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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

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.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Minoan_Head_Bull_-_Heraklion_Archaeological_Museum.jpg

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

 

 

 

Last modified on
I am a Hellenic Pagan, dedicated to Zeus, living in the Colorado mountains with my husband, our son, two cats and a yellow lab.  In the little bit of free time that I have, I enjoy reading and crafting.
Author's recent posts

Comments

  • Samantha Lahlali
    Samantha Lahlali Tuesday, 18 June 2013

    In Hellenic polytheism there is also Apollon who has perhaps a less recognized connection among oxen and cattle. Pausanias tells us that in Caria there was a statue of Apollon with his foot upon the skull of an ox. We also know from Pausanias that in Delphi there was a great statue of a bull at the temple of Apollon that was gifted to him as a devotional image. Of course perhaps the most well known reference is from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes in which we find Hermes stealing the cattle of Apollon, and Apollon tracking down said cattle which has been the subject of a lost play in which Apollon enlists satyrs if I remember correctly to help him find his cattle.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Wednesday, 19 June 2013

    Thanks for the info! I had looked up Hermes because sometimes he is seen with a bull calf around his shoulders but could not find anything meaningful beyond connections with herds. Which is the same reason I did not mention Apollo's cattle as that usually means a group of both sexes, generally more cows and steers than bulls. The rest I did not know. Thanks!

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Tuesday, 18 June 2013

    Great informational post. Odd coincidence: My wife and I were just talking about Paul Bunyan and Babe today.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Wednesday, 19 June 2013

    Paul and Blue have been popping out at me a lot lately...I've been trying to figure out why.

    Thanks!

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Sunday, 23 June 2013

    Interesting post and great list thanks! I follow the research done at Catal Huyuk; their dig season just started back up, so I've had bulls on the brain. The temple rooms there are decorated with bull heads and fascinate me. It's also interesting that the bull, a masculine creature associated with masculine deities, can also be connected to the feminine in the form of how the uterus and ovaries are a similar shape to a bull skull with horns.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Sunday, 23 June 2013

    I saw that but again I wonder if those are bulls or cows with horns. :) Sounds like an interesting temple!

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information