Glücksschwein: Lucky Pig Symbolism

The Glücksschwein; an adorable little piggy, often made of marzipan that is given out in Germany as a symbol of good luck for the coming year – a lucky charm or Glücksbringer. These little piggies are not just restricted to Germany, they are also often given as prizes during Jul, the winter celebrations in Scandinavian countries.

Marzipanschwein

So why are pigs considered lucky? To start they have a long history of symbolic connection with fertility. The Nordic god Freyr (twin brother to Freya) was a phallic god who represented both virility and prosperity. As well as being incredibly well endowed, Freyr also was commonly seen with something else between his loins; Gullinbursti, a giant boar covered with golden bristles.

Freyr_by_Johannes_Gehrts
Gullinbursti and Frey, 1901 painting by Johannes Gehrts.

Created by the dwarves Sindri and Brokkr as a gift to Freyr, the boar was his companion and prized possession:

…. to Freyr he gave the boar, saying that it could run through air and water better than any horse, and it could never become so dark with night or gloom of the Murky Regions that there should not be sufficient light where he went, such was the glow from its mane and bristles. – Prose Edda

In Hawaiian mythology are the Kamapuaa; the chief of Oahu and a Demi-god associated with fertility and agriculture. this lusty pig man spends his days chasing the volcano goddess across the island chain trying to satiate his desires. An island chain that is over-run by wild hogs, a non-native invasive species that dominate the islands.

The Neolithic Earth Goddess was also connected to the pig, a symbol of agrarian culture and tied into the cycles of Mother Earth:

The association of this goddess with the pig also reinforces her connection with grain and the earth. The pig fattens quickly and so provides an obvious analogy to the ripening crops and fruits. – Marija Gimbutas The Living Goddesses

This connection was sustained in later Greco-Roman culture where Demeter (Ceres) the goddess of the grain continued to be associated with the sow.

In this world the pig was also connected to feminine sexuality; the Goddess Baubo often depicted as an embodiment of the vagina was also often riding a pig.

 

5-15-Baubo_auf_dem_Schwein
Baubo on a pig
Antikensammlung Berlin, Germany

So how does fertility translate into luck? Well, unlike other common agricultural animals pigs are prolific breeders. Consider horses, cows, sheep and goats who generally only have one offspring and reproduce once a year; a well-cared for pig will have litters of 10+ piglets and can breed twice a year. A breeding pig was a great source of food and income; in a year you could go from one pig to 20+ and still have meat to put on the table.

In that context, pigs equal money – a symbolic connection we see in every day life with this little contraption most of us grew up with as children; hoarding our precious pocket money in a ceramic pig shaped vessel.

 

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As we moved towards a money centric society, where wealth is measured in dollars not barnyard animals and their reproductive rates the fertility symbols began to take on a new symbolism, wealth and prosperity measured in dollars rather than piglets.

So Happy New Year to all our readers, and may your pigs be many!

4 thoughts on “Glücksschwein: Lucky Pig Symbolism

  1. This is a helpful article. The universality of the pig as an important animal in myth is also borne out in Papua New Guinea culture and myth. Several years ago I spent a few months in the bush of Papua. It is a “pig culture” that celebrates pigs as an essential part of myth, story and hunting legends.

    Liked by 1 person

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