They laugh at my dreams; I dream of them laughing…
It was another dreamscape full blue moon, time manipulated weekend in which real world (RW) events invaded my dreamtime, and vice versa. In the RW, we were down one car when a member of the household lost an unintentional game of chicken with a darling doe. In dreamtime, a curious hoof footed creature was pouring something from a teapot into a martini glass, while warning me not to drink, whispering I should pick up the broom and flee. In the RW, they are hanging holiday decorations—in October—and boiled custard (a southern specialty, just add bourbon) is available in the grocery aisle. In dreamtime, the West wind blew things sideways. My hound morphed into a deer I chased it in the snow because a note was attached to an antler. It was bah’ing; I couldn’t tell if it was imitating a sheep or Scrooge. Did I mention a few ancestors also appeared to misdirect and confuse me? Was I in Narnia or the mountain atop Mount Crumpit?
In the 1950 C. S. Lewis tale, four children are sent to live in the country with Professor Kirke to ensure their safety during WWII. While exploring the Professor’s rambling house, they find a land called Narnia hidden behind an old wardrobe. One of the children is invited to tea by a faun called Tumnus. He relates it’s always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas because of an evil, shapeshifting White Witch Queen who rides around in a sled pulled by white reindeer. Brace yourself, there are actually seven Chronicles of Narnia tales, one for each of the seven deadly sins…
In Dr. Seuss’ 1957 How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a reclusive, wild haired, potbellied, small hearted creature with a dog/reindeer named Max determines to ruin Christmas for Whoville’s miniscule, but noisy citizens. He sneaks into town to steal all the holiday trappings, but is seen by tiny tot Cindy Lou Who. That doesn’t stop him. The Grinch forces Max to pull an overloaded sleigh to the top of Mount Crumpit. But before Max dumps it, the Grinch hears joyful noises from Whoville, and surmises Whovillian celebrations don’t rely on trappings. How the Grinch is the third part of a trilogy about the Who’s whose world is no bigger than the skinniest snowflake. The first two books involve kindly Horton, an elephant that has a large heart and small minded friends.
Flash forward to 2020, where ½ the world’s been sent home to (supposedly) ensure their safety. They get to explore their living quarters, clean out cupboards and wardrobes, and imagine a cheerier world. Some smartie said imagining was step one to making positive changes, much needed when 2020 feels like one endlessly bitter month. You are allowed to congregate with members of your household—misery loves company. Surely someone is to blame, but who? Could it be Cindy Lou Who, a child no bigger than a virus? Could it be a witch; it’s that time of year? Or is the thing cramping our style and exiling us being spread by grinches, bats, or deer ticks? It’s also the time of year for rutting deer and festivals involving beer.
Witches have not been depicted kindly. They’ve been called dark mother, toothless crone, and devils in disguise. A rock band sang ‘ding dong, the witch is dead,’ and earlier crooners labeled romance as witchcraft and women as daughters of darkness. Artists drew them with warty noses, hunched backs, stringy hair, and beady red eyes. Shakespeare called them Weird Sisters; L F Baum gave them mastery of North, South, East, & West; and Medea, Circe, Morgana, Mary Poppins, Maleficent, & Hecate gave them a kick ass tool kit of special abilities. Amongst the Gaelic, she is Cailleach; her name in the Netherlands is a Heks or kol; in Italy, it’s Strega; and in Germany Hexe. The witch of Endor became Eudora on show Bewitched, and in The Huntsman, Freya, the ice witch, waffled hot and cold. It’s just a myth witches don’t like water…
As skilled shapeshifters, they pass among most people undetected. How many smart witches avoided death at the hand of witchfinders? The church gave governments the authority to hunt and kill suspected independent witches to ensure they couldn’t wield power; in religious circles, female witches were denied priesthood and entry to inner sanctums. Witchery is still political, still transformational, still in the news.
In addition to witches and rutting deer, in 2020 we also have Snitches, aka an informant, rat, tattletale, creep that tells on fellow citizens that don’t wear masks, adhere to contradictory CDC guidance, hold parties, attend social gatherings…You know what they used to say: Snitches get stitches; loose lips sink ships, blabbers get stabbered… oh my.
Why not blame a deer, Bambi or his mother, cousin Rudolph, or distant cousin Bullwinkle J. Moose? Deer damage crops, eat your garden petunias, and spread Lyme disease…When my father first began appearing to my mother after his death, in the guise of a mature stag, not one of their children blamed the sightings on grief or said, “Really mom! You live on a mountain in the middle of a forest, deer are a normal part of the scenery.” Nor was it just wishful thinking on her part he had metamorphosed from human to animal spirit form. Though she wasn’t fond of fairy tales and myths, her Welsh mother was. I’m sure my gran told her stories about deer being messengers from a world beyond ours.
As a child, I was in awe of the bittersweet relationship he had with deer. He hunted and killed, dissected, and mounted a few on our walls as trophies. He drew us pictures of deer, carved and engraved them into wood and metal objects, and watched them peacefully congregate at the edge of his woods. The man who hunted deer and ate their flesh, in his final decade, offered these gentle creatures sanctuary on his land on that mountain in Maryland. Hunters were not welcome, not even his granddaughter’s hunter husband.
Because people are staying home, I’ve read that once shy animals are venturing into suburbs to explore. Deer have always shared the woods where I live, though there is a bit less woods than there was 10 years ago. Deer are sentient beings, vegetarians (cud chewers), and have a compound stomach. They possess two odd little glands; the preorbital gland is a sac located at the front corner of the eye. It contains a waxy pouch. The metatarsal gland is found on the hind leg, in both sexes, and is marked by an accompanying tuft of long hair. These glands help deer identify each other. Male deer grow antlers, which begin to loosen shortly after rutting (mating), and fall off 1-2 months later. Yikes, if only the men in my story Grave Goddess lost their man part appendages that painlessly!
It was the mythology related reading about deer worship, cults, and symbolism I found of greater interest. It convinced me there really was something to totems, shape shifting, and immortality. But I still didn’t understand why my father had chosen the deer as his totem. Why not a tiger, fierce mountain cat, or Leo the Lion? Then I remembered he’d once said that in the cat family, the female was the more deadly and powerful sex. The stag is sacred to the moon goddess. In a Greek myth, Actaeon stumbles into or is lured into a forbidden part of the woods, gets turned into a stag, and is killed. There are tales from every culture about deer priestesses that guard herds and punish hunters that exceed quotas, and countless tales of men meeting untimely deaths after offending a deer deity. My parents had been arguing minutes before his untimely death…
Then I found an answer in an old anthology of American poems my macho, six foot tall dad left behind. A page containing the poem The Buck in the Snow by Edna St. Vincent Millay was earmarked. He’d drawn antlers below the title. I read ‘…saw you not at beginning of evening the antlered buck and his doe? …now lies he here, his wild blood scalding the snow; how strange a thing is death…observe the feathers of snow, and the attentive eyes of the doe.’
It’s that time of year to realize certain beings are adept at stirring things up, transforming the norm into something more, protecting, destroying, wresting power from the undeserving—while knowing the dreamworld and the real world depend on each other. It’s the time of year for certain myths to reappear, to dream and imagine, as Bing did, ‘what a pleasant place the world would be, if we had the holiday spirit all year.’ And it’s that time of year to remember Seuss’ Grinch likely came from the French word Grincheux, aka Grumpy in Snow White. Am I rambling? I need a night of undisturbed sleep—feeling a bit Grincheux, or witchy, or antlerless. Would someone please tell those wacky Who’s to pipe down?