Herne the Hunter
In my final year at University, during our final exams in May, my classmates and I spent an afternoon in the hills above Balmoral castle in Deeside, Scotland. The others wanted to climb Lochnavar, but I was tired and walked up the hillside and lay down among the heather. I fell asleep, and woke some time later to strange sounds. Cracking open an eye, I found I was surrounded by a herd of red deer. I lay very still and watched as they munched and nibbled the young heather shoots and coarse grass. It took about an hour for the herd to make its way round me and down the hill.
On another occasion, at the start of a job in a First Nations College in Manitoba, Canada, I took part in a community fast. We spent 3 days alone, each in our own tent, in the bush. On the third night I heard sounds of “someone” walking near the tent. At first I was afraid, but summoning courage, looked out to see two white-tailed deer grazing near the tent. They stayed about two hours before moving on. During that time I remembered in First Nation’s traditions the deer teaches about gentleness and protection. I also recalled from my Scottish-Celtic background that Herne the Hunter, or Cerunnos, is a spirit, part human, part deer, who inhabits the Great Forest. Every year, Herne led the hunt to chase evil out of the world.
Because of these two experiences, I feel a strong connection with deer – so this is my “inner animal”. The deer figure in my fabric panel is based on a stone age cave drawing from France.