Domesticated geese are symbolic of the home, women, fidelity, and married life. In China, a pair of geese may be given to a bride and groom as symbols of marital faithfulness. Around the world, stories are told about greedy farmers who foolishly kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Medieval bestiaries compared the gray goose favorably to the devout Christian who lives a quiet life and modestly abstains from wearing colorful clothing. He maintains a vigilant watch over his soul and keeps himself from all worldliness, unnecessary talk, and slander. However, the white goose is a symbol for the fancy dresser, the chatterbox, and the malicious gossip.
The wild goose and its migratory ways are the mainstays of goose symbolism. Refugees and the homeless are sometimes compared to weeping wild geese because of the their vulnerable situations. Many lessons in teamwork have been taken from the habits of migrating geese. Their V-shaped flying pattern, rotation of the lead position, and encouraging honking have become emblems of cooperation, interdependence, and encouragement. Because two geese are said to stop and assist a wounded or sick goose until it either gets well or dies, the goose has become a symbol of loyalty.
Geese are considered excellent substitutes for watchdogs. In Ancient Rome, sacred geese were kept as guardians in the temple of Juno. They proved their worth in 390 B.C. when their honks alerted the citizenry in time to save the city from invading Gauls. After the invaders were dealt with, the Capitoline geese were dressed in finery and the silent watchdogs were crucified. Each year a golden goose was carried in procession to the Capitol in memory of the night Rome was saved by the vigilant temple geese.
Sacred geese were kept in Greek and Roman temples. They were attributes of Mars, Priapus, Eros (a.k.a. Cupid), and Aphrodite (a.k.a. Venus). The Greek goddess of retribution, Nemesis, was in the shape of a goose when she mated with Zeus who had disguised himself as a swan. The sun hatching from the primordial egg and the souls of Egyptian Pharaohs were depicted as geese. The Egyptian earth god, Geb (a.k.a. Seb), had a goose head. To Hindus, the gander is a symbol of the freedom purity brings. Brahma may be found riding such a bird. During the Middle Ages, witches were believed to ride geese to their Sabbats and to have them as their familiars. Like other birds, geese were thought to be messengers of the gods.
When St. Martin (4th century), who loved solitude, found out he had been appointed Bishop of Tours, he hid in a coop from the men sent to take him to his new post. Unfortunately, the squawking of the geese soon gave him away. In Denmark, St. Martin's goose is eaten to reward him for his betrayal on November 11.
The goose is symbolic of vigilance, destiny, providence, gossip, loquacity, the silly or talkative person, and the Great Mother. It is said that rain is on its way when geese cackle or fly low. A very timid person might be described as being afraid to "say boo to a goose." Someone in deep trouble might wail, "My goose is cooked." In symbolism, geese may be thought of as little swans. They often take the place of swans in folklore. In many countries, the goose maiden is substituted for the swan maiden who is forced to marry a man who has stolen her swan clothes while she swam in her human form.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotes are from the NKJV Bible.
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© 1998 by Suzetta Tucker
To cite this page:
Tucker, Suzetta. "ChristStory Goose Page." ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1998. http://ww2.netnitco.net/users/legend01/goose.htm ().