MasonicInfo Note: Much of this page derives from a work titled "LIBER CAPRICORNUS - THE SYMBOLISM OF THE GOAT" by Eugene W. Plawiuk as presented to Norwood Lodge #90, AF&AM, G.R.A. on September 3, 1991 and found among the files of 'Hiram's Chamber', likely the first widely-used Masonic Bulletin Boards and shepherded for many years by Preston Burner to whom Masonry on-line owes a huge debt of gratitude.
Whether it's as a recipient (i.e., in preparation for receiving the first degree of Freemasonry) or as a perpetrator, rarely does one fail to hear mention of "The Goat". It was - unfortunately - sometimes the first warning heard prior to entering the lodge as an Apprentice and - regretfully - it's a tool of anti-Masons in order to cast aspersions.
The origin of this ostensibly humorous initiatory jest is unclear and there doesn't seem to be anyone who can cite its beginning. It might have come from the practical joker and Freemason but that's speculation at best. There are no references to it in the major Masonic reference works although some anti-Masonic works have used it as a source of derision for years. Further, it was common to joke about such a thing with initiation into other fraternal organizations as well, particularly groups like the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias (you can see from the K of P Emblem in the lower left corner of the book at the bottom of this page - and the goat pictured is wearing what appears to be an Odd Fellows' collar!).
Because of the lack of references, it would be easy to dismiss our Goat as a simple joke, one which survived from the concept of fraternity hazing, once so popular. Thus dismissed, though, gives anti-Masons an ostensible charge with which to claim the demonic nature of Freemasonry.
The Goat dates back to the very earliest primordial memories of Man and has played a great role in the myths and legends of all religions and cultures of Western Europe.
We learn of The Goat through the ancient science of Astrology first developed by the Chaldeans, or as they are commonly known; Babylonians. Brother Plawiuk says, "The Goat symbolizes male fertility, and is known, to even those who peruse the daily astrology columns of the local newspaper, as representing the astrological sign of Capricorn; Dec. 22 to January 22. Capricorn is a combination of both a Goat and and a fish. According to J.E. Cirlot in his Dictionary of Symbols, this dual aspect refers to 'the dual tendencies of life towards the abyss (or water)' or chaos of the beginning of time, and 'the heights of mountains' or order and malkuth (the earth) as symbolized by the goat aspect."
Continuing, Plawiuk says:
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