Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko
To built the first wooden church in Ust'-Kulom, Komi Republic, ancient Komi Christians selected some logs prepared for the church, made a raft and let the raft float in the river Vychegda to choose the place for the church. The church was built at the place on the river bank where the raft of logs stopped.
Is the story connected with river logging, with transportation of the timber down the streams? Or is this way the church symbolism was connected with the cosmic river and raft? Actually the raft was made of logs selected for foundation of the church to choose the place for the church building, not for transportation.
Wonderworking icon of Theotokos came to the first Komi Christians in the boat by way of the river Vishera. The old man, who was dead St. Stephen of Perm, told residents of Vishera, now Bogorodsk (“the village of God’s Mother”) to venerate holy icon of Virgin Mary. The church was built at the place of the icon's arrival.
Every year before church service at the feast of the icon’s arrival, white reindeer used to come to the church asking to be sacrificed to Mother of God. Every year priests sacrificed white reindeer to Theotokos in accordance with reindeer’s own will. That is why the church was decorated with wonderworking white reindeer antlers.
Priests noticed that reindeers coming to the church were very tired after long run. Eventually the reindeer was late for liturgy and was substituted with the bull. White reindeer who was late and came at the middle of the liturgy was so distressed and sorry that it smashed his head at the gates of the church. Since that time no white reindeer ever came the church asking to be sacrificed to the Virgin Mary.
Even in Soviet time for the most important local meetings of the Communist Party Komi people used to sacrifice reindeer or bull.
[Ed. Note] The sacrifice of the deer is a fanciful way of keeping the Christian's worldly lusts for killing and eating flesh alive, but it totally neglects the fact that Jesus was the last sacrifice, and that there is no need for further shedding of blood, and in the process they diminish the work of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In a similar Christian tradition, some deer have crucifix between antlers...as shown in the images below.
Coat of Arms of Hrodna Belarus