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PBP: Goat of Zeus

April 9, 2012

"a year of exploring the Pagan world through blogging"

When trying to decide what to write for this week (late as it is), I did my usual.  I opened up the dictionary to the G’s.  I then selected a page in there and looked through the words.  When I stumbled upon goat, I heard in my head a phrase from one of my prayers.

From Amalthea’s horn pour forth thy bounty…

Amalthea is variously described as a goat or the owner of the goat that fed Zeus when he was an infant.  When Zeus was born, Rhea hid him from Kronos to prevent him from being swallowed like his siblings.  She put him in the charge of some nymphs and her Kouretes (warrior–priests).  The nymphs fed him goat milk and honey while the Kouretes (or Korybantes) create a din by hitting their swords against their shields to prevent the child’s cries from being heard by his father (and later trained him in the art of dance and war).  The goat (aix) was called an Oleanan goat (Olenia or Olene being a place in ancient Greece) had recently bore kids.  These kids were set aside in order to feed Zeus.  Rhea gave the nymphs a golden dog (Kuon Khryseos) to guard the goat from harm.

A tale is told that one day the goat broke off one of her horns in the forest while foraging.  One of the nymphs filled the broken horn with herbs and fruit to take back to Zeus in the cave.  Another tale says that Zeus accidentally broke off the horn while playing.  This horn Zeus later endowed with the power to instantaneously fill with whatever the possessor wished.  It came to be called the cornucopia or horn of plenty and was associated with Tykhe, Demeter, Haides, Khthonic Zeus and Eirene.  In modern times, one sees the cornucopia in connection with Thanksgiving which is rather appropriate I think.

Upon the goat’s death (or at least I assume so as I have a hard time believing Zeus would up and kill the goat after the service she rendered him), he placed her and her kids image among the stars.  Her skin was made into his aegis which is variously defined as a thunder shield or breast plate.  Another appropriate use for just as her milk defended him as a child so the aegis defended him in battle with the Titans.  It is from the aegis that Zeus has the epithet Aegidukhos (Aegis-bearer).

“Amaltheia was placed amongst the stars as the constellation Capra–the group of stars surrounding Capella on the arm (ôlenê) of the Auriga the Charioteer. The goat on the arm no doubt represented the stormy aigis-shield of Zeus which in classical art was sometimes depicted slung across his arm. The rising of Capella marked the onset of stormy weather for the Greeks. Indeed, the word aigis denoted both “stormy weather” and “goat-skin,” hence their close connection in myth.” –

Another tale says it was a gorgon called Aex (goat) daughter of Helios who cared for Zeus.  This gorgon was beautiful in body but had a most terrifying face.  She had been hidden in the cave by Gaia at the Titans’ request.  When Zeus was about to go into battle against the Titans, he was advised to carry a goat skin shield with a gorgon face upon it. Later, it is said, he loaned the aegis to Athene.

Zeus honored his nurse maid in the best way available in a society who tended to avoid waste, by placing her image in the stars for all to see and using what she left behind to provide food and protection just as she did in life.  There are worse ways for the beloved dead to be honored.  The important thing is that he remembered and honored her.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. heraqles permalink
    April 11, 2012 10:44 PM

    I think this was a good way to tell this story of the young Zeus.


    • April 12, 2012 7:20 AM

      Thanks. If you go to the next blog, I wrote a story based on this information. It plagued me until I wrote it down.



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