7 Dec 2009

The White Stag

Today on the news, I saw reports of a white stag that has appeared in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This is a creature of rare appearance and mythic symbolism. Among the ancient Celts, the White Stag was viewed as a messenger from the spiritual world and its appearance was thought to portend great change.

Last year, another sighting of a White Stage was reported in the Scottish Highlands.

The pagan folklore of the White Stag was incorporated into Medieval European culture as the unicorn, which is one of the animals on the Scottish coat of arms. 

The newspaper reports also link the White Stag to the legend of the 2nd-century Italian saint, Saint Eustace, but paintings showing the saint's vision, when he saw a cross bearing Christ between the antlers of a stag, like that of the Italian Renaissance painter Pisanello, do not show a White Stag - and it is the colour that is key to the legend of the White Stag.

In Scotland, the legend of the White Stag is particularly strong on the island of Arran, where the sighting of the White Stag is thought to signal the death of the Duke of Arran. The animal is said to appear in order to conduct the duke to the next world. 

Times news story on the White Stag
Daily Mail news story on the White Stag

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