Bull leaping, as performed at Knosos, involved grasping the horns and performing a somersault onto the bull's back. It may have been a rite in which magical power was obtained from the horns of the bull which the leaper grasped. More than one meaning of the ceremony is possible. It may have been symbolic of apotheosis or resurrection. Dionysus, the god who could appear in the form of a bull, as implied in the Bacchae of Euripides, raised Ariadne to the sky. Europa rode on a bull. It is possible that the seizing of the bull's horns and riding on its back symbolised the obtaining of control of the animal to prevent it from doing damage [to individuals but also to the earth]. In the absence of more specific literary information than we have, it is hard to say with certainty that any one explanation is correct. All may have played a part.
The name Daedalus suggests the Greek daid-, torch, and Al, or El, the Semitic word meaning the one above, god. He may have been named, or named himself, after a comet in the sky looking like a torch. His work at Knosos ranged from the construction of the dancing floor to creating bull disguises for actors to wear.
Electrical and astronomical links between Egypt and Crete appear in our consideration of the bull.
The attempt to produce an heir to the throne with divine ancestry, and therefore the right to be obeyed, may be the explanation of the story of Pasiphae and the Minotaur. Monarchs and priests could wear bull masks, horned helmets and tails in the attempt to obtain and pass on the divine force, the Egyptian sa-ankh. Sankh and sa-ankh appear in the Latin sancio, sanctify, bring to life.
The priest portrayed in the cave of Les trois Frères in Ariège, in France, wears a stag mask.
The Cretan word bolynthos means 'wild bull'. The most likely derivation is from the Greek bous, ox, and lussa, frenzy. The letter n in bolynthos would be a nasalisation of the vowel u, such as occurs in Polish, and probably Etruscan, and is seen in the Greek basileus, king, and in the names Tereus [who was turned into a hoopoe], and Katreus [the ka watcher].
The fight between a king and a fierce animal is a common theme in ancient art, especially oriental. At Persepolis, in the 'hall of a hundred columns', the Persian king is shown defeating monsters. A Greek equivalent would be Herakles or Theseus. Winged bulls with human heads are found at Persepolis, where Xerxes erected a gateway.
The message is ambiguous: the king is the human representative of the divine bull in the sky, wings being added to indicate that the creature concerned is a celestial one. The Apis bull was cherished and worshipped. The king or his servants could also kill the bull if it was seen as a threat.
Columns at Persepolis not only have bulls on top, but also have human heads as capitals. The top of the column represents the home of the gods in the sky; the column itself copies the phenomenon referred to by Alkman as a poros or passage, and by Plato as a column of light [towards the end of the Republic].
There were statues of bulls in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem. They were part of the plunder seized by Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, and carried off to Babylon. In chapter LII: 20 of his book, the prophet Jeremiah writes: "The two pillars, one sea, and twelve brazen bulls that were under the bases, which king Solomon had made in the house of the Lord: the brass of all these vessels was without weight".
The Egyptian Apis bulls are said to have been ceremonially drowned. Drowning was thought to release the divine element.
It is possible that there is a link here with the tripod cauldron. The cauldron as a means of achieving divine status, apotheosis, is mentioned in an inscription of Roman times. Medea pretended to restore youth by cutting up the body of an old person and cooking it in a cauldron.
The tripod cauldron was probably a representation of the seething pot in the sky, described by Jeremiah, I: 13, two verses after he mentions the rod of an almond tree. The almond may represent the plasmoid, the weapon used by Zeus for long range warfare.
Asaminthos is Mycenean Greek for a bathtub. The word has something in common with Apollo Smintheus, Mouse Apollo. Smintheus suggests sema, sign, in-, presence, or power, and theos, god. Possibly the bathtub, with steam rising fron it, was compared with the seething pot in the sky of Jeremiah. In the Odyssey, Odysseus emerges from the bath looking like a god. The chariot, the vehicle of a god in the sky, might be thought to bear some resemblance to a cauldron, and in Homer the word bomos is either a chariot stand or an altar.
The Greek kerat-means horn. Kratos is force. The bull is associated with strength, and the Etruscan word trin, hero, is probably a compound of tur, bull, Latin taurus, and in-, Greek for strength or force, divine presence. The name of Turnus, prince of the Rutuli, whom Aeneas defeated and killed [Vergil, Aeneid XII], looks and sounds as if it had the same origin.
Because of the proximity of Etruscans to people who spoke a Semitic language, for example in Lydia, and who wrote from right to left, accidents occurred with a number of words. Additional evidence that the bull was a symbol of a deity in the sky is the fact that the Minotaur was called Asterios, or Asterion. Aster is a Greek word for 'star'. Furthermore, Theseus is said to have seized the Minotaur by the hair.
The word hair is regularly used to describe the tail of a comet; the word comet is originally Greek for a hairy star. The Latin jubar, fiery mane, is a name of the planet Venus. Juba is a mane, ar is the electrical fire. As well as the Egyptians, the early Greeks saw the object in the sky as a bull, but their way of dealing with the situation was different. Traces of the early experiences and attitudes are found in Greek tragedy, and in the games.
At the start of the Great Dionysia, the Athenian drama festival, a bull and a goat were sacrificed to Dionysus. The horns of a goat can be particularly suggestive of the protuberances of a comet, and stags too were sacrificed, especially in countries farther north.
The dramatic technique of the Greeks, their action for dealing with the threat constituted by an errant heavenly body, was to resort to sympathetic magic, enacting an encounter so as to bring low into a safer orbit, or to destroy, the thing that was guilty of hubris. Hubris means going too high, or setting oneself up above others and claiming more than a sensible and humble mortal ought to claim. Hubris was the act of a heavenly body whose orbit was such as to bring it dangerously close to the earth, causing earthquakes, stone showers, floods and fire.
Dionysus himself had an epiphany as a bull. The Bacchae of
Euripides contains references both to his bull nature and to
lightning. When Pentheus is detected in the top of the pine tree,
spying on the revels of the Bacchants, the women are inspired
to tear the tree down, striking at its roots as though with
thunderbolts, sunkeranousae [line 1103]. Lightning, the
electrical weapon of Zeus, Athene and Poseidon, was also a
weapon of Dionysus, and the horn-like protuberances of a
comet could be imaginatively viewed as the source of cosmic
lightning strokes directed at the snake-like tail, Dionysus versus