Friday, 8 April 2022

Ah Deer!

Friday Fauna

My Before Beltane writing post today for April 8th is about deer. I decided to include scenes in Nara's story which were examples of her duties as an 'almost priestess ' of the sacred nemeton. The most obvious jobs were those where she demonstrates skill as a healer, and as a trained warrior. I wanted also to convey that as a much older acolyte/ almost fully-initiated priestess, Nara was also responsible for the instruction of the new and younger recruits to the priestess village.

Roe deer- Wikimedia Commons

I thought of what life skills she might be teaching. Reading was definitely out since there is no evidence that the druid faith, priests or priestesses, wrote anything down. Basic sewing skills would have probably have been learned before a novice even entered the sacred nemeton home of the priestesses, and basic loom weaving skills were probably similarly learned at a very young age. 

Ensuring that sufficient food for the priestesses was in plentiful supply would have meant some hands-on gardening for production of cereal crops and wild 'vegetables' like fat hen. Very young children would have become skilled at gathering fruits and nuts and water collection from springs, wells or local streams. Meat products would perhaps have entailed being used to tending domestic animals like hens, pigs and goats. Other meats might have come from horses no longer able to support a human or pull a basic vehicle, and wild animals like deer. Venison may not have been regular meat consumption but would have perhaps been eaten at more special times like festivals. The consumption of venison would have entailed hunting the deer.

Southern Scotland and Northern England, my target land areas in Before Beltane, would still have had considerable forest areas 2000 years ago. Even though during the Bronze and Iron Ages, deforestation was an effect of the inhabitants needing copious amounts of wood for building homes, for heating and cooking. 

In AD 71, when Before Beltane takes place, there would have been red & roe deer roaming the forests. They are the only indigenous species to Britain, the fallow deer having been introduced to Britain in approximately the. 13th Century.

During my research into deer, to include a scene where Nara is teaching some younger priestess trainees to hunt and stalk, I re-learned a few new things. When a teenager myself, I was a Girl Guide and achieved some outdoor badges which included 'Pioneer', 'Camper' and ' 'Stalker'. Things I'd learned about woodlore had been forgotten but writing Before Beltane has revived some of them. Here are a few about deer hunting.

Red Deer- Hirsch Wikimedia commons

  • It's best to choose what looks to be an unhealthy deer, the reason being that healthy ones will continue to keep the herd going.  
  • Deer are generally culled in March & April when there’s less foliage for them to hide behind.
  • Young deer are likely to have more markings/camouflage and can be harder to spot.
  • Deer are sometimes more edgy in poor weather because they cannot see or smell their predators so well
  • Deer are very sensitive to vibrations so don’t jump across streams etc. You might think you are quiet but you aren't to them. 
  • Deer spot movement very well so don’t walk across skylines.
  • Roe deer retreat to dense woodland and bramble scrub when they need to rest
  • Roe deer mate in the autumn and give birth June (10 month gestation)
  • Deer diet is grass, leaves, berries & young shoots
  • Red and roes deer have a different muzzle size, the roe deer doe's being shorter
  • Roe and red do not usually inhabit the same forest areas
  • Roe deer have a white bottom, the does with a fluffy patch on it. Red deer have more creamy/yellow rumps. 
  • Red deer are much bigger than roe deer
When I'm next in a forest will I remember these tidbits? Probably not, but Nara ensures her trainees are aware of them in Before Beltane

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 SlĂ inte! 

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