Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Lately I have been obsessed with Cows and their symbolism.  Cows are interesting elements in myth, fables and folktales filled with hidden meanings and parables.

Hera queen of the gods.
Goddess of marriage, Women and Birth.
Hera's symbols.  The peacock (the symbol of pride; her wagon was pulled by peacocks) and the cow (she was also known as Bopis, meaning "cow-eyed", which later translated as "with big  eyes") are her secret animals.  The crow and the pomegranate (symbol of marriage) are also dedicated to her.  The Greek goddess called the Queen of Heaven; she ruled over the heavens and the earth, responsible for every aspect of existence, including the seasons and the weather.  Our word galaxy comes from the Greek word gala meaning "mothers milk"... legend has it that the Milky Way was formed from the milk spurting from the breasts of Hera, Queen of Heaven.  Where drops fell to earth, fields of lilies sprung forth.

18th century Icelandic manuscript.
 Buri (the first god in Norse mythology,the forefather of all the gods) is licked out of a salty ice-block by the cow Auðumbla.
According to Norse myth, the beginning of life was fire and ice, with only two worlds: Muspelheim and Niflheim.  When the warm air of Muspelheim hit the cold ice of Niflheim, the jötunn Ýmis and the icy cow Auðumbla were created.
Pros Edda
Then said Gangleri: "Where dwelt Ymir, or wherein did he find sustenance?"
Hárr answered: "Straightaway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Auðumbla; 
four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ýmir."

Then asked Gangleri: "Wherewithal was the cow nourished?"
And Hárr made answer: "She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there.  He is named Búri.

According to Icelandic belief; if the first calf born during the winter is white, the winter will be a bad one. 

Icelandic legend has it that cattle would kneel at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve; also believed  that they would gain the ability to speak on this night, although it was considered dangerous for any human to hear their speech, as misfortune would befall anyone who overheard them. 

Baulaðu nú Búkolla mín.  Icelandic folktale.

Bukolla; perhaps the most treasured folk story of Icelandic children tells the tale of a small farm boy named Karlsson whose parents do not care about him as much as  their beloved cow Bukolla.  One day Bukolla vanishes to the horror and despair of the woman and her husband.  They go looking for the cow and searche far and wide and long, but do not find it.  They then summon their little boy to go and do not come before their eyes again, until he brings back their beloved Bukolla.  They give Karlsson supplies and new shoes, then send him out to search for the cow on his own.

He walkes for a long, long time, until he is exhausted and sits down to eat.  Then he says:

"Bellow now, my Bukolla, if you are anywhere in life."

He hears the cow bellow from far, far away.

Karlsson walks for a long, long time, over mountains and through rivers.
He climbs down rocks and into a very large cave where he finds Bukolla tied to a block.
The boy unties the cow and they head back home, but just like in any good story there are Trolls; the large female trolls that had snatched Bukolla from the farm and brought her to their cave. They are not about to let go of Bukolla without a fight.  As the big angry Trolls follow Bukolla and Karlsson on their journey home they are never far behind. After the boy and the cow pass a river they look back and  see that the Troll women are on the other side about to cross the river and get them.

The boy says:  "What shall we do, my Bukolla?'

She says:  "Take a hair from my tail and put it on the ground."

He does as she says.  The cow says to her hair:  "Do I, and I recommend about, you will be such a large river that nobody can cross it except the flying birds."

At the same moment the hair became a large flooded river that the Trolls cannot cross.

The story goes on with numerous hurdles and close encounters with the Trolls, Karlsson and Bukolla. Hairs from the cows tail becomes a big mountain which the Trolls cannot cross. The big Troll women try but get stuck in the hole they carved into the mountain in order to get through, and I belief that they are still stuck there.
Karlsson makes it home to his parents with Bukolla and his parents finally recognize what a fine boy they have and love and cherish him for the rest of their lives.  I love stories with happy endings and I will stop here with my analogy of cows.

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