Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reindeer Goddess, Axis Mundi & Axis Shifts

This image is of a Scythian reindeer pole, representing the Goddess as Earth's Axis and the World Tree. It is part of the archeological finds in the Pazyryk Valley of Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains of Southwestern Siberia, Russia. The finds were dated 6th-3rd century BCE. The mummies at this site were c tattooed with images of reindeer. Click here to visit the site this image came from.

On the night before the tragic Sumatra Quake in December 2004, I had a wild dream encounter:

I am facing a goddess. She is half human , half reindeer. She is a mixture of skin, fur and hair. She has enormous antlers. She is very powerful. She is flinging my body around, like a lasso, holding it by the hair. My body's orbit stays the same, until she shifts it slightly, subtly. Then my body's orbit changes. I just know somehow, that she is Reindeer Woman.

When I got up that morning I saw what had happen during the night. Sumatra had an unprecedented quake, with ensuing destructive tsunamis.

Earlier in the week, My husband and I were out running errands. Suddenly , my left ear had a long, sustained ringing and I had simultaneous visions of destruction and flooding. I knew many would die. This was one of my first encounters with this type of visionary experience. I was disoriented and my husband had to hold me up until it was over. I told him what I was witnessing. I felt horrified. I knew it would happen in 3 days time, but not where it would happen.

Then came the above dream. I had no idea who Reindeer Woman was. I did correlate my body in the dream with the Earth. I mention in my profile that I have a complex of autoimmune diseases. I had, long ago, come to a conclusion: the illness of my body is somehow directly linked to humanity's damage of our environment and that my condition was a mirror of a larger issue regarding the whole planet. Consequently, in the above mentioned dream, my body was the Earth. But who was this powerful goddess?

Many days after the horrific event in Sumatra, scientists announced that the earth's axis had shifted.This quake was the 2nd strongest ever recorded and the Earth continued to oscillate for four months after the initial event. When reading about the Sumatra quake causing a shift of the Earth's axis, I realized that Reindeer Woman was somehow link the axis. I did some library and internet research, but found nothing regarding a reindeer goddess and the axis of the earth. At the time, the only material I could find on reindeer goddesses was Linda Schierse Leonard's book Creations Heartbeat: Following the Reindeer Spirit. Leonard feels the reindeer is an excellent motif representing the re-emergence of the Goddess.

On February 24th, 2010 my husband and I were in a thrift store. There was a rather dog-eared, hard covered novel on a shelf. I noticed there was a sketch of a rock with a pictograph of an antlered woman on the cover.(I can't remember the title!) I handed the book to Larry and said; "The last time I saw reindeer woman, the Earth's axis shifted." He knew that I was talking about the Sumatra quake. He asked me if I wanted the book. I said no.... I didn't feel very well and the store was very busy. I needed to leave. I didn't dream about "Reindeer Woman" that night, but I did have a difficult experience the following night, as described here.

On February 25th, Chile had an 8.8 earthquake off the coast of the Maule Region, with tsunami warnings issued for the Pacific Rim. On March 1st, scientists declared that the quake caused another axis shift. My heart sank when I realized the significance of coming across the image of the reindeer woman yet again. Now, I was determined to find the connection between this image, and the Earth's axis.

I discovered the research of art historian Esther Jacobson. In her book The Deer-Goddess of Ancient Siberia: A Study in the Ecology of Belief, she documents the transformation of the image of the pre-shamanic, neolithic reindeer goddess as Axis Mundi (world tree), through time and history. The qualities Jacobson linked the reindeer goddess to Included: (Jacobson/1997)
* deer mother as tree of life
* source and end of each clan's lineage
* beginnings endings regeneration
* her sacred places include heavenly bodies,rivers, mountains ((Jacobson/1997)

According to the Global Action Network, reindeer were domesticated as early as 7000 years ago, before the horse was domesticated. The reindeer is the only species where the antlers are larger on the female and she is the leader of the pack, making this image of the Great Mother Goddess par excellence.

Her image has been traced repeatedly on stones, in caves and among standing stones. Originally she was portrayed as the axis of the Earth, with her tradition being rooted in an ancient identification with cosmogenesis. Her images were dynamic, in motion, half human into reindeer with the antlers morphing into birds & griffins reaching toward the sky. She was often portrayed with a mirror, representing the concepts that Earth is a mirror of the Heavenly, and the afterlife a mirror of earthly life (in reverse). Her morphing form with antler branches represent the whole Tree of Life. She has been found tattooed on the mummies of the Pazyryk Valley.

Jacobson's work also shows where the tension between the sexes began, in the Iron age. This is shown through the progression of the images of the deer-goddess on rocks and in caves. As time went on, the reindeer goddess image degenerated into a cult object. Then she was replaced by male shamans, who wore her skin. Drums made from her skin replaced the rhythm of the riding of the reindeer. She went from Lady Owner of the Universe to a guide between the living and the dead.

I also found remnants of the reindeer goddess in the history of the Bo and Bon traditions, the shamanic roots of Tibetan Buddhism. In this tradition the pole star was called the deer star, long before it was connected to the image of the bear.(Ermacov/ 2008). We see this reflected in the goddess Artemis whose name comes from an Indo-European word for bear, yet she is pictured with a deer and a lion.

Reindeer Goddess is so ancient that she has very few written names. Herodotus writes that the primary deity among the Scythians was the deer-goddess Tabiti. Among the Evenki people of today she is called Bugady Enntyn and her title is "Lady Owner of the Universe." There are traces of the deer-goddess in the Scottish Highlands in the ancient tradition of the Calleach, wise-woman.

How does a modern person come to be connected with ancient primal deities? Why did a neolithic Reindeer Goddess show up in my dreamscape? More specifically, why did she assert herself into my consciousness twice, before an axis shift? Jungians, pagans, Sufis, Kabbalists all believe in the "return of the the goddess". It seems to me, she never left. I am going to make a more conscious effort to connect with Her.

UPDATE: 11/17/2010 Please read my latest blog post: Following Reindeer Woman: Pazyryk Preistess & Deer Artifacts


  1. Awesome. You really tapped into something, d. I think jung would call it the collective unconscious, particularly because the reindeer image is so ancient. Would love to use this, perhaps as a 3rd installment of the planetary empath idea. This is powerful.

  2. Trish & Rob,

    Thanks for the insight. Please use it. I have this very deep feeling that she isn't done with me yet. I wonder if others have had similar experiences with this deity?
    And who knew? Before Santa was a shaman, he was a Goddess!

  3. Thanks, d. I think we'll shorten it somewhat, but put up a link to your blog so others can read it in its entirety.!

  4. D -- we should chat. I'm writing a book about the connections between our bodies and the Earth and I am very interested in hearing more about your story. Love the blog, by the way.

  5. Hi D, The Scythians were such a great people. I think we hear way too little of them these days. The funny thing about the Buddha is that he was also a Scythian, which is a very little known fact. People are so quick to associate him as an Indian, but for anyone that has actually read the Nikayas,they quickly realize the Scythians were very different from those that inhabited India at the time. The Scythians were more or less feared and revered, a very good humored and playful bunch of people, practically fearless. By their very nature they were Kshtriyas of the highest order.

  6. After my search on the Internet to the power animal deer, I came here. all years I dream of the deer, it is my personal power animal and I have a shaman drum with deer skin. The last week I dream about her more and feel a deep connection. And how bizarre, very unusual for earthquakes here, but last week it (by natural gas extraction) occurred, a small earthquake Also i feel a connection with all that is on earth, the big difference between rich and poor, suffering and happiness. Wanted to know more about the deer and came to visit you. what an amazing story. thought about for a while to pazyrijk deer to tattooing, but the picture above speaks to me even more. love from the Netherlands, Suuz
    (sorry for the English, with a lot of help from google translate)

  7. Thank you for this information and sharing your personal experience. I am just learning about the reindeer and deer goddess and appreciate what you have posted.