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Deer Symbolism (Encounters, Dreams, Folklore)

You can find deer on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. They are social animals with great survival instincts and the only group of animals with antlers. Deer symbolism involves their polarizing characteristics of being strong protectors as well as gentle and graceful creatures. Most people associate them with loving qualities, new beginnings, and a reminder to be kind to yourself. 

Deer have various symbolism in spirituality, superstition, and folklore. For instance, encountering a deer in the wild is believed to be a good omen and a sign you can overcome difficult situations. In this article, we’ll also go into detail about what deer mean in dreams, as power animals, in Greek mythology, and more. 

What does a deer symbolize?

Whether you’re seeing them in real life or they visit you in a dream, deer offer various symbols. Read on to learn more, including how deer are represented spiritually, in folklore, on totems, and in different cultures. 

We broke this down into several of the main categories where we felt deer had significant meaning or symbolism in people’s lives.

Dreams about deer

​​There are many interpretations of what dreams about deer symbolizes. It differs depending on how the deer is acting in your dream to the color deer you see. Find out more information below on messages you are receiving about different types of deer dreams. 

Feeding a deer in your dream

Feeding a deer in your dream represents your compassion. It is a message you need to help others heal their emotional pain or represent your desire to share your wealth among people you love. 

Dreams of deer antlers

Dreaming of deer antlers symbolizes a new phase in your life. It is a reminder to stay connected, spiritually aware, and keep moving forward to avoid becoming stagnant. 

Dreams about turning into a deer

Becoming a deer in your dream symbolizes a need to adopt their qualities. It represents innocence and trust and encourages you to live your life being honest to yourself with self-respect and integrity. 

Deer hunting dreams

If you dream that you are hunting or killing a dear, it can symbolize your need to express your emotions or be honest. Holding emotions in can throw you off balance or prevent you from moving forward in life or in a relationship. 

Dreams of being chased by a deer

Dreams of being chased by a deer represent the fear you have of most things in life, even if you are willing to take risks. If you feel frightened in the dream, it can symbolize your fear of making mistakes and represent a desire of never doing anything wrong. 

Dreams of dead deer

Death isn’t always a bad sign, since it is a natural part of life and also represents renewal. Leaving the old behind to step into the new. Dreaming of a dead dear can represent something you need to give up to move forward in life. It can also warn of a change in a relationship or represent the end of a relationship. 

Deer symbolism by color

Real-life deer have varying colors, so there’s little surprise you can dream of deer with different colors. From reddish-brown to light brown or white accents. General dream interpretations of deer by the color you see include:

  • Albino deer: represents purity and a connection with your intuition, divinity, and spiritual side
  • Brown deer: symbolize earth and fertility as well as goals of finding peace and happiness and being more aware of your surroundings
  • Black deer: represents shadows preventing you from moving forward and provides guidance to push through
  • Golden deer: symbolizes the positive consequences of seeking knowledge or your true goals as well as potential danger hidden in your future
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Visits or encounters by deer

Encountering a deer can fill you with warmth, peace, and compassion since deer symbolize kindness, gentleness, and renewal. When a deer approaches you it means you are vibrating at a nurturing, gentle, and honest energy. Deer often run from people, so one that is not scared of you reflects that they are attracted to the qualities you have similar to them. They sense your big heart and kindness. 

Deer face many obstacles as prey to other animals and hunters. However, they still manage to survive their conditions and use their instincts to stay safe. If you encounter a deer staring at you, it symbolizes that you can tackle difficult situations and achieve your goals. It is also a sign to have self-respect and dignity.   

Seeing a baby deer, or fawn, symbolizes innocence and reminds you to connect with your inner child. Fawns also represent someone or something entering your life and that important changes are about to take place. Just like how the fawn will become wiser and develop survival instincts, you are also maturing and growing smarter in your life. 

Superstitions and folklore

Deer hunters have various superstitions before they go hunting during deer season. Whether it’s putting their left boot on first, wearing the same hat every season, or loading their gun a certain way. One person even explained they would carry only five shells in their gun. Another person doesn’t shave all season until he gets his deer. Most believe that if they don’t follow these rituals they won’t see a deer when they go out hunting. 

Superstitious beliefs around deer have also been passed down through folklore. For example, many Scottish legends believe deer are associated with faeries because of their graceful fae-like qualities.

They believed that killing a deer would trigger the faeries to torment the hunter. One story from the Isle of Mull talks about a deer hunter named Big Hugh. After killing a deer, Big Hugh was carrying it home.

His friend asked if the deer was heavy, and he said yes. His friend then stuck a penknife into the deer and Big Hugh found the deer became much lighter. This is because the faeries put on the extra weight, and the penknife reduced the effects by countering the magic.

There is also a Cherokee legend describing how the deer got its antlers. The forest animals wanted to know if the rabbit or deer was faster, so the two animals raced each other.

However, the rabbit cheated before the race, so the deer won the race and its antlers. There are plenty of other Native American legends involving deer, including:

  • A Yokut Indian story about why the deer live in the brush 
  • The Meesink story about the deer as a supernatural protector
  • Stories about the deadly spirit called the Deer Woman
  • A story about the difference between antelopes and deer 

In Tibet, there is a legend where deer help men solve problems. In contrast, Meso-American folklore is known to portray deer as being a fool. For example, a story from the Quiche Maya book talks about the Hero Twins finding a deer nibbling corn in their garden, so they grab it by its tail.

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Spiritual meaning of deer

Deer carry various spiritual symbolism in different cultures. Their sensitivity to their surroundings and ability to sense vibrations in the air creates a belief they are vehicles for angelic messages.

Their antlers that grow beyond the body like a crown are close to the skies and God. This characteristic embodies the symbols of authority and sacredness. Antlers also regrow again after falling off, symbolizing regeneration. Additionally, the deer’s speed and behaviors represent grace, quickness, stamina, and gentleness. They are a reminder to be gentle with ourselves and others. 

In Christianity, the deer commonly symbolizes God taking care of his children and a sense of devotion. The deer makes a significant appearance in the legend of Saint Eustace. Before becoming a saint, he was a Roman general named Placido who was out hunting and came across a deer.

Looking into the deer’s eyes, Placido saw the light of Christ shine through the deer and heard the voice of God. He then gave up hunting, became a Christian, and, after his death, was elevated to sainthood. 

People often get a deer tattoo to represent a message from God. It’s a spiritual reminder that God is watching over you and you are worthy of His love. 

Spirit animals, power animals, and totems

When a deer spirit animal enters your life, it symbolizes you are a compassionate, loving, and gentle person. They will help you overcome challenges and teach you to be kind and at peace. Deer spirit animals also help you express unconditional love. 

These animals are constantly aware of their surroundings – ready and alert. If a deer comes to you as a power animal, it represents you should be on guard and aware of potential dangers. Be mindful of your surroundings and alert to any situation. You should also embrace their grace and kindness by being gentle, calm, and listen to your intuition. 

Deer are woodland animals connected to the earth and the roots of their habitat. They also remind you to get back to nature, slow down, explore your surroundings, and connect with yourself. By developing a better relationship with yourself, you can create more meaningful connections with others. 

As totem animals, deer represented intuition, sensitivity, and gentleness. Deer combine both strength and soft qualities, allowing you to move through obstacles with grace.

With a deer as your totem, you are able to touch the hearts of others and give them comfort during difficult times. You bring about a freshness in situations and are highly attracted to new experiences and adventures. The deer totem also represents innocence and being in touch with your inner child and the sensitivities that let you tap into your intuition.  

Native American deer symbolism

Native American tribes saw the deer as a powerful animal and messenger. A deer was often tattooed on a tribe member’s thighs to show he had been made a chief and warrior. In this sense, deer tattoos represented leadership and bravery but with a gentle touch of solving issues with love instead of hate.

Deer also symbolize abundance and protection from harm. Native Americans have hunted deer over the centuries, using their meat for food and skin for clothing.

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The spirit of the deer is connected to the beginning of a hunt and represents a fruitful hunt and abundance as a result. There are also various Native American deer spirits and gods. For example, the Hopi have Sowi-ingwu, the Cherokee have Awi Usdi, and various tribes believe in the Deer Woman spirit. 

Greek mythology

Deer are strongly associated with the virginal huntress Artemis in Greek mythology. Daughter of Zeus and Leto, Artemis was known to hunt deer and bathe in her sacred pool in the woods. She is also associated with using deer to pull her golden chariot and having a giant doe with golden antlers. 

One story describes how a hunter Actaeon, once saw Artemis bathing in her pool. Artemis threw droplets from the sacred pool into the hunter’s face and he began to sprout antlers before transforming into a deer.

Actaeon’s hounds then hunted and devoured their master, not recognizing it was him. A story that explains no human should ever watch Artemis bathe, even accidentally. 

Deer and good luck

Yes, seeing a deer is considered a good omen and brings good luck. Similar to how deer overcome dangerous situations in the wild, seeing a deer represents that you will have good fortune in upcoming events. For example, if you are struggling financially, seeing a deer could be a sign your financial issues will soon end. 

Deer are also peaceful and gentle creatures and bring good luck with the reminder to keep your heart open, be honest, relax, and enjoy your life. By following these messages that the deer represents, you are more likely to receive good fortune as a result. Just like how deer shed their antlers and regrow them, seeing a deer can also symbolize a new beginning or positive chapter in your life. 

Having said this, seeing a dead deer has mixed meanings in different cultures. Some people see dead deer as a sign that you are leaving burdens or dark ghosts in your past.

Turning a new page for new beginnings and potentially having to leave something behind to grow spiritually. However, in African culture, a dead deer is a bad omen that bad times are approaching. 


Conclusion

Overall, the symbolism of deer is generally positive. They represent gracefulness, kindness, compassion, unconditional love, survival, and strength. Deer are also considered a good omen or warning to be aware of your surroundings.

For example, dreaming about turning into a deer encourages you to be honest with yourself and have self-respect. Now that you know the various symbolism of deer in folklore, spirituality, and dreams, you will better understand what messages are entering your life when you see a deer.

About Patricia Greene

Patricia is a wildlife enthusiast that loves traveling and learning about wildlife all over North America and the world. Aside from being writer for Wildlife Informer, she's an avid bird watcher as well as the owner of several pet reptiles. She enjoys visiting national parks and seeing new sights in her free time.