Taurus: The Bull
On April 20, the Sun begins its month-long trek through Taurus (Latin for “bull”), the zodiacal sign assigned to the Hierophant trump of the tarot. The sign Taurus belongs to the element earth and is ruled by the planet Venus (goddess of love), which is associated with the empress trump of the tarot. The tarot’s earthy suit of disks or pentacles illustrates scenes from daily life related to work, finance, farming, fertility, apprenticeship, education and family life. Astrologers believe that the Moon, associated with the tarot’s high priestess trump, is especially dignified (exalted) when transiting through Taurus, the sign of the bull.
Taurus, the Lunar Bull and the Winter Solstice Child
As the Sun passes through Taurus, the new life begun under Aries begins to flourish. More simply put, April showers bring May flowers. The bull is an ancient multicultural symbol of fecundity, creative power and the eternal cycle of life, death and resurrection. It is no accident that fertility celebrations, such as May Day and maypole festivities occur while the Sun is in Taurus. The horns of the Taurean bull are emblematic of the horns of the lunar crescent; hence the close tie between Taurus (the hierophant or high priest) and the Moon (the high priestess).
According to mythologist Joseph Campbell:
“In ancient Sumer, the lunar bull is a forever living, forever dying creature with a square beard, symbolizing male potency. He is consumed monthly by the lion bird of sunlight. The horns of the waning crescent, close to the horizon, nearly consumed by the dawning sun, indicate that egoic masculinity is consumed in the act of fecundating the body of the goddess Earth with life-restoring morning dew.”
(Campbell, Occidental Mythology)
Osiris, the Egyptian dying and rising god, was called the “bull god,” and the Sumerian bull god Dumuzzi was also said to have died and risen from the dead. Mythologist Jon Grate calls such resurrected gods “Winter Solstice children” because these gods symbolize “the rebirth of the Sun from the womb of night” and are born at the Winter Solstice when the Sun endures the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Major Arcana of the tarot draw upon this archetypal cycle of dying and rising through the myth of Demeter and the mystery religion of Eleusis.
Taurus and the Hierophant
Hierophant, deriving from the Greek “hieros” meaning “sacred,” and “phainein” meaning “to reveal,” is the title of the high priest of the Eleusinian cult, which worshipped the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The hierophant (male high priest) with his assistant, the high priestess, led the ceremonies that annually commemorated the descent of Persephone into the underworld of Hades and her resurrection to new life. Only the hierophant was allowed to touch the “hiera” or sacred objects of the goddess.
Demeter’s gift to mankind was the knowledge of tilling the earth and cultivating grain. In the mystery religion of Eleusis, the vegetation cycle of the death and burial of grain in the ground and its rebirth in the spring became symbolic of the spiritual life of man. Christianity later adopted the basic tenets of the mystery religion of Eleusis, including the symbolism of the dying and rising god and the role of the male high priest as the revealer of truth. The hierophant of Eleusis gave rise to the pope in Rome. It is interesting that the current pope, John Paul II, has his Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury and Midheaven all in the sign of Taurus.
The Hierophant, Empress and High Priestess Cards of the Tarot
The Rider-Waite-Smith hierophant card, numbered five, depicts a priestly figure seated between two pillars. He holds a scepter and wears a triple crown. Beneath his feet lies a set of keys, symbolizing his access to secret knowledge. On either side of the keys kneel two acolytes, alternatively clad in dark and light vestments reminiscent of the dark and light pillars on the high priestess card. The hierophant symbolizes the organized and ritualized approach to spiritual truth.
On the empress trump, numbered three, we see the great goddess (the primal womb, the queen of heaven) seated on her throne and surrounded by earthly abundance. On her head is a diadem of twelve stars, one for each sign of the zodiac. Here is Demeter, the goddess of grain, and Venus, the goddess of love and material delights. The astrological symbol for Venus can be found on the card.
The high priestess trump, numbered two, depicts Persephone seated between the pillars of dark and light because she has access to both realms. At her feet lies the lunar crescent Moon. Behind her hangs a veil decorated with pomegranates, the fruit she ate in the underworld that binds her to an eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
Tarot Meditations While the Sun Is in Taurus
The period when the Sun transits through Taurus is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s hierophant, empress and high priestess cards, as well as the suit of disks or pentacles of the minor arcana. Do you need spiritual guidance from a wise counselor? Are you being as fruitful as you can with the gifts nature has given you? Have you been paying enough attention to your inner life or just focusing on the outer life? Where are you in the cycle of planting your seeds, cultivating your garden and reaping what you have sown? In what part of your life do you need to “die” in order to be reborn?
To prepare for mediation, sit or lie in a comfortable place and allow your body to be free of tension and distractions. Pay attention to your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out as you inhale and exhale. If distracting thoughts enter your mind, simply observe them and allow them to float by as you gently return your attention to your breathing. When you have established a steady, comfortable rhythm of breathing rhythmically in and out, turn your focus to the tarot card you have selected for meditation.
Observe the card and contemplate its images. Imagine yourself as a character or element in the card. In your mind’s eye, enter the card and become part of its scene. What are you thinking and feeling? What questions are you asking of the other characters in the card? What do they expect of you? What is the story that underlines the scene on the card? How does that story relate to your own life? Take your time playing out the story as if you were in a dream. When you have completed your meditation, you may wish to record your observations in a tarot notebook for review later on.
If you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some books you may find useful.
- The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element Books.
- Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing
- Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf.
- Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis, Llewellyn Publications.