Why is the goat often associated with Satan in various religious folklore and illustrations? What makes the goat satanic?

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Several reasons

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

The scapegoat

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.

  • @femtoRgon - I have no problem with the image, but since I don't have any idea what sort of work environments people might be viewing this in, I figure it doesn't do much harm to give them the choice to view it (or not). – Obie 2.0 Aug 16 '16 at 8:30
  • To quote this answer: "Internalized censorship isn’t the answer to external censorship." Censorship has no place here. If the image is relevant and helpful (it is!), don't hide it. If it's not, remove it entirely. Not quite the same, but a very similar issue is discussed here, on our meta. – femtoRgon Aug 16 '16 at 15:56
  • @femtoRgon - I don't really see a dichotomy between "relevant and helpful" and "must be displayed outside of spoilers." After all, let's not forget the primary reason for spoiler markup: to hide actual relevant, useful spoilers that some people would rather not see! The post you linked is actually not referring to any sort of censorship internal to a person at all, but to censorship internal to the network, i.e. as a matter of network policy - which is in reality a quite external form of censorship. – Obie 2.0 Aug 16 '16 at 16:52
  • I'm not sure what actual "internalized censorship" would look like, but I suspect that it would involve not doing something for fear of attracting scorn. I don't think that's the same as being polite, honestly. – Obie 2.0 Aug 16 '16 at 16:53
  • Amusingly, in the question that you linked to, a community manager makes it clear that some degree of explicit censorship of material is in fact Stack Exchange policy. See here as well. I don't really approve of these policies (because they are really external censorship), but they are there, so saying that "censorship has no place here" could be a bit confusing to someone not totally familiar with policy. Risky if they want to post relevant pornographic video screenshots in their posts! – Obie 2.0 Aug 16 '16 at 17:01

You can at least find 2 main reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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