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Totems: Mountain Goat

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

I AM MOUNTAIN GOAT. Though I live in the most secluded, isolated places, I am not lonely. Do you know why? I exist always in present time. The gift of being an animal is that we accept things as they are. Humans frequently want things to be different, and so suffer. I live with the gurgling brook at my hooves, and in truth, it is part of me. So is the biting wind slashing the craggy cliff upon which I stand. I enjoy the sun for its warmth, and the snow in winter. Can you let down your boundaries to merge with the forces of nature or another being? Feel pain, joy and life force? Let yourself love with your whole heart? I cannot be other than I am; therefore, intimacy is not in doubt: others always see the real me. Do you let others see you? Do you know who you are?

It's a tough time to be a Capricorn (power animal GOAT), isn't it? Everything is so fluid and changeable, there's hardly a line to be drawn anywhere, except to those who think that taking a stand, any stand, will protect them from the perils of uncertainty. No, dear goats, this isn't the age for looking at things as black or white. The only absolutes working on the planet right now are Love, Compassion and Courage. Have you noticed that each of us is being confronted with mirror reflections of everything we would prefer to remain fixed about? There is one saving grace though; the amazing tenacity of goat will stand you in good stead and give you the strength to persevere in changing your old, untenable stories into ones that produce happiness.

Mountain goat's white fur indicates a desire for perfection and striving for the highest ideals. Imagine a Mountain goat at the very top and edge of a steep cliff, silhouetted against a blue sky, holding on solely by cloven hooves, and you will have the definition of tenacity. This is exactly what I saw one day while taking a walk in a ranch on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Thick, shaggy fur, curved black horns against steel-grey stone made an impressive, statue-like presence. Long, stiff guard hairs on the back and shoulders gave the goat a "hump" look. It was as though he were the guardian of the white stallion hundreds of feet below, standing in the shade of one large, solitary tree.

Here's a surprise! Mountain goat is actually a misnomer since goats are classified as mountain antelopes, belonging to a sub-family that includes antelopes, gazelles and cattle. However, if you got close to one, you would smell the distinctive goat odor. Though both males (billies) and females (nannies) have beards, males testify to their maleness with beards soaked with urine and ejaculate. The mineral bromine is named from the Greek word br?mos, which means "stench of he-goats," yet Mountain goat wool was prized for trade with coastal tribes, who wove it into robes for those who could afford the rare, hard-to-obtain commodity.

Mountain goats are the largest mammals found in high-altitude alpine habitats, reaching elevations of 13,000 feet. Throughout the year, they usually stay above the tree line. Yes, I know life is harder there, but have you TRIED telling a tenacious goat – well, anything! Folks with this medicine are ruggedly independent, not to say defensive. In times of food shortage, goats will vigorously defend feeding areas. It's easy to starve in winter since there's not much food above the treeline. Grass, lichens and woody plants make up their diet. They rarely graze in meadows as do Bighorn sheep. Goat people need to be aware of their need for rest, nutritious food and above all, recreation. Even though they have tremendous stamina, they can be workaholics. They're probably the most responsible ones in their family and other groups; most likely they've put aside their own dreams for others. My mother, a double Capricorn was an example of this. At five, she was doing the accounting for my grandfather's (also a Capricorn) store. My mother wanted to be a biologist; however, she was taken out of school at an early age to support her family after my grandfather was injured. Every month, she would attempt to put aside a little of her pay for herself, but a greater family need always arose, to which she felt obliged to donate. Later she finished high school at night; for the most part she educated herself in finance and the stock market by which she provided for herself in her later years. All her life she was responsible, hard-working (even at play) creative, resourceful and artistic. In every aspect of her life, she exhibited great strength and fortitude. Have you given up a lot in order to have security for yourself and those in your care? Goat people need a firm foundation, yet they also need adventure. Don't get so wrapped up in routine that you dry up all joy and pleasure.

Have you ever done any rock climbing? Does it thrill you to swing from ledge to ledge, wedging hands and feet into hollows and toeholds, in order to scale steep, craggy cliffs? If that is a passion of yours, mountain goat may be your totem. They are the most skilled rock climbers of North American mammals. Folks with this totem are known for balance and agility. Nimble on their feet and flexible, they are often good dancers or gymnasts. These powerhouse animals choose to live in the most inhospitable places, such as the edge of glaciers; unhesitatingly leap from ledge to ledge across deep chasms; trek along ledge paths so narrow their dewclaws, which act like thumbs must grip against the steep surface with their hooves? The hoof has a stiff outer rim and a flexible, pebbled pad in the center of the underside. Mountain goats can jump nearly 12 feet in a single bound. They have been observed executing a backward cartwheel along a cliff-face wall, when a narrow ledge path petered out above a drop of hundreds of feet. In narrow chutes, they sometimes bounce back and forth against rock to slow a descent. Why would a species have developed these adaptations? Short, muscular legs, and hooves designed to handle spring and traction on rock are designed to enable goats to go where even their cougar, grizzly, wolverine, lynx, wolf and coyote predators dare not follow. Occasionally, a golden eagle will take a newborn kid, but not often. Since a male or female's sharp lance-like horns can severely wound a predator's flank or belly, predation is not as much of a factor as falls, starvation and avalanches. More recently, because of greater road access, trophy hunters are a threat.

In the wild, mountain goats usually live 12 to 15 years, with their lifespan limited by the wearing down of their teeth. Kids are born in late May or early June after a six-month gestation period. Nannies give birth, usually to a single offspring, after moving to an isolated ledge. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much-needed nutrients, helps stanch her bleeding, and reduces the lure of the birth scent for predators. Newborns immediately stand, and soon start climbing. Kids follow their mothers closely for the first year of life. Respecting elders' wisdom is traditional for children with this totem. Women of this totem make good mothers. Nannies protect their young by leading them out of danger, standing over them when faced by predators, and positioning themselves below their kids on steep slopes to stop free falls.

Having a friend with a goat totem is great when you're in a tight spot. Even when alarmed, they tend to keep steady. They focus on the problem at hand, helping you find solutions, until you are ready to stand on your own. As true ruminants, goats have a 4-chambered stomach to break down food. Those with goat totem take time to ruminate over a new idea, chewing over all aspects of the situation and how it might affect the future. This handy quality balances any tendency to leap impetuously into new endeavors. Goats have horizontal, slit-shaped pupils, an adaptation which increases peripheral depth perception. Goat energy offers perspectives of insight and depth.

Even if Mountain goat is not your principal totem, its influence may be felt during Capricorn's time of power (Dec.22-Jan.20). Its dual nature is represented allegorically in a goat body (reaching heights) ending with a fish's tail (watery depths). The horn of plenty shape is the cornucopia, signaling a time of abundance. If you identify with sensible goat, you are probably an entrepreneur, and good at making money. Of course that won't necessarily stop you from worrying about having enough. Trust that Mountain goat is the totem to help you land on your feet.

Several mythological hybrid creatures are believed to consist of parts of the goat, including the hybrid Chimera, that had a she-goat emerging from the center of its back. The goat-god Pan, fauns, and satyrs are mythic creatures that are part-goat and part-human. Do you know where the term, scapegoat (someone who is innocent taking the blame for another) comes from? In the Old Testament, on the Day of Atonement, a goat was let loose in the wilderness bearing the sins of the people. In European lore, it stands as a symbol of lechery, originating from the behavior of the billy-goat in rut, the epitome of lust. Even Satan himself was represented with horns and a goatee. However, among Scandinavians, grateful for the milk, cheese and meat during long winters, the status of goat fared better. The Hammer God Thor rode in a cart pulled by two goats of which he was inordinately fond.

The goat is one of the animals which appears in the Chinese Zodiac. Those born in the year of the goat are shy, introverted, creative, perfectionists. They have strong, sturdy constitutions, tend to be frugal, conservative, serious, and disciplined about most things. They value their status in the world, which in the unevolved, could result in name-dropping or social climbing. A goat's mantra could be, "It's just as easy to marry a rich person, as poor;" however, they are just as good providing for themselves. Let one teach you how. Mountain goat is a powerful ally helping us achieve our goals.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for over 35 years. Her work is to bring forward and disseminate the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through writing, teaching, and healing, facilitating the mystical reunion of humans with Source and Nature, in all directions, in equal balance, allied with the Elements, acknowledging the divine within all.

For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to bring her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" to your area, or purchase her book, Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com

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