Hi, hi, hi, Witches, Witchlings, and Witchlets! Welcome to the third installment of the series where I – a seasoned and practicing Witch – answer questions posed on Google about magick and witchcraft. Today’s question is:
“Why are deer heads used in witchcraft?”
Alright, let’s get into it!
DEER HEADS IN WITCHCRAFT
I’ll start this post with the direct answer to the question. Witches and mystics use deer heads in their practice as a way to represent what their spirit magickally aligns with. With deer being a food staple for the human race since time immemorial, the ritualistic use of the animal and all its parts trails back at least 10,000 years!
Depending on the path and intention of the practitioner, deer heads can be used for different things. The ‘why’ behind their use varies just as widely as the witches, mystics, and occultists who use them.
THE USE OF ANIMALS IN RITUAL
Some practitioners utilize parts of animals in their rituals. While this can seem like an archaic practice, it’s not as uncommon as one might think. And yes, this question is asked specifically in relation to deer heads; however, I’m going to answer in terms applicable to the use of ALL animal parts.
So how did the ancients use animals for their magick? From the Greek Papyri – a body of work that contains magickal spells, formulae, hymns, and rituals from the 100s BCE to the 400s CE – we know that animals were used in healing spells or hostile magick. The role animals played was either as ingredients or as a sacrifice.
Animal sacrifice in ritual still occurs today. This is all dependent on the path, of course. Belief systems that practice animal sacrifice include followers of Santería, along with other derivations of Orisa. This is typically meant as offerings to the Orisa or done to cure those who are sick.
HOW TO ETHICALLY USE ANIMAL PARTS IN YOUR PRACTICE
While the idea of slaughtering an animal for the purpose of your magick may seem barbaric, there are ways in which you can ethically include animal parts in your practice. The biggest takeaway here is venerating the animal.
Animals naturally shed parts of themselves. Bird feathers shake free during flight or grooming, snakes shed their skin, deer slough off antlers, etc. Collecting naturally dropped animal items and using them in magick is perfectly fine when done in a respectful way.
Animals die. That’s the long and the short of it. As such, what they leave behind can be harvested and used. This could be their fur or skin, bones, teeth, claws, organs, etc. If you’re not comfortable doing the harvesting yourself, you could opt to take the animal to a taxidermist. Just know that the animal must be placed in a freezer within 24 hours after death to prevent decomposition.
HOW TO PAY RESPECT TO THE BEING
Honoring the animal’s spirit before utilizing them is the best practice. This can look like a moment of silence, cleansing the item, consecration, or any other preferred method of veneration. It is through out thanks and intention that we can keep the animal’s spirit alive in our realm.
WHAT ARE ANIMAL PARTS USED FOR
Animal parts like claws, antlers, and feathers can be used by some practitioners to make jewelry and fetishes. When worn, the mystic is tied and connected to the animal. The following are other examples of how to use animal parts:
- Fashioning fetishes to represent spiritual entities or deities
- Making jewelry with claws or teeth
- Employing feathers for spirit communication
- Using stag antlers in fertility rites
- Powdering snakeskin for transfiguration
If you wish to use the elemental or spiritual properties magickally aligned with an animal, yet you do not want to use their actual parts, simply sub in a picture! Use the picture in place of any step that calls for the animal part.
I think it to be an unfortunate stereotype surrounding witchcraft and the supposed mistreatment of animals. In my years of practice, I’ve never come across a fellow practitioner who even hinted at injuring or harming creatures. Quite the opposite.
While some traditions explicitly prohibits using animal parts, there are plenty of paths that do not. Those that do use animal parts naturally align with ancient practices, rituals, and ceremonies from our forebears.
So the answer to the question “Why are deer heads used in witchcraft?” depends on who is using them. Do you use deer heads in your practice? What about other animals? Let me know in the comments. And as always, Bright Blessings and Happy Crafting!