the masonic goat
The Short Talk Bulleting
Vol 14 May 1936 No 11
The Grand Lodge Of New Brunswick
From whence came the curious belief that in the making of
a Mason, the candidate must ride upon the goat?
It is, alas, sufficiently easy to understand why the idea persists. It
continues because well-intentioned but unthinking Freemasons tell their
friends, prior to initiation, to "Look out for the goat!" and "The goat will
be starved so he'll butt the harder." and "I'll be there to see you ride the
Not one in a thousand who so demeans a fraternity wholly concerned with such
serious matters as belief in a Great Architect, the inculcation of charity,
the establishment of brotherly love, the building of character, realizes
that by such silly jokes he perpetuates an ancient ridicule of Freemasonry,
and, far worse, an old accusation of blasphemy against an organization which
has ever held the Most High in greatest reverence.
Many animals have played curious parts in secular history and in religion.
the Russian Bear, the British Lion, the American Eagle, are national emblems
the world over. The lamb plays a part in both Christianity and Freemasonry.
The bull is sacred in India, as was the cat in Egypt. Lion and lamb are both
important to Freemasonry, as are "beasts of the field and vultures of the
air." But search the rituals of all lands and climes and ages and no goat is
found in Freemasonry, save in the minds and on the lips of those who
ridicule the brotherhood which stretches 'round the world.
In the north of Europe, popular belief has the wood spirit, Ljesche, wearing
a goat's horns, ears and legs. The African Bijagos worship the goat as a
Mythologically the goat played a prominent part. Silenus, chief of the
Satyrs, attendants of Dionysus, also of Bacchus, was half goat. The Fauns,
also half goat, were familiars and servants of Pan, the Arcadian God of the
shepherds, huntsmen, country people. He is represented as horned, long
eared, a man with the lower half of his body a goat. He plays a pipe made of
reeds of various lengths, the Pan's Pipes or Syrinx. He is supposed to have
been of terrifying appearance, when he wished - our word "panic" comes from
the terror he is said to have inspired. but mythology makes him on the whole
a gentle deity with elfin characteristics. Except for scaring the
countryside, he is depicted as mischievous rather than dangerous.
The early Christian fathers understood that a world could not be won from a
paganism which had permeated lives for thousands of years, merely by ukase.
It was far simpler to keep the old, transfer to it a Christian significance,
as in Christmas and harvest festivals, anciently days of pagan ceremonies,
made Christian and brought into the church. Mythology could not be uprooted,
but it could be made useful. Gradually gentle Pan was resolved, or evolved,
into Satan. Thus Satan has Pan's horns and tail and, in early England, the
devil rode upon a goat!
It is an old superstition in England and Scotland that a goat is never seen
during an entire twenty-four period. Once a day he visits the devil to have
his beard combed! Even in this enlightened age, when a goat is considered to
do no more harm than is inherent in eating tin cans and leather shoes, he
retains his ancient smirched character in our language. To "be the Goat" is
to get the worse of an affair, be blamed for what we did not do. To "Get
your goat" is to annoy, perturb, distress. To "Separate the sheep from the
goats" is no longer a mere act of division as it was in Matthew, but
dividing the fit from the unfit, the good and the bad, the evil and the
Those familiar with Shakespeare will recall the incantation of the Third
Witch in the cavern, forth act of Macbeth. The witch is adding to the list
of horrible articles to be tossed in the cauldron for the hellish brew;
Scale of dragon, tooth of wold, Witches mummy; maw and gulf Of the
ravin'd salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock, digged i' the dark, Liver of
blaspheming jew Gall of goat and slips of yew...
Old Testament instructions for priestly sacrifices included the goat
among the clean animals. Most important from the standpoint of the
metamorphosis of the goat from a gently and inoffensive beast to one of
terrifying propensities, was the scapegoat. We read (Leviticus 16:7-10).
"And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots
upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord , and the other lot for the
scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell,
and offer him for a sin offering. but the goat, on which the lot fell to
be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an
atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the
The idea that the sins of the people might be transferred to a goat,
which, driven into the wilderness to die, carried away the moral trespasses
with which he was symbolically loaded, doubtless had much to do with the
change which came over the complexion of the Great God Pan, when
Christianity commenced to rewrite the ancient heathen mythology. Gently Pan,
who harmed no one beyond creating terror, became first Satanic, and then, in
the end, Satan himself. In the middle ages, men believed that the Evil One
took the form of a goat on earth, when he wished to work his wicked will
unseen of men in his true character. Therefore Satan gradually grew both
horns and tail!
"Then cane the witch stories of the Middle Ages, and the belief in the
witch orgies, where it was said the Devil appeared riding on a goat. These
orgies of the witches were, amid fearfully blasphemous ceremonies, they
practiced initiation into their Satanic rites, became, to the vulgar and
illiterate, the type of the Masonic mysteries; for, as Dr. Oliver says, it
was in England a common belief that the Freemasons were accustomed in
their Lodges to "raise the Devil". So riding of the goat, which was
believed to be practiced by the witches, was transferred to the
Two organizations of the early eighteenth century seem to have been
formed and to have lived their short lives wholly to bring ridicule on
Freemasonry. the Gormogons began in 1724, the Scald Miserables held their
Mock Masonry processions in 1741.
According to Mackey, one of the rules of the Gormogons was:
"No Freemason could be admitted until he was first degraded and then
renounced the Masonic order. It was absurbly and intentionally pretentious
in its character, in ridicule of Freemasonry claiming a great antiquity
and pretending that it was descended from an ancient society in China.
There was much antipathy between the two as will appear from the following
verses, published in 1729 by Henry Cary:
The Masons and the Gormogons are laughing at one another While all mankind
is laughing at them; then why do they make such a pother?
"They bait their hook for simple gulls, And truth with bam they smother;
But when they've taken in their culls Why then, tis; 'Welcome, Brother'
"The Gormogons made a great splutter in their day, and published many
squibs against Freemasonry; yet that is still living, while the Gormogons
were long ago extinguished. They seem to have flourished for but a very
The Scald Miserables paraded in mockery of the Masonic processions of
early days, ridiculing the Order and being in turn ridiculed by members of
the Fraternity in the somewhat brutal give and take of those days. the
efforts of the Scald Miserables were frowned upon by the better classes, who
respected the Fraternity to which at that time so many men eminent in public
life in England were turning.
It is perhaps, too much to state that these two societies had much to do
with the spread of the idea that the Masonic Fraternity, "raised the devil"
in its Lodges. Yet a print by Hogarth entitled "The Mystery of Masonry
brought to Light by Gormogons," shows a curious goat-like figure walking in
the procession in the middle of the picture. Nor is it likely that
organizations conceived in hatred of the Fraternity would omit from their
guns of ridicule so powerful a weapon as the belief that Masons "raised the
devil" and "rode upon the goat."
That Masons were supposed to "raise the devil" in their secret meetings may
be understandable in the credulous times of a century or two ago, but it
does seem rather incredible that in a modern day and age any one should so
believe. Yet as late as 1894, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati, the
great Research Lodge of England, published a note which reads as follows:
"A curious and interesting libel suit is, our Berlin Correspondent
says, pending against two newspapers, one at Rome and the other at Bonn. A
Catholic priest at Friburg in Switzerland lately refused to allow a lady
to participate in Holy communion. The Swiss court, however, rejected her
claim. The above-mentioned papers in reporting the case denounced the lady
as a grand mistress of a lady's lodge and added that this lodge had
accepted the Satan worship imported from America and the devil's Mass..."
This is bad enough, but what shall we think of men so credulous as to
believe in 1927 - nine years ago - that Masonic bodies in France steal the
Hosts from the Catholic church to use in blasphemous ceremonies in Masonic
Lodges, the celebration of the Black Mass (whatever that is!) and the
"raising of the devil?"
Yet an article in La Revue Internationale des Societies Secretes, of Paris,
sets forth these alleged "facts" in some detail!
It is natural to believe the worst of an opponent; all secret societies are
supposed by their detractors to be secret because of concealed evil. The
Grand Orient of France, frankly anti-clerical, accepts either theists or
atheists as members, but because it does not demand a believe in Deity, is
often supposed to be anti-religious. As well say political parties, chambers
of Commerce or a social club are anti-religious because no belief in a Deity
is demanded as a qualification for membership. Some Clerical enthusiasts
have read anti-religion into anti- clericalism, just as the people of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from jealously at not being permitted
to join, or dislike of that which contained "secrets" that they did not
know, denominated Freemasonry as anti-religious, "raising the devil" in its
Of course no one well informed believes that Freemasonry has anything to do
with goats. If any one does so believe, he marks himself at once either as
singularly credulous, or as ignorant. Yet the idea that the goat is a part
of Masonic initiation has soiled the reputation of the fraternity in many
minds; many people do believe that Freemasonry's initiations are humorous in
character, concerned with horse play, a sort of exaggerated college
fraternity in action.
The fact is of enough importance to bear repetition - the responsibility for
the goat idea of Masonic initiation today rests squarely on the shoulders of
the unthinking, who perpetuate it by attempting to terrify petitioners. The
same idea is sometimes carried into Lodge rooms, where one of the most
beautiful of ceremonies is occasionally butchered to make a holiday for
those who cannot or will not see its sublime symbolism.
When all Freemasons reverence the holy teachings of the Order and find in
the ceremonies only uplift and inspiration, the goat will disappear from the
lips of those who profess brotherhood, and soon thereafter will vanish from
the minds and the literature of those not of the fraternity.
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