The Spiritual Meaning Of Deer + What To Do If They Keep Appearing To You
Found all over the world and in many shapes and sizes, deer have been a part of various spiritual traditions for generations—and are still regarded as a meaningful symbol today. Whether you feel a specific connection to deer, or you've just been seeing them a lot lately, here's what it may mean for you.
What is the spiritual meaning of deer?
For much of history, humans have hunted deer for food and sport, and as such, cultures have long associated deer with everything from abundance, to good luck, to the hunt itself.
But beyond hunting, we also see deer in different spiritual and religious traditions, symbolic of themes like love and divinity. As spiritual teacher Alyson Charles tells mbg, deer's healing wisdom ultimately relates to the path of the open heart, gentle strength, unconditional love, and compassion.
This animal's peaceful serenity is a perfect example of what deer represents, and all together encourages a certain embracing of the divine.
In different traditions:
Deer have historical roots from East to West, with Charles noting that the deer is among the earliest and most important symbols in Buddhism. "It was in Deer Park at Sarnath that Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon and 'turned the wheel of the Law,' which revealed doctrines of reincarnation and karma. Deer are often depicted in Buddhist art as attending Buddha, usually kneeling near the base of the white lotus where the Great Teacher sat," she explains.
There's also rich symbolism throughout the Bible using deer, such as Psalms 42:1, which reads, "As a deer thirsts for streams of water, so I thirst for you, God," or Proverbs 6:5: "Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler."
In Cherokee spirituality, according to research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports1, white-tailed deer were not only considered a symbol of good luck, but there were specific rituals around hunting them, as well. Deer were considered an "other-than-human person" and their antlers were worn as amulets.
What it means if you keep seeing deer.
According to Charles, if deer are showing up in your life (or dreams, which we'll get into shortly), it's an invitation to learn something from their wisdom. For example, you may have an opportunity to embody a deer's qualities in order to heal or open your heart, or when you want to inspire through kindness rather than force, Charles explains.
Deer may show up when you want to give and receive unconditional love or when you want to stop being so hard on yourself or others, she adds.
Ultimately, deer represent gentleness and heart intelligence. So deer may present themselves to you if you've been hurt and your heart needs tending.
Charles also notes working with deer's energy can help you work toward your goals from a place of positive intentions and a clear heart.
What it means if you dream about deer.
Many of the same meanings for deer will apply in dreams as well, with Charles explaining that they may specifically show up in dreams because it's an efficient or effective way to get your attention. "Perhaps during waking hours you would be too distracted to notice it presenting, or perhaps deer has already tried revealing to you in some fashion but you weren't taking note, so it shifted to dream presentation to work with you there," she says.
And as therapist and dream expert Leslie Ellis, Ph.D., previously told mbg, to dream of being chased by a deer, for example, could mean "you are fleeing from something that is not truly scary—or maybe you are running from your own fearful nature, from the deerlike flightiness in you."
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What to do if deer keep appearing to you.
If deer are showing up a lot in your life, it may be a call to open your heart and operate with a bit more grace and compassion. Charles recommends journaling using the following prompts, answering each question with a yes or no, then reflecting on each of your answers and journaling more on what's coming up for you:
- Am I willing to do the necessary work to heal or further expand my heart?
- Do I trust myself to set healthy boundaries?
- Do I love and honor myself with tenderness and compassion?
- Have I attended to past rifts that require forgiveness or healing?
- Am I willing to act vulnerable?
From there, Charles says, consider how you can keep your heart open and tender and call on deer to assist you in moving through these experiences with more agility and grace. And always thank deer during each connection or experience you have working with it, she adds.
If you've ever pondered the spiritual meaning of animals, you wouldn't be the first—and if you've been seeing a lot of deer, their healing may just have a place in your life right now. Listen to your intuition, take a lesson from the animal, and allow their wisdom to guide you.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.