Deer Woman can trace her origins to many of the eastern Woodlands and Central Plains tribes that came to Oklahoma, although her legend extends even into the Pacific Northwest. In traditional cosmology, she is a type of supernatural being distinct from spirits or Gods. Among the Cherokee these beings are called Nunnehi “the People Who Live Anywhere” or Ani Yunwitsandsdi, literally "Little Men." Their function is similar to that of European Fairies- in turns both helpful and devious, but usually their ire serves as punishment for the violation of cultural taboos.
There are many variations of her story, describing her as everything from Nunnehi to Witch or normal Human originally. In her more beneficent aspect, she is associated with fertility and love, but when crossed has quite a dark side. While the Jersey Devil delights in mischievous chaos, and the Mothman serves as an omen of tragedy, Deer Woman operates much more directly, literally with a vengeance.
Most commonly she is depicted as the mortal victim of a savage rape, her body being found in the woods next to a sleeping fawn who lay down beside her so that she would not die alone. Since her attackers went unpunished, the Gods (or Nunnehi, or sometimes even the Deer themselves) grant her wish for justice, whereby she is reborn as a half Human/half Deer. In this guise she lured her former tormentors out into the woods, unaware of her true nature. When they noticed too late that she had hooves instead of feet, she trampled them to death. Afterwards she lived on, continuing to punish those who would prey on feminine innocence.
According to Ojibwe tradition, she can be banished through tobacco and chant, but in most tales, the only way to save oneself from Deer Woman is to look at her feet, see her hooves, and recognize her for what she is (before she gets you alone). The legend is meant to show that attraction does not a proper pairing make, and that men ignore or usurp the power of women at their own peril. To recognize the truth the story conceals is to save oneself from misfortune. To ignore the moral is to proceed inexorably into the death dance with Deer Woman.