May you witness
a growing trust
in the guidance around you.
May you allow magic to find you
where you are.
Seven years ago, I did a drum-guided meditation in which I journeyed deep into the forest. On my head as I walked, antlers grew, curving above me. As I followed the sound of drums and the glimmer of firelight, I kept raising my hand to check to see if they were still there, firm beneath my hand. I reached the fire and met the Goddess there, she reached up and took the antlers off my head and cast them into the flames, where they twisted and glowed until they became a golden ring, which she removed and placed on my finger, antlers now wrapped around my index finger. In waking life, I scoured etsy and two years later located a bronze antler ring extremely similar to my vision, which I bought and placed on my own finger in the woods as a symbol of my earth based path, my priestess vows, and some kind of unspoken dedication, felt within but not able to be fully verbalized at the time.
I live in Missouri where the white-tailed deer are plentiful, clattering across the rivers, grazing in fields, wandering through the berry bushes, stepping across stones behind my house. Each year the bucks grow antlers, becoming broader and more branched with age. Each year in the fall, the woods begin to ring with gunshots as hunting season begins. I don my orange vest and skirt anxiously along roadways instead of through the trees, lest an errant bullet catch me as I walk. Sometimes I feel like the alarm of the deer is palpable in the air, their resting places and grazing areas suddenly fraught with peril as pickup trucks and men with guns follow them home. In the winter, the antlered deer who survive hunting season drop their antlers, somewhere in the wilds of the woodlands and fields. And, I want to find one. I can see it in my mind’s-eye, white-brown and curving, lying in the leaves. In non-hunting season months in winter, spring, and fall, my husband and I roam through the woods, valleys, and hills, keeping our eyes peeled for an antler. He finds one four years ago, one tine nibbled thin by rat’s teeth, as I stop too soon to look at a black snake in the leaves, but so far that is our only find.
Two years ago, I began an intense walk of devotion with the Goddess Persephone. As I worked and wrote and learned from her, the finding of an antler continued to recur to me, knowing that when I find one it will signal the end of something and the beginning of something new. After I finished my book, I was certain I would find the antler, positive that it was waiting for me as a sign of completion, but instead a live deer, a brown eyed doe watching me from the road is what led the way into the next story.
This year, I look again, faithfully, almost every day. I circle the pond and traverse the fields, follow deer hoof prints through the snow and in the mud, pluck tufts of fur from fence lines and place my feet hoof-by-hoof in the marks they leave as they pass through the fields and forests. Finally, I say, I’m letting go. The world doesn’t owe me an antler. I open my hands in a gesture of surrender saying: it’s okay if I never find one, I release my attachment, I’m okay without one. And, I feel a knowing sweep through me with certainty. I might never find an antler and I accept that, I may just not be meant to find one after all. About thirty minutes after I speak, my husband and I start up the field towards home, moving through the golden bluestem grasses when a jawbone catches our eyes ahead of us. In front of it, something else rests and we both become quiet, silently approaching until we look down to see two antlers there, still joined to a partial skull, a disconcerting and macabre tuft of brown fur still jutting from the temple. The antlers are those of a roughly 1.5 year old buck, slender and barely pointed into two spikes each. We feel strange staring at them, a sense of glee and disbelief at having found something at long last, a sense of sadness that they have come from the death of this deer, rather than the naturally shed ones that we’d hoped to find.
Two days later, we walk again this time along the riverside and bluffs on my parents’ neighboring land. We discover two legs in our path, the separated jointed limbs of another deer. We follow our line of sight past the legs and down the slope where by the creek’s edge another skeleton rests, this one still trailing bits of fur and sinew, skull looking a bit mummified in the late afternoon light. Two antlers crest the skull, four pointed and lovely. Again, we feel that mingled sense of excitement and distress. This is not what we expected to find, but I remember what I thought about the slender pair from earlier in the week: you have to look at the story that is being written right in front of you, not at the one you thought you’d see. In fact, looking too hard for the “right story” can blind you to the enchantment unfolding right before your eyes, right beneath your feet. We continue to walk, past the skeleton and across the stream into the woods on the opposite side, where I see deer grazing from time to time. The sun is setting and the sky has dimmed to peachy-gray. I am telling my husband about the hawks I watched in the woods this morning, a nesting pair carrying supplies back and forth between the trees, when something curved and white-brown catches my eye some distance away. I know immediately what it is and I actually run to it, lifting it from where its root is partially embedded in the earth. The antler. My antler. The one I thought I’d find and then accepted that I wouldn’t. The one I’ve seen in my mind’s eye for seven years. It is suddenly in my hands. I am stunned to see it, to feel its solid weight and how it rests perfectly against my palm.
And, now, as I sit there in the woods, holding my precious antler in front of my face, smelling its faint hint of calcium and dirt, I feel a sensation of completion, the “graduation” ceremony of something that began with a flickering firelight meditation seven years ago. I am, in fact, embarking on a new chapter, antlers in my hands.
We are here right now,
just this minute.
We might as well marvel.
We might as well dance.
We might as well love as wildly
as we can.
Molly Remer’s newest prayerbook, Whole and Holy: a Goddess Devotional was published in November. Molly has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and more at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, Sunlight on Cedar, the Goddess Devotional, She Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, Feminism and Religion, and Sage Woman Magazine.