The Hunter and the Goat
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy


Ann Woltjen
September 2017

Though the present may seem mundane, even at times unchanging or unchangeable, it is as filled with magic and wonder as any time in the past when the earth has turned, and it is the pathway we travel on our way to the earthís future, that is created day by day.

It was a day in the present that became a day from the past and a path to the future. It was a hoop bending backwards and then forwards through time.
Once upon the present, there was a hunter on the trail of a she-goat, a bighorn sheep, a ewe. He was chasing the wild goat in some high hills, filled with rocks, in a big sky landscape in the undulating terrain of the state of Idaho.

He was a hunter. He boasted of being a hunter. If you asked him why he was hunting the goat, he said the goatís life did not mean anything, it was not worth anything because it was an animal. He did not care about the life of the goat. He had no real use for the goat, no necessity for killing the goat. He did not need it for food, because he only ate meat that he bought in the supermarket. He did not need it for its skin, because he wore clothes made from cotton bought from a store. He did not need it for anything, yet he wanted to kill it. He was never taught that a goatís life has an intrinsic value. People where he lived, made their livings raising cattle and sheep for food. They used the animals to make their own livings. Many people thought that the wild animals were even like invaders on land that belonged to humans, and that they had it easy to even be able to live for a short time on the earth that was ruled by and for human use. Even the dogs that many hunters had, were considered only valuable as far as they could be an asset to the humans, by helping them hunt or guarding the household. So many people living rurally, thought wild animals lives were not important, and killing them was something natural and of no consequence. He was taught that this was something that a young man can do to increase his manhood, or become part of the society of men.

The aboriginal societies of our ancestors believed that a person could develop courage and strength by withstanding pain, but somehow over the centuries that followed, and the loss of connection to the spiritual, men thought that being able to take the life of a wild animal conferred a man with masculinity and power. His father, his uncles and many of his male neighbors were also hunters. They thought it was a good way to spend a day, engaging them in something with emotion, away from chores and work. Having a rifle and being able to aim and shoot it was an activity that other men got involved with and he copied them. He said that hunting gave him excitement and a thrill, and that hunting is an American tradition. But his real traditions, the ones that were in harmony with earth and all living beings and heaven and spirit were traditions from his distant past from centuries before, in stories that were handed down orally and were lost a long time ago.

There were many associated duties that went with hunting, that could occupy the hunterís mind and spare time and seemingly give his life more purpose or vitality, a place to spend his money, a day he could plan for and await, a kind of ritual. There was the activity of choosing a rifle, buying bullets, buying camouflage clothing, going out for target practice and having beers with other hunters when they would gather. He would buy his hunting permit from the local fish and wildlife department for $30. Then on the weekend, as a recreational activity, he would go out to the hillside to find and kill a wild goat or to the woods to kill a deer. He especially liked getting up high in the rocks where the air was crisper and cleaner and the sounds were sharper amid the stillness. A place for his own mind to open up and wander, and find peace, even while he was taking away the peace from the goat or deer that he hunted.

He didnít really choose this way of life out of a variety of different ways to live. He just followed the trail laid out to him by his father and the other local men. As far as it being a tradition, he remembers his grandfather did a little hunting, but only quite rarely. His grandfather would occasionally hunt for rabbits or pheasants and his wife would cook them for meals. He did not know how his grandfather learned to hunt, or whether his great grandfather hunted or not. He had no stories or memories of his family before the time of his own grandfather. He did not know the stories of his own ancestors or the stories of the peoples whose land he lived on either, the native Indians who were here before his grandfather lived there. No one in his family told any stories about the grandparents or earlier ancestors. He knew almost nothing about his roots such as where his ancestors came from. He had heard that his great grandparents on his motherís side came from England. He did not know anything more than that.

He had no inheritance of stories. It was a kind of amnesia. Because in human history, oral stories were handed down through the generations very carefully over hundreds and thousands of years. And now there was a separation from the stories, because he knew nothing of them. He did not even know the immediate stories of the migration of his great grandparents. Now he wanted to teach his son to kill deer and goats, though his son knew even less of any reason to hunt, except that it his father wanted him to copy and be similar to him, and it was supposed to help make him a man to kill an animal and be outside in the woods with a rifle. Hunting was a way to have a relationship with other men, and to their rifles as sources of power. They had no relationship to the animal that they killed. They did not know much about its life, what it loved, how it spent its day, how it grew from a young goat or deer to a mature or elder in their own goat or deer family. And they did not know there was a spiritual tie between them and their ancestors from hundreds of years ago, and also a spiritual tie to the wild animals.

His ancestral stories were not transmitted through the generations. There were stories in his ancient family from hundreds of years before. His family origins, his original tribe of people had lived in the Pyrenees mountains of Spain. The stories of his lineage stopped being told during the tumult of periods of war, conquest, and migration that happened in the centuries Before Christ. His tribal ancestors, his family were natives of the mountains regions. They had a relationship to the land that they grew up out of. They had a relationship with every stream, rock and tree and all the wild animals, who they coexisted with, even the lions and bears. There were memory stories of his lineage and their origins that were told by his ancestors. Eventually some of the members of his ancient family had fled the mountain regions to save their lives and made their way in a weaving and rambling way to England. From those family members, who had put roots down in England, came his more immediate relatives, his great grandparents. It was his great grandparents who made the voyage across the sea to America in the 1800s. He did not have those stories though, not of the voyage of his great grandparents, nor of the migration of his ancestors from the mountains of Spain to England, nor of the early tribal practices of people he was descended from that lived daily on the mountain sides and saw the wild goats who lived on the mountains with them.

Against this backdrop of a separation from the ancestors stories, the lineage, the beginnings, is the present day, where the hunter was going out to hunt and kill a goat. Though the present may seem mundane, even at times unchanging or unchangeable, it is as filled with magic and wonder as any time in the past when the earth has turned, and it is the pathway we travel on our way to the earthís future, that is created day by day.

So we return to the present day of this story. The hunter was climbing up the rocky hillside on a cool fall day in Idaho. He was following a female goat that he had seen . He was stepping around large rocks, pressing higher up the hills at a sideways angle, seeing footprints of the goat here and there. He sat to rest for a while to catch his breath, since he was getting fairly close to the top. He leaned his back against a boulder and laid his rifle down at his feet.

While he was sitting, a group of clouds passed over the sun and the light was whispered away. Shadows gathered and shade covered the landscape. It became darker and darker. He looked up at the sky where the sun had been and saw only faint sunbeams of light and nothing more. The wind picked up and made a slowly growing wailing sound and he felt as if he could actually feel the earth spinning for a minute or so as the wind swung around him. Then things began to settle. The powerful wind began to slow until still. The brightness began to increase. The dark clouds moved away from the sun. Light crept back upon the hill and rocks and sounds of flowing grass and singing insects returned.

When he looked up, he saw an unusual man. Even looking something like himself, the man had light hair, though coarser and with some braiding. He wore an overcoat with long hairs and a thick woven skirt, and leather sandals. Without words he understood that this man was his own great ancestor from hundreds of years ago who lived in the Pyrenees mountains of Spain. The mountains there were full of wild goats called Ibex and many people lived in caves in the high elevations. He found himself in the past, on the mountains, his ancestral homeland.

He was able to follow the nimble man around the hillside, though he much slower than this man who was his great, great, great, great, distant grandfather. The man skipped across the hillside, around the rocks, stopping and waiting for him to be in eyesight again. Eventually he came to a bare-boned kind of village on the side of the mountain. There were many caves that were homes for the people, with several families a piece living in one cave. There was a special cave painted on the outside with earth paints made from powders and plants. It had spiral designs on the outside in the shape of a wild sheepís horns, which was their totem animal. He went in the cave and all over the walls were paintings of wild goats, jumping down cliffs, flying through the air, standing close to the sun on the top of a mountain.

As he was looking about the cave, he saw one of the their hunting parties returning with a wild goat they had killed. The ground was laid out with sweet smelling dried herbs and flowers and the goat was laid down upon the bed. The spiritual women of the tribe came and sang special songs to the spirit of the goat, appeasing it for taking its life and giving great thanks for the sustenance it would provide. The singing and prayers went on for an hour to soothe the spirit of the goat and the mighty goat spirits who took care of the goats that were in physical form on the earth. Later the horns of the goat were removed and taken a mile away from the settlement and ritually placed in some tall grasses where there were also laid many human bones from the tribe of people who had died and passed into the spiritual world. This was done as a symbol of their human life tied to the goatís life in the physical and in the spiritual.

The hunter sat down by the place where the goatís horns were laid and as he was sitting, the air changed again. His surroundings began to sparkle and glitter and shapes began to flow and float as if made of air and no longer made of solid material. Several large goats in spirit form appeared at the burial ground. They had giant spiraling horns and wide eyes. They pranced about in a circle, turning their heads left and right, lifting their legs in a unique dance and making clacking noises on the rocks. He could see that the goats had their own ceremonies celebrating their lives and mourning their deaths. Their spirit of unity fed the spirits of the living goats, giving them strength and love in their hearts.

Then he saw the spirits of the goats that he himself had killed when he went hunting. The scene of his own hills where he went to hunt goats appeared before him. One of the goats lay lifeless on the hill, a female that he had killed. Its spirit was wandering in circles around the body crying and lost. There was a great emptiness in the air because the wonderful spirit that was in the goat had suddenly been lost, and there was no return of spiritual payment. Worse, its body was not needed for its skin or as food, so it decayed and disintegrated without its body feeding any other spirit. The higher goat spirits were hurt deeply in their own hearts because of the death of their family member and for no reason by this human who did not seem to have any purpose for his actions. There was a hole in the spiritual foundation of the goat people and there was sorrow and pain because of this.

The hunter sat there so amazed at the stunning beauty of the Spirit Goats and this contrasted with the great loss and emptiness of the goats that he had hunted and killed for no reason. As he was feeling these opposition of feelings, the dark clouds passed over the sun, the air became thick and he could feel the earth turning.

When things had stopped moving and the light began to increase, he found himself back on his own hillside sitting against the same rock where he had gone to sleep. At a lower elevation, he saw a group of people singing and praying in a circle. He climbed down to watch them. Standing on the rocks around them was a herd of wild goats also watching. The people had on woven clothes, similar to modern clothing, but with bright colors and stronger weaving. It was 500 years into the future, the year 2510. The people were his own descendants and shared his blood. They also had revived the spiritual connection to the wild goat and would come to celebrate their lives twice a year at the foot of the hill. They brought special food for the goats and sang songs that sounded like the goats themselves. They even danced like wild goats, with jumps and spars. However they no longer killed the goats because they had no need to. It took many generations to sing some healing over the sorrow that had been created by all the goats that had been killed for recreation by the hunters in that region, but eventually the spirit of the wild goat and the spirit of the human was mended, and their relationship was mended again.

The hunter returned back up the hill and sat down at his rock and once again the clouds passed over the sun and he could hear the earth turning. When the sun returned and the wind died down, he was back in his own time. He saw the female goat that he had been chasing and now looked upon her in a much different way. He had no desire to aim his rifle at her and kill her because he knew how much her life meant and that it should not be taken unless there was a necessity in maintaining his own life. And he knew he would try to describe this to his son to open his mind to the importance of the wild goatís life. As for his friends that hunted, he knew he would have a different viewpoint than they did. However he desired to honor his ancestral ways which were directly connected to the earth and the wild animals, so he would find a way to rebuild that tradition, the one where his life was linked spiritually to the lives of the wild goats. He could rekindle the stories and bring them alive again. The stories and songs are always there waiting to be found and brought back into the world of the living where they belong. 

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