Winter Solstice: Elks break antlers

June 30th, 2012
by Jo Law

I spent the past pentad bedridden with what was later revealed to be influenza with an added dose of pneumonia. On the first day when I was exposed to the outside air after 3 days in bed, the air felt warm and moist as if celebrating the fact that the shortest day is now behind us. As I sat on the steps at the back watching Hollis gleefully chasing the black and white chickens, I noticed the maple tree is almost bare. Both the lemon and orange trees are heavy with fruit. The next morning, the sun streamed in its warmth and light into my sick room. I can feel returning yang element.

The Chinese almanac hints at the return of the yang by describing the behaviour of elks at this time. In the Chinese schema, elks are creatures of the yang. One of the largest member of the Cervidae (deer) family, elks, also known as wapiti, (Cervus canadensis) are native to areas of North America and eastern, Asia which were once connected by the Bering land bridge (or Beringia) during the Pleistocene ice ages. Although the range of these animals had significantly reduced to the mountainous area of northwest China and Mongolia and similar terrain in North America, like other Cervidae species, they have been introduced to other continents around the world mainly for the purpose of game hunting. Many of these wild populations have become an invasive species as it has in Australia.

Antlers are unique to the deer family in that they are shed and re-grew annually. Antlers are bones. When growing they are covered with a skin called velvet. It supplies the living bone tissues with oxygen and nutrients. When fully grown, the animal would rub off the velvet onto trees, exposing only the bones, which are now dead. Antlers primarily serve the purpose of sexual reproduction in demonstrating superiority and dominance in males. After the mating season in autumn, elks shed their antlers in mid to late winter. The growing of new antlers begin again in spring.

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