Counting Wild Pigs

Counting Wild Pigs

There is an ancient Celtic tale that speaks of a crack in the earth from which evil creatures and spirits ascend upon the upper regions from the dark and dank recesses of Hell. The Cave of Cruachan was its name, and many a story of elfin lore was spoken from the lips of this vile split between our world and the world below.

One such story tells of the pouring of wild pigs from the rift, who ravenously fell upon the land destroying everything in their wake, plant, animal and earth alike. There was nothing apparently that could stop them, not warrior nor sorcerer could hold back their hunger and after seven years of devastation not much was left.

The king and queen of the region, and some versions of the story simply say the goddess Meave, assess the problem and come up with the curious solution to count the hogs. So this they began to do, believing that the process of counting would bring order to the evil chaos and quell the relentless destruction. The pigs calmed a bit, but did not stop their disastrous activity. Amidst the confusion one of the hogs jumped over the queen’s chariot to defy her efforts to gain control over the hoard. The queen caught the pig by the leg, the leg detached, along with the whole of the pig’s skin, and the pig fell to the ground. The queen quickly bore down upon the hapless creature and pinned its snout to the blackened earth. Immediately the throng of beasts settled, and at the request of the queen, fell silent.

As most myths go, this one is hard at first to make much sense of.

In applying the wisdom of the myth to everyday life, the first thought that came up for me was the chaos often presented by runaway spending and a completely devastated personal financial situation. From my personal experience with clients, many people do not have a handle on the often ravaging and destructive forces of a financial plan gone awry. Out from the crevices of a metaphorical hell come the symbolic hogs of chaos, confusion, and evil temptations—often causing depression, anxiety and even mercilessly splitting up already fragile relationships.

How does one quell the destruction? —Count the pigs.

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But I can’t tell you the number of times I have read in the metaphysical literature that the first step to regaining control of your run amok finances is to make a careful assessment of your situation—count your money, add up your debts, look at your self worth, and get a handle on exactly what is there, and isn’t there. Sounds simple, but amazingly few people do this first step.

But this isn’t all that is necessary—the queen had to “pin the snout” of the belligerent pig that jumped over her chariot. Pinning the snout of excessive spending, or lack of budgeting, or paying down the credit cards, may be analogous with the queen’s heroic, and decisive, action with the jumping pig.

This is the hard part.

Some powerful catalyst usually takes place in any effort to bring about positive change, or regain control, in any aspect of our life. A serious transformation typically then ensues—an alchemical process of fire, death, and rebirth. Needless to say, it can be painful.

Although my initial reaction to this marvelous ancient story was to bring to mind financial chaos and positive change in a person’s life, the moral of the story can also apply to a variety of life’s troubles. Think of how it might be applied to relationship conflicts, to depression, to anxiety. The beauty of myths is in their versatility and their ability to apply to a number of situations we may be experiencing.

So when faced with things that seem chaotic, destructive, and out of control, start to remedy the situation by counting—putting it all in order, knowing the true face of what is tormenting you. This is the first step in coming out of the corner where you may have been cowering in fear. Turn and face the issue, begin counting, and wait for the jumping pig, act decisively with your newly obtained power, and pin its snout firmly to the ground.


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By | 2017-07-23T10:11:47+00:00 November 7th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized|6 Comments

About the Author:

Todd Hayen is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Aurora, Ontario. He is also an author of books, articles and blog posts and frequents his own website writing blogs there...


  1. Michael November 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    “The queen caught the pig by the leg, the leg detached, along with the whole of the pig’s skin, and the pig fell to the ground.” What do you think the leg and “the whole of the pig’s skin” represent? Curious.

  2. Todd Hayen November 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Thanks Michael, good question! According to Monika Wikman, in her book “Pregnant Darkness,” the pig “sacrifices” his leg and skin to the queen, symbolizing the forming of a relationship. As I mention in the post, the pig jumping over her is a threatening act, and shows that mere “heady” counting and organizing is not enough (although a necessary step)—something of the trickster must take place, an unexpected threat or breakdown from a more somatic level. Pulling the skin off the pig symbolizes a seizure of control in this sort of situation. The subsequent pinning of the snout shows a mastery over the wild and untamed nature of unconscious archetypes. This is one idea…what do you think it means?

  3. Michael December 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

    The taking or acceptance of the skin and leg – it is a mutual moment of giving and receiving – is a step in the evolving relationship with the unconscious. The pinning of the snout another step.
    Does the pinning of the snout show “mastery” over the wild and untamed nature of unconscious archetypes though?
    Holding the willingly skinned and de-legged pig’s snout to the ground gives the queen an opportunity to view unconscious archetypes. This may lead to understanding.
    Is understanding mastery? A step toward mastery? Is this a lesson delivered from the unconscious when the pig “sacrifices” his leg to the queen? Just one of many lessons delivered by the unconscious and available all of the time?
    If the myth reads -“the pig “sacrifices” his leg”- the pig is male. Ay?

    • Todd Hayen December 4, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Other great questions…I feel that in this singular situation there is present the metaphor of mastery…certainly not ultimate master of “the” archetypes, but mastery over this particular situation…symbolically at least. Myths tend to present themselves in black and white terms…at least on the surface…with plenty of room for various interpretations. Yes, the word “sacrifice” implies a conscious desire to do so. I am not sure if that word is used in the original versions of the myth, perhaps so, and if so, it does alter the perception. Certainly it seems that the “other” pigs willingly, by choice, succumb to the “outstanding” pig’s loss of power. There is also something to be said about the audacity of the jumping pig. Hooray for him as well, eh? I won’t touch the comment about the pig being male and the queen being female…that’s for another post…

  4. larry hurdiss December 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Hi, Todd…
    this, of course, just makes it even more exciting to eventually meet you. Our beloved sister in law picked you, so you must be very special ! And, since i love both Celtic lore, and psychochat….i am sure we will have lots to speak about. I understand that you have met our son, Sean, and he also speaks highly of you.
    As for the myth, and its meaning, we both know the essential value and import of “taking inventory” in any 12 step program. There is, of course, no way to heal, improve, grow, or proceed in life, without “pinning the snout”, taking the leg, and the skin of your problems….etc…
    We are even more excited to eventually hear your music, too.
    So, meet us over Christmas, since we shall be in the Baltimore area….
    be well, my VERY fortunate “brother”….

    • Todd Hayen December 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Larry! I have heard quite a bit about you! All wonderful! Thanks so much for commenting on my post…I expect you to be a “follower” so sign up on the blog…Looking forward to hanging out with you as well…hopefully one day soon. Thanks again for your comment! Best…

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