The constellation of Taurus is one of the oldest star signs known to man. It forms a very striking image in the night sky, with Aldebaran as its eye, and the Pleiades forming the shoulder. Aldebaran is a giant star, some 40 times bigger than our Sun.
From about 4000-2000 BC, Taurus was the sign that marked the Vernal Equinox. (Due to the precession of the Equinoxes that point has now changed to the tail end of Pisces). Back then, the stars and constellations of the night sky provided a visual guide to the agricultural and ceremonial calendar. The appearance of the Bull marked the beginning of spring.
Taurus, the Moon-Bull is sacred to the Earth-Goddess. He symbolises virility as well as nurture and represents the eternal life force that returns fertility to the land each spring.
There are many myths and legends of the sacred bull. The most familiar one is the story of King Minos and the Minotaur.
Minos was the King of Crete and a bit of a megalomaniac. He was not content with his earthly riches but fancied himself as the master of the seas as well. One day, it seemed as though he had struck gold.
Poseidon, Lord of the oceans, agreed to a deal that granted Minos the power to command the ocean. But of course, there was a price to be paid. Poseidon demanded that Minos sacrificed his most beautiful white bull. Minos owned a whole herd of exceptionally beautiful white bulls, so he readily agreed without a second thought. But when the day came, he was wavering and greed got the better of him. Assuming that Poseidon would not notice the betrayal, he sacrificed a lesser beast instead.
Of course, Poseidon did notice and did not take kindly to being cheated in this way. He was furious and his revenge was ruthless. Poseidon enlisted Aphrodite the Goddess of Love, to afflict the king’s wife with an uncontrollable desire for the sacred bull!
Not knowing what was happening to her, Pasiphae became infatuated with the bull. Beside herself with lust and passion, she grew so desperate that she talked Daedalus, the court craftsman into constructing a wooden model of a cow in which she could hide and thus mate with the bull.
The deed was done and Pasiphae had been able to satisfy her lust, but of course, she then found herself pregnant! The creature she eventually gave birth to was a hideous monster with a human body and the head of a bull. The humiliation was complete and for all to see. King Minos and his Island Empire became a laughing stock.
The creature, known as the Minotaur, wasn’t just hideous to behold but also had a monstrous appetite for human flesh! Now King Minos asked Daedalus for help and again the craftsman came up with a brilliant idea. He designed a labyrinth to hide the monster, so complex that the Minotaur would never find his way out and nobody would ever have to see him.
And so it was done and the Minotaur was locked away. Of course, he still had to be fed with human flesh, which Minos obtained by raiding nearby islands to capture young men. Although the minotaur was ‘invisible’ he terrorized the region. Everyone lived in fear.
But one day, a young hero by the name of Theseus set out looking for a challenge. he had heard about the minotaur and King Minos’ promise that whoever managed to kill the Minotaur should win not only his Kingdom but also his beautiful daughter Ariadne. Theseus was determined to free the region of the horrible monster and to take his prize. He was not the first to attempt the challenge. Others had done so before him, but none had ever been seen again.
When Ariadne’s eyes fell on Theseus she promptly fell in love and knowing the fate that awaited him, vowed to help him. Again, Daedalus was asked for advice and he came up with yet another brilliant idea. He gave her a skein of yarn, which she was to give to Theseus while holding on to the other end of it. Should he be successful and kill the monster, the yarn would guide him back out of the labyrinth.
Ariadne gave Theseus the yarn along with the instructions and off he went into the labyrinth to meet his fate. When he came upon the minotaur a terrible battle ensued. With a sword hidden in his tunic, Theseus stabbed and killed the monster. And following Ariadne’s instructions, he emerged from the labyrinth unscathed.
Taurus seeks to understand life through the sensory experiences of the material world. He revels in sensuous pleasures.
But this preoccupation with the world of matter is a form of bondage. There is nothing wrong with physical gratification, but when it becomes the ‘raison d’être’, the meaning of one’s life, other aspects will be missed and greed will never be far.
Both, Theseus and the Minotaur are aspects of the Taurean archetype.
The Minotaur, whose ‘head’ (i.e. his mental functions and decision-making faculties) is entirely ruled by his animal instincts, represents the shadow.
But Theseus overcomes the lure of instant, but temporary gratification, and aims for the ultimate boon – the kingdom of Minos, and Ariadne for his Queen.
When the hero enters the labyrinth and kills the monster, he overcomes his own lower instincts. Released from bondage, he follows the thread that connects him to his true destiny back to safety and victory.