Saturday, May 20, 2017

Taurus, Minotaur, and Labyrinth

The Lascaux culture of 14,500 BC understood and recorded astronomical patterns - this knowledge was critical to their survival. From them come some of the oldest symbols on record, as well as prehistoric calendrics depicted in cave art. Taurus the bull was one of the earliest recorded constellations. Taurus is Latin for bull. 

One well known image is that of the bull in Lascaux Cave. This painting looks almost exactly like modern depictions of Taurus. Patterns of dots located over the shoulder of the Lascaux Bull represent the star group Pleiades, sometimes called Seven Sisters, located in the constellation Taurus. Like other zodiac symbols, myths and folklore about the Taurus constellation can be found around the globe.

Constellation Taurus; The Bull, Lascaux cave, ca. 14,500 BC

In Greek myths, Taurus represents the Minotaur kept by King Minos of Crete, whose kingdom was in the Mediterranean. As the story is told, Poseidon, the sea-king-god, was angry with Minos and seduced the wife of Minos. From this union was born a Minotaur. This powerful - and some said dangerous - creature was kept in a labyrinth, until Theseus killed it. 

It is said that the king’s daughter, Ariadne, gave Theseus a spool of thread (called a clue) with which he was able to retrace his steps through the maze and escape, after besting the Minotaur. This is not logical, as a labyrinth would not make a good prison. The geometric design of a labyrinth consists of two spirals stemming from a directional cross, and has only one opening. One could keep walking and find the entrance/exit. In later versions the labyrinth was changed to a maze - a place with many possible paths. A maze is designed with dead-ends, false paths, and most have more than one way in and out. The original use of a labyrinth in this myth is important to the meaning of the story. To decode the symbol of the Minotaur, we must look at the symbolism of the labyrinth - an archetypal image representing the center, the source, the sacred place - a secret. Some myths state the Minotaur was put in the labyrinth, imprisoned, to protect others from the dangerous monster; secrets can be dangerous.

Placing the characters of this story in context of history and climatology helps decode the symbols. The Minotaur and the labyrinth tell us of ancient sea kings (symbolized by Poseidon), and their knowledge of navigation.  

A Minotaur is part bull, indicating a connection to Taurus. Pleiades is associated with the Greek word plein, which means to sail. A labyrinth represents ½ year (spirals symbolize three months each), and so it is a symbol of two seasons. To the ancients, the appearance of Taurus and Pleiades in the sky signaled the beginning of storms during the fall and winter; not great sailing weather, and without superior navigational skills sailing would be deadly. The ability to navigate during these two seasons would have been advantageous for both trade and defense, and a skill worth keeping secret. 

According to Duncan-Enzmann, the ancient mariners knew how to calculate longitude thousands of years ago; this gave them the ability to sail in bad weather, and thus superior power on the sea. And so, deep in the labyrinth, the Minotaur protects the secrets of calculating longitude. 

The practice of symbolizing knowledge to protect it and insure its survival through generations is evident in the zodiac stories - the oldest stories in the world. Taurus is one example of a star-story that has its roots in prehistoric records of astronomical observation, navigation, and “trade secrets.”

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She  did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: ReVision
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
 A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon


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