What the Goat Knows

ear Miracles,

Earlier this week I was perusing Terri’s wonderful blog and came across a recent post on the folklore of goats. Ever since visiting our local zoo when I was a little girl and finding one goat in particular who loved eating my ponytail, I have been a fan. I was especially taken with one fact that her article presented: goats are one of the earliest animals domesticated by humans but they are also happy to return to a feral state whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Tomorrow the New Moon in Capricorn, a sign traditionally represented by the goat, arcs across the heavens and the sun returns for another year of shining light. In our Sacred Arts community, much is made of the ideas of “being wild”, “going wild”, “embracing the wild”. I don’t think it is too much to say that many of us find our ethics defined, honed, and in debt to all that is wild. And as we know from mythos, the goat, often is emblematic of all that is wild, natural, sensual, and feral, but I think more than that, the goat is a great lover of paradox.

When we turn to classical Western astrology to understand the goat-marked sign of Capricorn much of what we discover does not, at first blush, speak to the wild. Capricorn is a sign that is often attributed leadership skills, it is affiliated with the 10th house which is the house of career and prosperity building. Discipline, seriousness, steadfastness, and incredible endurance are the most common qualities associated with this cardinal earth sign. Interestingly, those same qualities are often the very ones that farmers and ranchers look for in various domesticated breeds they raise.

What does it mean that the stellar constellation most affiliated with the goat is one that seems to find a definition against the common perception of what the goat represents in art, culture, and religion? Could it mean that domestic and wild are in a more complicated relationship than we commonly think? Is this what the goat knows?

To be domesticated is not a bad thing. To be domestic is to be of the home, a complicated world in itself that forms the basis of all economies and all political systems (the word econoimos in Ancient Greek literally means home). Domesticated is not synonymous with being tame, and in fact, if you speak to farmers and ranchers who actually know and appreciate their craft, they will drive this home again and again — no animal is truly tame, ever. So it is with us. We are not ever tame, never wholly domesticated, we are always capable of spontaneity and surprise, always. Most importantly, domestication assumes wildness; quite simply domestication cannot happen anywhere except where something, someone, is wild.

I have found that we feel, keenly and deeply, loss when we speak about wild places, even those of us who are the most urban city slickers dream better at night knowing that there are places where it is truly dark, and quiet, and alive. And we forget, so easily and so frequently that what is wild is not only outside and away from us, locked away in a national park or held aloof and apart in a refuge. What is wild lives within us, underneath the skin, between each heartbeat and rush of blood?

The goat reminds us not to forget, never to forget, that we can slip the collar, break the fence, run the field and then return…to what is known and loved and domestic in the best possible way. On this point there is no choice to make; we carry both the wild and domestic within us.

Tonight as you sit in the darkness of the New Moon ask yourself this:

  • Where am I wild?
  • Where am I domestic?
  • What does the right relationship with both look like?

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