The Stag appears frequently in Celtic lore, and is representative of the Land. He is guardian of the forest and all that dwell within it. Associated with the Celtic horned-god Cernunnos, he is pictured with large antlers as he roams among the trees. If he appears as a white stag, it is symbolic of spiritual discovery or a message from the Otherworld. As the stag sheds it’s antlers in the autumn to re-grow them in the Spring, it becomes a symbol of renewal. The antlers of the stag are compared to tree branches. When the moon is viewed between the antlers of a stag, it is a blending of masculine and feminine energies. Celtic folklore tell us that the stag is a creature that can walk between the worlds.
The Salmon makes many appearances throughout Celtic lore, and is representative of the Sea. Often referred to as the “Salmon of Wisdom” or “Salmon of Knowledge”, it is the oldest creature and dwells in the ‘sacred waters’, eating the hazelnuts that fall from the surrounding hazel trees. Salmon live in both freshwater and saltwater. They swim upstream, following a familiar scent that leads them back to the location of their birth, where they reproduce. For this reason, Salmon are associated with persistence, strength, courage and determination. Eating the meat of a salmon is believed to impart wisdom. In an ancient Welsh tale, a salmon helps the legendary Arthur find the lost child Mabon and return him to his mother.
The Owl has long been associated with witchcraft, and is representative of the Sky. Because it is a nocturnal animal with keen eyesight, magical lore tells us it has the ability to “see the unseen”. There are over 200 species of owls, and they can be found in every country except Antarctica. Other owl species may be active during daylight hours when migrating or when food sources are scarce. An owl’s wings are not waterproof, which prevents them from flying in the rain. The owl is primarily a creature of the night, and can be called upon to reveal that which is hidden or kept secret. The owl sees everything. It can observe without being observed, and it’s flight is completely silent. The owl is associated with the Cailleach, the Crone of Winter. One of the Gaelic names for owl is Cailleach oidhche (Crone of the Night).
These three animals: the Stag, the Salmon and the Owl are called upon at the beginning and end of every Blackthorn ritual, to evoke and give thanks for the blessings of the Land, the Sea and the Sky.