The Goat Dance - Creative Arts

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Goat Dance
Creative Arts

Once upon a time (and still in some places) men impersonated the horned one and danced masked and costumed as an animal, frequently a goat. (See HORNED ONE.) Witch-hunters, perhaps initially misunderstanding reports, envisioned Satan as an upright male goat dancing amid witches during sabbats.

In either situation, “goats” are seen to dance; however the goat dance refers to a genre of folk dance, still existing in Greece, Romania, the Balkan region, and elsewhere, mainly centered in the god Dionysus’ old stomping grounds. Although there are regional differences, there are recognizably related goat dances everywhere Dionysus once held influence.

The goat dance is danced by men traditionally dressed in goatskins, crowned with horns and/or wearing goat leather masks. There are two variations of the dance:

Image The goat dance is fast, frenetic, and vigorous and exemplifies the goat as a rambunctious male fertility figure.

Image The goat dance is a solemn dance that re-enacts the sacrifice and sometimes eventual resurrection of the goat.

Because the two themes are sometimes combined into one lengthy narrative, dances that incorporate only the frenetic or only the mournful aspect may be understood as edited or taken out of what once may have been a larger context. In either or both cases, the dancer who impersonates the goat may be understood to represent either a real goat or any one of the innumerable spirits who manifest in goat shape. These spirits in general are tricksters, personifying male procreative energy. In general, however, the goat dance is believed to honor, remember and, quite literally, memorialize Dionysus.