magickal symbolism of the cow

There are few animals as revered, worshipped, symbolized, and even spiritually elevated as the cow. Across the globe, this ruminant has been featured in almost every culture’s mythology.

In this post, I’ll be discussing just the cow, not the bull, as their symbolism is quite different in most cultures.

It is likely that the cow featured so prominently in spiritual or mythological symbolism due to its many beneficial products which can be derived of it or its body.

The cow provides milk, butter, cheese, meat, hide, and even fertilizer in the form of its manure- all of which could be obtained for nothing more than some pasture land on which to graze, or regular hay or grasses.

And, if that’s not enough, she provided calves, which could be raised, bred, and therefore produce additional cows and bulls, sustaining the human societies who domesticated them.

Because of its extreme value in that respect, it was common to see prices for every major purchase (including people) in the prices of cows or head of cows.

The cow symbolizes life, fertility, motherhood, maternal instinct, reproduction,

Tales of the Cow

There are probably tales of cows in every culture, however, there are several which stand out or are more well-known, probably only because of better historical documentation preservation in those parts of the world.

Cows and the Norse

The Norse primeval cow Audhumla licked away salt blocks, to reveal Buri, the ancestor of the gods. Her milk fed the frost giant Ymir, from whose body the world was formed. This may be where the term ‘Milky Way’ came from, in reference to the galaxy in which our planet resides, however, it is difficult to attribute this to only the Norse stories of the cow.

Cows and the Egyptians

The Egyptian cow-headed goddess Hathor is one of the most prominent in the Khemetic pantheon or path. She gave birth to the son, which was her ‘golden calf,’ and her horns were the crescent of the moon. You may also see this goddess referred to as Ahet. Amulet’s with the head of Hathor or Ahet were worn by women in the Nile Valley to ensure fertility.

There is a triple goddess in the combination of Hathor, Isis, and Nut, representing the heavens, the underworld, and the earth in between.

Cows in India

The Hindu religion includes Dharma, the cow which represents the four stages, or cosmic ages (yugas), the world went through (and is currently in the last stage, the most unstable).

The cow enjoys a peaceful and free existence still today in India, due to its sacred status. The cow is also associated with the god Krishna, who was a young cowherd. They are considered the rain which fertilizes the Earth and the clouds which contain the water of heaven. They were even brought to the bedside of those who were dying, in order to allow them guidance into the afterlife.

Cows in Mesopotamia and Sumer

These often get grouped together as they developed overlapping in this region of the world. Cows were depicted as the Great Mother or Great Cow, and thought to have fed the waters of the Nile and other major life-bringing rivers of the region with their milk.

The cow was very much associated with fertility goddesses in this region. They may have been associated with either or both the Sun (as in Egypt) and the Moon. The cow’s horns were depicted along with or cradling the crescent or full moon.

Cows and Buddhism

Similar to the Hindu approach to cow veneration, Buddhists (many of whom practice vegetarianism and consider it taboo to eat a cow) will often say that to take care of a cow, is to take care of all living things.

Cows in Buddhism were also venerated because they may be the souls of those trying to ascend to higher spiritual incarnations, therefore, if they are killed and eaten, so is the soul within it.

Cows and Magick

History of the cow aside, you may now have a better idea of what the cow symbolizes, therefore, you can probably think of some ways you can use this symbolism in your spiritual or magickal practice:

  • use bones (please obtain them ethically) from a cow in spells, charms, or other works for fertility and abundance
  • use milk in spells for fertility, abundance, peace, motherhood/parenting
  • use milk or cow bones to ask for fertility in a new business venture
  • take a milk bath to cleanse, purify, or uncross yourself
  • add a splash of milk to your tea spells to give them an abundant boost
  • use milk to anoint spell candles for love or other relationship matters as a protective love-boosting ingredient
  • place a bowl of milk out for stray cats to honor any goddesses such as Bastet, Freya, or Sekhmet

and last, you can simply place a cow image, sculpture, or statue on an altar to any of the deities or spirits associated with cows, such as:

  • Hathor/Ahet
  • Krishna
  • Prithi and Prithva
  • Buddha
  • Nut
  • Neith
  • Damona/Boann (Celtic)
  • Phaethusa (Greek)

symbolism of the goat

There are few other creatures of the natural world that have been maligned in spiritual and religious symbolism as much as the goat. Poor goats, right?

Apart from spending way more time than I’d like to admit watching screaming goats videos on Youtube (you’re welcome), goats are quite awesome. They are nature’s tenacious, intelligent, and industrious little cloven-footed buddies.

They keep plant life controlled, they produce an alternative to cow milk (goat milk is delicious, if you haven’t tried it), and they’re super playful and friendly. They also provide meat, fleece, and skin to cultures who raise them and care for them.

Wild mountain goats are able to clamber up nearly sheer rock faces, thousands of feet above the ground, almost effortlessly and without fear. Goats in pastures use creative escape plans to free themselves. Goats seize opportunities.

But let’s walk it back a bit to what the goat symbolizes from a magickal or spiritual perspective.

History of Goat Symbolism

Goat legends abound in Pagan religions, which is likely part of the reason why they were later to be associated with ‘the devil’ in Judeo-Christian symbology.

Zeus was suckled by the goat Amalthea. Thor’s chariot is drawn by two goats (who can be cooked and eaten, and then rise again the next morning anew).

Goats were traditionally associated with fertility and virility, thanks to the impassioned and persistent nature of a rutting billy goat. This might also be why their image was darkened by the church, because sexy sexy goats might spread the wrong message?

Anyway, the Greek god Pan was a well-known goat-god, half man/half goat and connected to fertility, sensuality, sexual pleasure, and lust. At some point after the establishment of the Catholic church, the image of Pan was given red skin, menacing black horns, and glowing red eyes and became the symbol of evil.

Aphrodite was also shown riding a goat as her favorite mount.

Satyrs were half man/half goat figures who played music and enjoyed revelry and pleasure. Goats were associated with Dionysus, to whom they were traditionally sacrificed.

The practice of ‘scapegoating’ in Judaic lore (and this appears to perhaps also have been practiced in some other early Middle Eastern sects that were not specifically Jewish, but I can’t find good sources to confirm) involved a village or family group designating one goat each year to bear the sins, shame, negative thoughts, and so forth of each individual.

The people of the village or group would each walk up and touch the goat, symbolically transferring their sins and bad deeds/thoughts to the goat. Once the goat was full of their negativity and sins, it would be set free to wander off into the desert, carrying their sins and misdeeds away with it. In other words, being their scapegoat, and accepting whatever punishment or judgment would be issued for those sins.

And then we get to the point in which the goat literally became associated with the biblical Satan.

The goat head is now used to symbolize the reversed pentagram, such as on the seal of The Satanic Temple (they’re a rad group, I highly recommend you read their tenets), and is also part of the symbolism of Baphomet, who the Templars were accused of praying to or worshipping after they confessed during torture, and who was then subsequently established as a heathen or pagan idol.

However, scholars now largely agree that the name Baphomet was an Old French bastardization of the name Muhammad (Mahomet) and that there was not a separate entity named Baphomet associated with the Christian devil.

Otherwise, prior to those recorded confessions in the early 1300s, the name did not appear in any records, and was certainly not associated with goats.

Duality of Goats vs Sheep

From an organized Judeo-Christian religion perspective, sheep were the good followers, who stayed in the pasture and didn’t stray. They didn’t attempt to escape or find excitement. They did as they were told and just ate their pasture grass and were happy being told by the shepherd and sheepdog that this was their life and it would always be this way.

How many religious passages, songs, and hymns refer to ‘the flock,’ ‘pastures/pastoral,’ ‘fleece,’ and so forth? Sheep were divine, or associated with following the divine and being ‘good.’

The goat on the other hand, questioned. The goat knew that just outside that fence there was excitement, adventure, and juicy she-goats to get feisty with. The world is the goat’s oyster. The goat is down for a challenge and whatever pleasures it can find.

The goat pursued its urges, never regretted, and achieved heightened experiences.

And this, my friends, is where a large amount of the ruining of the goat’s reputation and image came from by the church as it systematically wiped out or suppressed Pagan traditions and belief systems.

The message was pretty clear: don’t think for yourself, don’t question, and don’t even think about kinky mating!

What Messages Does the Goat Bring Us?

If you feel particularly connected to the imagery, character, or spirit of the goat, or are seeing a lot of goat imagery popping up lately, here are some things to consider:

  • What barriers hold you in? Are they really there, or are they self-created? Is it time to leap the fence and explore?
  • You may need to explore sexuality and pleasure, but conversely, just like a reversed tarot card, if you’re already doing a lot of sexual exploration, this symbol might signal unconsciously compelled sexual compulsions or an unhealthy lust for power
  • Are you following blindly without questioning? Perhaps its time to re-assess something in your life and take ownership of your trajectory
  • Goats can also symbolize energetic pursuit of a want or need. Is there something lacking that you can apply more energy to in order to manifest it?

symbolism of the bat

I decided to put this together for those, like me, who are drawn to bats but are a bit frustrated that not much information exists as far as their magickal or spiritual symbolism.

History of bats in magick or spiritualism

Bats are the only mammal that truly flies. There are other mammals that can glide, but bats actually can sustain flight. This alone renders them symbolic of existing in two worlds, or being able to cross barriers or divides.

In Chinese culture, bats were seen as symbols of longevity and blessings. In Asian cultures in general, the bat is revered as the maternal aspect of the goddess, or divine feminine.

In most Western cultures, they were associated with the underground, the underworld, and the nocturnal, which often characterized them as bad, evil, or dark omens.

They also have associations with the shadow self of the human psyche, as they reside and emerge from the dark caverns of the world, much like the dark and hidden recesses of the mind.

They are associated with both the new moon and full moon, and, therefore, were long ago associated with witchcraft and spirits.

In cultures where fruit bats, such as the flying fox, are prevalent, they are associated with fertility, due to their role in pollination of fruit trees and night-blooming vegetation.

The lore surrounding the tiny vampire bats of Central and South America has certainly also fed the fear factor of bats, even leading to the connection with the human vampire stories, despite no real records of vampire bats biting or feeding on humans.

Moreover, bats also consume insect pests like mosquitos, providing a critical element of ecological control in their food chain.

Symbolically, bats are the unconventional, the misunderstood, the mysterious, and the non-conformists. I think that is why I see the bat as an ally animal, as it resonates so deeply for me in many phases and transitional periods of my life.

Associations and Correspondences of the Bat

Planets: the Moon

Deities: the only strongly defined bat deity is Camazotz, the bat deity of the Mayans. He was associated with night and death. The only other deity I have been able to find information on said to be associated with bats is Hekate. There may be others, but not that I have been able to identify and confirm with a reliable source.

  • intuition and enhanced perception
  • initiation
  • night
  • shadow
  • caves
  • hidden
  • transitions
  • transformations
  • in between, liminal
  • dreams
  • luck
  • blessings
  • feminine
  • fertility
  • underworld
  • inner journeys
  • witches
  • spirit guides
  • mysterious

symbolism of the raven

Long considered a magickal symbol or omen or portent, the raven has captivated humans since before we could even paint images of it on cave walls.

Ravens have been symbols of messages, growth, and guidance to humans across various cultures. Depending on where in the world the raven was seen, it may be a bad omen, a wise sage, or a neutral messenger.

In general, birds are viewed by most cultures as messengers of some sort, as they are able to traverse long distances, arrive from seemingly distant lands, and are seemingly not subject to the same laws of gravity and movement as humans. They are usually considered prophetic, even if they are seen to only bring bad prophecies in some cultures.

Some people viewed them as sneaky, or opportunists, and others viewed them simply as artfully witty birds, finding and taking what they wanted. Yet others viewed them as tricksters, ready to steal your shiny beads and laundry hung on the line to dry.

And, yet other cultures compared or attributed them to daemons, all-knowing spirits with powers beyond human comprehension, and capable of imparting immense wisdom, if only you could see past your own prejudices and contrived myths.

It also doesn’t help the image or reputation of these birds that the plural or name for a group of crows is a ‘murder of crows’ and, this I didn’t know, the name for a group of ravens is an ‘unkindness of ravens.’

These terms may simply stem from the fact that both of these types of birds are known to eat carrion (dead or rotting corpses of previously living humans/animals), which is also perhaps why they became associated with bad omens in many parts of the world.

Also, ravens were associated with the dead and the afterlife by many cultures, as they were thought to either be mediators between this world and the world of the dead, or as actual spirits of the dead whose souls were damned (based on Christian iconography in Europe, mostly).

Across all cultures, however, there does definitely seem to be an association with ravens/crows and magick and witches. Perhaps we see them as kindred spirits, misunderstood and wrongly assumed to be ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ simply because they live for themselves, take what they want from the world, and are highly intelligent.

Ravens and crows are also sometimes considered shape-shifter spirits, or animals that witches or wizards can shape-shift into.

I also want to note here that in many places, no distinction appears to be made between crows and ravens, as some cultures viewed them as similar enough to have the same qualities or symbolism, or, in historical texts, records, or archeological finds, it is not possible to distinguish whether the bird depicted is a crow or a raven.

Of the two birds, crows are physically smaller and more sociable, living or traveling in larger groups, and ravens are more likely to be seen alone or traveling in pairs.

Ravens in North American Cultures and Beliefs

The Northwest Pacific Coast Indians (including, but probably not limited to Tsimishians, Haidas, Heiltsuks, Tlingits, Kwakwaka’wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and the Inuit) referred to a particular raven as “Real Chief,” “The Great Inventor,” and “the One Whose Voice is to be Obeyed.”

In this setting, the raven was very much viewed as a wise spirit, a perceptive being, bringing tidings, predictions, or other advice deemed important to the people of the area.

Ravens in many of those cultural groups also saw the raven as the creator spirit, with myths centering around the raven bringing the world into existence, and bringing light into the darkness, as the raven, despite its dark plumage, is typically associated with the sun, or solar energy.

Another raven myth of NWPC Indian peoples involves the raven finding a clamshell, or many clamshells, and opening them, to find the first human men trapped inside. Upon letting them out, he became bored with them, and went in search of their female counterparts. He found them trapped inside a chiton (another type of mollusk).

After he brought the two sexes together, he derived great entertainment watching them mix and interact (I’m not so silently laughing at this because, for real, if you were some other species watching human men and women interact, you’d be pretty fucking entertained too).

Ravens in Asian Cultures and Beliefs

The most well-known legend involving a crow or raven in cultures of East and Southeast Asia (areas including China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan) is by far the three-legged crow or raven.

The earliest known depictions or written instances of this occur in China, and are usually of the Jīnwū, or Golden Crow. It is actually depicted as a red crow, rather than black, or, as the name implies, gold.

This crow is associated with the sun, and even considered a type of solar energy, or solar deity in some areas.

In Japan, the raven named Yatagarasu is a very large black bird, also referred to as a crow-god or raven-god, symbolizing important news from god or the gods, intervening in human affairs. It is also thought to be a symbol of rebirth, perhaps due to its aforementioned affinity for eating animal remains, which is associated with rebirthing the spirit of those dead.

In Korea, a similar three-legged black bird is called Samjogo, a crow that lives in the sun and was all powerful.

Ravens in Afro-Caribean Cultures and Beliefs

Reliable or documented information from African and Caribbean cultures and beliefs about ravens and crows is hard to find, so if you are reading this and happen to know more about these geographic areas and their connections, myths, stories, and beliefs about ravens/crows, please let me know! I spent a LONG time combing through sources on the internet and didn’t come up with much other than northern African cultures like the Egyptians, and even there, I couldn’t find much.

Ravens and crows definitely do exist on the African continent and on the Caribbean islands, though.

Most African cultures appear to have considered ravens as guides, or spiritual guides. They carry wisdom and are to be consulted, or may appear to us as guides, in times of trouble.

Ravens in Celtic and European Cultures and Beliefs

Perhaps one of the best known examples of ravens in religio-cultural history in northern Europe are the two ravens of Odin, Hugin and Munin (which translate to “Thought” and “Memory”). They are said to fly through the nine realms daily and bring news back to Odin.

Another famed Norseman, although not a god, whose tale has been even more popularized by the History Channel series ‘Vikings, was Ragnar Lothbrok, whose banner called Reafan depicted a raven.

The crow is associated with the Greek god Apollo, and is his divinatory animal, bringing reports of what will come. It is also said that crows were originally white, but when one brought bad tidings to Apollo, angered, he turned the bird’s feathers black.

Ravens commonly seen in Celtic depictions include those associated with the goddesses Macha, Badb, and Anu (the triple goddess comprising the Morrigan). Here, they are omens, but also representations of war and battle, as well as death.

Roman priests would often make predictions for the future based on the flight patterns or shapes of flocks of crows or ravens.

Ravens, even to this day, are considered the guards of the Tower of London, and it is said that if the ravens ever leave, the tower will fall.

A well-known legend involving the martyr Saint Vincent says that after he was executed, ravens protected his body from other wild animals devouring it. They then took up their posts protecting his body when it was laid to rest under a shrine in Portugal. That shrine was eventually named Kanīsah al-Ghurāb, or “Church of the Raven.” Even after St Vincent’s body was exhumed in the 12th century, it was still followed and protected by ravens.

One other interesting theory or legend is that the mythical King Arthur didn’t really die, but was transformed into a raven.

Ravens in Middle Eastern or South Asian Cultures and Beliefs

The Q’uran actually mentions a raven as the bird that teaches Cain how to bury his brother Able in The Repast 5:31. He watched a raven digging a hole in the ground in which to bury its dead mate or companion (also a raven), and then he did the same for his brother.

In the Hebrew Bible, ravens are the first birds mentioned, as well as the first animal to leave the Ark when Noah sends one out to test if the great flood waters have receded enough to disembark back to land. The raven was said not to have returned, which symbolized there was land somewhere nearby.

However, some interpretations say that the raven did not return because it was selfish, and then God turned its feathers black, symbolizing Satan. The Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, however, theorized that the raven did not return because it had many corpses of the drowned on which to feed after the flood.

In the New Testament Book of Luke, Jesus called the ravens God’s provision for man.

In Hinduism, crows are associated with ancestors and there is also a goddess named Shani who rides a crow or raven.

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