Sacred Geese by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoThe end of winter is near in the northern hemisphere. Though the cold persists the days slowly grow longer. If you’re lucky you might soon see a skein of geese flying overheard on their way to their northern nesting grounds – a beautiful reminder of our world’s ongoing cycles of change. 

Geese are ancient – with fossils dating back 10 – 12 million years ago. Though probably domesticated first in Egypt 3000 years ago, some research indicates domestication occurred even earlier.

Thirty species of geese are found all around the world. Goose refers to the female; gander to the male; goslings to young geese.When in flight they are a ‘skein’, on the ground – a ‘gaggle’, anywhere – a ‘flock’.


Creative Principal
Around the world goose was associated with creation. Egyptian creation myths tell of the cosmic goose, Kenkenwer, – the ‘Great Cackler’. Believed to have laid the cosmic egg from which Earth was born, Kenkenwer further called the world into being by breaking the silence of unmanifest eternity. 

Geese breed in the far north and High Arctic regions, migrating south for winter. Possibly Egyptians believed that geese, who turned up mysteriously every year, were truly the original beings.

Egyptian Earth God, Geb, photo – Daniel Toye, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Egyptian Earth God, Geb was often depicted with a goose on his head. Geb was also called the Great Cackler, who in a bit of gender confusion, laid the cosmic egg from which the Sun hatched every day. 

Goose was sacred to Isis as well, known as “The Egg of the Goose.”

In Hindu mythology a pair of divine birds, the Hamsa, depicted as geese or swans, laid a golden egg on the cosmic waters, from which the creator god, Brahma – often depicted riding a goose. – was born.

At home in air, on water and on land, Goose transcends separation becoming symbolic of the union of opposites; of the oneness of the sacred circle from which we all come.

Journeys, Communication, Messenger – Between Spirit and Matter; Of change
Migrating geese can fly 3,000 miles, returning to the same summer nesting and overwintering grounds every year. They fly in a V-shaped formation, helping minimize wind resistance thus conserving energy and improving communication. They honk frequently while flying both to encourage the formation maintenance and to signal a change in leadership.

Communication begins young for geese – while still in their eggs.  All through life geese follow the gazes of one another, sharing important information about their environment. 

Goose Spirit helps shamans on their shamanic journeys. Siberian shamans in the Altai Mountains were believed to ride a goose. 

Toman, Goddess of Migratory Birds to the Ket of Siberia, created geese anew every spring. She shook feathers from her sleeve which turned into the arriving geese.

Some Tibetan dakini – female spirit guides – were depicted as goose headed women. 

Around the world many believed that both geese and swans either carried or embodied the souls of the dead.

With spring migration northward, the Scottish said the geese were carrying the souls of their recently departed “north beyond the north wind”. 

The soul of a deceased Egyptian pharaoh was depicted as a goose whereas a new pharaoh was announced with the release of four wild geese messengers.

In addition to Isis, Goose was also sacred to Osiris, Egyptian Underworld God and their son, Horus – the quintessential trio of birth, death and rebirth. Egyptians believed that the Sun God, Horus died at sunset and then was birthed anew every morning by Isis.

Goose models the perseverance and cooperation needed when we embark on our own journeys, when we move toward new possibilities. Geese, who dramatically appear and depart from our view, remain a potent symbol of change and of travel between the seen and unseen worlds.

Love, Family Life, Cooperation, Loyalty, Healing
Geese are truly social animals who maintain lifelong relationships. Except for summer nesting season when they tend to travel in pairs, they stick together in large flocks of mostly related individuals. Averaging 24 years of life, geese make two dozen migrations in a lifetime.

Geese are loyal partners who mate for life and are very protective of family members. If a mate or gosling becomes sick that goose will stay with it, even when winter is coming and the need to migrate with their flock is at hand. When a mate dies, it will mourn alone and often refuses to mate again. 

Geese are tuned in to each other. Their heart rates increase when their family members have conflict with another goose.

Unlike most birds, goslings remain with their parents for their first year, following them back to their nesting grounds where they form a new group with other young geese.

Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love is often depicted riding a goose.




Geese were sacred to Juno, Roman Goddess of Marriage and Protector of the State. The Romans used goose fat as an aphrodisiac.

Norse Mother Goddess, Frigga, whose name means “Beloved,” is a goddess of social bonds – marriage, community, social contracts. Her sacred places are every type of wet lands – places of fertility. All waterfowl are hers but most sacred of all is Goose. Some believe Frigga was the source of the storybook character, Mother Goose, whose stories helped instruct and protect children.

To the Celts goose fat was a greatly valued commodity used for healing.

Goose sounds the call of compassion and loyalty with your relations, of warming your heart with fertile creativity and of feeling the healing touch of love given and returned. 

Protection, Warrior Spirit, Courage
Geese are territorial, becoming aggressive when defending their young. During nesting season the gander defends his mate, their territory and their eggs. Some become very aggressive, attacking whoever dares intrude.

Collection of Museum of Brittany, Rennes

The Celts venerated Goose for its protective nature, associating it with both War Goddesses and Gods. A war goddess statue found in Brittany from 100 B.C. wears a goose-topped helmet.

Unfortunately for the Celts the Romans also attributed protective characteristic to geese. In 390 B.C. in the dark of night, geese who guarded the Roman Temple of Juno raised a loud, honking alarm as the Gauls attacked. The invading Celts were defeated. 

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, was also associated with warfare, politics, and the need for dissimilar groups to come together. Perhaps she rode her sacred Goose to these types of affairs. 

Cycles of Life, Finding Treasures
Geese come and go with regularity announcing the cycles of change. 

Goose is sacred to German goddess Holda, Goddess of Prosperity and Generosity. who is the German equivalent of Frigga. It was reported that gold coins fell from her cape as she shook it out.  She was known to give generous gifts to her people and to lead them to their heart’s desire.

Folktales of the goose that lays the golden egg are found all around the world. Generally they teach the importance of honoring the source of our treasures while preaching against the dangers of greed – “Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”  Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk” doesn’t kill but takes the goose. He attains the treasure of a soul in harmony with the cycles of change.

Goose connects you with the creativity of Divine Source and provides an understanding of love, loyalty and cooperation as keys to maintaining that connection.

Goose Spirit gifts you with the courage to protect what is important to you. 

Goose flies in to help – in navigating life’s journeys; in maintaining a balance between freedom, stability and the acquisition of treasures. Goose’s appearance is a reminder to stay open to – inspiration from your higher self, to the signs of coming changes and to the proper course needed to achieve your goals. With Goose wisdom you will know when to lead, when to follow and how to stay connected to the sacred circle of life. 

I’ll end with a short video I put together of geese wintering along the Rio Grande – a short walk from my home.

Sources: Solomon’s Sky : The Tapestry of Heaven from the Phaistos Disk, beliefnet, Lottie Brown Designs, Ancient History Encyclopedia, The Soul of Bones, Hindu Lore, Ydalir, Just Fun Facts, The Cornell Lab, Treehugger, Fun Facts About Geese,

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou 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. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides, and on a modern folktale of the Reindeer Goddess. 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.

Author: Judith Shaw

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 of course includes the flora and fauna of our beautiful Earth. Judith has exhibited her paintings in New York, San Francisco, Mytilene Greece, Athens Greece, New Orleans, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Albuquerque NM, Houston TX and Providence RI. She has published two oracle decks - Celtic Goddess Oracle and Animal Wisdom Oracle and is hard at work on an illustrated fairytale - Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

13 thoughts on “Sacred Geese by Judith Shaw”

  1. I loved your video Judith… it took me back to NM and my life there along the Chama… Happily, we have geese here in the north too but they don’t arrive until April… last year on my perilous trip north the last bird I saw was actually a skein of geese and when I arrived home the first morning I was here geese flew over the house – I had a weird sense that these birds had protected me on my journey north. – There is so much mythology around them that it’s almost overwhelming and still you add more that I didn’t know! I love your paintings too… Every year I pick up their feathers… they are not loved in our area – lake country – and are routinely shot. I find them marvelous – daughters of the goddess – they show us how to live in community. Thank You!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Knowing how strongly you connect with animals I feel sure geese with their protective talents were helping you on your journey. I find them marvelous also. Where I live in ABQ now is a short 5 min walk to the Bosque and I routinely see and hear them flying overhead when I step out my door.

      Why do folks around you not like geese? I know plenty of people hate wolves because they occasionally kill one of their herd animals but why geese….. They are just doing their thing and not harming human endeavors. Are they shooting them to for food? So sad


  2. Superb post! So much goose ancient goose lore that is new to me. And I always love your paintings. How heartening to see and hear the geese in the video. I look forward to welcoming them here soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You always do such thorough, wonderful research. I am very impressed. You’re teaching us readers quite a lot about animals and birds we thought we probably already knew. Bright blessings!

    One of my favorite memories dates back to my first semester at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois. I lived in a duplex outside of town near Crab Orchard Lake, which is a significant stop on the migration route used by many birds. About suppertime one night, I heard what sounded like a million geese. I went outside. There, not ten feet above my roof, was a skein of Canada geese organizing themselves into their famous V as they set off toward the south. I was awestruck and just stood there until the birds disappeared, but I could still hear them calling to each other.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Barbara,
      That was really a marvelous experience you had with geese! I love all the animal experiences that folks are sharing with my Spirit Animal posts.

      I never realized how much I love researching all things related to mythology until I started work on my Celtic Goddess Oracle deck. When that was finished I had a moment of “What now?” and then dove into the animals which are taking me on a journey all around the world. Glad you are enjoying that journey with me.


  4. Thank you, Judith! Your post is excellent, super informative. I have not personal experiences with Gooses. In fact, after reading your post, I googled if we have gooses here in South America, and we have! A lot! Which I did not know, of course, so I’ll go out and create my own experience. I appreciate in your post the connections between these wonderful animals and the sacred/divine in so many cultures and places. Learning more about nature makes me think of how the divine inhabits us all, in every creature. How Gosses behave and relate and mourn and travel together is just marvelous; it is divine and wonderful indeed. I wonder when we lost our ability to incorporate all creatures’ complexity and magic in our connections to the divine. I am just amazed by your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for letting me know that geese are in South America. Though my research told me that they live all around the world I did not find any myth from South America associated with geese so I wondered. I guess your geese migrate to the far south and Antarctic for nesting season.

      I agree with you 100% that the divine inhabits us all. I even consider things like rocks which science thinks of as dead to also have the divine within. it seems to me that human beings mad rush for more and more things and comfort has continued to create the disconnect from nature.

      Thanks for reading. You are welcome to look at my page on FAR which has an archive of all my past posts. If you learn of any South American myths about geese I’d love to hear about it.


  5. Love the post Judith. I have always loved geese and you have fleshed out their magic and wonderment is so many facets. Thank you for that. I’ve always seen Mother Goose as the keeper of sacred stories – long before Aesop and Grimm. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Janet,
    You are not alone in that assessment of Mother Goose. Many see Goose as the keeper of childhood’s stories which help to create the patterns of our lives. And of course you can see the refection of Aphrodite riding her goose in the images of Mother Goose riding her goose. There’s always so much more info to include than space allows.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article! I was rafting with a friend today and had a few good encounters with the geese. I tried to relay some history I had read about the romans highly revering the goose – I knew it had something to do with symbolizing war but didn’t remember why. it was bugging me why the Romans would have picked a goose as the symbol for war. After finding your article I was pleasantly surprised to not only find out why but quite a bit more and now I know about the many other cultures and people around the world who have also loved the goose. Thank you so much, I usually don’t leave comments on random website/blogs but I really liked this one and wanted to say thanks.


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