Brittany Kleinschnitz '13
Female deer do not normally produce antlers,
aside from reindeer or caribou.
The head - bare between the ears
and rounded, the flesh taut and
flat to skull - feminine,
and thus a lack of congenital weaponry.
So when she is found walking in fall,
between pines, a belly full,
they call her doe with skepticism, they
look at her branched antlers covered with velvet,
17 cm. high and bearing three points,
and say No woman here.
Artemis, Greek goddess of wilderness,
childbirth and virginity - a mother of the hunt and
simultaneous protector - her chariot is drawn by
four deer. The fifth, Kerynean, roams free and
cannot be captured.
When Agamemnon steals the life of a stag in
a forest dedicated to Artemis, the goddess snuffs out
the wind on the seas in Greece. For the wind’s
return she demands sacrifice as reparation in the
form of Iphigeneia, the king’s daughter. Yet, before
the youth could be slaughtered, the good mother
Artemis snatches her body up from the altar and
deposits a deer in its place.
who steals your motherhood?
Internally, too, she is horned and heart shaped.
There is a baby in the bicornuate,
the fertile cornucopia filled with a certain fruit,
the horns of which ended blindly.
No one before has told her that she cannot bear young.
Native American lore (that of the Cherokee,
the Muskogee, the Seminole, the Choctaw) calls the
deer a shape-shifter. “Deer Woman”, a spirit that
moves and morphs between forms at will from deer
to woman and back again. She is a teacher of
sexuality, fertility, and maturation.
When a man comes upon this spirit, she
appears to be the most beautiful woman he has ever
seen, his desire for a body contoured, lean and soft.
She lures him with movement and her sex, the chase,
towards the cover of trees, gives him a moment of
ecstasy before driving his head into dirt with strong
hooves, their edges sharp and cloven.
I see her move and I match stride through the thick
of dripping pines.
The curve of her body bulging with young,
and pumping blood.
Her spindly legs skipping beats, wobbling.
See me horned and heart shaped, too, internally.
I have branched antlers
where others are bare and rounded.
A bent and empty cornucopia,
for this body is not as lithe as hers,
and not nearly as strong
In the Celtic tradition, the deer is a symbol of
femininity. They believed them to be faeries, a
shape-shifter as well, changing from deer to woman
in order to protect her fellow females from being
hunted by men.
Celtic warrior, Finn, fell in love with and
married the goddess Sadb to allow her a human
form after a druid had turned her into a deer. Upon
returning from battle one day, Finn finds that Sadb
is missing and searches for her for seven years. Time
passes, and while out hunting, Finn comes upon a
boy. He is naked and his hair is long. The boy says
that he lives in the woods with his mother, a gentle
doe. Finn realizes he has found his love, and that she
had given birth to a human child, his child, and dubs
him Oisin, meaning “little fawn”.
What women are we, how masculine,
what organically malformed beauty is hidden beneath velvet skin?
In the heat of a sunbeam
she paws the dirt, upturning stones,
and grunts like a stag.
Rubbing soft clothed antlers impatiently on a tree,
the bark crumbling, she bends at the knees as woven wicker
and I move to sit parallel,
cross-legged. Her body shifts from beneath its weight
and the stomach rests, balanced
on a bed of moss and leaves.
Brittany Kleinschnitz is a junior and studies Visual Arts, with a focus in photography and printmaking, and Literature.