Marysville, United States

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The sheep, ram or goat (yang 羊) is one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

The sheep (yang) has the same pronunciation and therefore symbolizes the male principle yang in Yin Yang (阴 阳) and also the “sun” (yang 阳).

Sheep kneel when they nurse which to Confucians symbolize “filial piety” as bowing to the mother.

The difference between myth and religion of course depends on ones own personal perspective and beliefs.

Sheep are common symbols in both mythology and religion.

The ancient civilisations where polytheistic (believing in many

Many of these ancient peoples worshiped animals as Gods, used animals to symbolically represent their gods and believed that these gods could shape shift to assume the form of an animal.

The ancient Sumerians, approximately 4000 BC to 2000, who are thought to have developed the first form of writing in the ancient world imortalized sheep through religion in the form of gods and goddesses whose sphere of activity was to guard and represent flocks.

The most prominent and powerful was Duttur sheep goddess and protector of flocks, a Mother Goddess of both Dumuzi, also Lord of shepherds and the flocks.

Gestinanna although an oracular goddess associated with the interpretation of dreams also has associations with sheep and shepherding.

The Sumerians had huge flocks of sheep, and sheep where important for meat and clothing for the entire population, sheep where the most important part of the economy as they were in many ancient cultures.

Likewise The Egyptians also valued sheep, they were dependent on sheep for milk, meat, clothing and to provide manure to fertilize the land.

Right from the earliest times the Egyptians worshiped animals and at various periods held certain animals to be sacred and as representations of their gods and goddesses.

Many graves of ancient Egyptian people have been found which include the remains of animals wrapped in cloth, including sheep.

Concerning sheep in the religious context of Egypt, the God Khnum had the head of a ram.

From the earliest beginnings of Egyptian civilization Khnum, originally the god of the source of the Nile and believed to have created all the other hundreds of gods and goddesses, was worshiped.

Revered as the most important of the gods he was believed to have been self created and it was he who made the first egg from which arose all of creation in its entirety.

Also in ancient Egypt the god Heryshaf, a creator and fertility god who was said to have been born in primeval waters, was represented by the figure of a man with the head of a ram or as a ram.

In Egyptian mythology he was identified with Ra and Osiris and in Greek mythology to Heracles.

Rams heads have been found in ancient Neolithic shrines in Catal Huyuk in Ancient Turkey suggesting some religious signifcance.

The Greeks, Romans, and other cultures set significant store in the sacrifice of animals as an act of propitiation or worship in order to placate the gods and no doubt sheep where included among the animals deemed suitable as sacrificial offerings.

Animal sacrifices including sheep also served other significant religious purposes other than appeasement, such as an offering of
thanksgiving, to seek a favor and as a way of telling the future such as the use of animal entrails for divination.

For this purpose it appears that the sheep’s liver was the most commonly used organ.

In these ancient cultures the use of animal sacrifice was integral to religious practice and was in some cases a substitute for human sacrifice.

n Greek culture according to mythology the gods took delight in human sacrifice but seemingly were willing to accept a substitute of an animal sacrifice with a few drops of human blood symbolically added.

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