native American, my old clothes, and for being poor. The school would call my mother in regard to my absences; she would anxiously wait for me to return home. Back in those days, discipline was synergistically combined with scolding and the ‘rod.’ And neighbors safeguarded each other’s children. One day a neighbor called to tell her that I was hiding at the side of the house, she angrily walked around the corner, startling me; how did she even know I was there? I knew what punishment was awaiting—I was used to it and did not care.
Back in the late 70s, the city of Edmonton was a sizeable metropolis, but nowhere close to the size it is today; it was still developing and expanding. There were still large fields, forests, hills, and ravines encompassing the outskirts of the city. One of my favorite places to spend my school days was in the ‘ravine’—a dangerous place for a child to be alone. I was warned by my parents that it was a place for wrongdoers, vagabonds; and a place where children went missing. I did not believe it. As my days were spent exploring its trails and beautiful, lush forest—I had never felt endangered. The world is a much more magical and larger place for a child, as was the ravine. The birds were always singing there and it was so peaceful, as opposed to the institution of school.
Although, I do recall one questionable event while playing in the ravine with a group of friends. We spotted an old man standing at the top of the ravine. He was wearing a white fishing hat, a long navy-colored jacket that extended past his knees. He started walking slowly down the embankment of the ravine, through the woods, towards us. Staring at us, with a strange smile, pointing into his satchel, he signaled for us to come over. He asked us what we were doing, and if he could join in. One of my friends shouted, “I think he’s a kidnapper.” And then yelled, “run!” We all ran out of the ravine, laughing, and regrouped at a park nearby; telling exaggerated tales of what we had just survived. We knew never to tell our parents what had transpired, as being in the ravine itself would have consequences of its own.
The ravine was also where I met my first mythic ‘little person’ whose appearance was that of a small dwarf or gnome. I decided to wander over to the ravine, having felt bored at the nearby park; I was the only kid there that day. There was a large grassy field adjacent to the ravine, where you could walk along the ridge just at the top of the ravine. I decided to roam along the trees and walk through the field. I spotted a small figure in the distance. Maybe it was another kid who wanted to play? As I drew closer, I realized that this was not a child, nor was it human.
It was standing outside the tree line of the ravine, along the ridge, bent down working on something. It wore a small black hat, and his clothing was dark and looked similar to that of ‘Amish’ clothing. He had light skin, short curly hair, and a short reddish beard. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’ve always wanted to see a leprechaun. Excited, I ran up to him; I noticed he was a little shorter than I was. He was not amused, nor was he frightened. He looked annoyed. I asked him, “Are you a leprechaun?” He continued to work on his task, barely looking at me, and said “Yes, I am a leprechaun.” He was grumpy. No pun intended. Coincidentally, it had also rained earlier and there was a rainbow in the distance—which further convinced me that this was in fact a leprechaun. Upon hearing his confirmation, I asked him if there truly was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and if I could have it. He looked at me, squinted his eyes, and said “Yes, there’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. Now, go get it.” He then continued with his task and did his best to ignore me. I immediately ran off to get my treasure.
I was ecstatic. I had to be quick and be the first one there to get the gold. I imagined handing the gold to my mother. We were going to be rich! My mother will be so happy! We were very poor back then, and this would change things. My heart was racing. I ran as fast as I could, but the rainbow seemed further than it appeared. I grew tired and slowed down to walk; and catch my breath. How long was I running for? How far? I kept walking, determined to succeed; but then the rainbow disappeared. I was so upset that I could cry; I had failed my mission. I was defeated. I also felt like I had let my mother down. I remember having a lump in my throat, which made it hard to swallow. I wondered if I had been deceived by the leprechaun. I grew angry and disappointed in myself. Where was I?
I did not realize how far I had gone and did not recognize my surroundings. I was in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city. There was nothing but barren land, large storage tanks, buildings, and machinery. Looking around, I felt so small, and lost. It was getting late; you could see the night sky appearing behind the darkening sky of the setting sun. Thinking back, I remember the sunset looking beautiful that day. I gathered my senses and thought if I could just backtrack, I could get back home.
So, I walked in the opposite direction for what felt like hours, eventually reaching familiar surroundings. I walked through the grassy field near the ravine, passing the spot where the leprechaun stood. I was bitter. It was nightfall when I finally arrived home. I knew I would be in trouble. I remember crying to my mother regarding my misadventure. She was not amused. I also earned the nickname, ‘Sean Sean Leprechaun.’ I prefer my current Native American name, Walking Bear. Reflecting on this experience, I realize how dangerous this endeavor would be for a young boy. What was that leprechaun thinking?
One snowy winter, while on one of my ‘school-skipping’ adventures, I went down to the ravine. I remember winters being much colder back then, with memorable amounts of snowfall, with snowdrifts being the size of a tall man. I enjoyed the frosty mornings, and how the ice decorated the windows with mesmerizing designs, and the long-pointed icicles lining the eaves. Snow blanketed entire fields, treetops, and rooftops; transforming the city into a pristine landscape of ice and snow. The ravine looked so enchanting, like a winter wonderland. Many of its trails were buried, except for the main trail, which was well traveled. The snowbanks were remarkably tall, even perceptively higher for a child. I walked down the trail alone, peaceful, I felt bold even being here alone; who would dare? I’ve always wanted to see what was beyond the ravine, and decided today I would explore further than ever before. I felt like a brave explorer, mapping out distant lands.
I started my deep ravine exploration, walking for hours, quietly playing, singing, and talking to myself. There was no one in sight, I had the ravine all to myself. It was also very cold that morning, frost covered my nostrils and eyelids, vapor could be seen with my every breath. I was wandering deeper into the ravine than ever before, far from home. Then the grave realization of my perilous journey hit me, I no longer recognized my surroundings, and lost my bearings. I started to panic as I felt utterly lost and disoriented. I forgot which direction I came from, everything looked identical, and there was no landmark to identify my location. The trees and terrain were covered with snow; there was nothing but miles of blanketing white and a forest of towering dormant trees.
In frantic tears, breathing hard, I started to yell for help. I noticed my voice was not echoing nor resonating far and wide; my cries for help seemed muffled or silenced. I now know that snow absorbs sound; and had effectively absorbed and lowered the volume of my wailing and the distance carried. The abysmal feeling of being lost, and possibly never seeing home again started racing in my thoughts—my world and life were possibly at an end. I would never see my mother again. They don’t know where I am or will ever find me. I continued to scream and cry out for help. I was losing hope.
I looked up at the towering forest, staring at the high embankment of the ravine. I wondered if I traveled up and out of the ravine if I would find where I was and get home. So, I began trudging through the waist deep snow, it was exhausting, and ice-cold. Snow began filling the inside of my boots with every step, soaking my socks and tucked-in pants. I eventually reached the top of the ridge, looking out at snow covered hills and fields, everything looked the same; I was definitely still lost. I started to cry and started walking further out of the ravine, out into the field at the bottom of the hills. The snow was so high, extending over my waist, not to mention thick and covered with a thin layer of ice.
I was so exhausted, I could not trudge and plow through the snow any longer. My throat was sore from screaming, irritated by the ice-cold air; my chest also started to ache, as my lungs were filled with frozen breaths. I stopped walking, as I stood at the bottom of a tall hill, looking upwards. It was overwhelming. It felt like hours had gone by. I could not go on. I was too exhausted and believed I was going to die. The thought of never seeing my mother again utterly terrified me. With that thought, I tried calling out for help. Nobody heard me or came to my rescue. I was shivering uncontrollably from the cold. My feet were frozen and wet. My clothes weighed heavy with clumps of snow. Exasperated, I collapsed in the snow, at risk of hypothermia.
I laid there crying in sorrow over my impending death, slowly losing hope. I don’t want to die. I gathered myself and I attempted to call out one last time. Listening carefully between each shout; hoping for a good Samaritan, nearby hiker, or maybe even my mom! There was nothing but silence. I looked around at the towering hills of white snow and at the dark ravine tree line behind me. I was alone. I collapsed. Then suddenly I heard the sound of a branch snapping in two, as if being stepped on. The glorious sound echoed off the tree line, into the air, piercing the ominous silence. I immediately stood up, feeling relieved and ecstatic. I looked back to see who the rescuer was behind me.
Standing at the ravine tree line was a white-tailed deer. It stood there silently, staring at me with its transcendent black eyes. I was extremely disappointed upon seeing that it was only a deer; my joy instantly faded, I lost all hope, and was in despair. I remember quietly saying to the deer, “you can’t help me,” followed by weeping. I turned away and sat down inside the deep snow trail I had plowed, staring vacantly into the snow wall straight ahead. A few short moments had passed when I heard the sound of footsteps in the snow. Was the ordeal finally over?
Standing where the deer was earlier was a young woman. She had tan skin, long black hair, was wearing a long black wool coat, and had a warm smile. I was grateful to see the stranger. I called out and asked if she could help me. She smiled and calmly started walking towards me, gliding effortlessly over the snow. I watched closely and waited with anticipation. I did not want her to leave me. As she grew nearer, I recognized her immediately. I know her! It was my cousin Lorna! Maybe my mother sent her out to look for me and bring me home! I was so happy to see her.
Upon reaching me, I asked her, “I am lost. Can you please bring me home?’ She smiled, grabbed my hand, and nodded. I could not stop talking. I was excited to tell her the epic tale of my harrowing journey. She only listened and did not talk much. She would turn to look at me, smile, with the occasional nod. I also noticed, in retrospect, that I felt warm and I too, glided through the snow as she did. We walked side by side. We eventually reached the top of a hill, where I immediately recognized my surroundings! I was ‘home.’ We had reached the outer perimeter of the condominium complex, and it was a glorious sight to see from the top of the summit.
She stopped walking at the top of the hill, knelt in front of me, and said, “You can get home from here. Do not tell anyone you saw me, ok?” I nodded. I started walking down the hill, occasionally looking up to see if she was still there watching me. When I got to the bottom of the hill and reached the pavement of the parking lot, I looked up one last time; she was no longer there, she was gone. I quickly ran home; I was so relieved. I could not wait to see my mother.
My mother was waiting at the door, the house phone tucked between her ear and shoulder, the long cord stretching to its max length. She was looking out for me and immediately spotted me. She opened the door, visibly angry, instructing me to “Get the heck inside!” I was still happy to see her. And against my cousin’s wishes, told her that I saw my cousin Lorna and that she saved my life. Thinking it would quell the furious fire of my irate mother. My mother then called me a liar and stated that they were just talking on the phone earlier, and that Lorna was back home in Northern Alberta. I was confused and in disbelief that she did not believe me; I knew what I saw, I was certain I met her, and that she rescued me. I was irritated and felt disappointed as I was marched up stairs to be ‘grounded’ in my room. Despite my chastisement, I remember feeling immensely relieved to just be safe at home and in my room.
Many years later, after apprenticing under several medicine men, I came to the realization of what had truly occurred—after reflecting on this story, I may in fact had been saved by a deer spirit, namely the legendary Deer Woman. Known for shape-shifting into her deer form and human form of a beautiful young woman. She would lure evil men, lusting after her, eventually killing them. I wondered if perhaps she had compassion for children, knowing my innocence, and chose to save me. Another theory that came to mind was that this was an angel or messenger sent to rescue me; choosing a friendly form to comfort me, giving them immediate trust.
Either way, I know what happened, I know what I witnessed, and remember it vividly to this day. I decided to never eat deer meat after this day out of respect. I often give thanks to the Creator for allowing this miracle to happen. I also never stopped exploring the ravine, I never seem to learn my lesson; a trait involving risk and reward, strengthening knowledge and wisdom.