What does it mean if you see a cow in the fields, or if a cow appears your dream? Here, Annie Ridout shares the spiritual symbolism of cows, inspired by the Hindu faith…
I was out running one morning, thinking about my career and asking nature for some answers.
And I love this work.
But I sometimes feel like I’d like to also be working with the land in some way.
Or to have a part-time job that brings in a more regular income.
So as I set off for my run, I said – in my head; addressing nature – give me a sign that will help me on my way.
As I pushed through the kissing gates onto a path running alongside open fields, I saw a cow in the distance.
It was far away, but I felt like that cow was looking right at me.
A lone cow, lying on the grass, staring deep into my eyes (and soul).
I stopped a moment and stared back.
I wondered what this message could be.
And then I set off on my way.
Now, cows and I have a slightly difficult relationship.
When I was travelling around India, aged 18, for six months, I saw a lot of cows.
They are sacred in India, for those following the Hindu faith.
And they are everywhere.
Sauntering down the high street; lying out on beaches.
But one morning, as I walked down the beach, I had an incident with one.
I was walking into a cafe and saw this big beautiful white cow.
I got pretty close as by this point, about five months into my time in India, I felt quite comfortable around them.
Alas, my complacency was wrong. And the cow head-butted me in the thigh.
It was really painful and caused sciatica that still exists today (a lot of years later).
From that point, I developed a slight fear of cows.
When I was on my honeymoon and we had to walk through meadows to get to the pub, I noticed a herd of cows coming for us.
And got away.
But it cemented my fear.
So that morning when I was out running and saw a cow, my initial reaction was: have you been put here to ward me off something?
However, it felt like a peaceful cow; not a scary one.
I looked up the spiritual symbolism of cows and found a website that said the cow represents Mother Earth ‘as it is a source of goodness and its milk nourishes all creatures.’
It went on to say that Krishna, a Hindu deity, ‘is often portrayed in stories recounting his life as a cowherd and referring to him as the child who protects cows.’
On reading this, I felt two things.
Firstly, that perhaps I should be spending more time working with the land.
But also, I felt I was being drawn back as mother to my children.
I’ve spent their short lives (I’ve been a mother for eight years and have three children now) working, alongside raising them.
And I wondered if the message to take from the cow in that field was: remember to be mother to your children; remember the value of that role.
Maybe it means there isn’t space for anything else, career-wise, just now.
But that I should be out in the garden, planting seeds and turning over the soil, with my children.
I like that reading.
We need to remember the role, and value, of both mother and Mother Earth.