Goats and Henna

jdwhite at unccvm.uncc.edu jdwhite at unccvm.uncc.edu
Thu Dec 5 20:21:04 UTC 1996

In India over the years I, too, have seen numerous goats (and other animals)
with colors on their bodies.  Often, in Maharastra and some other states cow
horns are painted for beauty, to identify the owner, as a celebratory act at
festival time or for some other reason, and buffalo horns may be trained
from an early age for beauty or to identify ownership, but none of this is
ever a precursor to sacrifice.  With goats, I have often wondered but never
asked why in areas as diverse as Kashmir and Tamil Nadu one sees goat herds
with color on their coat.  Given the recent commentaries about
"goat-coloring", I raised the issue this afternoon with a colleague who is a
specialist on Islamic folk traditions.  She indicated that among Muslims
henna (and by extension, the color red) was often used on the bodies of
goats, sheep (and other animals as well)--sometimes as a handprint, other
times as a large spot--for protection of the animal against hasad [the eye
of envy] or disease.  And that other colors  were used as marks of
ownership.  One is also reminded of the use of handprints around the doors
and/or windows of village houses in various parts of India to ward off the
"Evil Eye", and not particularly in Muslim houses either.

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