SYMBOLISM OF THE GOAT
W PLAWIUK M.M.
TO NORWOOD LGDGE No.90 A.F.& A.M.
SEPTEMBER 3 1991 C.E.
first experience upon entering the Lodge as apprentices is to be warned
about the Goat. Even before
we are informed of 'in whom we should put our trust', we are given
knowing looks followed by such comments as; " he's going to get the
goat" or " you are going to ride the goat" or even "look out for the
goat". It is a good thing
that we are informed that we place our trust in God, since some poor
unfortunate entered apprentice could understandably be forgiven for
replying; " In the Goat".
origin of this humourous initiatory jest about the Goat is shrouded by
the veils of time. Several
Older brethern I have
with seem to have no idea of where or when it originated. It could have
originally been imported from America by that practical joker and fellow
Mason; Benjamin Franklin.
Or it could
unique recent development of post World War II Masonry.
Certainly I can find no references to the Goat or even "riding the Goat"
in Mackay's Masonic Encyclopedia, Duncan's Ritual, Morals and Dogma by
Albert Pike or even FreeMasonry and its Etiquette by William Preston
Campbell-Everden. Even such
anti-Masonic writers as Walton Hannah (Darkness Visible and Christian by
Degree) make no reference to it, and it would certainly be something he
would not be loathe to use to slander the Craft.
with such sparse reference sources available we could easily dismiss our
Goat as a simple joke, a hangover from those other fraternities that
abound on college and university campuses across this great nation. In fact a bit of school boy prank amongst pals.
dismissed as a bit of tom-foolery I wouldn't have much of a paper to
present this evening. Yet
can we dismiss our ancient friend who has played such a great role in
the myths and legends, of all religions and cultures of Western Europe?
The Goat dates back to the very earliest primordial memories of Man.
And perhaps even used as a joke within the Lodge it would do us
well to look at him as a totem or symbol of the Great Work. In fact if you will bear with me I think I shall be able to
prove to you that, using the training we are recommended as Fellow Craft
Masons, we can find that the humble Goat too reflects the truth of
Masonry "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols".
Goat is known to all of us through the ancient science of Astrology
first developed by the Chaldeans, or as they are commonly known;
The Goat symbolizes male fertility, and is known, to even those who
peruse the daily astrology columns of the local newspaper, as
representing the astrological sign of Capricorn; Dec. 22 to January 22.
Capricorn is a combination of both a Goat and and a fish.
According to J.E.. Cirlot in his Dictionary of Symbols; this dual
aspect refers to the dual tendencies of life towards the abyss ( or
water) " or chaos of the beginning of time, and " the heights or
mountains " or order and malkuth (the earth) as symbolized by the goat
the very same Babylonians who gave us this symbol of Capricorn and the
science of Astrology were the first Temple builders, and the goat for
them symbolised the essence of the Temple or Lodge.
An animal usually found climbing in the
Thus from the first ziggurats to the Temple of Solomon even to
later Churches the Goat was seen as symbol of Man striving to reach God
through his building of Temples that represented mountains.
Since in all religions Gods abode is symbolized by mountains.
a better symbol to atribute to our own striving to understand the
G.A.O.T.U. then a Goat. And
here too we find an anagram for Goat.
According to a research monograph on the Dionysian Artificers and Early
Masonry edited by Manly P. Hall, the symbolism of the goat relates to
the prechristian God Pan, Dionysius.
The Goat-God was accepted by the later Greek Mystery Schools as the
symbol of the Temple Builders.
In fact the Dionysian Artificers was such a mystery school.
They viewed practical Temple Construction as a source of
understanding the mystery of Nature and God; thus being one of the early
esoteric schools from which Masonry has inherited certain symbols and
specifically this Greek Mystery School developed the Ionic Column which
are introduced to us in the Fellow Craft degree.
Once again this column which acted as the corner stone of Greek
Architecture literally holds up the temple; the very support for the
Mountain or home of God.
Ionic Column is a later development over the Doric, having developed in
the 7th Century B.C., it allowed for more filagree work in its base and
at its top. It is seen as
being more feminine than the masculine Doric Column.
Dionysian Artificers or architects were an association of scientific
men, who were incorporated by command of the Kings of Pergamus into a
corporate body. They had
the city of Teas given to them. The members of this association were
intimately connected with the Dionysian mysteries, were distinguished
from the uninitiated inhabitants of Teos by their Science and by words
and signs by which they could recognize their Brethern of the Order.
Like Freemasons they were divided into Lodges which were characterized
by different names.
Such is the nature of that association of architects, who erected
those splendid edifices in Ionia, whose ruins even afford us
instructions, while they excite our surprise.
If it be possible to prove the identity of any two societies, from the
coincidence of their external forms, we are authorized to conclude that
the Fraternity of Ionian architects and the Fraternity of Freemasons are
exactly the same" says Dr. R. Swineburne Clymer in his book: Ancient
Mystic Oriental Masonry.
Besides representing the Temple or Home of the gods, the goat represents
the active male sexual or fertility aspect of nature. As Capricorn he
rules the returning sun, from the darkness of winter solstice.
In the sign of the Goat/Capricorn the sun begins to resume its
ascent towards the spring Equinox.
As well the goat horn is a hallow phallic symbol, represented even today
as the cup of plenty or cornucopia which we see represented in the
J. E. Cirlot; " In mythology it was the goat Almathea who fed the infant
Jupiter an milk. Given that
the general symbolism of the horn is strength, and that the goat has
maternal implications, and in addition that the shape of the horn
(phallic outside and hollow inside) endows it with complex symbolism
(including that of the lingam or symbol of generation) it is easy to
understand its allegorical use as the horn of abundance.
Plobb points out also that the cornucopia is an expression of
prosperity deriving from its association with the Zodiacal sign of
androgenous symbolism of the horn of plenty is typical of the symbolism
of the goat in general.
While the Greek Goat Gods Pan
Dionysius were male, we look at the goat as an animal in masculine terms
while it is both male and female.
The identification of the the male goat in by his beard, since both
genders have horns. The
phrase " by my beard, or " he pulled my beard " as well as the style of
beard called a 'goatee' all relate to the goat.
goat-Gods Pan and Dionysius in Greek mythology represent the forest and
unbridled nature; lust in the case of Pan and Drinking, and fertility in
the case of Dionysius.
Hence from the OED we have the term for a lecherous older man; "you old
Goat". Pan is represented
as being half human, half goat with horns, and would later be used in
medieval times to represent the devil.
Ironically the horns on the head of Michalangelos statue of Moses are
also Goat horns, symbolising not the devil but the power of nature and
natures God; Fiat Lux. For
in the bible it states that Moses was beheld by his people as having two
rays of Light springing forth from his head.
"Hark! My Beloved! here he comes, bounding over the mountains, leaping
over the hills. My beloved
is like a gazelle or a young wild goat."
beloved is mine and I am his; he delights in the lilies. While the day
is cool and shadows are dispersing, turn my beloved, and show yourself a
gazelle or a young wild goat on the hills where cinnamon grows."
How beautiful you are my dearest, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your
veil are like doves, your hair like a flock of goats streaming down
Song of Songs (Which is Solomons).
Herein as well in the Old Testament we find the beautiful love poem
which views the goat as symbolizing nature, and fertility as it did in
prechristian times. In the
Song of Songs both lovers refer to each other as goats.
As to be expected since the lovers in this poem are a shepherd and
shepherdess herding goats!!! And we have the symbolism of the goats in
relationship to sacred mountains or temples.
It is enough to mention that this song is known as Solomons who
plays such an important role in Freemasonry.
medieval times clerical knights and military orders made up of priests
during the crusades differentiated themselves from regular knights by
riding upon goats rather than horses.
This tradition can be seen in the Knights Templer who would ride
horses but two knights to one horse, thus representing their clerical
I relate the most obvious use of the goat known to all Master Masons?
The Scapegoat. An animal
who leads the others to slaughter now commonly used to reier to the
unwitting victim of some malice. It is obvious that the initiate stands
in for Hiram Abiff and takes his blows accordingly.
In referring to the goat perhaps we are unconsciously warning the
entered apprentice of his ultimate end in his soujourn through the
mentioned earlier the Boat and the Goat-God Pan became equated with the
devil in medieval christianity.
But to medieval occultists especially Rosicrucians the goat symbolized
the elemental energies of the earth, the sign of Saturn and the
alchemical element derived therefrom.
Tarat it is the Major Arcana card #15 the Devil, who shows
headed deity with a man and women chained to him.
symbolism is that of people who strive for material rather than
Goat of Mendes or Baphomet whom the Templars were accused of worshipping
is a Goat Headed deity, being formed of both male and female principles,
with a Caduceus of Mercury for its phallus.
One arm points up and one down , with the latin ' Solve et Coagula'
written on them. This is
not the christian devil but a symbol of the ancient alchemists
representing the fact that nature and natures God is a combination and
balance of male and female forces, light and darkness, moisture and
The very principle of Hermes Trismegitus; As Above So Below" is
what is symbolized by Baphomet.
Another Goat headed deity worship by the ancient pagan Celtic peoples
was Cernnunos the horned god of the Wood.
Today in witchcraft covens the goat head is seen to symbolize this
Unfortunately to the those who remain in the dark, these goat deities
are seen as something evil rather than as the symbol of the earth,
fertility, the prima mater, and the first principle.
Freemasonry in its past like its predecessor the Knights Templar have
been accused of being in league with the Devil, being a satanic tool
etc. That has arisen from the fact that FreeMasons by their
initiation into the Light have been eager to research and study the
Mystical symbols of the past and present, without fear or irrational
prejudice. In times past of
religious persecution and superstition the Mystical Mason has treaded
the path of heresy in search of the Light of Truth.
hope that this paper has afforded us all a broader view of meaning and
depth of the symbolism of even something as simple as "our little joke",
about the Goat.
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J.E.CIRLOT: A DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS.
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DR.R. SWINBURNE CLYMER: ANCIENT MYSTIC ORIENTAL_MASONRY.
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THE PHILOSOPHY OF FIRE
PA. 1907 REPRINTED BY
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