Their names are Blitzen and Dasher. They have been ringing in the holiday season at Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle for the past four years with Blitzen replacing her mother. The eight-year-old female reindeer arrive in mid-November then return home to Eastern Washington in time for Christmas and their holiday break on Dec. 24th.
Now Blitzen runs to the wire fence and lowers her head in warning to the approaching dog. The message in her eyes is unmistakable, and the woman and dog quickly retreat. They missed signs asking dogs be kept away due to the increased stress this causes to the reindeer. I scan holiday shoppers, many with dogs in tow, and recall dogs are some of the reindeer’s worse predators during calving.
Once relaxed, I kneel to introduce myself and establish eye contact with Blitzen then ask how she feels about being among people at the nursery? She replies most people don’t really see her; they quickly scan her antlers then the rest of her body before moving on. Blitzen takes notice of those who are genuinely interested in learning more about her and her life. She tells me other people sometimes come and communicate with her intuitively.
Blitzen keeps a watchful eye on the goings-on in the nursery and is alert to any changes in the routine. Shrieks or unusually loud noises cause her temporary alarm until she finds the source or checks the staff’s reaction for cues. Overall, Blitzen knows what to expect as she’s done this many times.
Blitzen enjoys young children and their innocence while they stare in awe at her antlers and size. It’s often the first time they’ve seen a live reindeer. She senses their feelings and watches them during “Animal Talk” sessions with the staff. I wonder if the story “The Night Before Christmas” (written in 1824) is referenced and that it’s the female reindeer or younger males that pull Santa’s sleigh because older males lose their antlers in December?
When I ask her what she likes to do at home, Blitzen replies she “likes to wander” and says she plays with her antlers sometimes. She’s about balance in activities and life.
A clicking sound draws my attention to Dasher who has just finished a diet of alfalfa, hay, and grain pellets and has come to see why I’m there. I wonder if she’s ever uncomfortable walking when her tendon slips over her foot causing this click, she answers my thoughts telepathically stating she hardly notices it. I later learn footpads help prevent reindeer from slipping on ice by shrinking to expose the rim of their hoof then expand again in the summer to grip soft or wet tundra.
Dasher’s energy feels very different than Blitzen’s; she is more matter-of-fact in her replies. Dasher longs for open space to move her body and exercise. She enjoys pulling a sleigh and breathing cold air. She misses the snow and says she’s too warm here. Reindeer can live in severe temperatures as low as 70 below zero!
As highly social mammals, Dasher looks forward to being home with her family and herd. She enjoys variety but prefers to do her work back home. “A vacation here and there is fine but there’s no place like home,” she jokes.
I thank Blitzen and Dasher for sharing their experience with me and ask if they have a message for us? “Follow your dreams. The rest will come once you are true to yourselves. Put aside any worries and look at what is important. Be persistent and ask reindeer for help.”
In my research, I learn reindeer antlers represent our ancestor’s journeys and memories. They hold spiritual wisdom and have a deep connection to nature. Spiritually, reindeer ask us to take a leap of faith and believe all things are possible. They remind us to stay on track because the end of our emotional and spiritual journey is in sight. Trust yourself is their message. The key is believing and knowing we are safe to shine our light. Be confident and adaptable.
Reindeer are a symbol of loyalty. If you see a reindeer in your dreams, the question to ask is, are you being true to yourself? Are you distracted or being pulled away from your dreams? Do you show loyalty and support to family and friends?
Reindeer are recognized for their wisdom and resourcefulness. They earned this high status when humans learned they could rely on them for food, supplies, and clothing. Indigenous people found medicinal herbs after observing reindeer pawing beneath packed snow for grass and herbs. Reindeer are clever and creative survivalists!
If reindeer are your animal totem, you enjoy exploring new places and encountering new experiences. You are family oriented, a skilled communicator and leader. You are very social and often guide and teach family and friends. Reindeer remind us to both nurture our social ties and hold on to our personal power.
The key role of reindeer is guidance. Reindeer teach us to persevere and use our inner strength during adversity. They remind us to honor our male and female qualities, find inner peace and do that what makes us happy.
Reindeer: Myth, religion and Tradition, at Think Differently About Sheep
Ted Andrews, Animal Speak, Llewellyn Publications, 2002
Steven D. Farmer, Animal Spirit Guides