There is more than meets the eye, and far more than just Christmas ornaments, when it comes to what reindeer are all about. They stand as an apt symbol for the different religious and spiritual practices at this time of year.
We humans have had a critical relationship with the reindeer, also known as the caribou in North America, since we began as hunter-gatherers. We owe much to this magnificent creature who ranged freely in herds of such great numbers that the period 16,000 years ago is referred to as The Reindeer Age. Pardon me for a moment all of you vegans out there, but our ancestors relied on these animals for food, to help keep them warm through the insulating properties of their skins, and they used their shed antlers and bones to make tools.
My feeling is that the reindeer holds much more of a critical place in the world than its service to man, which has been extensive through the ages. The reindeer serves all, and it is in turn served by all. As such, the reindeer is a beautiful model of Oneness and our inextricable connection to each other. Let’s see how this all works.
A side note here – the myth about Rudolph is pretty interesting to me. Those in the deer family do not have a well-developed sense of sight. A reindeer that lights the way for the group – well his sight was truly a superpower when it comes to his kind.
With their ability to withstand the rigors of artic temperatures, reindeer are a study in resilience. They are grazers, relying solely on plants for their sustenance, but not just any plants. Reindeer feed on lichen. What exactly is a lichen? Lichen is not a plant per se, but rather a community. It is made up of algae and/or cyanobacteria living among filaments of a fungus living in a symbiotic relationship. Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina) is the lichen named so because this mammal has a diet specialized in this food. [Interesting that the powers that be decided to name a community with a genus and species, as if it was a separate organism, yet it is a community.] Anyway, the importance of this lichen is its source of protein for the reindeer in the winter, which helps to keep their blood warm so that they can survive the climate. Reindeer may not have great vision, but they have a keen sense of smell. They are able to smell the lichen under the snow, even 60 centimeters (two feet!) deep down into the snow. In this way, they are similar to pigs being able to sniff out truffles.
Reindeer are consummate adapters to their frigid environment. They can lower the temperature of their legs down to near freezing levels and continue to move around – all of which helps keep their temperature even at their core. In the winter, they grow their facial hair long enough to cover and protect their tender mouths and muzzles from the snow. Reindeer are also strong and efficient runners. A new calf, at a mere 20 lbs., can outrun an adult male human. These creatures are among the most energy-efficient of all the land mammals, which is handy in the tundra. So the reindeer is well suited to take advantage of the gifts its environment provides.
Now for the gifts reindeer provide the environment. Being ungulates, or hooved mammals, reindeer break up and help aerate the soil…they both fertilize the soil with their droppings, and help turn the soil, helping to bring much needed nutrients into the soil matrix. Ultimately, their contribution certainly comes back to them in the form of more lichen. They also control the limits of the arboreal forest distribution since they also eat tree seedlings. So the reindeer has forest powers, and asserts those powers one nibble at a time.
One could also say that reindeer hold tundra power, as they contribute so much to its health and vitality. The action of their hooves also allows for good drainage of all that snow as it melts over the summer. By trampling the snow, they help the sun to warm the soil up faster than where untouched snow cover lays. This helps plants and lichen grow faster, allowing these resources to be available for ground squirrels, owls, eagles, arctic foxes, and other inhabitants. The action of their hooves then serves the larger community through the effects on the soil. So they have serious hoof power. Here web of life reveals its interconnection. All the elements in the world of the reindeer contribute to the system, each other, and themselves, revealing the Oneness and the light of life itself. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #ReindeerEdition #December #kippinitreal