Every spoke on the Wheel of the Year has its own signature. The eight Sabbats, for me, aren’t so much about altar decorations, crafts, and elaborate rituals. I like all of those things, but my work is highly personal and internal. It’s more about what I’m going through at the time as an excavator and explorer of my own heart. I look at what the overarching themes of a Sabbat are teaching me about my life and how I can work with them to learn and grow as a human being, not just as a witch and practitioner of the magickal arts. As Winter Solstice 2017 approaches, I felt drawn to images and stories of the Deer Mother more than anything else.
The northern tribes in the Neolithic era depended on reindeer for survival, so the female reindeer took on greater significance as a life-sustainer and benevolent mother. Over time, the Deer Mother came to be associated with Winter Solstice, inspiring tales and legends all across the Nordic lands and into the British Isles. (This article goes into greater detail on how the Deer Mother has been honored, celebrated, and deified).
My analytical Virgo brain wanted to read every book and article I could find, but I know from past experience that the best way to connect with any deity is to simply do that—connect. I resisted the urge to research the subject ad nauseam this time, and I dropped into a shamanic journey instead. I wanted to meet the Deer Mother as she is, without too many preconceived notions about her.
I began as I always do, following the binaural beat of the drum, entering the Lower World through the base of an enormous tree, following the spiraling staircase down, and then out through another door into whatever awaits me. I found myself at the edge of a forest with snow that had melted enough to reveal patches of leaves and undergrowth. I called to the Deer Mother:
Ancient One, Antlered One,
Guardian of the Ways,
Show me the path
my soul truly longs to follow.
May I feel hope again
as the days grow longer.
Guide my way home
when I cannot see the trail.
I follow you, Deer Mother,
I follow you.
She approached me at first in her reindeer form and then shapeshifted into a woman’s body with antlers still attached. Then she took me to a place in the forest where many paths diverged. Some appeared to be safe, linear, and predictable routes. Others looked a bit ominous with many twists, turns, and obstacles. It was impossible to see where any of them led. How can I choose, Ancient One?
She changed my field of vision so that I could only see two paths—one that was straight and unobstructed, and another that ran along beside it, winding and intersecting with it at various points.
This is your logical mind and your wild heart, she told me. The places where they intersect are the people and circumstances that wake you up, change your perspective, and help your soul evolve. There are no wrong paths, but this is how yours will always be. It is not just one path for you, but two that constantly intertwine.
She is right, of course. I have laid out many carefully constructed plans in my life, only to toss them aside while my heart took me down a side trail that eventually looped back to the main one. Those loops weren’t always fun, but they are where the most growth happened. I’m not sure where I would be without them, or where I would be going without more of them to explore in the future.
I thanked the Deer Mother for her wisdom, left an offering for her, and returned through the spiral again to the ordinary world, feeling a little more sure-footed on the paths I walk.