From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
Gods and Bulls
Bulls. Big, strong, temperamental creatures that have had loomed large in man’s past. Bull jumping, bull baiting, bull fights and running of the bulls are events where they were, and in some cases still are, featured. They were used in the form of oxen to pull plows and carts. Their virility kept up herds, generating wealth for their owners. In some areas, placing a bull head above a door gives protection and luck much like the horse shoe. As sacrifices, few animals were more costly. From them we get the terms ‘seeing red’ and ‘bull-headed’. A lot of myths feature bulls, even modern myths like Paul Bunyan and his blue ox. In some cultures, earthquakes are blamed on a rowdy celestial bull believed to have the world upon its horns. A lot of masculine divinities, particularly those of the sun and the sky, are associated with bulls.
Bulls are unique in animal symbolism in that they have both solar and lunar associations. Their roar has been compared to thunder, their breath to the wind and the sound of their hooves to ocean waves slapping the shore. Solar associations stem from the strength of the sun and the vision of it plowing through the heavens. Lunar associations seem to stem from the horns resembling crescent moons. However, in some breeds of cattle, both sexes sport horns. In general, the bull represents the sun, storms and sky while the cow represents the moon and the fertile earth.
Bulls symbolize many traits that are found in masculine deities according to myths: uncontrolled drives, strength, impulsiveness, vitality, creativity, fertility, power, virility, agriculture, anger, justice, rectitude, stubbornness, belligerence, endurance, confidence, abundance, potency and resurrection.
Interestingly enough, Alain Danielou in “Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus” reports that the Sanskrit word “go” means bull and is one of the etymologies for the English word God, Scandinavian Gud and German Gott.
Below is a list of the various gods associated with bulls. I’m sure there are many more. Who did I miss?
· Adad/Hadad – Mesopotamian storm god associated with bulls
· Agni – Hindu fire god variously described as a bull or compared to one
· An/Anu – Mesopotamian sky god. Originally seen as a great bull, later said to own the Bull of Heaven
· Apis/Hapi – bull god, associated with Ptah and Osiris, sometime portrayed with sun disk between his horns
· Baal – Semitic storm god whose cult animal was the bull
· Buchis Bull – a bull with a black face and a white body thought to be the manifestation of the life force of Montu. Also associated with Ra and Osiris.
· Dionysos – Greek god of the vine who is variously described as bull faced, bull horned and bull foot raging
· Gugalanna – Sumerian known as “The Great Bull of Heaven”, first husband of Ereshkigal, the Goddess of the Realm of the Dead; killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Associated with the sign of Taurus.
· Indra – from India, known as the World Bull for his fertilizing powers
· Jupiter Dolichenus – a syncretism of Jupiter and Baal, typically shown standing on a bull
· Min – Egyptian fertility god identified with Mnevis bull (Heliopolis); associated with white bulls
· Mithras – a Persian god popular with Roman troops who is typically portrayed slaying a bull
· Mnevis bull – black, sacred bull of Heliopolis and eventually identified with Apis. Associated with Re and Min.
· Montu – Egyptian god of war; associated with the Buchis bull, sometimes pictured with the head of a bull
· Osiris – associated with the Apis bull and Buchis bull; Plutarch wrote that the "Apis was a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris".
· Perun – Slavic storm deity, the bull was his sacred animal
· Poseidon – Greek sea god who sent a white bull (known as the Cretan bull later memorialized as Taurus constellation) to Minos to be sacrificed but Minos kept the bull instead. This angered the god who caused the wife of Minos to fall in love with the bull leading to the birth of the Minotaur.
· Ptah – the Apis bull was originally associated with Ptah, the creator of the universe and master of destiny, before becoming associated with Osiris
· Re – represented by the Buchis bull; associated with Mnevis, the sacred bull of Heliopolis.
· Rudra – according to the Rig-Veda, this bull fertilized the earth with his sperm
· Serapis – Ptolemy I started this cult by combining components of Zeus, Asklepios, Dionysos, Osiris and Apis bull in an effort to unite the Greeks and Egyptians under his rule. A god of fertility and the underworld.
· Shiva – rode Nandi, a bull variously said to symbolize sexual energy which is at times transformed to spiritual energy, cosmic order, strength and justice.
· Sin – Mesopotamian moon good who rode a winged bull
· Teshub – Hittite storm god whose chariot is pulled by the celestial bulls Surri and Hurri
· Yahweh – associated with the Golden Calf
· Zeus – abducted Europa in the guise of a white bull, she later born Minos whose impiety cause the birth of the Minotaur
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