The Symbolism of Goats in Art

I have been thinking about goats the last couple of days after seeing a music video over in Graham’s blog and wondering about the symbolism of their use in this video. In it, was a scene of several young men crouching around a goat lying on the ground. At first, I thought why would they have a dead goat in a music video but then thought of those fainting goats. The fainting goats aren’t really fainting, nor do they loose consciousness. Their muscles stiffen causing them to fall over when they become excited. That doesn’t last long enough for them to be in the scene in the music video so, giving the maker of the video the benefit of the doubt, I figured it was just a stuffed goat.

Anyway, I digress……………back to the symbolism. Looking through my trusty book on symbolism that I refer to quite often: An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols by J. C. Cooper, I found some very interesting information. In general terms, a goat represents masculinity, abundant vitality, or creative energy. A gazelle or antelope can also be used interchangeably. Since some types of goats live in high places, e.g. mountain goats, it can also mean superiority. The book goes on to say what the goat means in different religions and cultures. In Christianity, it represents the devil, the damned, and sinners. This is what it means to me when they are depicted in art, specifically, Surrealism.

As far as the music video goes, I still haven’t figured out the meaning of the use of the goat except that the young men crouching around it had done a very mean thing to another young man by hog-tying him, placing duct tape over his mouth and putting him in the trunk of a car. He escaped and chased the other men and then all of them, including the one doing the chasing, jumped over a cliff into a lake. Then they all came up through the water and through a trap door into a floating barge music studio. It makes for a weird video and maybe it all means nothing….just visual coolness….something to look at. Here is the music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwh3FmpZ7kg&eurl=http://my.opera.com/ossian42/blog/2008/12/20/why-does-it-always-rain-on-me

The picture (in the upper right of the page of my book) depicting four stylized goats painted on Sumerian pottery running around a pool, symbolizes ‘Lord of the Waters’. Thinking of goats also brings to mind the Satyr, that are half goat and half man with goat’s horns, and Pan that has the legs, horns and beard of a goat. I won’t go into the explanation of the Satyr or Pan as that is another long blog post.


The above picture gives me a great idea on how to use my photo of a car part. Someone told me what this part was but I have forgotten already.


As you can see, the goat depicted in art, can mean many different things. Or, as in the case of realistic and photo-realistic paintings…..they’re just goats.

About pam

I am retired from real 9 to 5 jobs. I do my artwork and occasionally write poetry. In September 2010, I moved to Fargo, ND after spending 60 years in Phoenix, Arizona. Now, five years later, July 2015, I'm back in Arizona. And yes, I love the heat!
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110 Responses to The Symbolism of Goats in Art

  1. Weatherlawyer says:

    This allows for much as yet wanted:http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/loreindx.html

  2. PainterWoman says:

    Can't go to work till later so was looking up herbal and organic remedies and came across this article on goat's milk:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070730100229.htmregarding and this one on making organic soaps: http://www.freebeautytips.org/goatsmilksoap.htmlJust found this one on Native American remedies:http://keller.clarke.edu/~english/honors/liz/Haven't read this one entirely. The background makes my eyeballs jump all over the place so I will have to read a little at a time. Sounds interesting.

  3. PainterWoman says:

    Thanks for that link. I think there's going to be some interesting stories there.

  4. Weatherlawyer says:

    Red CloudThere is no sending over water no more sending as a dreamAs the moon in heaven ascending ripples a descending streamThere as crescent in every wavelet, where the moon enmirrored fliesUnderneath the wavering river flashing where the darkness fliesIn the blackness in the moonlight of the water of the mirrorFlashing lantern, flashing nightThere is no more sending on the water no more sending as a dreamThrough the darkness of the forest as the wind flows, as the streamAs the ghost that rides to heaven and the setting of the sunBut outside the bounding zodiac rides the ghost alone the moonAll within the purple sadness lights no star to give it graceExcept the stars those navigators that can bear the ghostly faceLights no star except the wanderers that look down upon the earthAnd the moon enpurpled lonely and the sun which shared their birth(Lost to us now is the native of the forest of the northLost to us now is his language and his customs and his worthNo, no longer does he range the forest; that too like the river goneAlso now the wolf is hiding banished starving from his homeOnly left to us his calling reminding us in the wind the moanOnly left to us his song is ghostlike waiting till we’re goneSomewhere in the peaty morassSomewhere in the rocky loamSomewhere at the rusty barbed wireSomewhere an abandoned homeSomewhere in the rustling long grassSomewhere in the wind and rainWhispering among the bushesWaiting a chance to start againShould the rancher and the farmer the accountant and the bankerRobbing the land of its soulLeave the land at last exhaustedVomits them exasperatedVomits them out of the plainVomits them from every valley rich and fertile ere they cameVomits them to move the poison that it might begin againThen a sending as a war-bow and a sending not in dreamsAs a plague that floods a valleyAs a plague that dries the streamsAs a plague that paints the heavens red as copper grey as leadAs a plague that paints with sickness, bodies ailing corpses deadAs descending on the warpath comes the moon and suns attackAs descending on the warpath who of men can turn it back?As the moon shines on the river all its phases now askanceWho among men can deliver and what warrior knows the dance?Who can put these things together and say that this is not chance?There are none that know the old waysNone now that knew the forest wellSearch to see who knows the valleysThat can the ways of mountains tellNone are left that know the riversNone to sing the seasons songOf the old ways of the forestsOf the old ways that are goneThere are none that know the old waysNone that know the river valleysOr the power that in them dwellsOf what time of phase the mist comesNor what phase will fill the wellsIs there none to sing the song?Not even a man of medicine nowChief Red Thundercloud is gone.Red Thunder Cloud (May 30, 1919 – January 8, 1996), whose real name was Cromwell West and who was also known as Carlos Westez, pretended to be the last native speaker of the Catawba Indian language for most of his life.Born in Newport, Rhode Island of African-American parents, Cromwell West developed a passion for Native American history during his teenage years. He embraced a Native American identity and studied Native American languages informally.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Thunder_Cloud

  5. PainterWoman says:

    A sad poem. Sounds like he became obsessed with the Catawbas…so much so that he became one in his own mind. I liked this part of his poem the best:"As descending on the warpath comes the moon and suns attackAs descending on the warpath who of men can turn it back?As the moon shines on the river all its phases now askanceWho among men can deliver and what warrior knows the dance?Who can put these things together and say that this is not chance?There are none that know the old waysNone now that knew the forest wellSearch to see who knows the valleysThat can the ways of mountains tellNone are left that know the riversNone to sing the seasons songOf the old ways of the forestsOf the old ways that are goneThere are none that know the old waysNone that know the river valleysOr the power that in them dwellsOf what time of phase the mist comesNor what phase will fill the wellsIs there none to sing the song?"

  6. Weatherlawyer says:

    Yes I wrote that on the news of his death.There was a lot of stuffgoing on at the time.History programmes were gaining ground on TV and a lot of that cultural stuff was all the rage.I was wondering (ITIR) how the totem poles and stuff resembled May-poles and May-poles resembled Stone Henge…We will never know what the red/west? indian knew of forecasting. We do know their other sciences were remarkable.I get the idea they knew their sick and disturbed could get on a level of cognisance we admire in all but our own defectives. Bipolarism grown wild?

  7. Weatherlawyer says:

    Self gratifying crap. I was just learning about global warming then.I want to kick some arse now having been filled with that idiocy.

  8. Weatherlawyer says:

    I was talking about my poems. When you come back to stuff years later you think: WTF?I thought it was good at the time.

    I take it you don't believe in globallogy?

    No, there is damage to the environment; plain and simple bad agricultural practices nothing more, nothing less.Talking of which, I just looked out the window on the green grass where I fed the birds a few days back in the frosty mornings.You can see my footprints as yellow, dead grass. It is astonishing.

  9. PainterWoman says:

    Self gratifying crap? I don't think so. I take it you don't believe in the global warming theory. Sometimes I do and sometimes not. It depends on who's talking I guess.

  10. PainterWoman says:

    I was talking about your poems too. I agree about the agricultural practices. Growing up, my parents and two other siblings lived in a small neighborhood that was built on old farmland. Who knows what was in the soil. I believe whatever was in the soil and our drinking water is one of the factors that caused my mom to get Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Another factor being that right behind our house, across the alleyway, was an electrical plant with about 50 or more large transformers. One more factor being that she took hormones for years after her hysterectomy at age 36. About ten years ago I read these hormones give you cancer. This was right around the time I knew my doctor was going to suggest it. He did, and I opted not to take them. What did the Indians use as pesticides?…surely not some chemical that would also kill the person using it.

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