The Golden Bough A study of magic and religion
6. The Corn-spirit as a Goat
FURTHER, the corn-spirit often appears in the form of a goat. In some parts of Prussia, when the corn bends before the wind, they say, “The Goats are chasing each other,” “the wind is driving the Goats through the corn,” “the Goats are browsing there,” and they expect a very good harvest. Again they say, “The Oats-goat is sitting in the oats-field,” “the Corn-goat is sitting in the rye-field.” Children are warned not to go into the corn-fields to pluck the blue corn-flowers, or amongst the beans to pluck pods, because the Rye-goat, the Corn-goat, the Oats-goat, or the Bean-goat is sitting or lying there, and will carry them away or kill them. When a harvester is taken sick or lags behind his fellows at their work, they call out, “The Harvest-goat has pushed him,” “he has been pushed by the Corn-goat.” In the neighbourhood of Braunsberg (East Prussia) at binding the oats every harvester makes haste “lest the Corn-goat push him.” At Oefoten, in Norway, each reaper has his allotted patch to reap. When a reaper in the middle has not finished reaping his piece after his neighbours have finished theirs, they say of him, “He remains on the island.” And if the laggard is a man, they imitate the cry with which they call a he-goat; if a woman, the cry with which they call a she-goat. Near Straubing, in Lower Bavaria, it is said of the man who cuts the last corn that “he has the Corn-goat, or the Wheat-goat, or the Oats-goat,” according to the crop. Moreover, two horns are set up on the last heap of corn, and it is called “the horned Goat.” At Kreutzburg, East Prussia, they call out to the woman who is binding the last sheaf, “The Goat is sitting in the sheaf.” At Gablingen, in Swabia, when the last field of oats upon a farm is being reaped, the reapers carve a goat out of wood. Ears of oats are inserted in its nostrils and mouth, and it is adorned with garlands of flowers. It is set up on the field and called the Oats-goat. When the reaping approaches an end, each reaper hastens to finish his piece first; he who is the last to finish gets the Oats-goat. Again, the last sheaf is itself called the Goat. Thus, in the valley of the Wiesent, Bavaria, the last sheaf bound on the field is called the Goat, and they have a proverb, “The field must bear a goat.” At Spachbrücken, in Hesse, the last handful of corn which is cut is called the Goat, and the man who cuts it is much ridiculed. At Dürrenbüchig and about Mosbach in Baden the last sheaf is also called the Goat. Sometimes the last sheaf is made up in the form of a goat, and they say, “The Goat is sitting in it.” Again, the person who cuts or binds the last sheaf is called the Goat. Thus, in parts of Mecklenburg they call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, “You are the Harvest-goat.” Near Uelzen, in Hanover, the harvest festival begins with “the bringing of the Harvest-goat”; that is, the woman who bound the last sheaf is wrapt in straw, crowned with a harvest-wreath, and brought in a wheel-barrow to the village, where a round dance takes place. About Luneburg, also, the woman who binds the last corn is decked with a crown of corn-ears and is called the Corn-goat. At Münzesheim in Baden the reaper who cuts the last handful of corn or oats is called the Corn-goat or the Oats-goat. In the Canton St. Gall, Switzerland, the person who cuts the last handful of corn on the field, or drives the last harvest-waggon to the barn, is called the Corn-goat or the Rye-goat, or simply the Goat. In the Canton Thurgau he is called Corn-goat; like a goat he has a bell hung round his neck, is led in triumph, and drenched with liquor. In parts of Styria, also, the man who cuts the last corn is called Corn-goat, Oats-goat, or the like. As a rule, the man who thus gets the name of Corn-goat has to bear it a whole year till the next harvest.