The Myths of the Zodiac- Taurus the Bull

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The Myths of the Zodiac- Taurus the Bull

Post by swetha » Thu Mar 16, 2006 9:12 pm

In ancient times, several gods took on the form of a bull rising from the sea, including the Dionysos. However, Taurus is the bull commemorates the abduction of Europa by Zeus, goaded on by the gadfly, who took her from her home in Phoenicia over to the waters to Crete. It is the beginning of the long struggle between Asia and Europe. That is one story.

Others maintain that the bull is Zeus, yes, but that it is his relationship with Io that is recalled by its major stars, the Hyades (the sisters of Hyas) and the Pleiades, the seven weeping sisters. For while Europa is important, she is only a duplicate of an earlier hierogamy, that of her great-great-grandmother Io.

The story of Zeus and Io is spoken of very discreetly. Io was Hera’s own priestess at Argos when Zeus conceived his desire for her. Io’s dreams were full of loving whispers from Zeus. They told her to go to the fields of Lerna, where later in its swamps Heracles would fight the Hydra. As they intertwined together, Hera intruded, and Zeus quickly turned her into a heifer to protect her. Hera, however, set the monster Argus, whose hundred eyes see everything, to watch over her. Not to be put off, Zeus sent Hermes to kill Argus, and Zeus finally enjoyed Io fully as he wanted.

Hera and Zeus, brother and sister, husband and wife, discovered each other as children. Homer tells of their secret love:

And Zeus who gathers the clouds saw her, and when he saw her desire was a mist about his close heart as much as on that time they first went to bed together and lay in love, and their dear parents knew nothing of it.

Zeus petted Hera for three-hundred years, on an amazing bed. Hera, of course, is the goddess of the bed, the playpen erotic devotion. At the temple of Hera in Argos, it is said that the worshipper could see an image of Hera’s mouth closing over the phallus of Zeus. No other goddess, not even Aphrodite, was allowed to be seen in such an image at her shrine.

So what does Io have to do with all this? It was Zeus’s first adultery, and the betrayal was perpetrated on a woman who was closest to Hera herself, a woman very close to her, a copy, a duplicate.

Hera punished this woman who was most like herself. Io, in the form of a heifer, became a beast consecrated to the divine. She was forced to wander from Hera’s sanctuary throughout the world. Hera used the gadfly as the instrument of her vengence. This little insect goaded her on and on, forcing Io to ford every stream, wandering from place to place. She even meets Prometheus, also suffering, and tells him that she wants to die. This obsession ends at the banks of the Nile in Egypt. She prays to Zeus, and Zeus transforms her back into a woman by skimming his hand lightly over her. United with the god again, Io would have a son named Epaphus, meaning the hand’s light touch. The boy would become king of Egypt one day and he would have a great ox himself, Apis.

Connected with this constellation are two other tragedies:

The Hyades were five daughters of Atlas. They loved their brother Hyas immensely, that when he was killed by a wild boar, in their grief, they pined away and died. Their names are Phaoia, Ambrosia, Eudora, Coronis, and Polyxo. Others add Pedile, Phyto, and Thyone, as well. Some say that they were former Dodoanian nymphs. (Dodona was the home of the oracle of Zeus, a very special oracle completely unlike the one at Delphi. At Dodona, one speaks to the Oak of Zeus to ask to which god one must sacrifice. There is not point in making a sacrifice if it is to the wrong god.) According to Hyginus who paraphrases Pherecydes, they brought Liber, another name for Dionysos or Bacchus, to Ino. As a reward, Zeus placed them in the heavens.

The rising of the Hyades in the sky as well as their setting is attended with much rain, hence their name.

Now there were other daughters of Atlas and Aethra, the daughter of the great Oceanus, the great image of necessity who girdles the globe. The sisters of the Hyades are the Pleiades. These seven sisters some say discussed what had happened to their sisters, and decided to kill themselves in their honor.

However, there are other considerations. Alcyone, Merope, Maia, Electra, Taygete, Steope, and Celaeno are their names, but only six are easily discernable. Mortal Merope is said to have married Sisyphus and bore Glaucus, who may be the father of Bellephron, and she was placed on in the heavens with her immortal sisters. Because she was mortal, her star is very faint.

The other sisters are credited with different divine husbands: Zeus is said to be the father of Dardanus by Electra; father of Hermes by Maia; and of Lacedamon by Taygete. Poseidon is the father of Hyreus by Alcyone, Lycus and Nycteus by Celaeno. Ares is the father of Oenomaus by Sterope.

Others claim that the faintest star is not Merope, but Electra who, after the fall of Troy and her descendents through Dardanus were driven in exile, removed herself out of the Pleiades out of grief. She is believed to lead the Pleiades in their circular motion around the polar regions, where, with her hair loosed, she is observed mourning. She is called Cometes ("long-haired").

In ancient times, the Pleiades were outside of Taurus, and in connection with the story that they were the daughters of Pleione and Atlas. Pleione is said to have been traveling through Boetia with her daughters when Orion the Hunter was aroused by her and tried to possess her. She fled, and Orion pursued her for seven years, but was not able to find her. Pitying their condition, Zeus placed the daughters in the sky as the bull’s tail. Orion, of course, appears to follow them as they set in their flight.

Another variant of the story is that Orion, a very handsome man, fell in love with Merope, who was the daughter of Dionysos’s son Oenopion who had promised Merope to him. However, Orion had to rid his island of its dangerous wild beasts. Of course, he did, and brought all the pelts to Merope. Needless to say, her father said that there had been rumors of beasts still about and refused to let Orion have Merope. Finally, after drinking a great deal of wine, Orion raped Merope in her bedroom. Calling on Dionysos for help, Oenopion, helped by the satyrs, made Orion so drunk he fell asleep and they blinded him when he was helpless. They threw on the seashore and left him there for further adventures. Of the four or five different myths that are combined in Orion, none truly matter when we look up in the night sky and see his presence. Of all the constellations, Orion continues to be one of the most prominent and recognizable of all.

The Pleiades are called Vergiliae, the spring stars, by the Romans, because they rise after the spring equinox. To the Romans, they were considered sweet and wonderful indications of spring.

But even today, many astrologers consider that any planet in conjunction with the Pleiades, at about twenty-nine degrees of Taurus, entails a fate worth weeping about.

By Kalev Pehme

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