A couple stories I found recently got me wondering “why goats?” For centuries they have had a symbolism attached to them that is cross cultural and malleable, but seemingly ever present in some form or another.
The ChristStory Bestiary runs through a lot of them, largely in a negative or neutral light, but to summarize… Christians art uses it as a symbol of the damned, and frequently as the antithesis of sheep. This evolved into the goat as a personification of the devil, and during the European Witch Trials, not to new confused with the equally retarded sequel The American Witch Trials, goats were seen as the witches familiars and it was believed, even had the ability to bestow supernatural rewards upon the alleged witches.
It has been mentioned as a symbol of freewill, lust, lechery, fertility, courage, and spiritual initiation, in alchemy the goat represents sulfur, there is an association with thunder and lightning across cultures… The term scapegoat came about from a Day of Atonement ritual where one goat was sacrificed for Israel’s sins, and one was ritually burdened with the sins of the people and cast out into the world to fend for itself, this was “scapegoat.” Similarly in France and areas of the Mediterranean a “scapegoat” was kept on the farm in the belief that it would absorb bad germs or diseases and thereby protect the rest of the livestock. The Chinese include the goat in their calendar, and someone born in the year of the goat is considered sociable, trustworthy and considerate… In addition, the half man half goat motif appears in many mythologies, and the goat is a popular mount for the gods of multiple cultures to ride while seeing to their godly chores. The International Kiko Goat Association (who knew) also as some additional background on goats in myth and folklore. Perhaps not surprisingly the IKGA site doesn’t really go into the more diabolical connotations of the goat that the ChristStory site does.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the more nature attuned religions and myths, be they from the East or from Pagan Europe are the ones that see the goat in a more positive light, and the Christian faith which separates man from the rest of nature see it in a negative light. Believed to be only second to the dog in becoming a domesticated animal, early cultures would have been living in closer proximity to goats than they would many other animals. This closeness would lead them to a greater understanding of the animals temperament and traits, and thus make them more likely to ascribe personality and human qualities to them. This may help explain why they are so common in folklore and myth.
What am I getting at? The mythic persona of the goat is still alive and well today as outlined by these three stories.
A Wisconsin defense attorney received a package outside her office in late August. The package was a severed goats head in a pink bag . Inside the goats mouth was a note with the attorneys name written on it six times, backwards. The attorney didn’t have any idea who could have sent it, but suggested it may have something to do with the full moon, and the paper who reported the story consulted an expert in Voodoo, who said the scenario wasn’t familiar to him, though he did acknowledge that sacrifice of goats can be part of voodoo rituals he didn’t see any parallels. Voodoo must have been the only alternative religion represented at the local university…
Next up we jaunt from Milwaukee, to Kathmandu, Nepal where Nepal’s official state airline, Nepal Airlines sacrificed two goats to the Hindu sky god Akash Bhairab. It seems they had two airplanes that were having persistent mechanical issues and so the goats were sacrificed before the planes in the traditional manner in hopes of appeasing the sky god and getting the planes back in the air. The planes are flying again, and Nepal Airlines has refused to state what the issue had been.
Finally, we make our last stop in Sweden, where every year since 1966 the town of Gavle has erected a 43 foot goat made of straw and wood to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. It has become a bit of sport apparently to burn down the goats when the opportunity arises, and just 10 goat have survived where 22 have fallen to flame some within hours of completion.
So there you have it, the goat has been woven into our collective unconscious and continues to rear its head in mythical ways today, sometimes even at the airport.
– Prof. Gruntsplatter