Monday, February 11, 2008

Rare White Stag

A rare white stag has been observed on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. The animal has been seen with other red deer by a member of the John Muir Trust, which has kept its location a secret to protect it from poachers. The white stag, an animal of such rarity that it was revered by the ancient Celts as a messenger from the afterlife, has been seen on the west coast of Scotland. The animal was spotted during a recent field trip by Fran Lockhard, the partnership manager with the John Muir Trust, who photographed and filmed the white stag.

"It was amazing to crawl up so close to such a magnificent looking animal," she said. "He looked almost ghost-like next to the group of young red stags that he was mixing with. I am thrilled to know that there is a white stag roaming free out there in the Scottish Highlands. We will be watching this animal with interest, particularly as he will be reaching his full potential in the next couple of years."

White deer are potent figures in the mythology of many cultures. Celts considered them to be messengers from the otherworld. They are closely identified with unicorns and their appearance is said to herald some profound change in the lives of those who encounter them. It is like a ghost fleeting among the heather, a beast of myth whose precise location must be protected from those who would do him harm. In Arthurian legend, the white stag is a creature that can never be caught and King Arthur's unsuccessful pursuit of it represents mankind's quest for spiritual knowledge.

The pursuit of creatures that can never be caught is a recurring theme in mythology. King Arthur attempts to capture a white stag on more than one occasion, and is always eluded. The white stag is a true faerie-beast, and represents mankind's quest for spiritual knowledge. In his book The White Goddess, Robert Graves asks “how many kings in how many fairy tales have not chased this beast through enchanted forests and been cheated of their quarry?” The white stag keeps the wisdom we seek from us, for we are not ready to know his secrets. By vanishing into the forest (a gateway to Annwn), the white stag reminds us that until we accept the existence of the unseen and unknown, we will not find the answers to our questions. And so the white stag comes to symbolize something new: our renewed spirit of adventure. As we follow him along our life-path, we should consider the quests of the Arthurian knights, and remember that the path we follow is as important as our destination. The things we see along the way are all part of the adventure.

Galtisant the Questing Beast is perhaps the most extraordinary creature to appear in the Arthurian myths. Galtisant was a chimaera or monster in the truest sense, for it had a serpent's head, a leopard's body, a lion's hindquarters and a stag's hooves. In the tales, Galtisant is pursued vainly by Pellinore, and the knight fails to realise that his prey, like the white stag, is a faerie-being which can never be caught. Yet there are some within the tales who have some degree of control or influence over the animals of Annwn. Merlin's great black horse rides freely through the middle of battlefields without receiving a single wound. During the quest to free Mabon (the Celtic god Maponos), Arthur's interpreter Gwrhyr spoke with the ouzel (blackbird), stag, owl, eagle and salmon. The tale represents the release of the young god from an underworld prison, and it is the wisdom of these sacred Celtic animals which allows Arthur to complete his quest.

Lugh Ireland, a sun god of all crafts and arts, healing, journeys, prophecy. Son of Cian, a Tuatha De Danann. Of legend, his skills were without end; in Ireland he was associated with ravens; and a white stag as his symbol in Wales. He had a magic spear and otherworldly hounds. His festival was Lughnassadh, or Lunasa - August 1.