The Bull as Taurus
Nearly every major culture worldwide has, at one point, revered the bull as a symbol of fertility. The bull, together with his female counterpart, have been prized for their ability to provide food in large quantities -- and, therefore, wealth. The animal’s role as a religious sacrifice was a natural progression of this elevated status. In offering a bull, you were offering the most abundant source of food and wealth to your chosen deity. Temple officials would sacrifice bulls with the intention of ensuring a good harvest, deepening the existing connection between the animal and fecundity.
Alternately, the fertility embodied by the bull can be interpreted as virility given the exhaustive canon of highly sexual mythology featuring this horned (or perhaps, horny) creature. Their prevalence is staggering:
- In the Babylonian epic, Gilgamesh, Ishtar convinces her father to send the Bull of Heaven to destroy the land’s crops and kill the eponymous hero -- after said hero refuses her sexual invitation. Most scholars agree that the constellation of Taurus originates from this myth.
- Greek sky god Zeus -- notorious for his marital interloping -- was symbolized by a bull. In his affair with Europa, a Phoenician princess, he transformed into a bull and seduced her into riding him back to Crete, where she became the queen.
- The Cretan Bull may be the darkest among the Greek bovine myths. Legend has it that Theseus asked Poseidon to send a white bull as a sign confirming his right to rule. Poseidon agreed, expecting it to become a sacrifice in return. When the bull appeared, it was so majestic that Theseus deemed it too precious to slaughter and ordered a lesser bull be sacrificed in its stead. As an act of revenge, Poseidon had Aphrodite cause Theseus’s wife to fall in love with the bull, and provoked the bull to wreak havoc on the land of Crete. The Queen became so overwhelmed with lust that she bore the Bull a child, the Minotaur. Though Hercules captured the Cretan Bull as his seventh labor, it eventually broke loose.
- In Hindu tradition, Tantric god Shiva rides a bull named Nandi.
- The ancient Egyptians had many bovine deities. Apis, a bull with a solar disk between his horns, was the herald of the gods Ptah and Osiris. It’s also worth noting that their goddess of sacred sexuality, Hathor, was cow-headed.
The only exception to the sexual symbolism was in Christianity. Early Judeo-Christian traditions and similar cults view the bull as unholy:
- The Bible references sacred bull cults, most likely those of Egyptian Apis or Babylonian Marduk. Bulls were used as burnt offerings in ancient Jewish tradition, but were vilified when worshipped as idols.
- The slaying of a bull featured prominently in the imagery of the Mithraic mysteries, an early Roman rival of Christianity.
The energy of Taurus is the Bull in his guises as both commodity and lover, as Taurus rules value and sensual experience. Still, it’s strange to think that the bull has remained a symbol of fertility for almost 4 millenia. Perhaps that’s why people with strong Taurus energy can become so set in their ways. The bull has been a source of stability and a reminder of pleasure as entire civilizations have risen and set -- a living talisman of our basic needs. If nothing else, allow the bull to remind you to give yourself what you really need, even if it’s a precious sacrifice.
The Bull as Animal
Almost all modern domesticated cattle are descended from one common herd of about 80 individuals that lived over 10,000 years ago. The ancestors of that original herd were beasts known as Aurochs. The following description of an Auroch shows how the myth of the Minotaur may have developed from ancient man's "taming" of Bull: "Wild aurochs...were much bigger than modern cattle, and wouldn't have had the domestic traits we see today, such as docility. So capturing these animals in the first place would not have been easy, and even if some people did manage [to] snare them alive, their continued management and breeding would still have presented considerable challenges..." 
Historically, they are an animal to be conquered, but Bull is also viewed as a sacrificial animal - meat and dairy for food, leather for protection, and even their manure makes the best fertilizer. The farmer who has many cattle is indeed seen as a wealthy individual. As we have seen, many cultures revere Bull and, to the ancient Greeks especially, Bull was the most prized offering one could make to the Gods. This reverence for all they provide associates them with abundance, richness, and plenty.
There will always remain a wildness to Bull, however, and he is most well-known for his size and physical strength, representing the epitome of masculinity, virility, and passion. Bull has a self-awareness of his substantial presence and makes use of extremely subtle body language to indicate his moods before taking physical action. The cues of Bull's body language can be so slight that it can seem as if their aggression has come on suddenly, but from the Bull's perspective he has given you plenty of warning. It's important to realize that those who don't know you very well may have difficulty picking up on your fine-tuned signals; remember to give those around you clear warning when you feel offended, hurt, or threatened.
As a herd animal, Bull despises being isolated for long periods of time and will act out most aggressively if this goes on for too long. Their instinctual desire to be with and protect their group overrides any "training" and their wild natures are exposed. What may appear as hostility is actually a passionate and fierce devotion to the ones they care about. Bull also possesses an acute ability of recognition, in that they are able to not only differentiate other cattle, but animals of other species as well, including humans. This ability even extends to recognition of photographs of other individual creatures of all types. Being able to spot an interloper is key to Bull's sense of safety. Preferring what is familiar, Bull finds anything unknown to be inherently threatening, resisting change and taking a long time to warm up to new people and situations.
Bulls may seem to be just standing around a lot, but in reality they are taking it all in - noticing what is new and different versus what is familiar. Bull has excellent hearing, but his natural environment of open fields and pastures means he is not very good at localizing the source of a sound. This gives Bull a "wide open" auditory range and, even though he is exposed and vulnerable in open areas, he is very much aware of what is moving around him. In his vision, Bull is red-green color blind and sees the world in shades of yellow, blue, brown, and gray. As an herbivore, this means that Bull relies on his highly developed senses of taste and smell to acquire food, even possessing a special olfactory organ that assists in discerning the nuances of his environment. Although Bull sees the world differently, with large eyes on the side of his head, he has a wide field of view and can pick up on the slightest movements.
The delicate and purposeful way that Bull senses the world betrays his appearance and such is the conundrum of many a Taurus. For all their seemingly brute force and intimidating demeanor, Bull's are extraordinarily sensitive to other creatures and external stimuli. Know that, as a Taurus, you may very well be picking up on subtleties that others around you are not and you can use that ability to show them the richness of life.
 Burger, Joachim, et al. "Modern Taurine Cattle Descended from Small Number of Near-Eastern Founders." Molecular Biology and Evolution. 14 March 2012.
Call on Bull when..
- you need to be observant
- you need to express your devotion/dedication
- you need to reconnect with what makes you feel goooooood!
Be wary of...
- Bull's tendency to be too subtle with his feelings; others may not pick up on your signals
- Bull's tendency to be temperamental; you may lash out if you feel in unfamiliar territory
Rituals for Bull
The Bull puts you in touch with your body and grounds you in your own skin. The Bull is all about his physical presence, but is also extremely subtle. For Bull, we suggest moving meditation, but in a slow and deliberate way. Think about the movements of Qi Gong or Tai Chi; the slow transition between and stillness of Yoga poses. As you move, breathing deeply can, in a moving meditation especially, put you into a sort of trance state. Use the rhythm of your breath in combination with your steady movement to attune yourself to your environment and your inner sensations. Bull is methodical and deliberate with his actions and very grounded in his own sensual experience. Walking a labyrinth is another type of moving meditation that puts you in touch with your physical presence on the path.
Your Bull altar should be a sacred place where you honor the finer things in life, whatever that means to you. Fill this altar with items that are so luxurious you only have them in small doses. Splurge on something that you love for no other reason than the texture; get a sample of a decadent fragrance and anoint the items on your altar once a month; place upon the altar items that are visually pleasing to you.
An altar to the Bull should also honor sensuality and the subtleties of your senses. Along with an offering of water, a plant or flower, and a candle, the other items on the altar should reflect the things you want to feel more of in your life. As you meditate at your altar, ask the Bull to show you how to be grounded in your physical body and to reveal the nuances of your ability to experience sight, sound, feelings, tastes, and scents.
About Asteria & Artemis
Named for the Greek goddesses of the stars and nature, respectively, this joint blog series with Candlesmoke Chapel's Sara Magnuson investigates the magic and mythology behind each astrological sign.
Sara is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.
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