Why is the goat often associated with Satan in various religious folklore and illustrations? What makes the goat satanic?
The reasons for the associations of goats with Satan vary. Some are quite ancient, while others are of more recent vintage.
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
Sheep are loyal. They follow the Son of God, metaphorically a shepherd. Goats, on the other hand, are disobedient and difficult.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
NIV, Matthew 25:31-33
We see here that goats are being used as metaphor for sin in Matthew, very early in the development of the Christian church. In setting the sheep on his right hand, Jesus gives them a favored position. The goats, on the other hand....
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
NIV, Matthew 25:41-43
Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. 10"But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
NASB, Leviticus 16:10
It seems like that the idea of the goat as a repository for sin may have outweighed the knowledge that there was also a goat being sacrificed to God. After all, presumably a calf or bull is one's richest sacrifice, so why not associate the goat with something else?
A lot of the modern associations of Satan with goats come from the idea of Baphomet, though.
Eliphas Levi, undoubtedly influenced by earlier associations of goats with witchcraft, propounded the idea of a goat-headed deity, which he identified with the Baphomet purportedly worshiped by the Templars:
The symbolic head of the goat of Mendes is occasionally given to this figure, and it is then the Baphomet of the Templars and the Word of the Gnostics, bizarre images which became scarecrows for the vulgar after affording food for reflection to sages – innocent hieroglyphs of thought and faith which have been a pretext for the rage of persecutions. How pitiable are men in their ignorance, but how they would despise themselves if only they came to know!
Dogma et Rituel de la Haute Magie (translated)
It is from Levi that we received the most stereotypical Satanic goat image, a semi-nude individual with male, female, and goat attributes.
These ideas have had a tremendous influence on modern perception of the devil as possessed of goat attributes.
You can at least find 2 main reasons:
- Goat gods are pretty old beliefs. You find them in almost every cultures spreading everywhere. Celts have Cernunnos. In norse myth you have Tanngrisnir and Tanngjostr. In roman myth Faunus and Hammon/ In greece Pan. In sumer you have Dumuzid, the Tammuz of the Bible. For what I am aware, as we found cavern drawings of anthropomorphic goats, it could well be one of the oldest cult. And the Bible is very keen to point out the falsehood of other Gods by demonifying them.
- Per se goats are strange creatures, if you saw some in action. Specifically the male one, the buck. Those animals have an incredible libido and you see them having hard on all the time. And when there are females around them they are extremly demonstrative. I have seen some almost strangulating themselves to reach them. And they very casually piss on themselves; Specifically the legs, the face and in the mouth (yes). Not something you see the other flock animals like horses, sheep or bull do. Beside that, goats are prone to eat a lot of things. Give them paper and enjoy them chewing on it... An horse will ignore the paper simply.
Bible uses goat to symbolize sin rejection with the concept of scapegoat. It just makes clear the proximity between goats and human beings. In other words, Bible replaced human sacrifice by goat sacrifice. And hence why devilish creatures tend to use the feature of the goats. Because devilish creatures are full of sin.
In Märchen (aka "Fairy Tales"), the Grimms “Kinder und Hausmärchen” (Children’s and Household Tales) include a tale on how God created all animals and selected the wolves to be his hounds (KHM 1857 #148, "Des Herrn und des Teufels Gethier" (The Lord's and the Devil's Creatures). Since God forgot to create the goat, the the devil also wanted to create and made the goat with fine long tails. When they went to pasture, they usually got their tails stuck in the brambles. The Devil had to go in and with much effort free them. This angered the devil and he bit their tails off, as is still to be seen today in their stumpy tails.
The story continues....
"The Bolte Anmerkungen state that “An age old reason, says W. Grimm breaks everywhere through this fable; it belongs, as out of Dänhardts rich Nachweisen in the Natursagen 1, 127 – 205 belongs, to the large group of dual creation tellings. Out of envy the Devil copies Gods creations, without being able to achieve it; he creates a wolf, a goat, a horse, but only enlivens them through the word of God; instead on the human he creates an ape, instead of the bee a wasp, instead of the nut an acorn; or he is cheated in such a contest.”"
The Grimm text is from Hans Sachs 1556 Schwank “Der dewffel hat die gais geschaffen, hat in dewffel-augen eingeseczt” – “The devil had created the goat(s), had set devils eyes in.”