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Deborah Russell

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Legend" of The White Deer
By Deborah Russell
Monday, November 21, 2005

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Lenape Legend

"Legend" Of The White Deer

Let me begin this true story, by saying there is no legend to the Great Spirit and the great White Deer, of the Lenape.

The White Deer is not a story nor legend, but a spiritual truth that has been passed from generation to generation of the Lenape people.

The White Deer, like the White Buffalo of the western First Nation tribes, is a holy spirit. The White Deer is a messenger as true as many holy stories of First Nations people.

These stories, through the fear and need of the white man, to prove First Nations people's beliefs false, have been belittled and ignored as being "folktales", much like the way different religions discount others as dogma, myths or legends.

Many years ago, in the early 70's, while living in Delaware, I often went hunting with my husband. His grandmother, Pollyanna, was from the Sioux, so, naturally, it was "in his blood" to be an avid horseman, bow hunter and trapper.

In the season of bow hunting, in the year 1970, we went scouting, in particular, for the "legendary" White Deer.

For many thousands of years, on what we now refer to as the Delmarva Peninsula, there had been "talk" of the White Deer, not only with the Original peoples, but among the settlers and many generations of mixed bloods, thereafter.

Hunters have told of  having "the same dream" of becoming the one who would capture this magnificent four legged creature. They misinterpret the meaning of their dream, not understanding that the dream is for teaching a life lesson.

Every year, on the Delmarva Peninsula, many bow hunters are in search of the great White Deer that roams through the land near the seasons of hunting.

On this day, I went with great trepidation, in search of this spirit, with my husband but only desired to see this creature, for myself.

I did not wish to bring this spirit harm and was determined, if we were to see this great White Deer, I would persuade my husband to take no aim.

On the hour long drive to the place where the great White Deer had been seen, my husband was intent with retelling the stories of several men (whom we both knew) that had recently seen the White Deer spirit.

He said he had dreamed, the night before, that he would be the one to take this animal as a trophy. He was almost bragging and sounded as if he somehow thought he was "appointed" to do this terrible thing.

He was not an interpreter of dreams, and did not catch the meaning. He was not in touch with the spirit of the White Deer, nor why he was called forth, in the dream. He did not believe the four legged was a holy spirit and messenger.

The lesson is simply this; we came to the edge of the field at the same time of the great White Deer. My husband became silent and nothing was exchanged between him, me and the great White Deer except looks.

The great White Deer did not challenge and showed no fear, but in these precious moments, my husband became a great hunter - a man who now understood he must respect the life of the four legged creatures.

After this encounter, he grew to understand he could no longer take the life of any creature, without making an offering to the Great Spirit

Now I will describe the beauty of the great White Deer. He is larger than the average buck deer, on the Eastern Coast. He has an enormous rack which seems more comparable to the moose. He walks in silence and he walks in dreams.

As he stood, on the edge of the woodland, he looked directly at my husband and directly toward me. He looked back at my husband and held his gaze. His eyes were stern, but not accusing.

When great White Deer was sure my husband understood, he turned back into the woods as quickly and silently, as he had appeared.

This is no miracle; this is no figment of imagination and is not anything for any man to deny.

This is how all Lenape people, (no matter what tribal name) are, from time beginning,  reminded to respect life, through the great spirit of the White Deer.

Deborah Russell, © 2005

Image: North Woodland Girl, D.Russell

Many tribes and indigenous peoples throughout the world, have this same or similar Holy story. It is one story of wisdom, one that is valid and validated as a truth of our great history. Among native people are the following tribes which relate sightings of the great White Deer; Seneca, Chickasaw, Roanoke, Algonquin, Nanticoke and Pocomoke tribes. Curious enough, in Kamakura, Japan, the "legend of the White Deer" relates to a priest, who saw the White Deer in a cave called, "Byakurokudo". (bya-koo-rok-doh)

Although there are many deer which have white markings and there are albino deer, they are not the great White Deer that is described, above. The great White Deer is not a folk tale, although native people, like all cultures, have stories about animals that were told simply for entertainment and mainly for children. These stories usually teach a lesson or have some moral implication. 

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Reviewed by michael murray 3/16/2011
very sweet but dogmatic and pretentious
Reviewed by JMS Bell 3/9/2010
Reviewed by Sally Wood 1/11/2009
Thank You Deborah for your telling of the white deer encounter you and your husband had. I was looking for this information because I have seen an animal such as this.
It was on the edge of a pine forest and was very large, with two dag-like horns standing about a foot to 16 inches high. And it looked at me directly, seemingly unafraid. As I looked at it, amazed the whole time, it gradually turned and went into the pines. I have never seen anything like it and wondered about it. I often see more than most people because I am more receptive and observant when out in the woods. But this was special, and I knew it. And I have been wondering at the significance of this event. Some of which I understand, but am as yet still curious. It was a little over two years ago.
While this could have been an albino deer, it doesn't really matter. It was so large as to be unusual, as was it's presence. It was grand, mythical. These are two words I would use to describe it. And yet when I read your acount, I could see similarities.
I have always loved and valued animals, but it is almost so difficult to do in our culture nowadays. And yet, I gained from reading your message based on your intuition of what the experience was saying to you.
Reviewed by Nordette Adams 12/20/2005
Thank you for this piece, Deborah. Your clean writing style intensifies the illuminating qualities of this story. You've imparted spiritual, sociological, and historical knowledge. And as always, I enjoy seeing your artwork. :-)

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