Mythology abounds with motifs about bulls of one sort or another. For about two thousand years the bull, the symbol of Taurus, was one of the main religious symbols for the Taurean Age – which occurred roughly between 4000 and 2000 B.C. In pagan religion of this time, the bull and the cow were symbols of the fertility of the earth, for the epoch coincided with the emergence of the great agricultural civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates of the Nile.
Of all these motifs, one of the best known and the most apt for Taurus is the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is a complicated myth and with many facets; but it helps to illustrate both the main difficulties and the main challenges of the deepest journey of the sign.
Minos was the King of Crete, and had a herd of exceptional bulls which were dedicated to the god Poseidon. He made a deal with the god, and promised him a particularly beautiful white bull in offering if Poseidon could give him mastery over the seas. The god agreed to the deal, and Crete flourished.
Minos, however, was covetous and greedy (a characteristic Taurean problem) and when the time came to sacrifice the bull, he decided to cheat the god and keep it for himself, offering a lesser specimen in its place. The god, in revenge, asked Aphrodite (Venus), goddess of love, for aid in a plan for retaliation. Aphrodite afflicted Minos’ wife, Queen Pasiphaë, with an uncontrollable lust for the white bull. (Uncontrollable lust is another virtue ranking high on Taurus’ list.) Pasiphaë, unable to suppress her desires, enlisted the aid of Daidalos, the palace master craftsman, to make her a wooden bull in which she disguised herself so she could mate with the white bull. The offspring of this union was the Minotaur, a dreadful beast with the body of a man and the head of a bull, which fed on human flesh.
Now, the Minotaur in our story is a symbol of Taurus run amuck. With human body and bull’s head, his humanity is completely overshadowed by his rampant desires. The Minotaur, being a mark of Minos’ shame, was enclosed in a labyrinth which was so complex and so impenetrable that the beast could not escape. Into the labyrinth regularly were thrown a quota of youths and maidens from Crete’s conquered vassals, to feed the endless appetite of the Minotaur for human flesh.
Theseus, the son of the King of Athens, volunteered to join the sacrificial quota to slay the Minotaur. With the help of Minos’ daughter Ariadne and her famous ball of thread, he found his way into the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur with a club, and found his way out again through the skein of thread. Having completed his quest, he was made King of Crete – marrying the King’s daughter and adopting the hereditary title of Minos.
Both Theseus and Minotaur are aspects of Taurus. Like every myth, this one portrays many things, and can be peeled for meanings like an onion. But one way you can take it is that within each Taurean is this basic conflict between the human, heroic side and the bestial side with its rampant appetites, product of more compulsive desire on the part of both his parents. Desire is a dominant force in Taurus, whether it is desire for sexual satisfaction, food, drink, money, status, or anything else you can think of. When Taurus becomes obsessed with the object of his desire, there’s no withholding him from it. He’s like a fully wound up steamroller; it may take him a while to find out what he wants, and a while to get warmed up, but once he gets moving, nothing on God’s green earth will stop him. The trick is to harness the desires to work for the man, rather than the desires dragging the man behind them. And to make sure that the desires, whatever they are, don’t – as the picturesque mythological image suggests – devour human flesh.
Notice that Theseus succeeds because of the ball of thread. The ball of thread has to do with plan and purpose. Ordinarily, Taurus would blunder into the labyrinth blind, because he didn’t look forward far enough into the time he might want to leave again. The Bull doesn’t always possess foresight. But armed with it, the task is made easy. Also, the labyrinth is the tangle of human motives and emotions that so often defeats Taurus. Because of his love of simplicity, and his intense dislike of inferences, convolutions, half-shaded and ambiguous suggestions, undercurrents and nuances, he often loses his way in the labyrinth of human relationships and of his own inner life. He badly needs a ball of thread – that is, a clear path and an idea of the map of the place. Given that, he’s on his way.
There’s another myth which is pertinent to Taurus as well, and describes more the strengths and abilities of the sign. Theseus and the Minotaur portray one of the basic life problems of Taurus. Vulcan (Hephaistos, in Greek) is the god who represents a different side of Taurus’ nature. In mythology, Vulcan is the husband of Venus. He is the divine artisan, the builder, the worker. He works at his forge, which is at the heart of a volcano, and creates on his anvil all the tools and objects of beauty that provide the other Olympian deities with their powers. Vulcan is responsible for making Zeus’ thunderbolts, Mercury’s winged helmet and sandals, Pluto’s invisible helmet, Minerva’s magic shield. Every deity owes Vulcan something, for it is Vulcan who forges from the earth itself the attributes of power. He is an alchemist: from the raw substance of the earth itself he produces gold and precious things. He is an indefatigable worker, with immense strength on his shoulders and arms. He represents the qualities of creative power that Taurus possesses, unleashed and directed toward a useful and purposeful end. If Taurus can only find his purpose, his meaning, some field of work which can occupy his tremendous drive and energy, he is a true artist – whether it is of a piece of sculpture, a symphony, a building, a government. First, of course, he must get that bee sting which reminds him that he can’t spend the whole of his life chewing grass contentedly, while chasing other bulls out of the pasture. Deep in every Taurus is a need to be useful, to produce, to build something solid and permanent and tangible that stands as a testimony to his abilities and to his existence. Taurus is seeking a symbol of his own value, his own worth. To accomplish this, he must make something that lasts. Until he settles into his life work, Taurus is often aimless, or lethargic, or passive, or dependent on the support of others. But his real nature is as much Vulcan the earth-fire god, as it is Venus the beautiful, indolent one. Put the two together – as the Greeks did in their myth – and you have some marvelous offspring.
From the book “Astrology for Lovers” by Liz Green