What does the goat mean?
The common goat is a domesticated animal found throughout the world.
Goats are easy to keep because they eat almost anything and thrive in most climates.
In eastern and southern Asia, Africa, southeastern Europe, northern South America, and Oceania, goats are very important economically.
They provide milk, meat, hair (for making cloth), hides for leather, and soap.
Goats are also important for their role in some religious ceremonies.
In many cultures, goats symbolize lust or sexual power.
For example, the term “scapegoat” refers to someone who is blamed for something that others want no blame for themselves.
This person takes on the sins of others so they can be forgiven.
The term comes from a biblical story in which the Hebrews used a goat to symbolize a sinner.
Positive Meanings of Goats
However, in other cultures, goats have positive meanings.
For instance, the “Three Goats Gruff”.
In this Norwegian folk tale, three goats trick a fearsome troll by convincing him that he must cross a bridge one at a time.
The first “troll” is really the goats, and all three escape the troll’s lair safely as he tries to follow them across.
A common symbol of luck and fertility is the goat’s horn.
Additionally, it was believed that a couple who drank from cups made from a goat’s horn would have many children.
In some parts of Germany, the horns were used to forecast whether it would rain.
If both horns pointed up, the rain was coming.
However, if one pointed up and one pointed down, the sun was about to breakthrough.
And, if both horns pointed down, the drought would continue.
In other parts of Germany, people believed that a pregnant woman could ease labor by sitting in a chair made from a goat’s horn.
The chair was placed under an open window so the mother could catch the fresh scent of pine trees when the wind blew.
A child born when the weather was warm would be healthy; a child born when the weather was cold would not live very long.
Goats are also associated with fertility in India.
There, they are frequently offered to the Hindu god Shiva (whose love for his consort, Parvati, is often illustrated by his lusty interest in the female goat).
In China, Taoist priests often employed goats for religious ceremonies.
Goats were used to exorcise demons and evil spirits and even to predict whether a ceremony would be successful.
In early Mesoamerica, Mayan kings wore jade ornaments imitating the curving horns of the goat.
The Mayans also displayed a figure representing a goat in processions honoring their gods and venerated images of the god Chac with dishes made from white clay that resembled goats’ heads.
Every year, Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan by sacrificing a ram or goat, then distributing the meat to the poor for a festive meal.
The holiday Eid al-Adha commemorates Hagar’s frantic search for water that saved her son, Ishmael, from dying of thirst in the desert.