Like the unicorn, the white stag (or hart) is the stuff of legends. Its origins lie deep within the ancient Celts and pre-Indo-European cultures. When a rare white stag was spotted, it was always the sign the otherworld was near for man or kingdom.
The white hart also appears when someone is transgressing a taboo, as it does in the Holy Grail legends. The knights of King Arthur often encountered the white hart on their quest for the fabled lost Grail.
Unfortunately, the last white stag in Britain was shot by poachers in October 2007 on the border between Devon and Cornwall. It was found headless. Miraculously, another of these very rare creatures has just been sighted and photographed in the Highlands, but its location is being kept secret for obvious reasons.
What does the advent of yet another white hart portend for Britain and Scotland? Is there bad news to come – recession, falling house prices, or Tony Blair becoming president of Europe? Are we trespassing where we have no business – Iraq and Afghanistan?
Or is it a sign that Scotland is being led to an unexpected victory in the Six Nations? Time will tell. But as the poet Ezra Pound wrote:
When the white hart breaks his cover
And the white wind breaks the morn.
‘Tis the white stag, Fame, we’re a-hunting,
Bid the world’s hounds come to horn!
in The Scotsman