Our human connection to Cow goes back to the days of prehistory. Aurochs (wild oxen), cattle’s wild ancestors, are found in prehistoric cave art throughout Europe, India and Africa. About 10,500 years ago modern cattle were domesticated from only 80 wild oxen in southeastern Turkey. This was not an easy task as wild aurochs are much bigger than cattle and not at all docile. But succeed they did and cattle became a foundation of human civilization. They provided not only food and clothing but also became beasts of burden for agriculture. An estimated 1.4 billion cattle exist today.
Horns are found on both males and females though it has been bred out of some breeds. Female cattle are called heifers until they birth a calf – then they become cows. Male cattle are bulls unless castrated and then called steers.
Mother Goddess, Fertility, Nurturing, Gratitude, Gentleness
Many cultures have stories of a primeval Mother Goddess who is depicted as a sacred cow.
Cow’s milk, which offers excellent nourishment, has been an important food source for humans for thousands of years. A cow can produce around eight gallons of milk per day. When treated as an individual she produces even more.
Cows are ruminants with unique stomachs comprised of four separate compartments allowing them to digest grasses that are unavailable nutrition to humans. This nutrition gets into the flesh and milk of the cow and then given generously.
Cow, a gentle and giving being, exemplifies nurturing, nourishment, fertility, gratitude and abundance. After nine months in utero, a calf nurses for up to 3 months, sometimes longer. If separated from their mother they will cry and stop eating. Calves are often seen frolicking about under the watchful eyes of their mothers Cows have special friends among the herd and are stressed if separated.
The ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor was worshipped in the form of a cow – sometimes shown as a woman with a cow head, cow ears, or in cow form often with stars above her. She is associated with motherhood, nurturing, agriculture, fertility and childbirth. As Hesat, wet-nurse to the gods, she is depicted as a white cow with milk flowing from full udders while carrying a plate of food on her head.
Hathor was also called The Gentle Cow of Heaven and associated with the Milky Way, viewed by the Egyptians as a heavenly Nile River – the life blood of Egyptian culture. In addition, she was associated with joy, music, love, dance and gratitude. Initiation into her cult included The Five Gifts of Hathor ritual in which initiates assigned 5 reasons for being grateful to each finger, becoming a daily reminder of the importance of gratitude.
In Vedic literature Cow, symbol of Mother Earth, motherhood, abundance and fertility, is also seen as representing both Earth and Sky. Beginning in the 2nd millennium BC and continuing today Cow is India’s most sacred animal. Vedic scriptures describe the bovine-goddess, Kamadhenu as the mother of all cows who fulfilled our desires. She is depicted as a white cow with a woman’s head and breasts or as a white cow with images of all the deities within her body. Cow became the ultimate symbol of nonviolent generosity
Cow was sacred to the Greek Goddess, Hera, who protected women in childbirth.
The Norse Mother Goddess, Audhumla is depicted as a cow from whose udders flowed the four rivers of power, providing sustenance for the giants who ruled their First World.
A sacred white cow is credited with transforming Ireland from a barren land of rock and stone into a green and fertile home. The story goes that three beautiful cows rose from the Western Sea – a milk-white heifer, the Bo-Finn, and her sisters the red Bo Ruadh, and the black Bo Dhu. On shore they separated – the Black went south, the Red went north, while Bo-Finn crossed the land, transforming it as she went. Upon reaching the island’s center she gave birth to twins calves from whom sprung all the cattle of Ireland. – a major source of wealth for the people.
Every place Bo-finn passed on her journey was marked by stone and named to reflect her passage. Her trek across the land became associated with the path cut across the heavens by the Milky Way, also called “The Way of the White Cow.”
Celtic Goddess, Boann – perhaps a later manifestation of Bo-finn was known as “White Cow.” To the ancients both milk and water flowed from the breasts of the Goddess. Boann was associated with both.
Cow, like the Mother Goddess herself, nourishes you with her love, offering assurance and understanding in an uncertain world. Cow gifts you with fertility of body and soul and reminds you of the power and strength of the gentle, loving side of feminine energy. Cow calls you to experience the blessings of gratitude.
Throughout much of the world cattle was and still is a measure of wealth. The word itself comes from the Old French “chatel,” meaning property.
With the advancement of patriarchal systems of marriage cattle were often the dowry given to the bride with the hopes of some kind of financial security in the event of widowhood or neglect by her husband.
Cattle played dual roles to the Egyptians. Through their use in agriculture they provided wealth and abundance. They were also used for sacrifice and fulfilled various spiritual roles.
Hathor, who we have already seen in her role as Mother Goddess, was also the Goddess of the West who eased the passage from death to new life. She opened the gates to the underworld where the spirits of the dead gained eternal life by drinking the milk of the seven Hathor cows.
Cow, who was domesticated by the Irish around 3500 BC, plays a major role in Irish myths and legends. From Cow’s central role in the mythic tale, the Cattle Raid of Cooley (The Tain Bo Cuillaigne) which resulted from a dispute over whose wealth was greatest to the long-held tradition of cattle raiding between Celtic tribes as a mark of skill and independence, the connection between Cow and wealth is evident.
Celtic mythology recounts that Brigid, a goddess loved still today as St. Brigit, was born at sunrise with flames shooting out of her head, uniting Heaven and Earth. As a baby she drank milk from a sacred cow and once grown could turn water into milk.
The Nepalese believed that Cow guided the soul on its final journey through the Milky Way. Most likely the Celts believed the same in their veneration of Bo-Finn, sacred white cow, also associated with the Milky Way.
Cow calls you to honor your mother, all your fore-mothers and Mother Earth. Cow reminds you to remain calm and provides a quiet strength when faced with difficulties. Call on Cow for blessings and nourishment in both your daily life and in your life passages to new beginnings.
Cow reminds us of our connection to the eternal boundlessness of the cosmos seen each night in the Milky Way and urges us to express love, gratitude and a nourishing heart in our daily life. Cow nourishes us in life and in the great beyond.
Sources: Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ahisma, Emma Cownie, Sacred Texts, Historic Mysteries, National Leprechaun Museum, Encyclopedia Britannica, Hari Krishna Temple Portal, Science Daily, Beef2Live, Earth Matters, Your Spiritual Growth Center, The Powers that Be
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations, which are found everywhere in the natural world. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.