In past articles, I had mention about learning local native lore while growing up in Northern Ontario. Most of the legends and myths I first heard about were told by my friend’s grandfather who was knowledgeable in many aboriginal oral traditions. The times when I was over visiting, we would gather in garage and listen to some ancient tales. I became aware of the stories of the windigo, the monster bear, Sasquatch, the flying head along with many others. One myth I wish to share in this article, which was almost forgotten, is the tale of the Deer Woman or Deer Lady.
According to native legend, the Deer Woman is a shape-shifting spirit that wonders deep within the forest. She is described as having the upper body of a human female while the lower part is of white-tale deer. Some stories say she appears as an old woman while others tell of a young maiden with unnatural beauty. If one was to encounter a Deer Lady, she would be dancing or chanting in the woods, wearing a ceremonial dress or in some accounts in the nude. In the lore, if one was to look at her feet her true supernatural form will be exposed, as the feet would be shaped as deer hooves.
There are variations in the lore to what happens if one was to encounter a Deer Woman. In some stories, she represents a change to occur or a sign of self grow, while others paint a darker picture. The Deer Woman would appear to men in the woods to seduce or enchanted them to follow them deeper into the forest. Once secluded, she reveals her true form and stomps her victim to death. There are some tales where the Deer Lady had made her male prey into a meal. In most native legends, the Deer Woman is often portrayed as a monster seeking to tramped incautious people to death.
In research this legend, I found there are many aboriginal lore about the appearance, lessons and warnings of Deer Women. I have referenced a few accounts of early European settlers who stumble upon nude native women who would disappeared off into the woods and if followed only a deer would be found. The legend seems to be alive even to this day, as indicated by posts on the Internet of men from numerous aboriginal communities reporting to seen a Deer Woman while hunting or camping.
Poole, Schoot. Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsessions with the Hideous and the Haunted. Baylore University Press. USA: 2011.