A Condensed History of Goat Worship Through the Ages

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Metalheads love animals. Something about the unbridled power and instinct of a beast roaming Mother Earth touches a chord with people who define themselves by the sound of destructive musical might. For obvious reasons, dangerous animals are the most revered in metal: animals who either physically or spiritually threaten society at large (much like ourselves). Among these are the wolf, the serpent, the shark, the raven, and of course, the goat.

Non-metalheads reading this might argue, “But wait, the other animals you mentioned have poison sacks or sharp rending protrusions. Goats have big hairy ballsacks and eat tin cans. I call bullshit.” Indeed, the goat is mostly a symbolic beast in metal; its attributes were donned by pagan gods like Pan and Baphomet and eventually linked to Satan by a church willing to scorch the heavens of its deities to promote their savior. But look further upon the goat. It’s a tough, ballsy creature with an incredibly hard head that it uses to bludgeon its brethren. Its eyes, with their horizontal pupils, are utterly grotesque and deeply unnerving. Its hooves are cloven, nimble; it can carry heavy loads for hours over impossible terrain. Truly, these beasts represent humanity at his most basic, a bunch of furry territorial grunts that will eat anything in their cursed path. Metalheads grasp this link immediately. To them, the goat is the freedom from everything except contentment and conflict.

In reverence of the great Goat of Mendes, I submit to you a timeline of this beast’s noble presence in our darkened history. Hail to the goat.

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GOAT WORSHIP THROUGHOUT THE AGES

Circa 2300 BC


In Ancient Syria, goats were draped with silver necklaces and cast out of town on the day of the king’s wedding. These animals were believed to carry with them the evils surrounding the day and the community. The concept was passed down for ages into Biblical times, where the goat was used to represent Azazel, a powerful demonic force, and cast out on Yom Kippur. The term “scapegoating” is a ministration of Azazel’s name.

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Circa 1160 BC

Homer writes his now-classic epic, The Odyssey. Upon his return to Ithaca, Odysseus is cruelly mocked by Melanthios, the “goatish goatherd”. This is an early example of goatishness being associated with evil. Melanthios later has his nose and ears removed and his genitals pulled off for his disloyalty.

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Circa 206 BC


The Chinese zodiac calendar is established during the Han Dynasty, one symbol of which is the Goat (sometimes the Ram or Sheep). According to the zodiac, those born under the sign of the goat are shy, introverted, and creative perfectionists It should also be noted that those born between February of 1991 and February 1992 are elementally considered the Metal Goat.

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Circa 100 BC


The Greeks begin worshipping Pan, the goat-legged satyr who represents fields, pastures, and fertility (he is also, less metal-y perhaps, the god of theater criticism). He is revered for his sexual prowess, teaches shepherds the art of masturbation, and fucks anything that moves. A famous statue from Herculaneum shows the great god fornicating with a goat.

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1200s


The Poetic Edda describes Thor, Norse god of thunder, as riding a chariot driven by two goats (later named Tanngrisnir and Tanngjóstr in The Prose Edda). The goats are able to fly and are hardier than any earthly goat. Sadly, the master of clouds later devours his helpful steeds when one of them breaks his leg.

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1200s


The Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda tell of Heidrún, a giant goat who eats leaves of the world tree, Yggdrasil, and then lactates hot mead for the einherjar, souls of Viking warriors who now dwell in Valhalla.

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1200s


The Scandinavian custom of the Yule Goat begins. Referencing goats that were once slaughtered at Yuletide, this straw goat replica takes different forms in different countries—many see it as a deliverer of good tidings and gifts, while the Finnish see it as a huge and ugly creature used to scare away evil spirits and bad luck. “Going Yule goat” is a term soon used to describe caroling.

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1308


During the Crusades, the Knights Templar observe and casually adopt the worship of Baphomet (in fact a bastardization of the name of the prophet Mohammed). Such worship, of course, is only admitted to under extreme torture.

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1600s


Medieval thinkers, disliking the imagery and behavior of Pan and other similarly goatish gods of the past, begin deeming the goat as a blasphemous and lustful creature, claiming that goats whisper lewd ideas into the ears of saints. The black goat then becomes a pivotal figure in the Black Mass, the Satanic inversion of the Catholic mass. Rumors of black masses begin spreading throughout Europe, particularly in France.

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1823


Spanish painter Francisco Goya begins a series of works known as his “Black Paintings”. Among them is “Witches’ Sabbath”, which depicts a crowd of hoary old hags listening intently while a black goat preaches to them, and “The Great He-Goat”, depicting a similar scene.

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1854

Eliphas Lévi publishes Dogma et Rituele de la Haute Magie, in which he describes the Baphomet we know so well—that of the “Sabbatic goat”. This is the popular image of Baphomet as the satanic black goat, or “Goat of Mendes” as Lévi calls it, that is so commonly used in Satanic literature and heavy metal imagery.

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1913


British Satanist Aleister Crowley writes The Gnostic Mass in which Baphomet is hailed as the God of Man. He solidifies the goat-headed and hermaphroditic image of the Baphomet into the modern consciousness, both as a symbol of fertility and strength and as one of anti-Christian power.

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1928


In The Last Test, apocalyptic horror author H.P. Lovecraft makes first mention of Shub-Niggurath, “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”. Though later descriptions of Shub-Niggurath are not terribly goat-like, its designation as a goat creates a tie between the animal and dark natural forces beyond man’s control.

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1966


The city of Gävle, Sweden begins erecting a massive straw Yule Goat in its town square every Yuletide.

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1969


Former carnie Anton LaVey publishes The Satanic Bible. Its cover is graced with the goat-in-star of the Sigil of Baphomet and its essays contain many references to male sexuality as being goatish.

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1969


On the back of both witch-rock band Coven’s Witchcraft Destroys The Mind & Reaps Souls and, surprisingly, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the Sign of the Horns, also known as “throwing the goat”, appears. This and both bands’ strong ties to witchcraft, begins cementing the gesture in the rock and roll consciousness.

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TOP TEN MOMENTS OF GOAT WORSHIP IN METAL

1. Dio: Upon joining Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio begins using the Sign of the Horns in concert, which he claims is based upon the hand motion his grandmother would use to ward off the Evil Eye. The motion is also believed to represent the goatish horns of the devil, and goes on to be called “throwing the goat”.

2. Slayer, Show No Mercy: On the cover of their debut album, the Cali thrashers show a bipedal goat with a sword staring menacingly at the viewer. This album goes on to create the Goat Soldier, the oft-used image in extreme metal of the bipedal goat loaded with weaponry and ready for the attack.

3. Bathory, S/T: The godfather of black metal releases his filthy first record, its cover graced by the now-iconic image of a glaring goat’s head, its horns shooting high into the air.

4. Beherit, The Oath Of Black Blood: Finland’s premiere underground black metal outfit release their debut album, which has a cover by Chris Moyen—an artist who would later perfect Slayer’s image of the warrior goat—and contains the song “Goat Worship”.

5. Impaled Nazarene form: Vocalist Mika Luttinen forms Finland’s premiere blackened thrash outfit, going on to write at least one song on every album about goats, goat worship, goats in gasmasks, sacrificing goats, and so on.

6. Impiety, Salve The Goat…Iblis Exelsis EP: Singapore’s greatest export release their first goat-centered EP; later, the band would go on to feature multiple goat heads on the cover of their 1999 release Skullfucking Armageddon and would write countless songs about goat slaughter, goat warriors, and sodomythical frostgoats.

7. Slipknot, Iowa: Des Moines’ nine-headed hate metal monsters grace the cover of their sophomore album with a hairy long-horned black goat. The merch and packaging of Slipknot’s items related to this album also contain the image of the hairy goat.

8. Belphegor, Goatreich-Fleshcult: Always obsessed with the most metal of horned beasts, Austrian blackened death metal outfit Belphegor pen their goat-titled album of Satan and decay. Three years later, they would follow it up with Bondage Goat Zombie.

9. Goatwhore form: NOLA-based blackened death metallers Goatwhore form from the members of Acid Bath and Soilent Green. They not only include ‘goat’ in their name but use countless images of goats in their work and even name their label imprint Bloated Goat Records.

10. Akercocke, The Goat Of Mendes: England’s favorite suit-wearing Satanists release their traditional Dennis Whately-inspired tribute to Baphomet: a prog-death album full of explicit sex and unholy riffs that are worthy of its goatish title.

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— Scab Casserole