Deer dear reader,
With all of the species of animal scampering, crawling, slithering, bouncing, sprinting and flying around the world, there's often debate surrounding which one is the best. The honey badger, for example, has gotten a lot of notoriety because of its lack of the ability to care about danger when food is invovled; pandas are known for being adorably dumb troublemakers. But hidden among the seemingly mundane, everyday animals is the true optimus maximus animal: the deer.
That's cute and all, but we're not talking Bambi.
No, we're talking about the Eurasian equivalent, the fallow deer:
"Why have you summoned me?"
They honestly look a lot like the North American native white tail deer. However they differ in that the fallow deer are practically gods of the natural world.
Their history is deeply entwined with human history, starting back in the Bronze Age. I'm gonna say that again: the Bronze Age. We're talking circa 1700-1100 B.C.E.; we're talking Hittites, the Shang dynasty, the Mycenaeans, the Minoans -- any of these sounding familiar? How about the minotaur? The man-eating bull man in the Labyrinth? That was the Minoans. That's how long we've been walking with these downright dazzling Dama dama (which is Latin for "deer deer" -- the deer). Bonus fact: how did the minotaur get put into the Labyrinth? He was probably pushed into the thing by fallow deer because messing with this creature would be one hell of a mistake:
They eat freaking snakes like fruit roll-ups. Natural order be dama-damned.
These deer were transported around the Eurasian continent by people from various civilizations for various reasons, including medicine. You read that right: the animal that grows bones out of its head to wreck other deer with bone blades to win the right to make babies can be used to heal us unworthy humans.
Are you scared of snakes?
Get yourself some fallow deer skin. Sleep on it. Or even walk around in the daylight with a deer tooth on your arm. You're welcome, no snakes.
How about those labor pains, huh?
Not fun, right?
By simply wearing a fallow deer's genitals and hair around your neck during the whole ordeal, it'll be a cake walk.
A collection of recipes from Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures shows that if you are suffering by the hands of anything from tooth aches, to stomach issues, to broken bones, the fallow deer has something for you (usually antlers reduced to ash and taken in either wine, water, or certain types of oil). You best believe these deer were important.
The archaeological record backs me up on this, too. You see, there was this mysterious event called the Bronze Age Collapse, where major civilizations of the Aegean Sea (Greece/Turkey area) just kind of stopped doing the whole "civilization" thing for a while -- well, everyone but Egypt.
"High five bro."
During that time, literacy and art styles of the time just disappeared. Naturalistic themes in pottery were replaced entirely by geometric designs and oh so many zig-zags. But then, over three hundred years later, animal figures show back up in the archaeological record and guess who is one of the first two animals to show up
Look at those beautiful deer.
Three hundred years; it was over three hundred years, and these deer were still heavily relevant. If you're reading this from the United States, let me just remind you that our country hasn't even been a thing for three hundred years yet and these deer showed up in art before humans did. They were practically divine.
And you think I'm joking.
I want you to look really close at that statue. That is the goddess Artemis/Diana, the Greco-Roman goddess of nature and the hunt. But who is that by her side? None other than the fallow deer, itself. The fallow deer is one of Artemis's key animals that she is associated with in the her religious tradition. Ya know what else fallow deer are associated with? Conquering death (aka snakes) and being reborn (aka shedding their velvet). These fuzzy fallow deer are associated with conquering mortality itself. The Grim Reaper has nothing on them.
Your move, bro.
These days fallow deer are all across the globe to obviously make it a better place for us puny mortals. In my home state of Michigan, there was a population that was given to us by France in the late 19th century that accidentally interbred with white-tailed deer and made some beautiful deer you can now find at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center. If you visit, be sure to show them the respect they deserve. With climate change coming in hard, I think you want to be on the goddess of nature's good side.
Note: if you want to learn more about deer remedies and their role in ancient society, you can find an article on the subject here.