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Sacred Deer Net

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

At the dawn of time, in the cold, endless forest of coastal British Columbia, there was a tribe who called itself the People.


In the long house, gods gathered just under the roof, their spectral forms floating in the thick swirls of smoke. The chant of an old chief had called them, even Crooked Beak, the most fearsome god of all.

The People were terrified. Snow had never come this early. Or been this deep. Crooked Beak’s fury had driven the People’s fishers off the great water. In his rage, the god had ripped five of them from their canoes. Now, the People’s hunters must earn the dark god’s favor, or his killing winter would take everyone.

The People's ritual Sacred Deer Net gourd

Cave Lion felt the slow, pounding beat of the huge drums pass through his body. The rhythmic shake of the chiefs’ Raven rattles filled the long house with a dry, dead rustle that made his skin twitch. He knew with all his being that Crooked Beak’s vicious spite would sieze on any mistake in the coming ritual. Then the People would be lost.

When the old chief fell silent, Cave Lion stood and faced his fellow hunters. In a clear, strong voice, he began his own chant. Turning in a slow circle, he held out the Sacred Deer Net for all to see.

Everyone knew that only this ritual and the net’s magical power remained to save them. This night held their one hope to live through Crooked Beak’s cruel, frozen whiteness.

In mortal fear for their tribe, Cave Lion and Red Buck began the Hunt Dance. Six times, Red Buck slipped past the outstretched sacred net, and six times, the People quailed in fear. On the seventh, Cave Lion caught him. The People began to breathe again. Crooked Beak would not wipe them away. He would not send his wrath in from the sea to kill on land. The People would live.

Details on the gourd

With great care, Cave Lion placed the ritual net back into its sacred gourd. Heartened by the success of his dance, he thought of the three great deer nets that the People’s hunters would set out in the forest. Then, he looked down with thanks at the magical beauty of the gourd and its precious contents.

For a long time as the People chanted, Cave Lion looked up into the darkness, thick with smoke and gods, honoring the spirits of the deer who would soon save his people.


This story was inspired by my wife’s gourd artwork, The Sacred Deer Net.

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  1. March 13, 2011 at 7:59 am

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