Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Deer Man Ritual

The Deer Man Ritual Cover In Italy there still remains a very old tradition related to the stag figure. On the last Sunday of carnival, at Castelnuovo, an annual festival takes place known as the Red Deer Man ritual or festival. It features four primary figures: the Deer man, the Deer Woman, the Fairy Wizard (the Martino), and the Hunter. The Deer Man and Woman dress in hides, with the man wearing a set of antlers and both figures wearing a necklace of cowbells. The Martino is dressed in white with a cape and wears a conical hat. He carries a wand and represents the fairy of the mountains.

The festival begins with the sound of cowbells coming out the forest and down the hill. Soon the Janare (witches) appear, after which they run about the village dashing in and out between the houses. This is followed by the appearance of the Deer man and Deer Woman. The Deer Man runs through the crowd like a wild beast chasing the village people. Next the Martino appears and tries to calm the Deer man using his wand. Eventually the Deer Man grows calm and then the Martino places a rope around the Deer man and Deer Woman. Joined together in this way the Deer Woman becomes affectionate with the Deer Man. However the wild nature of the Deer Man soon returns and he tries to break his bindings. Suddenly the Hunter appears and slays the Deer man and Deer Woman. The people then grieve for the slain Deer Woman. Slowly the Hunter approaches two bodies then blows into their ears, which brings them back to life. The Deer Man and Deer Woman arise and go back up the hillside into the forest. The witches return to the village plaza and assemble around fire where they dance accompanied by musicians playing the flute and the bagpipes.

There are several noteworthy features of this festival or ritual event. The first is the appearance of the witches who come from the mountain woods. There appearance in the village announces the consort pair of the Deer man and Deer Woman. This associates them with the horned figure and his consort, a theme long associated with the witches' sect.

The second thing of interest is the fairy being known as the Martino, a theme also intimately connected with old witchlore. The Sicilian fairy cult is perhaps the most well-known of such themes.

The third area of interest is the Hunter who returns life to the slain deer. This is a classic tale of "the hunter and the hunted" and one that appears in the writings of folklorist Joseph Campbell. Essential to this mythos is the idea that the slain animal must be restored to life in exchange for providing food and fur/hide. Traditionally a piece of the deer's antler was taken and worn by the hunter, who later danced around a fire in honor or the slain beast. His dance animated the deer and restored it to life somewhere back out in the forest.

Of final interest is the absence of Christian elements in the Deer man ritual. This reveals its great antiquity and the survival of a pagan celebration into modern times.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Thomas Moore - Candle Magick For Love
Charles Baize - Pagan Scriptures
Aleister Crowley - Ritual Viii
Zoroaster - The Chaldean Oracles
Vovim Baghie - The Grand Satanic Ritual