Geneseo, New York (TFC) – The white stag appears in folklore, mythology, and legends around the world often associated with a unicorn it is greatly revered for its rare and magical benevolent majesty. It is seen as a symbol of purity, otherworldliness, a rebirth of light, creative life force, the quest, freedom and our sacred connection to mother earth. It is known for its healing virtues and as a sustainer of life, it is also known as the messenger between the animal kingdom and the kingdom of man. The Celts considered the white stag, or hart as they called it, a messenger from the otherworld. Arthurian legend states that the pursuit of the animal represents man-kinds spiritual quest. In Scotland it is said that when the white stag is seen in the glens, Scotland will gain her independence. Native Americans believe the white stag to be a sign of prophecy and a representation of the sacredness of all living things. All of these cultures around the world believe that to kill the white stag is very bad luck. It too is said that an ancient curse will befall any hunter who kills the white stag, that he or a member of his family shall die within a year. Even our own American culture, still in the dawn of its youth, holds within it reverence for the white stag amongst cub scouts and boy scouts. Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement said to the Scouts at the 1933 World Jamboree in his farewell speech; “The White Stag has a message for you. Hunters of old pursued the miraculous stag, not because they expected to kill it, but because it led them in the joy of the chase to new and fresh adventures, and so to capture happiness. You may look on the White Stag as the true spirit of Scouting, springing forward and upward, ever leading you onward to leap over difficulties, to face new adventures in your active pursuit of the higher aims of Scouting.”
Was it lack of respect, a loss of cultural lore in this vast melting pot or a sheer obsession for such a trophy, as trivial as it is now, that drove a hunter to kill the white stag? According to a blogger known as VanOtisco on NyOutdoorTalk.com a hunter known only by his first name Tom, “was invited to hunt a property in Livingston County, near Geneseo, NY. His hosts had seen a white buck in the area and extended an invitation to Tom to hunt. He gladly accepted.” VanOtisco came across the remains of the white stag while driving through Clinton county NY last week stating, “I noticed a home with several people standing around a whitetail buck in the driveway. Two pickup trucks belonging to other passer-byes were parked outside. Word of the harvest was spreading quickly and many were dropping by just to get a glimpse of the deer. I turned my car around and stopped for my own glimpse.” Due to the immense attention and publicity Tom was getting he asked that only his first name be used in the bloggers post.
The majority of hunters this journalist has spoken with see the slaying of the white stag as a disrespectful act a bad omen and also believe that Tom has brought bad luck upon himself. Most hunters live by an unwritten code, and the core message of this unwritten code is a respect for nature. Tom’s trophy will most likely be stuffed and displayed on his mantel, the head may remain for years and years to come, but what Tom will see is not a white stag, for the white stag is gone as his spirit wanders beyond the comprehension of man. As time passes his story of self-diluted conquest will fade into oblivion. Perhaps the reason Tom only gave his first name to the blogger was due to the feeling Tom had felt after he had killed the spirit of nature, perhaps he felt a deeper loss than he will ever let on, perhaps after that bullet was fired he was filled with regret and fear for violating the ancient laws of nature. For the most part Tom can’t be blamed for his actions, at that moment before he fired that fatal shot he was surely filled with excitement and adrenaline and an ego that was screaming “kill it, show your friends that you’re the man!” It was only after he came upon the still remains of the great white stag that he may have realized what horrific deed he had done, he may have even dropped to his knees begging for forgiveness.
Chief Luther Standing Bear said “only to the white man saw nature a wilderness and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame… the white man has distanced himself from nature.” A Wintu native said “the white people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. … the white people pay no attention. …How can the spirit of the earth like the white man? … everywhere the white man has touched it, it is sore.”
Have we lost our connection to mother earth, have we lost our traditions and lore that were handed down from our ancestors somehow lost when we came to America. The slaying of the white stag is more than just a rare deer being shot, it is the loss of something we all had, the loss of the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors from all over the world. It seems that the more we identify ourselves as strictly American we cut off our ancient knowledge from the European countries the majority of us have deep roots in. A heartbreaking reality that melts away bit by bit with every generation.*