Thursday, November 15, 2007


Myths, folklore, and symbolism
Stag: In Paleolithic caves there are representations of stags and of people garbed as stags, which probably served cult purposes. The stag was an animal revered worldwide. Because of its annually renewed large antlers, it was compared in many cultures and epochs to the tree of life. It was also a symbol of fertility and of waxing and waning. Moreover, because of their form and the blood-red color of the cuticle sloughed off in the spring, the antlers were a symbol to many people of rays of light and of fire; the stag was therefore viewed as a solar animal or as an intermediary between heaven and earth.

In Buddhism the golden stag (along with the gazelle) symbolizes wisdom and asceticism. The solar aspect of the stag was sometimes interpreted in China in a negative sense, that is, as a symbol of drought and sterility. In antiquity, the stag and the doe were animals sacred to Artemis; the battle between the stag and other animals symbolized the battle between light and darkness. The stag occurs in antiquity and among the Celts as psychopomp. The stag was also seen in antiquity as the enemy and slayer of serpents. This idea, mediated by Physiologus, also appeared in medieval Christian art. The identification of the stag with Christ (who treads on the serpent's, i.e., Satan's, head) is based on this and other associations. The legends of St. Eustachius and St. Hubert, for example, report the appearance of a stag who bore the crucified Christ between his antlers. In Christian art the stag is also depicted in association with the water of life (with reference to Psalm 42).

Occasionally the stag is a symbol of melancholy, since it loves solitude. Because of its striking behavior when in heat, it also functions as a symbol of masculine sexual passion. (Herder)

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