How many of us remember waiting in the preparation room and being informed by some well meaning Brother that "The Goat was waiting" or "Boys, you sure will get a ride tonight!"
I went in search of the "Goat Legend" within Masonry and discovered to my dismay that the source of all this "good natured" ribbing stems from the Fraternity's detractors in the late 17th and early 18th century. A number of organisations made fun, ridiculed, and in some cases, were vicious in their attacks on Masonry. Some suggested that our rituals included witch craft and devil worship.
In order to fully appreciate the link to these attack and "The Goat", we have to step back a little further in history.
In Greek mythology, the god Pan was a gentle, humourous god much taken with the enjoyment of life in general. He was described as having long ears, horns and the lower half of his body was that of a goat, including cloven hoofs as feet. When the Gauls invaded Greece, statues of Pan terrified them. In fact the word panic is thought to have come from the Gaul's reaction to Pan's visage.
I suspect this perception of Pan was taken back to Western Europe by the Gauls and used to scare little children into going to bed on time etc. During the early Middle Ages, Christians drew upon this mythology and transformed Pan's attributes to represent Satan. We have many reference to goat like features associated to the devil. In the later middle ages, the devil took on a more dignified form in keeping with his supposed power, but he retained the association of the goat. He was imagined as riding a goat. Witches were said to conjure up the devil who would appear to them riding on a goat.
It is this image that detractors of Masonry accused the Brotherhood of 250 years ago.
Over the years, we in the Fraternity have forgotten the source of the goat and have actually taken to making fun of him, particularly at the expense of our candidates. Taking into account the goat's original meaning and intent by Masonic detractors, I wonder if it isn't time to bury any references to him in any part of our Lodges once and for all.
Masonic Harvest - Carl Claudy (1948)
Ron Merk - Education Officer Vancouver & Quadra #2