The Black Goat and The White Dove

November 12, 2007

In its age old history of understanding nature, humanity has developed various symbols to explain its experience with nature. While some of these symbols may have vanished into oblivion, some have gained widespread symbolic acceptance.

According to a French fairy tale, a story about a red dove, a white dove, and a black dove surround an old tale about a mother’s gift to her daughter who got married to a rich hunter. In this tale, the red dove symbolized peaceful life, the white dove symbolized illness, and the black dove symbolized the lack of fortune.

According to a Danish fairy tale, the white dove arrived at the window of a man to help him sort a great mass of feathers that were mixed together by a whirlwind.

In Christian antiquity, the dove is a symbol of very frequent occurrence in ancient ecclesiastical art, according to Wikipedia. According to the same source, the dove on a sarcophagus or on other funeral monuments signifies the peace of the departed soul, especially if it bears an olive branch in its beak.

In the eve of Ethiopia’s recent second Millennium celebrations, a series of The White Dove statues were unveiled standing at Mesqel Square in the capital Finfinne (Addis Ababa). It has been reported that these statues are meant to symbolize reconciliation in Ethiopia.

About a few weeks after Ethiopia’s Millennium celebrations, Irrecha was celebrated at Hora Lake in Bushoftu, also known as Debre Zeit. According to a report about this celebration by Kumerra Gemechu, “what sets Irrecha apart from most rituals is the opportunity it offers adversaries to reconcile.” Kumerra goes on to say that at this ceremony, “it is inconceivable for anyone to reject a trespasser’s plea for forgiveness,” including the case of murder. The reconciliation between the family of the deceased and the guilty party is concluded by the slaughter of a black goat, its blood representing that of the victim that symbolizes retaliation for the blood that was shed by the murderer.

While both The Black Goat and The White Dove evidently symbolize humanity’s experiences, the latter is widely known whereas the former is known little. But what they have come to stand for, peace and reconciliation, have become nearly universal.