On the Iberian peninsula, there exists a region known as “Spanish Siberia,” a territory of extreme temperatures and intense mountainous terrain. This area is currently the least populated region in Europe. “Children of the Deer” is an ongoing documentary work in which I visualize the relationship that the region’s inhabitants have with the territory around them.
For these people, the deer is a totemic animal, widely represented in popular imagery and very present in daily life. These beliefs were inherited from the Celtic people who populated these lands for more than a thousand years. For the Celts, the deer was one of the oldest and most important deities, called Cernunnos. This god was depicted in a multitude of rituals and on many decorative objects. Cernunnos was the master of nature and animals; he also represented fertility, the union of worshippers with their ancestors, and their link with the territory.
This long-held tradition has left its imprint even today. At present, the descendants of the first Celts continue to worship animals, the forest and nature. They are the last Celtiberian settlers of the Spanish plateau: they are the Children of the Deer.
—José Luis Carrillo
If you enjoyed this article, we’d also recommend these previous features: Lands of No-Return, Viktoria Sorochinski’s series on the once-magical world of Ukraine’s villages—and the slow disappearance of their inhabitants; The Secrets of Ayou, portraits created in a village in Benin that are loaded with magic, intensity and doubt; and Picturing the Invisible: Seance, a 16-year project that criss-crossed the globe exploring the mystical, otherworldly beliefs of the Spiritualist community.