Taurus: The Pursuit of the Good Life & The Art of Detachment
May Day and the Celtic Fire Festival of Beltane occur during the time of Taurus. These ancient rites conjure up all sorts of sybaritic images: the dancing, feasting, and playful romps and trysts in the woods, as nature bursts at her seams with wild, abandoned growth and fertility.
In our modern world today this energy lives on in certain geographic places such as Napa Valley where I have been living for awhile now. The drive up the valley floor brings bucolic vista after vista of grape vineyards glowing like a green sea while the purple hillsides are doted with villas, castles, and old Victorian mansions now converted into wineries. The little town of St Helena is picture perfect with its manicured yards where roses and jasmine scent the air with intoxicating fragrance. The local shops are primarily high-end jewelry and dress boutiques, like ‘Shoe Candy’, gourmet chocolates, and art galleries, all catering to the well-heeled couples who come here for wine, shopping, fine dining, and romps between the sheets of $500 per night royal-inn boudoirs. The Culinary Institute has its West Coast home here in the old converted Christian Brothers Winery. This valley is an epicure’s heaven with famous restaurants like ‘The French Laundry’ and “Mustards’. This is a place for the Taurus ‘Good Life’, available to any and all willing to shell out a few thousand for a weekend of sensual delights.
Qualities and Characteristics of Taurus
Taurus is a Fixed Earth sign whose ruler is Venus. The Moon is exalted in Taurus thus making it a double Feminine or Yin sign. Taurus rules the mouth, neck, esophagus, throat, and shoulders, of the body. The thyroid gland is important here. The qualities of Taurus are fertility, conservation of resources, building, sustaining organic life, and stabilization. The great strengths of Taurus are stamina, perseverance, endurance, loyalty and sensuality. Taurus is the practical realist whose need is to get things firmly established. Taurus types can stay calm in the face of turbulence and lend order, stability, and security to their world.
The Shadow of Taurus is when the stability of this strong sensate type gives way to extreme obstinacy. Rigid ideas and fixed opinions create the stubbornness and intolerance that holds Taurus back from empathetic resonance with others. Being Bull-headed, bullish, or bullying stem from these more negative traits. The incapacity to change, possessiveness, and strong resentments can impede the evolution of these types.
Glyph of Taurus
In our hemisphere north of the equator, Taurus is the time of the year from April 21st until May 21st when the fiery energy of Aries is harnessed and grounded more fully into the earth. The glyph of Taurus shows clearly the wheel or circle of life containing the solar energy surmounted by the crescent moon, rising above like a chalice. One is also reminded of the horns of a bull in this image. The bull epitomizes many of the qualities of Taurus: fertility, strength, strongly connected with the earth, placid and content until prodded or goaded. Ferdinand the Bull in his daisy patch can easily become the raging bull if stung by a bee!
Constellation of Taurus
The constellation of Taurus, as defined by the ancient Sumerians was composed of the front quarters of the bull only. In the myth, Inanna, Goddess of Fertility, was said to have torn off the hindquarters. Within this constellation are a plethora of major stars and celestial wonders. The Pleiades are here with Aldebaran, the bull’s eye, as part of this very loved and honored star system. The Moon, said to be exalted in Taurus at 29 degrees, is exactly where the Pleiads are located in our present-day tropical zodiac. Alcyone, the brightest star in this system, considered the galaxy’s Grand Central Sun, is associated with the power of abundance and attraction held in this Fixed Earth sign where Alcyone exerts a strongly consistent pull on our own Sun and the planets orbiting in our own solar system. Orion, the Hunter, is also within the constellation of Taurus.
The Age of Taurus
Is it any wonder then that Taurus has more myths connected with it than any other sign in the zodiac? The Age of Taurus, taking place in the 3rd and 4th millennia B.C., was a period when natural fertility was deified. This was the period when the Sumerican and Egyptian civilizations were beginning to take shape. The Minoan civilization of Crete reached its first peak during this era, and Stonehenge and the other great stone circles of the Celtic world were being built. The ancient temples of India bear witness to the worship of Nandi the Bull, later to be known as the male divinity, Lord Shiva, who was consort of Sati, goddess of married love and loyalty. It was a matriarchal era in which worship of the bull was paramount. The Goddess, the Moon, and the Bull were all inseparable symbols of fertility and abundance.
The Myths of Taurus
The Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh describes Ishtar, Goddess of love and battle, sending a bull against him. Gilgamesh was symbolic of the advancing patriarchy and a strident enemy of the Great Goddess.
The Greeks told a myth of the abduction of the lovely maiden, Europa, daughter of the King of Phoenicia by Zeus, that incurable philanderer God. He had disguised himself this time as a bull and carried her over the Mediterranean to the island of Crete. There he mated with her and fathered the children of Cretan’s royal house, whose later descendants came to be known as ‘Europeans’.
The Romans had their bull-cult centering on Mithras as bull-slayer. Again, sacrifice of the sacred bull meant that fertility would be ensured, but the Mithraic zodiac religion was more sophisticated than that with its sacred rites and series of initiations designed to take the initiate from the realm of matter to the ultimate realm of spirit.
King Minos and the Minotaur is perhaps the best known of these bull myths. This Greek myth tells the story of the gift of a rare white bull given to King Minos from Poseidon, the Neptunian god, with the directive to sacrifice the animal to ensure the continuation of fertility on earth. Minos gave in to the shadow side of Taurus, which is covetousness and greed, and kept the bull for himself. This selfish act caused great tragedy including the loss of his beloved wife, Pasiphae, to her crazed lustful desire for the bull, which in turn brought forth the aberrant offspring, Minotaur, who was half-man, half-beast craving only human flesh to satisfy his hunger. This is truly a tale of sensuality and desire gone amuck.
The master builder, Daedalus, another Taurean archetypal figure, crafted the elaborate labyrinth for the Minotaur, but fell prey to the other shadow aspect of Taurus which is the penchant to become entrapped in one’s achievements or possessions. Taurus often tries to civilize and contain the baser instinctual side of its nature by relegating it into the unconscious where it often turns dysfunctional and pathological.
The redemptive Taurean female, Ariadne, saves the day by becoming the guiding light for the hero, Theseus, who follows her golden thread out of the labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur. She represents the beauty of inspiration which is also a Taurean trait connected with love and creativity that awakens the heroic within.
Taurus, once it gets past the inertia of staying content with its comforts or the tendency to take care of everyone else’s basic needs first, can be an incredibly creative force. Venus is the ruler of this Fixed Earth sign, and her light shines forth with great artistic flair in the world of arts, design, and fashion. That creative force can be as diverse and rich as the outpouring of one of the world’s greatest master storytellers, Taurean William Shakespeare. His love of the senses shines through every drama and tale but perhaps nowhere so profusely as Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, a veritable feast of sensuality.
Modern-day Al Pacino, the actor, is another famous Taurus who has shown prolific talent and enduring stability within his craft. At 67 he is now working in theater and crafting a new film based on Shakespeare’s works. Some of his more famous roles depict the highs and lows of Taurus. Scarface certainly shows the ascent into ‘the good life’ and the final plunging descent due to excess. Scent of a Woman, on the other hand, shows that even after life deals its hard knocks, the light of Venus can breath new life into what has become rigid and obstinate.
The Lessons and Spiritual Growth of Taurus
In esoteric thought the ‘taming of the bull’ is akin to the subduing of the desires and thoughts that keep one chained to the endless repetition of patterns. Gautama the Buddha brought a new teaching during the second millennium B.C. that slowly challenged The Age of Taurus and its adherence to attachment to form. The Buddha, tradition says, was born on the Full Moon in Taurus, reached illumination, and died on the same Full Moon. The story of Siddhartha is archetypal as we follow the prince, born into wealth and privilege, journey to a final place of detachment from all things that bind one to the earthly plane. Reaching illumination for the Buddha was not a question of outside intercession nor liberation, but a path available to all willing to persevere and be diligent in their own practice of positive and deliberate willingness to detach by bringing total awareness to each moment. The Buddha was quite the practical realist and technologist in his methodology and approach. Very Taurean!
Dane Rudhyar describes this path in his book Triptych:
“Our attachment to the objects of natural desire must end in pain; our attachment to life must end in death. Why then not give up at the start, willingly and resolutely, what we will have to give up inevitably sooner or later in the midst of pain and anguish? To kill the seed of pain by withering the weed of desire with the fire of awareness and understanding: this is to be wise…..”
Since the early ’70s, here in the West, we have seen a proliferation of schools and trainings in different practices of yoga and meditation, all seeding the essential teachings originated by the Buddha. The West has brought us the technology to enjoy more fully the comforts of life that Taurus so enjoys, but the Buddha “came to show that greater still is the spirit within man.”
Quoting Rudhyar one more time:
“This spirit is slave to no master; not even to life, to love, or to any god summoned by man’s eternal desire for a universal Father upon whom to place the burden of the world’s guidance or liberation. The spirit within every man and woman is inherently free. It knows no decay. It knows no pain. The ebbs and flows of universes and cycles succeed one another along the rim of Time’s endless wheel. All things return to whence they came. All beginnings are already deaths in disguise. But within the core of all human experiences there is that stillness and that peace which can be felt where all feeling ceases, which can be known in the failure of all knowledge.”
Therein lies the great spiritual gift of Taurus: to sit in stillness with the Buddha-self at the foot of the Bodhi Tree and enjoy the condition of Nirvana, which is free and available to all if one is willing to persevere.