I love animals (Duh? I have never met anyone who says that they hate animals).
But I have a special love for hoofy types (in the order Ungulata, referred to as Ungulates) such as horses, bison, antelope, goats, deer, and sheep. In our history of development on earth, humans have had a very special relationship with these types of creatures – long ago our hunting of these animals provided the resources our kind needed to feed us and clothe us, as well as build our shelters and our tools. Before domestication, herds of ungulates were not just a rich resource, but a powerful force of nature that could kill the hunter as readily as they could become supper or a new shirt. Therefore it’s not surprising that animals like deer, bison, and rams show up in ancient mythologies as powerful guides to humans, possessing not only physical strength but formidable wisdom.
The traditional story is that, long ago, there was a time of famine. The chief of the Lakotas sent out two scouts to hunt for food. While the young men travelled they saw a figure in the distance and as they approached, they saw that it was a beautiful young woman in white buck skin. One of the men was filled with desire for the woman. He approached her, telling his companion he would attempt to embrace the woman, and if he found her pleasing, he would claim her as a wife. His companion warned him that she appeared to be a sacred woman, and to do anything sacrilegious would be folly. The man ignored the other’s advice.
The companion watched as the other approached and embraced the woman, during which time a white cloud enveloped the pair. After a while, the cloud disappeared and only the mysterious woman and a pile of bones remained. The remaining man was frightened, and began to draw his bow, but the woman beckoned him forward, telling him that no harm would come to him. As the woman spoke Lakota, the young man decided she was one of his people, and came forward. When he arrived, she pointed to a spot on the ground where the other scout’s bare bones lay. She explained that the Crazy Buffalo had compelled the man to desire her, and she had annihilated him.
The man became even more frightened and again menaced her with his bow. At this time, the woman explained that she was wakan/holy and his weapons could not harm her. She further explained that if he did as she instructed, no harm would befall him and that his tribe would become more prosperous. The scout promised to do what she instructed, and was told to return to his encampment, call the Council and prepare a feast for her arrival.
The woman’s name was PtesanWi, which translates to White Buffalo Calf Woman. She taught the Lakotas seven sacred rituals and gave them the chanunpa or sacred pipe which is the holiest of all worship symbols.”
From Wikipedia’s article “White Buffalo Calf Woman” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Buffalo_Calf_Woman
The Ram is the first sign of the western zodiac (as Aries) and also appears in the Chinese zodiac, as well as serving as the symbol for a smattering of ancient Egyptian deities. Later that horny visage, along with other horned god personalities like Pan (goatish Greek deity) and Cernunnos (deer-antlered Celtic god) would serve as the inspiration for the pointy-headed Christian image of Satan. But wait! I think there is another dude who kind of has an association with ungulates.
My personal fascination with the spunky attitude and athletic grace of deer, goats, bison and their numerous relatives has inspired multiple projects so far, two of which I recently published for sale in my Ravelry store: the Deer hat and the Lamb hat. (I know,I know, where did I come up with such creative names? I thought long and hard, let me tell you.)
The lamb hat was published just a few days ago, in time for a lesser known holiday: Candlemas, the Feast of St. Brighid, the neopagan Imbolc, and Groundhog’s Day all fall generally on February 1-2. Imbolc’s traditions (whether historically accurate or not) are associated with the beginning of the lambing season and thus the flow of ewe’s milk. I consider these traditions an important reminder to the cultural descendants of Europeans of our long association with and vital dependence on the hoofy, woolly, and horned kind.