I wrote three weeks ago about the Viareggio Carnival in Italy kicking off the celebratory carnival season. Well, now worldwide carnival festivities are coming to an end, and it’s another Italian tradition that’s caught my eye as one of the weirdest ways to top off the season.
There are some conflicting descriptions scattered about the internet, but here’s how the event plays out, according to a combination of sources:
The Deer Man (a local man dressed in furs and antlers), comes down from the hills and symbolically terrorizes the villagers and their cattle. He is confronted by Friar Martin, a.k.a. the Fairy Wizard, a.k.a. another local man wearing a cone-shaped fairy hat.
Using his magic wand, Friar Martin calms the Deer Man, and eventually captures him. The Deer Man escapes, only to be brought down by a Hunter. The Hunter then blows in the Deer Man’s ear, which brings the beast back to life. This resurrection symbolizes purification of the deer and of the whole community. The village is now sin-free, and ready for a fruitful harvest and a promising year ahead.
Another version, from a website amply supplied with old-timey photos, includes a Deer Woman in the mix. In this storyline, the Deer Man and the Deer Woman share some affectionate moments when they are tied up by Friar Martin.
Sadly I couldn’t find any video of past Carnivals of the Deer Man, and online photo evidence of the custom has proven practically non-existent. Still, I’m convinced it’s a real event occurring every year around this time. I guess I’ll just have to make the trip myself next year.