Walt Disney's "Bambi" tells us just about everything we need to know about the fawn - innocent, child-like, vulnerable. The doe, the doting mother watching over the fawn in a forest fraught with danger, speaks of "standing strong" in guidance and protection, focusing on the job at hand, ignoring distractions that would put the fawn at risk. Actually, Disney painted only the most placid and feminine aspects of the doe, and the most masculine attributes of the stag. Prehistoric renderings of the deer, together with the bison, in the caves of Lascaux in south-western France, represent something else -- the dichotomy of life and death - powerful animals that could provide food, yet be a potential cause of death.
The deer in heraldry suggest peace and harmony, and declares "one who will not fight unless provoked."
In both Celtic and Native American cultures, the deer had a special talent for sniffing out medicinal herbs, earning it special respect and status in life and folklore. The image of a slain deer with herbs in its mouth has even assumed special significance in the art world - of unrequited love, lost love, or love sickness. A deer trampling snakes symbolizes spirituality overcoming temptation.
Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, sought five golden-horned deer as part of her entourage. Four of them she captured but the fifth escaped, later to be caught and dedicated to her by Hercules. The four deer that pulled Artemis' chariot were spoken of in Callimachus' Hymn to Artemis: "In golden armor and belt, you yoked a golden chariot, bridled deer in gold."
See also: Animal Tattoos Index