G is for Goat–A to Z Blog Challenge

Goat-PNG-ClipartG is for Goat

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

The goat is often associated with demons or even the Devil himself.  Though, I like to think of the goat as a fertility symbol.  My husband and I did not have children for over 10 years and then finally adopting three children through foster care.  I prefer to respect the goat rather than fear it.

One of the hopeful stories during that long 10-year+ time was of “Tatterhood,” a Norse tale.  A king and queen are saddened that they do not have any children yet.  Years have gone by and they searched for any kind of way rumored about to help in having children.  The king suggests for their nieces to live at the castle so at least they both could hear children playing and laughing in the courtyard.  The queen agrees and the nieces arrive.  Then one day, the queen finds her nieces playing with a peasant girl.  The queen runs to shoo away the peasant girl, though the girl says that her mother has the power for couples to have children when all else has failed.  The queen was instructed by this child’s mother for do certain tasks and then eat only the fair flower and not the strange and rare one.  The queen ate both flowers, became pregnant with twins, and the first child was born upon a goat and waving about a wooden spoon.  This child became known as Tatterhood.  This goat stayed with Tatterhood all her years and for her continued adventures.  She existed because the queen was granted a fertility miracle.

Now the Norse tales sometimes involved Viking gods and goddesses.  In “Tatterhood,” there is the presence of Thor through the goat.  During thunderstorms, Thor rode upon the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goals Tanngrisni meaning “gap-tooth” and Tanngnost “tooth grinder.”  The rain from these storms brought fertility to the earth.  These goats also had the ability to feed Thor and then return to life as a different way to represent fertility.  Finally, Thor married Sif, the fertility goddess.

Sometimes the fertility leaned towards lust as seen through beings like saytrs, half-man and half-goat creatures who always seemed to be chasing nymphs for intimate pleasure.  A goat is licentious as all the female goats were open to any of the male goats.  The Greek deities Pan, Dionysius, and Aphrodite were all connected to goats for these “loose” purposes.  Pan had horns and the bottom of a goat.  Dionysius, the god of wine, promoted drunkenness that also led to the lustful acts.  Dionysius also took the form of a goat when fleeing from Typhon, a monster with 100 snake heads.  Finally, Aphrodite, who did promote true love, also supported any kind of love as she exemplified in be unfaithful to her husband, Hephaestus.

Though Zeus, the god of gods, received help from the goat named Amalthea when she broke off her horn so that Zeus could drink milk when he was young.  When Zeus matured, Amalthea sacrificed herself and Zeus made his thunder-shield, known as the aigis, from her hide.  Interestingly, “aigis” means “stormy weather” or “goat-skin” and is much like the Viking view of the goats and fertility of the earth.  Then, that horn of hers became the horn of plenty or also known as cornucopia or keras amaltheias.  Zeus honored her through a constellation.  When that constellation rose in the sky, then storms were soon to come.

Most goats are upon the ground rather than the sky, though are always climbing.  This nature of the goat has influenced goats to mean creative energy and agility.  Goats are often on a quest for great distances and looking for the truth.

The term “scapegoat” came about during the Jewish festivals where a goat was sacrificed on Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement.  This goat carried all the sins of the people much like Christ took all the sins of the world upon Him.  How fascinating that the goat, often seen as a demonic symbol, really was first a symbol of Christ.

Some stories with one or more goats or goat features:

  • “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” Brothers Grimm tale, a small, medium, and large goat seek out a more fertile land while facing off with a troll
  • “Tatterhood,” Norse tale, a twin girl is born on a goat waving about a wooden spoon and fights off trolls to replace the cow head on her sister’s body with the original head…and other adventures
  • “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” Alabama tale where the Hairy Man was a demon-like creature with hooves of a goat

What stories do you know that involves a goat?  More than one goat?  Do you know any stories with people or creatures with goat-like features?  Please comment below and share with others of this post.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here: https://storycrossroads.com/2017-schedule/).  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.

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