The 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’.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.