Mithraic Mysteries of the Old Ones;
and the Cultural Origins of the Totemic Rites of the Divine Bull
Mithraic Mysteries of the Old Ones;
and the Cultural Origins of the Totemic Rites of the Divine Bull
Compiled by Aummanuel Bey
Many animals have been totemic emblems for tens of thousands of years. These animals were representative of nation-states and tribes of people and their beliefs. Cultic animals were indeed symbols of land, people, and deities. Even today, we see this archaic tradition continues in the modern age with sports teams being represented by animal mascots, associating a team with an animal.
Perhaps one of the oldest and most prominent worship animals in early agricultural societies is the “Bull.” Latest genetics research revealed that farming revolution has started in and around the “Taurus Mountains” in Southeast Turkey and spread West to Europe and East to Iran from there. We find the “Bull cult” is found in ancient Anatolia (Turkey), Sumer (Iraq), Transoxiana (Turkmenistan), Maykop (Russia), Indus Valley (India / Pakistan), Egypt, Levant, Greece, Rome (Italy). We also discover its remnants in the Celtic, Gaul mythologies of Austria, France, and Ireland.
Wikipedia defines a “bull” as an intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male of the species “Bos taurus.” The Bull is an important symbol in many cultures. The female counterpart to a bull is a cow. It should be noted that male buffalo are also called bulls, in fact the word "bull" also denotes the males of other bovines, including bison and water buffalo, as well as many other species of large animals, including elephants, rhinos, seals and walruses, hippos, camels, giraffes, elk, moose, whales, and antelopes.
Northcote Whitbridge Thomas in his "Animal Worship" tells us that: “Many religions have considered cattle to be sacred, most famously Hinduism from India and Nepal, but also Zoroastrianism, and ancient Greek and Egyptian religion. Cattle and buffalo are respected by many pastoral peoples that rely on the animals for sustenance and the killing of an ox is a sacrificial function.” Northcote Whitbridge Thomas continues to inform us that: “The Toda of southern India abstain from the flesh of their domestic animal, the buffalo. However, once a year they sacrifice a bull calf, which is eaten in the forest by the adult males.”
There are varying beliefs about cattle in societies and religions with cows, bulls, and calves being worshiped at various stages of history. As such, numerous peoples throughout the world have at one point in time honored “bulls” as sacred. In the Sumerian religion, “Marduk” is the "bull of Utu". In Hinduism, Shiva's steed is “Nandi, the Bull.” The sacred bull survives in the constellation “Taurus.” The bull, whether lunar as in Mesopotamia or solar as in India, is the subject of various other cultural and religious incarnations as well as modern mentions in New Age cultures.
The Canaanite (and later Carthaginian) held statues to which sacrifices were burnt, either as a deity or a type of sacrifice – “Moloch” – was referred to as a “horned-man,” and likened to “Cronus” by the Romans. There may be a connection between sacrifice to the Cretan horned-man “Minotaur” and “Cronus” himself. Both “Baʿal” and “El” were associated with the bull in ‘Ugaritic texts,’ as it symbolized both ‘strength’ and ‘fertility.’
A kusarikku on the right holding a lance with an ugallu on the right on a Hittite relief from Carchemish
It is most enticing to learn that the Akkadian word for a powerful (Alpha) bull is “Gud.” This may be the source for the word “God.” We also learn that "Gud" is the most commonly used Sumerian word for “Ox.” It is either from “Agud” (“Agud” > “Gud” with initial vowel drop), or more probably from "Ugud" formed by initial vowel drop, a known ‘occurrence.’ We can also find derivative in the “Bull-Man” (Kusarikku), sometimes inscribed “GUD.DUMU.dUTU,” or “GUD.DUMU.AN.NA” and sometimes phonetically “ku-sa-rik-ku(m),” synonymous with the Sumerian “GUD”/”gud-alim” and perhaps also “alim,” was an ancient Mesopotamian mythological demon shown in artistic representation from the earliest (late Uruk period) times with the arms, torso and head of a human and the ears, horns and hindquarters bovine. He is portrayed as walking upright and characterized as a door keeper to protect the inhabitants from malevolent intruders.
The Divine Bull
The “Bull” motif in ancient iconography and mythos is found to be a treasure trove in the regions of ancient Mesopotamia. “Lama,” “Lamma” or “Lamassu” (Cuneiform: “An.kal;” Sumerian: “dlammař;” later in Akkadian: “lamassu;” sometimes called a “lamassus” is an Assyrian protective deity. Initially depicted as a female deity in Sumerian times, when it was called “Lamma,” it was later called “Lamassu.” In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity. A less frequently used name is “shedu” (Cuneiform: “an.kal×bad;” Sumerian: “dalad;” Akkadian: “šēdu”), which refers to the male counterpart of a “lamassu.” “Lamassu” represent the zodiacs, parent-stars or constellations. The “lamassu” is a celestial being from ancient Mesopotamian religion bearing a human head, bull's body, sometimes with the horns and the ears of a bull, and wings.
Astarte was a goddess of the battlefield who wore ‘bull horns’ as a symbol of power and kingship. She was associated with horses and chariots. At Sidon, Astarte appeared with a cow's head. The worship of Astarte the goddess of war was so widespread that she was even revered by Egyptian soldiers. The aggressive nature of the goddess was represented by the ‘bull horns’ that was associated with Astarte in Egyptian iconography. The bull and dove are sacred to Astarte.
It should come as no surprise that the Ancient Egyptians also worshipped a great number of deities who were either depicted entirely as cattle, or incorporated cattle features in their appearance. “Hesat,” a goddess of milk and motherhood, was depicted as a full cow, as was “Mehet-weret,” a sky goddess, identified as the Celestial Cow whose body made up the sky, and whose four legs marked the four cardinal directions. “Bat” (goddess), a goddess of music and dance, was depicted as a woman with bovine ears and horns, as was “Hathor,” a very major goddess who borrowed a lot of her attributes from “Bat.” The great antiquity of the worship of “Bat” is evidenced by her appearance on the ‘Narmer Palette,’ made by the very first of the dynastic pharaohs. When identified with the Celestial Cow “Mehet-weret,” the sky goddess “Nut” may also take the form of a cow, as in the ‘Book of the Heavenly Cow.’ When acting in her role as a heavenly goddess, the mother goddess “Isis” may also be shown with bovine horns, adopting the traditional headdress of “Hathor.”
The “Bull” was sacred to the Egyptian cities of Heliopolis, Hermonthis, and Memphis. I reiterate that in Egypt, the “Bull” was worshiped as “Apis,” the embodiment of “Ptah” and later of “Osiris.” We return to "Animal Worship" by Northcote Whitbridge Thomas who tells us that: “As well as these female cow goddesses, the Egyptians also had a number of male bull gods. Conspicuous among these was the bull god “Apis,” who was embodied in a living bull kept at the Temple of Ptah at Memphis. Regarded as ‘Ptah's herald,’ the ‘Apis bull’ was distinguished by certain marks, and when the old bull died a new one was sought. The finder was rewarded, and the bull underwent four months' education at Nilopolis. Its birthday was celebrated once a year when oxen, which had to be pure white, were sacrificed to it. Women were forbidden to approach it once its education was finished. Oracles were obtained from it in various ways. After its death it was mummified and buried in a rock-tomb. A similar practice was in place at Heliopolis with the “Mnevis bull,” the ‘herald of Ra,’ and at Hermonthis with the “Buchis bull,” the ‘herald of Montu.’ After their death, all these sacred bulls were considered to become part of “Osiris.””
James Stevens Curl, an architectural historian, architect, and author with an extensive range of publications to his name, writes that: "... the ancient Egyptians seem to have regarded animals as possessing the archetypal qualities of their deities (e.g. bull = power and regeneration; cow = mother; and ram = sexual power and fecundity ... the reverence shown to animals at certain cult-centres did not mean that the creatures themselves were worshipped: what was important was what the animals represented.”
To the Egyptians, the constellation “Taurus” was a ‘sacred bull’ that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. When the spring equinox entered “Taurus,” the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the ‘western sky’ as spring began. This "sacrifice" led to the renewal of the land. To the early Hebrews, “Taurus” was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, “Aleph.” E.A. Wallis Budge informs us that “Hor-Ka-Pet” was “Horus, Bull of Heaven.” He was depicted as a ‘bull-headed hawk.”
“Ka,” in Egyptian, is both a religious concept of ‘life-force’/’power,’ and it is also the hieroglyphic word for “Bull.” Andrew Gordon, an Egyptologist, and Calvin Schwabe, a veterinarian, argues that the origin of the ‘ankh’ is related to two other signs of uncertain origin that often appear alongside it: the ‘was-sceptre,’ representing "power" or "dominion", and the ‘djed pillar,’ representing "stability". According to this hypothesis, the form of each sign is drawn from a part of the anatomy of a bull, like some other hieroglyphic signs that are known to be based on body parts of animals. In Egyptian belief semen was connected with life and, to some extent, with "power" or "dominion", and some texts indicate the Egyptians believed semen originated in the bones. Therefore, Calvin and Schwabe suggest the signs are based on parts of the bull's anatomy through which semen was thought to pass: the ‘ankh’ is a ‘thoracic vertebra,’ the ‘djed’ is the ‘sacrum and lumbar vertebrae,’ and the ‘was’ is the dried penis of the bull.
Perhaps most notable of Egyptian Bull deities was the divine bull “Apis,” which was worshiped in Memphis as an incarnation of the god “Ptah.” Again, we note that this bull-god was believed to be the manifestation or living image of “Ptah.” The bull-god was also revered as the 'Herald' of Ptah, acting as an intermediary between the bull-god and the Egyptian people. He was believed to possess the powers of prophecy and considered to be an oracle. Food was offered to the bull and if it took the offering this was deemed to be a good omen.
The mythology surrounding “Apis,” the Bull God tells us that a ‘black bull calf’ with a ‘white flash diamond’ shape on its forehead was considered to be the personification of “Apis.” This special bull was believed to have been conceived through a ‘divine flash of lightening.’ The mother of the bull-god was known as “Isis” in reference to the ancient Egyptian 'mother goddess'. They were kept in a sacred sanctuary called the “Apieion.” The palatial “Apieion” was built in close proximity to the’ temple of Ptah’ and consisted of two huge chambers, one for the bull and the other for his mother. The roof of the chambers was supported with massive statues of bulls. Both the bull-god and its mother were given the greatest care and fed with the finest food. Only the most honored guests were allowed inside the Apieion sanctuary. There were jubilee festivals and rituals that involved the bull-god and the Pharaoh. At such festivals religious rituals were conducted in relation to the rejuvenation of the powers of the Pharaoh and the king accompanied the bull-god in the parade and is referred to as the "Race of the Apis bull".
Similar observances are found in our own day on the Upper Nile. The Nuba and Nuer revere cattle. The Angoni of Central Africa and the Sakalava of Madagascar keep sacred bulls. In India respect for the cow is widespread, but is of post-Vedic origin; there is little actual worship, but the products of the cow are important in magic.
According to Tadeusz Margul, a Polish religious scholar, philosopher and polyglot , give his observations of the Hindu religion suggesting that: “While there are several animals that are worshipped in India, the supreme position is held by the cow. The ‘humped zebu,’ a breed of cow, is central to the religion of Hinduism. Mythological legends have supported the sanctity of the “zebu” throughout India. Such myths have included the creation of a ‘divine cow mother’ and a ‘cow heaven’ by the God, ”Brahma” and “Prithu,” the sovereign of the universe, created the earth's vegetation, edible fruits and vegetables, disguised as a cow.”
Totemic practices involving the ritualistic bull sacrifice of antiquity with the totem feast from which it evolved were not always so blood-thirsty. An ancient ritual from the Minoans involving an ‘acrobat leaping’ over the back of a charging bull (or cow) had developed into “Bull-leaping” (Ancient Greek: ταυροκαθάψια, taurokathapsia), a term for various types of ‘non-violent bull fighting.’ Ritual leaping over bulls is a motif in Middle Bronze Age figurative art, especially in Minoan art, and in Mycenaean Greece, but it is also sometimes found in Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley.
Ancient Mesopotamian terracotta relief showing Gilgamesh slaying the Bull of Heaven
Even the earliest form of “Bull-Fighting” was filled with brutality. It traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean region. The first recorded bullfight may be the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the “Bull of Heaven” ("The Bull seemed indestructible, for hours they fought, till Gilgamesh dancing in front of the Bull, lured it with his tunic and bright weapons, and Enkidu thrust his sword, deep into the Bull's neck, and killed it").
Bullfighting and the killing of the sacred bull was commonly practiced among Männerbund in ancient Iran and connected to the pre-Zoroastrian god “Mithra.” The cosmic connotation of the ancient Iranian practice is reflected in Zoroaster's Gathas and the Avesta. The killing of the ‘sacred bull’ (“tauroctony”) is the essential central iconic ‘act of Mithras,’ which was commemorated in the “mithraeum” wherever Roman soldiers were stationed.
Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held as competition and entertainment, the “Venationes” (Latin: “animal hunts”). These public spectacles featuring animal hunts (or hunting games) spread to Africa, Asia, and Europe during Roman times. Bullfighting as a physical contest involved a bullfighter and animals attempting to subdue, immobilize, or kill a bull, usually according to a set of rules, guidelines, or cultural expectations.
It is in Rome where we find many central cult reliefs of the Roman “Mithraic Mysteries.” Its imagery depicts Mithras killing a bull, hence the name “tauroctony” after the Greek word “tauroktonos” (ταυροκτόνος, "bull killing"). A “tauroctony” is distinct from the sacrifice of a bull in ancient Rome called a “taurobolium;” the “taurobolium” was mainly part of the unrelated ‘cult of Cybele.’ Despite the name, the scene is symbolic, and to date there is no known physical evidence that patrons of the Roman cult ever performed such a rite. Like all Greco-Roman mysteries, the “Mithraic Mysteries” was limited to initiates, and there is very little known about the cult's beliefs or practices.
Dionysus was another god of resurrection who was strongly linked to the sacred rites of the bull. In a worship hymn from Olympia, at a festival for Hera, Dionysus is also invited to come as a bull, "with bull-foot raging." "Quite frequently he is portrayed with bull horns, and in Kyzikos he has a tauromorphic image," Walter Burkert relates, and refers also to an archaic myth in which Dionysus is slaughtered as a bull calf and impiously eaten by the Titans.
Hercules and the Cretan Bull
For the Greeks, the bull was strongly linked to the “Cretan Bull”: Theseus of Athens had to capture the ancient ‘sacred bull of Marathon’ (the "Marathonian bull") before he faced the “Minotaur” (Greek for "Bull of Minos"), who the Greeks imagined as a man with the head of a bull at the center of the labyrinth. “Minotaur” was fabled to be born of the Queen and a bull, bringing the king to build the labyrinth to hide his family's shame.
An exhibit of Francisco Goya’s paintings and prints at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts showcases several prints from the “Tauromanquia,” a 1816 collection illustrating the history of bull fighting in Spain. Goya was one of the first to say, through images, that the” Moors” had a place in even that most quintessential of Spanish traditions, “bull fighting.”
The history of the bullfight as imagined in the “Tauromaquia” is founded on a notion of Spanish national identity that equates nation with territory, as well as with the development and adoption of a set of shared cultural practices within that territory. This conception is revealed in the portrayals of “Moors” in the print series, which are second in number only to depictions of events, practices, and personalities from the artist's own day. This series of engravings illustrating the art of bullfighting was first published by Goya in 1816. Goya engraved forty-four plates in preparation for the “Tauromaquia,” but only included thirty-three in the first published edition.
So deep was the connection between the “Moors” and “Bullfighting,” Spain’s former lord’s influence still exerts itself upon Spain today. The famous “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain, is of the same tradition, and there are several running of the bulls throughout the rest of Spain, Portugal and even in Latin American countries. However, part of the tradition’s history is often left out: the “running of the bulls” is symbolic of the anti-Moorish and Islamophobic expulsion of the “Moors” from medieval Europe. Each July, thousands arrive from across the world in Pamplona from July 7-14 for the “San Fermin Festival,” named for the patron saint of the town in Spain’s northern Basque region , and to hear the bulls’ hooves hit the cobblestone streets each morning as they charge toward the bold participants, who run them from a pen to the nearby bull ring, where bull fights commence.
The history of the “running of the bulls” has direct, historical implications to the Europeans’ removal of the “Moors” from their land. When the “Moors” had ruled Spain it prospered with wealth, trade, culture, education, science, philosophy, etc. After the Europeans conquered Spain and removed the “Moors” from power, the “tradition” of the ‘running of the bulls’ became a popular propaganda tool used to promote the Christian agenda while commemorating the removal of “Black Bulls” (“Moors”) from the land.
Like many of the world’s most famous traditions, the annual “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, Spain is no different from “St. Patrick’s Day,” which is celebrated worldwide on March 17, in honor of St. Patrick, the Christian missionary who supposedly rid Ireland of snakes (“Moors”) during the fifth century A.D.
Bull running in 1821, depicted by Charles Towne.
The Bull worship of antiquity, which revered the divine character of the bull, no longer existed as its sacred rites had diluted into a congregation of hatred fueled by new practitioners. In England we saw the rise of “Bull running,” a medieval custom practiced until the 19th century. It involved chasing a bull through the streets of a town until it was weakened, then slaughtering the animal and butchering it for its meat.
Bull-baiting in the 19th century, painted by Samuel Henry Alken.
“Bull-baiting” was another blood sport that involved pitting a bull against another animal, usually a dog. In England during the time of Queen Anne, “bull-baiting” was practiced in London at Hockley-in-the-Hole, twice a week – and was also reasonably common in provincial towns, for instance at Birmingham's “Bull Ring.” At Tutbury, a bull was tied to an iron stake so that it could move within a radius of about 30 feet. The object of the sport was for the dogs to immobilize the bull. It has been stated that before the event started, the bull's nose was blown full of pepper to enrage the animal before the baiting. The bull was often placed in a hole in the ground. A variant of bull-baiting was "pinning the bull", where specially-trained dogs would set upon the bull one at a time, a successful attack resulting in the dog fastening his teeth strongly in the bull's snout. The extinct Old English Bulldog was specially bred for this sport.
The Buffalo War
Recall that Male buffalo are also called bulls; and they too suffered greatly as its European counterparts. Before European settlers began to push into the vast west in any great numbers, an estimated 50-60 million buffalo freely roamed upon the Great Plains. However, with the Transcontinental Railroad being constructed to connect East and West—its development served greatly in accelerating the destruction of Buffalo. For in its wake, the lives of countless Moors were destroyed, and tens of millions of buffalo, which had roamed freely upon the Great Plains since the last ice age 10,000 years ago, were nearly driven to extinction in a massive slaughter made possible by the railroad.
1892 of a pile of American bison skulls in Detroit (MI) waiting to be ground for fertilizer or charcoal
By the middle of the 19th century, even train passengers were shooting bison for sport. "Buffalo" Bill Cody, who was hired to kill bison, slaughtered more than 4,000 bison in two years. Bison were a centerpiece of his ‘Wild West Show,’ which was very successful both in the United States and in Europe, distilling the excitement of the West to those who had little contact with it. To make matters worse, some U.S. government officials actively sought to destroy bison to defeat their Native American enemies who resisted the takeover of their lands by European settlers. American military commanders ordered troops to kill buffalo to deny Native Americans an important source of food. General Philip Sheridan is quoted as stating: “Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.”
At about the same time, the iron horse also began to blaze a trail into the west, and these construction men also had to be fed. Adding to the need for food, people back east were demanding ‘buffalo robes’ that they used as coats and lap robes when riding in sleighs and carriages. These events put many a man to work as “buffalo hunters.” Leavenworth, Kansas, became a trading center for the ‘buffalo hides,’ and tanneries found even more uses for the material, such as making drive belts for industrial machines and grinding ‘buffalo bones’ into fertilizer. In some places, ‘buffalo tongues’ became a delicacy in fine restaurants. Soon, the demand for buffalo had increased to such a degree that year-round work was available for “buffalo hunters.”
This, all occurring in a time that the economy was depressed after the Civil War, led many a tough man to earn his living as a “buffalo hunter.” Armed with powerful, long-range rifles, individual hunters could kill as many as 250 buffalo a day. Tanneries paid as much as $3.00 per hide and 25¢ for each tongue, which made a nice living for hundreds of men, including the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett, Wild Bill Hickok, and William F. Cody, just to name a few. Unfortunately, once these hides and tongues were taken from the carcasses, the edible buffalo meat was often left to rot on the Plains. By the 1880s, over 5,000 hunters and skinners were involved in the trade. By 1884 the great era of the buffalo ended and nothing remained of the massive buffalo herds but piles of bones. At that time there were only some 1,200-2,000 surviving buffalo left in the United States.
The ancient range of the buffalo, according to history and tradition, once extended from the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains, embracing all that magnificent portion of North America known as the Mississippi valley; from the frozen lakes above to the “Tierras Calientes” of Mexico, far to the south.
It seems impossible, especially to those who have seen them, as numerous, apparently, as the sands of the seashore, feeding on the illimitable natural pastures of the Great Plains, that the buffalo should have become almost extinct.
Old Spirits of the Land
The Divine Bull has inspired much myth and was placed centerpiece in many ancient iconographic art, given their strength and beauty. Eventually, horns came to be associated with strength and virility, as the best bulls of a species had the largest and most magnificent horns. But it is the mystical buffalo that we shall focus upon.
Richard L. Dieterle in his “Buffalo Spirits” tells us that: “The spirit of the buffalo, an animal that seems to traverse the whole earth in its migrations, is the very essence of the land. When Earth-maker created our world, he saw that his creation was unstable and moved about uncontrollably, so he created the land to help anchor it. This land is in spiritual origin a gigantic buffalo.” According to oral traditions of the Plains “the old ones were buffalo people.” Some Plains tribes believed humanity resulted from a sexual transfer of power between a woman and a buffalo.
“Tatanka” is a Lakota word meaning “Big Beast.” Lois Red Elk-Reed in his article “The Mighty Return of Tatanka,” he writes that: "The Tatanka in creation became one of the gods to guide us in our earthly life," Father said, noting that the Buffalo was also the chief of all the 4-legged."
For the Northern Plains People “Tatanka” meant ‘life.’ Ceremonies and daily life revolved around sacred reverence to “Tatanka.” It has been documented by the Plains Indians that the “tatanka” provided “life” for the Lakóta and other Native American tribes. The Lakóta gleaned everything from the animal in order to provide food, shelter, clothing, and tools for the people. Beyond the physical, the buffalo provided deep spiritual connection to the earth and the sky and carried heavy burdens of the people.
According to the legend, we are told that: “After the Great Spirits created the world, the Trickster fooled the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation) into leaving the Underworld. They became the Ordinary People and needed help to survive. Tatanka, the holy man, turned himself into a Buffalo and sacrificed his powers for the people. With all that Tatanka provided, the Ordinary—or Lakota—People adapted to the earth around them and prospered.”
It is interesting to see very similar motif and tropes in the American fantasy drama television series “American Gods” which is based on Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel. The character “Buffalo,” also known as the “Buffalo Man” or “Buffalo Woman,” is a mysterious entity manifesting as a ‘buffalo’ or a humanoid with the head of a buffalo. This character is a personification of the American land. The author suggests that one part of America is constant and unimpeachably sacred: the land itself. And the land, for Gaiman, is the literal and spiritual foundation of all that America is, as its resources anchor the country and make all of its advancement and achievement possible. In fact the character “Shadow” is told by “Whiskey Jack” that the ‘land is older than people and wiser than people.’
Reverence of the Sky
Let us detour a bit to discuss the significance of the Buffalo or Bull and its celestial connections before continuing forward. Astrology is generally said to have originated in ancient Babylon nearly 4,000 years ago and spread across the known world, and its influence did not even superficially wane during the high noon of medieval Christianity. The heavenly signs and their presumed predictive powers have grown from cocktail conversational openers to a cult status. “Taurus the bull” was one of those sky signs. “Taurus” in Greek mythology represents “Zeus” in one of his many disguises. The corresponding animal in the 12-year cycle Chinese calendar is the “buffalo” or “cow,” and this astrological resemblance with the bull appears to be more than coincidental.
The ‘Bull of Taurus’ has long been a prominent asterism used since the bronze age where it marked the spring equinox. The glyph, or “Taurus symbol,” is in the shape of a bull’s head and horn. The Taurus sign is represented by the Bull, a tenacious animal with great strength. According to legend, Enkidu threw the “thigh of the bull” at “Ishtar” after the bull was killed. This explains the lack of the ’thigh’ in the constellation of the bull in the sky.
In astrology, we also find “Ursa Major” — the great bear — which is always above the horizon in the northern latitudes, but the best time to see it is in the spring when its high above the northeastern horizon. Ursa Major is best known as the home of the Big Dipper. Of all the star patterns in the sky, the Big Dipper is the most universally recognized. The dipper's seven bright stars form a portion of the great bear.
The Egyptians placed their constellation of the Bull’s ‘Foreleg’ among the stars of “Ursa Major” – which the Babylonians envisioned as their ‘funerary Wagon.’ In the Old Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar sends “Taurus,” the ‘Bull of Heaven,’ to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. Enkidu tears off the bull's ‘hind part’ and hurls the quarters into the sky where they become the stars we know as “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor.”
In the work “The origin of Ursa Major” by George A. Davis, JR, we find the following reference concerning Ursa Major: “It is well recognized that the Egyptians did not have a Bear constellation, and that they called our Big Dipper "Khepesh," "the thigh" or "the ox-leg," and Mesekhti" or "Meskheti," "the bull" or "striker."” In the “Archaeological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Volume 2” we are also told that: “in the Egyptian zodiac Polaris and Ursa Major were represented under the form of a bull or cow or its thigh.”
Peter Levenda in his “Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation” we read the following: “This instrument is referred to as the ‘Thigh of Set,’ and at times in other hieroglyphic panels we can see that the ‘thigh of a bull’ is also presented during the ‘Opening of the Mouth ceremony.’ These are all cognate symbols, referencing a common motif. The ‘Bull’ is the ‘Bull of Heaven,’ what we call the ‘Great Bear’ but which the ancient Egyptians referred to as the ‘Bull.’ The ‘thigh of the Bull’ is the ‘Big Dipper’ asterism, which is also called the ‘Thigh of Set’ was identified with this constellation. This may be a euphemism, for one of the other instruments of the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ ceremony is a ‘wand’ or ‘staff’ in the ‘shape of a serpent,’ according to some Egyptologists, but which on observation can be seen to resemble a ‘phallus’ much more than a ‘serpent.’ The word “thigh” has often been used as a euphemism for ‘phallus,’ such as in the term “wounded in the thigh” was used of Amfortas in the Grail legend as recounted by Chretien de Troyes; of Adonis, “wounded in the thigh” by a boar’s tusk; and of some pertinent Babylonian myths concerning Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven.”
Alessandro Grossato in his “Shining Legs The One-footed Type in Hindu Myth and Iconography” writes: “But the symbolism of the Bull's Leg as a pillar of heaven is not exclusive of India. We come across it especially in Egypt, and it is strange that until now no one has compared the mythical data of these two traditions. In Egypt 'Bull's Thigh' (Maskheti) was the name of the constellation of the Great Bear. In the circular zodiac of Dendera, that is reproduced here, Ursa Major stands out almost in the centre of the representation of the heavenly vault, which emphasizes its axial meaning.”
The “Bull of Heaven” is probably the oldest exemplar of the theme of the shepherd and his flocks, which is so strongly represented in the springtime skies. As a basic celestial symbol cattle seem to represent all the fertile powers of the springtime skies – world mythology frequently relates the images of bulls, cows and calves to a whole range of heavenly phenomena including rain-clouds, rays of sunlight and the newborn sun. More specifically, the Sumerian Bull of Heaven is described as a destructive beast, which came down from heaven to drink the rivers dry and to parch the land. These seasonal attributes are no doubt derived from the fact that the Bull of Heaven rises late in the 2nd month of the year when the temperature starts to rise and the rains diminish.
I find a very interesting source speaking to the bull of scripture and Egypt, from “The Oriental Herald and Journal of General Literature, Volume 9” we read the scriptural allusions to Taurus as following: “His glory (Joseph’s) is like the firstlings of the bullock.” See blessings of Moses. “Ephraim is an heifer.” Hosea. “And unto Enoch (behemoth, or the ox,) thou hast given one part to dwell wherein are à thousand hills.” Esdras. Jacob's blessing on Joseph (according to the reading of Hebraists) is as follows: “Joseph is a fruitful bull by the well, whose children run over the neck. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.” Now we maintain, that all this is nothing but a correct translation of the antediluvian prophecy, pictorially represented in the figures which accompany Taurus, as extant on the planisphere and zodiac of Dendereh . Let us arrange them in the order in which they presented themselves to the eyes of Jacob, the inspired interpreter, of an imagery not improbably invented by his great antediluvian ancestor, Seth, the Thoth of Egypt.”
The buffalo symbolizes the flesh and blood of the “red” man. The buffalo represents the universe and the four directions, because he stands on four legs, for the four ages of creation. The buffalo was put in the west by Wakan Tanka at the making of the world, to hold back the waters. Every year he loses one hair, and in everyone of the four ages he loses a leg. The sacred hoop will end when all the hair and legs of the great buffalo are gone, and the water comes back to cover the Earth. And it is for these reasons that the Buffalo is the American “Bull of Heaven.”
Another intriguing aspect, we find that “kokopelli” is also associated to “Ursa Major” and shares many symbolic characteristics with the “Buffalo.” “Kokopelli,” was widely considered a ‘God of Fertility’ who made the corn, beans and squash, the three sisters of prehistoric American gardening, grow. He also assured the fertility of the animals, which the Indians generally respected as Mother Earth's other children, as well. “Kokopelli” made all the village women pregnant and assured the survival of the all. This idea is similar to the Lakóta gleaning everything from the buffalo as they were provided food, shelter, clothing, and tools.
“Kokopelli” had celestial connections as well. There is a theory suggesting that there is a pattern of stars taking shape of “Kokopelli” in the sky around Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Bootes. The idea of “Kokopelli” as a star formation, constellation or asterism, collaborates all the stories concerning springtime and there was “Kokopelli” rising magnificently in the Northeastern sky, signaling that the time of planting was near. According to this theory the stars represented by the fertility deity “Kokopelli,” were the stars of Boötes, with the flute extending to Ursa Major.
The current etymological analysis of the origin of ‘Boötes’ in the Greek form ‘Βοώτης’ is that it meant "herdsman" or "plowman" and originated in his heavenly role as the "ox-driver" of Ursa Major, the oxcart, thus a word conveniently alleged to derive from Greek ‘βοῦς bous’ meaning “cow”, which is not really an "ox word", and which is also hardly supported in the oldest known Greek source, which is the Odyssey of Homer. Homer in his Odyssey reported ‘Boötes’ as a celestial reference point for navigation, described as "late-setting" or "slow to set", translated as the "Plowman". Exactly whom ‘Boötes’ is supposed to represent in Greek mythology is not clear.
Mortendad Cave Petroglyphs New Mexico Sky Map Decipherment Kaulins
According to one version, he was a son of Demeter, Philomenus, twin brother of “Plutus,” a ‘ploughman’ who drove the ‘oxen’ in the constellation Ursa Major. This is corroborated by the constellation's name, which itself means "ox-driver" or "herdsman." The [later] Greeks saw the asterism now called the "Big Dipper" or "Plough" as a cart with oxen. This influenced the name's etymology, derived from the Greek for "noisy" or "ox-driver". Another myth associated with ‘Boötes’ tells that he invented the ‘plow’ and was memorialized for his ingenuity as a constellation.
We noticed that an alternative name to “Kokopelli” is “Kokopetiyot,” where the word element ‘Koko’ is thought to be cognate with the Zuni term ‘koko’ meaning "god.” Again this recalls that Akkadian word for a powerful (Alpha) bull is “Gud.” These eerily connections draws comparison to both the Bull and the fertility god “Kokopelli” were both at times depicted as being “Humpbacked.” A zebu (Bos taurus indicus), sometimes known as indicine cattle or humped cattle. In Iran we discover vases in the shape of a hump-backed bull are especially characteristic of places like “Marlik.” It should be noted that we also find that “Kokopelli” is also usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player. In the book entitled “Mimbres Mythology” by Pat M. Carr, the author says that: “all humpbacked creatures, among whom were included the buffalo and the bear, were considered very powerful.” Another intriguing characteristic of “Kokopelli” is the hair.
It has been stated that there is no accounting, in explanation, for Kokopelli's wild hair. In the modern genre, he usually wears a kilt and sash and a feathered headdress. In its original or earliest form maybe perhaps Kokopelli's wild hair is antennae or simply an archaic expression of locs. A common hairstyle culturally associated and generally attributed to the so-called “American Negro,” whose “Afro”-textured hair texture has been described as’ angle-like helix’ shape. English adjectives such as "woolly", "kinky",or "spiraled" have been used to describe natural afro-textured hair. More formally, “ulotrichous” ("curly-haired", Greek οὐλότριχος, from οὖλος 'woolly, fleecy' and θρίξ 'hair') refers to afro-textured hair. It has been likened to the wool of the sheep or the afro-like form of the Buffalo.
Ancient Buffalo People
The gods' complex characteristics were expressed in myths and in intricate relationships between deities: family ties, loose groups and hierarchies, and combinations of separate gods into one. Deities' diverse appearances in art—as animals, humans, objects, and combinations of different forms—also alluded, through symbolism, to their essential features. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, and through the process of “Anthropomorphism” these cosmic forces were attributed human traits and emotions. “Personification” was another method of attribution of human form and characteristics to abstract concepts such as nations, emotions, and natural forces, such as seasons and weather. Simply, the ancient deities and the varied forms and shapes were depicted in the likeness of a human mind; usually they reflected the physical traits of the very nation in which revered them.
In “The Oriental Herald and Journal of General Literature, Volume 9” we extract the following statement: “The ancient Persians pictured the first man with a bull's head. The Hindoos anciently and still venerate the same character. One of the Hindoo avatars pictures the bull-man perishing in the flood. A bull-headed human form is frequent among Javanese monuments; and agrees precisely with similar figures of those of Egypt. The monuments preserved by Hyde leave nothing uncorroborated on the same subject, as far as regards the mythratic rites. The god Osiris was sometimes portrayed with a bull's head, sometimes with bull's horns. Among the Syrians, Astarte was a human figure with a bull's head; for she was male and female. So, among the Phenicians, their chief god, Moloch, bore the head of an ox annexed to the figure of a man. The Greek Osiris, namely, Bacchus Bugenes, or Tauriformis, was represented, as the name imports, by the same form. So was the Cretan Minotaur.”
The history of the buffalo (Bull) is entwined with the plight of the Moor in the American West. So intimately tied are their destinies; from their glorious past as the preeminent representative of the land, to their downfall into a subjugated state of suffering. Surely, their rise shall also be synonymous with one another. Perhaps, we shall discover that beyond destiny, there’s a common ancestral spirit directly connecting the two. The Southwestern Ute say “Unlike the previous tale, here the baby is born from a clot of buffalo blood and derives his power from the mighty buffalo tribe.” The Blackfeet Nation often called themselves “Buffalo People,” in honor of their ancestors.
Robert Murray Thomas in his “Manitou and God: North-American Indian Religions and Christian Culture” suggested that: “Manitou and Wakan Tanka have been conceived as (a) a kind of ethereal energy or miraculous power pervading everything in the universe called (called manito by Algonquin tribes, wakanda by the Sioux, orenda by the Iroquois) and also (b) a miraculous personage with humanlike character traits.”
In Algonquin Indian lore, Manitou is a supernatural power that permeates the world, a power that can assume the form of a deity referred to as The Great Manitou or The Great Spirit, creator of all things and giver of life. It is generally thought that the "Manitou," or "Great Spirit," which was worshipped was the ‘buffalo.’ However, in light of greater understanding, it becomes clear that it was not the buffalo that was worshipped, but the "Manitou," or "Spirit of the Buffalo," which was under the earth, and animated all buffaloes, and healed the sick, and had all power."
I suggest perhaps the same “Manitou” or “Spirit” or “Manna” of the Buffalo is ancestrally related to the “Moor.” As stated earlier personifications and anthropomorphism forms the deity in likeness of their own human characteristics and physical attributes. The Buffalo is synonymous with the “Moors,” being they both are the “Ancients of the land.”
It’s quite curious that stories relating to the origin of the legendary name “Buffalo Soldiers” are attributed it to the so-called Indians likening the short curly hair of the “black” troopers to that of the buffalo. Many have agreed 'that the dark, curly hair of the so-called “black man” resembled the fur of a buffalo. Others have stated that the nickname was also influenced due to the heavy buffalo robes the soldiers wore on winter campaigns. It is also said that when the American bison was wounded or cornered, it fought ferociously, displaying uncommon stamina and courage, identical to the buffalo soldier in battle.
In the book “The Various Uses of Buffalo Hair by the North American Indians” by David I. Bushnell, Jr, we read the following: “The hair or wool of the buffalo appears to have been quite extensively used by all the tribes, and especially by those living east of the Mississippi. Quantities of it were collected, later to be spun or twisted into cords of which bags, belts, and other necessary articles were braided. Although the majority of the Eastern tribes appear to have used it extensively for such purposes, yet not a single object of buffalo hair work made east of the Mississippi can be traced in America, and only a few articles exist in Europe.”
Lastly, it should be stated that from their ranks, the U.S. Army recruited the Buffalo Soldiers of Western lore. Often, banished Black Seminoles, or the Seminole Indians became the infamous “Buffalo Soldiers.”