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.


A very thought provoking post this one.

I recently watched a snippet of film in which a hornet attacked a hive of bees. The bees had learned to cover the hornet in a ball of bees and thereby creating so much heat at the centre it killed the hornet.

Why this came to mind? Because the bees deal with each hornet only as it becomes a threat to the hive. A human would trace the hornet back to it's nest and destroy the nest. This fundamental difference between our current way of reacting to our world and the animal instinct points to our main problem. We destroy at source without thought for the consequences. Only seeing the one outcome for our immediate problem. Animal instinct deals with the threat in it's immediacy; yes the next hornet will come to the hive and when it does the bees will deal with it. Such is the nature of existence.

What I think we need to remember is that we sing into and dance into the animal for ourselves, to try to see the threads that bind us. We should refrain from imposing the motivation of human impulses onto the animal. But should instead try to reclaim the animal inside.

Deer, Dances

The day, the night I was a deer,
little leaves and shoots tempted me,
acorns in their hard jackets,
and the wild white clover.
River became my only drink,
running over twenty-one stones.
I did not mind getting wet.
Doe my woman, sang to me,
and the little spotted fawn, my family,
cheered as I danced by,
the white flag of my tail
semaphoring my joy at speaking,
at dancing with my little brothers.
All the while, my hooves
struck turquoise from the rock,
leaving a jeweled trail.
You watched me run until the dawn,
sweat glistening on my hide,
the moon resting in my antlers.
I shall return to you soon,
but not so soon I have left
the flint of my soul behind.

Left off:

2012 Jane Yolen, All rights reserved.


I love this SO much!

"Animal instinct deals with the threat in it's immediacy; yes the next hornet will come to the hive and when it does the bees will deal with it. Such is the nature of existence." I love your view of instinct and see how it applies to living with each moment as present, "a present" and appreciate it at the start of this new day; before breakfast I have been fed.

Thank you, Charlotte (and Terri, and Jane the poetry was delicious, too)

I have been a goner on this subject since I was given my Golden Book of Fairy Tales when i was in 3rd or 4th grade. I still have it and i knew it all to be true. I went outside to play one day and never wanted to live with humans again.

Was it the Golden Book of Fairy Tales illustrated by Adrienne Segur? That book had a profound influence on me as a child.

Yes it was...i wanted to become an artist at that very moment...i remember making pencil sketches from it. I know you had one of your lovely pictures w/leaves and books scattered with one of my favorite pictures from that laying amongst it. Sometimes you think you are the only one. Thats why i love this blog...and Tilly girl because i don't have a dog of my own.

In regards 'Sometimes you think you are the only one' That's one of the reasons i love this blog also (and one of the blessings of technology:)


Your post really reminded me of this music video that I first saw just a few days ago, and I was really taken with the costumes, especially the cat woman and the man with the antlers... it's called "Skirts" by a band called The Other Tribe:

Thank you, Terri, for this loveliness...

Grace you are so right...this blog has made me want to get a computer/notebook for home...i sneak to this site at work in the early a.m. and it's not enough time to enjoy my favorite topics and people & Tilly girl...

It's an English thing too - don't know if you've come across the Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance?

The version they've done there is quite... restrained. The dawn and twilight versions are considerably more primal :-)

That's a great video! Thanks so much for the link. I'd love to see them perform one day....

That's so hilariously over the top that it's fabulous. I've been to raves that weren't far off from that.... Ah, those were the days.

Janette, did you see the article on Adrienne Segur that we published some years ago in The Journal of Mythic Arts?

Also a poem by Ellen Steiber inspired by the story "Silvershod" in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales:

Wendy Froud had that book as a child too, and was also highly influenced by it.

Terri...thx for these links....made me remember hiding up in the apple tree just devouring these tales...i still believe them true...

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