Shape-shifting
Holding on to what's good

Holding the World in Balance

Mule Deer Child copyright by Terri Windling

From an interview with Chickesaw writer Linda Hogan:

"There is the story that so many tell of the time when humans and animals could change into each other. There were times when animals and people spoke the same language, or when the animals helped the humans. For instance, our mythology says it was the spider who brought us fire.

"I’ve thought about these human-animal relationships for years – is this true? Well, humans and animals existed together for many thousands of years without creating the loss of species. There was enormous respect given to animals. I have to trust the knowledge of indigenous people because it held a world in balance.

"I have a special interest in ceremonies. I look at a ceremony called The Deer Dance. In the ceremony, I watch the entire world unfold through the life of the deer and a man dressed as a deer. The man dances all night. It is as if he were transformed into a deer. This is a renewal ceremony for the people. The deer that lives in the mountains far from the people provides them with life.

Yaqui and Mayo Deer Dancers

A deer dancer in Bhutan

A women's deer dance in Bali

Tibetan Cham Deer

"The purpose of most ceremonies – such as healing ceremonies – is to return one person or group of people to themselves, to place the human in proper relationship with the rest of the world. I thought that we were out of touch with ourselves 20 years ago. Now, with computers and email and cell phones, we are even more out of touch. How many of us even stay in touch with our own bodies? If we aren’t inhabiting our own bodies, how can we understand animal bodies of the world?"

(I recommend reading the full interview here.)

Deer Girl

Flam Chen

Images above: "The Mule Deer Child," Yaqui and Mayo deer dancers (photographed during public dance displays, not sacred ceremonies), a deer dancer in Bhutan, a women's deer dance in Bali, a Tibetan Cham Deer; a deer dance by performer and installation artist Carolyn Ryder Cooley; and performers from the Tucson "circus and fire theatre" troupe Flam Chen. Further reading: "Deer Woman and the Living Myth of the Dreamtime" by Carolyn Dunn, "Where the White Stag Runs" by Ari Berk, and "Balance of the World, Parts I and II" by Howard Gayton.

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