Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Much has been said about the domesticated pig in Western cultures and societies closely linked to them. More often than not, the pig is pictured as filthy, greedy, sloppy and undesirable. In present-day colloquial English, “You’re a pig” means “you’re greedy and dirty”. A pigsty, which refers to a pen or enclosure for pigs, also connotes an unclean room or house. In local and international movies, pigs are always shown bathing in mud or hungrily gulping down dirty leftover food from metal buckets.

This depiction of the pig, however, was different in times past. A review of literature reveals that the pig and its ancestors the boar (male) and the sow (female) were revered and respected in ancient societies. The boar, the largest of all wild pigs, roamed the forests of Europe, Asia, Siberia, the US Pacific Coast and North Africa.


D.J. Conway, author of Animal Magick, describes the animal as “sacred to the Greek god of war and destruction, Ares or Mars” perhaps because of its ferocious and courageous nature. Greek and Roman mythology are awash with stories of the courage of the boar. The Greek hero Adonis was killed by a boar and so people would sacrifice the boar to Aphrodite, lover of Adonis.

Writers through the ages have witnessed the hunting of the boar, which when cornered, attacks and fights back with its sharp tusks that measure up to a foot long. The teeth of boars decorated the helmets of Greek warriors while the Romans used pig blood as “purifier”. The cowrie shell, which reminded the Romans of the white sow, was called “porcella” and this is where the word porcelain came from.

According to Conway, the boar or pig was a symbol of fertility of the land to the Norse and Anglo-Saxon peoples. The English used to serve the head of a wild boar with an apple in the mouth to guests at Christmas time. The apple represented the charmed apple of immortality. The wild boar was a symbol of Richard III of England.

To the Welsh, the sow was a lunar animal and a symbol of divine inspiration. In Ireland, people believed that the pig could see the wind.

The Celt warriors carved the image of the boar into helmets to protect them from harm. The boar and pig symbolized war, the warrior, hunting, protection and fertility. They were also sacred because they were considered food of the gods. The black sow, however, was considered evil. It symbolized death and rebirth to the Celts.

The boar is the mascot of the Belgian Army’s Premier Infantry Regiment whose soldiers wear a boar’s head pin on their beret.


The pig was also very much present in Eastern lore. In ancient Egypt, the pig was an evil animal that belonged to the god Set but they allowed it to trample seeds into the ground during sowing. The pig was considered a dirty animal and therefore not eaten. Perhaps this was the source of the Jewish-Islamic tradition of not eating pork. In Zoroastrianism, the pig was associated with the Sun.

Tantric Buddhists still worship Marici, the Diamond Sow while the Hindu god Rudra was known as the “Boar of the Sky”. Vajnavrahi, goddess of the dawn and source of all life, was symbolized by a sow.

To the Chinese, a white boar represented the Moon, courage as well as conquest and qualities needed by a warrior. They also thought the pig was greedy and dirty and only useful if tamed.

Far from being ignored or despised, the pig or boar was also used as a familiar in magick rituals, according to Timothy Roderick, author of The Once Unknown Familiar.

Roderick writes that “each animal carries with it certain powers and abilities that are bestowed on the bearer of the animal spirit.” He says our “familiar self” gives us special abilities that are recognizable in certain animals, like playfulness, patience, courage and honesty. Pig familiars are non-committal, freedom-loving, magical, he says. They don’t want to feel obligated to others. They avoid getting caught in long-term relationships and commitments and therefore have a lot of free time to work on themselves.

In the Encyclopedia of Dreams published by Tiger Books International in London, a fat and healthy pig in your dream means reasonable success in your affairs. However, pigs wallowing in mire would mean hurtful associates and misfortune in affairs.

In the world of Chinese astrology, the pig is said to be the most generous and honorable of all zodiac signs. Contrary to the myths that abound about the animal, the Chinese pig personality is a perfectionist who loves the family as well as the fine things in life. Chinese astrologers describe the pig as honest, patient, modest and shy. Pig people keep a small circle of friends to whom they remain fiercely loyal.

In the animal kingdom, pigs mate for life. But in today’s food industry, sows are made to mate with any and all male pigs. A few days or weeks after giving birth, their babies are taken from them and weaned on vitamins and antibiotics so they will grow fat and huge. The sows are then forced to mate again and the cycle begins once more.


It is always an interesting learning experience to read about different cultures and their varied beliefs. It is humbling to find out that our beliefs and practices may not even be the absolute truth. Modern man in so-called civilized societies like ours sees the pig as nothing more than food. But biologists and animal behaviorists have discovered that the pig is a highly intelligent animal, one that is even smarter than the dog. This was revealed in an experiment where a group of pigs were housed in a barn and a group of dogs in another barn. Both groups were given different objects to play with. Much to their surprise, the scientists saw that the pigs were much more creative in inventing games than their counterparts, the dogs.

In today’s health-conscious society, it’s no longer fashionable to eat pork after scientific studies proved that pigs – especially the way they are raised now on drugs like antibiotics - causes terrible diseases like hypertension or high blood pressure that may even lead to untimely death.

Now that we’re celebrating the Year of the Pig, let’s give this friendly animal a chance to rebuild its reputation. After all, it symbolized courage and was sacred to warriors once. There’s also the cute and smart little pig who won the hearts of viewers in Babe. And there’s the lovable and adorable Miss Piggy from Sesame Street. The pig, it seems, is more than just ham and bacon. It’s an icon that’s here to stay. (END)


Belated Happy (Chinese) New Year! Kung Hei Fat choi!



- Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and governor of California

- Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Revolution

- Elton John, famous singer

- David Letterman, talk show host

- Ewan McGregor, actor

- Henry Ford, inventor and founder of the Ford Motor Company

- Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Senator and wife of former US President Bill Clinton

- Jack Ruby, assassin of US President Kennedy

- Kareem Abdul-Jabar, basketball player

- Kevin Spacey, actor

- Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister

- Magic Johnson, basketball player

- Rachel Weisz, actress

- Ronald Reagan, former US President

- Lucille Ball, actress and singer

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Published in ANIMAL SCENE magazine, February 2007

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