The constellation of Taurus is symbolized by a great bull, yes, a
symbol of Christ. In Moses' blessings to the sons of Jacob, he speaks
of Christ by saying to Joseph -- son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac,
great-grandson of Abraham -- in Deuteronomy 33:13-17:
Of the blessing
of the Lord be his land, of the fruits of heaven, and of the dew, and
of the deep that lieth beneath. Of the fruits brought forth by the sun
and by the moon. Of the tops of the ancient mountains, of the fruits of
the everlasting hills: And of the fruits of the earth, and of the
fulness thereof. The blessing of him that appeared in the bush, come
upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the Nazarite among his
brethren. His beauty as of the firstling of a bullock, his horns as the
horns of a rhinoceros: with them shall he push the nations even to the
ends of the earth These are the multitudes of Ephraim and these the
thousands of Manasses.
And, of course, the ox (a gelded bull) was made a sacrifice
of by the ancient Israelites: Numbers 8:8: "and thou shalt take another
ox of the herd for a sin offering..."
But compare this sacrifical symbol of Our Lord with that of Aries, the
sacrificial Lamb. We move now from the gentle and meek Agnus Dei to the
This isn't a heifer, a cow, a gelded steer, or a gelded ox; this is a
bull, full of masculine energy and terrible power, watching the world
with a bright, glowing red eye made of the red giant star, Aldebaran.
Toward His people,
He is merciful; to the unrepentant, He is to be feared.
The face of the bull is made of the Hyades, a V-shaped star cluster
long associated with water, and on its shoulder is the open star
cluster made of bright blue, luminous stars known as Pleiades, "the
Sisters" -- mythology's half-sisters of the Hyades (I have to include a very large
picture of the Pleiades; it's too beautiful for me to resist). The
Pleiades are also associated with rain in legend the world over and are
written of in Jewish writings as the source of the waters that
flooded the earth in Noe's time, a perfect symbol of God's Justice.
The Pleiades are
mentioned three times in Scripture, in Amos 5:8;
Job 9:9; and Job 38:31, but it's those last verses that make the
presence of the Pleiades in Taurus
especially relevant here, a reminder
of something we all need to remember when considering God's Justice, a
Justice we sometimes fail to understand,
a Justice that can cause some people to even despair and question His
very existence. In that part of
the Bible, God shows Himself before Job and his friends, friends who've
been condemning Job when trying to determine the causes of Job's
incessant afflictions. During all that time, despite all of his
sufferings, Job never blamed the Lord, never gave up on Him, never came
not to trust that He is sovereign and that, no matter what happens on
earth, it is due to either His positive or passive Will, perfect in
their Justice. When God showed Himself, He reminded those present of
omnipotence and perfect Justice, saying, in Job 38:2-3, 28-35:
Who is this that
wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? Gird up thy loins like a
man: I will ask thee, and answer thou Me. Where wast thou when I laid
up the foundations of the earth? tell Me if thou hast understanding...
...Who is the father of rain? or Who begot the drops of dew? Out of
Whose womb came the ice; and the frost from heaven who hath gendered
it? The waters are hardened like a stone, and the surface of the deep
Shalt thou be able to join together the shining stars the Pleiades, or
canst thou stop the turning about of Arcturus? Canst thou bring forth
the day star in its time, and make the evening star to rise upon the
children of the earth? Dost thou know the order of heaven, and canst
thou set down the reason thereof on the earth? Canst thou lift up thy
voice to the clouds, that an abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst
thou send lightnings, and will they go, and will they return and say to
thee: Here we are?
When seeing God's judgments, when seeing what He positively
or passively wills but we don't understand, it is good that we remember
the Pleiades and recall God's words
to Job and his friends. This goes, too, for when we see His judgment
against His Church and the trials His Church endures -- and will endure
to an even worse degree at the end of time. In the Apocalypse of St.
John, we see the symbolism of seven stars when Christ appeared to St.
John while he was "in the spirit" on the island of Patmos. Jesus told
him, in Apocalypse 1:12-20:
And I turned to
see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden
candlesticks: And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one
like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and
girt about the paps with a golden girdle. And His head and His hairs
were white, as white wool, and as snow, and His eyes were as a flame of
fire, And His feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And
His voice as the sound of many waters.
And He had in His right hand seven stars. And from His mouth came out a
sharp two edged sword: and His face was as the sun shineth in his
power. And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And He laid
His right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the
Last, And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever
and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell. Write therefore the
things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done
hereafter. The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in My
right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the
angels of the seven churches. And the seven candlesticks are the seven
Christ goes on to both praise and warn those seven ancient
churches, praising them for the good they do, and warning them when
they fall short of the mark. It's Catholic teaching that in the last
days, the Church will be put to trial and made to follow Christ in His
Passion, enduring great evil. There
will be no "rapture" to spare us, contrary to what certain
Protestants think. But take heart! In the third chapter of
that last Book of the Bible, in verses 20-22, He tells us,
Behold, I stand
at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me
the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.
To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with Me in My throne: as
I also have overcome, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He
that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the
[As a total aside, irrelevant to our story, Taurus is also
the home of the beautiful Crab Nebula, the remnants of a supernova that
took place in A.D. 1054. Looking like a giant shimmering opal, its
beauty is such that I can't
resist offering you a picture of it.]
Decan One: Orion
One of the most easily recognizable constellations, Orion symbolizes
the Mighty Hunter -- a Hunter, interestingly, who could walk on water,
according to Greco-Roman mythology, because he was the son of Poseiden,
god of the sea. He was killed by a scorpion (represented by Scorpius), just as Christ was put to
death by the evil Pharisees of the day. After his death, though, Orion
was raised to the Heavens by Zeus, just as Christ resurrected, and
ascended into Heaven. And now he comes for Justice.
As an aside, the three stars making up the belt of mighty Orion are
also seen as symbols of the Three Magi, whose worship of the Baby Jesus
we remember on Twelfnight and the Epiphany. Orion is very obvious in
the skies on those days.
Hanging off of Orion's belt is a sword or dagger made of three more
"stars," much closer together than the stars that make up his belt. The
middle "star" is actually a nebula -- the Orion Nebula -- which is part
of a nebula complex that also houses the famous Horsehead Nebula, which
is located just underneath the easternmost star of Orion's belt.
Before moving on to the next decan, make note of two famous stars in
this awesome constellation: The seventh brightest star of the Northern
skies, Betelgeuse -- the red supergiant on Orion's shoulder (to the
left side) --
and the fifth brighest star, the bluish-white Rigel at Orion's foot (to
the right side).
Very aptly, considering the symbolism, you will never see Orion
and Scorpius in the sky at the same time.
Decan Two: Eridanus
Eridanus, in Greco-Roman thinking, is one of the rivers of Hades, the
afterworld. In the sky, this river "flows" between Christ (Orion) and
the Enemy of the Church (Cetus) -- the two final destinations of souls.
In continuing the theme of judgment, the story goes that
Paethon, the son of the Sun god, asked his father to drive the chariot
that pulled the Sun around the earth, a dangerous thing to ask due to
the power of the horses and the difficulty in controlling them. Ovid,
in his Metamorphoses, has the
Sun god telling his boy,
Suppose you are
given the chariot. What will you do? Will you be able to counter the
turning poles so that the swiftness of the skies does not carry you
away? Perhaps you conceive in imagination that there are groves there
and cities of the gods and temples with rich gifts. The way runs
through ambush, and apparitions of wild beasts! Even if you keep your
course, and do not steer awry, you must still avoid the horns of Taurus
the Bull, Sagittarius the Haemonian Archer, raging Leo and the Lion's
jaw, Scorpio's cruel pincers sweeping out to encircle you from one
side, and Cancer's crab-claws reaching out from the other. You will not
easily rule those proud horses, breathing out through mouth and
nostrils the fires burning in their chests. They scarcely tolerate my
control when their fierce spirits are hot, and their necks resist the
reins. Beware my boy, that I am not the source of a gift fatal to you,
while something can still be done to set right your request!
But the boy was insistent, and the expected happened: he lost
control over the chariot, thereby risking the fate of the entire earth.
To save the planet, Jupiter (Zeus) cast Paethon into the Eridanus
river. It was pride that led to Paethon's death and caused him to fall,
and it was pride that caused Lucifer to rebel and fall. It was pride
and our sins that led to the scorpion's killing "Orion," symbolic of
But Christ rose from the tomb, and His Church has been freed (Andromeda
and Perseus); His Mother
has been enthroned (Cassiopeia); and the
of Taurus the Bull lets us know that His Justice will be had.
Decan Three: Auriga
Auriga has been depicted as a charioteer since the time of
Greeks, but to the ancients of Mesopotamia, it was
depicted as a Shepherd. Those two symbols became intertwined such that
to the medievals, it was seen as a charioteer who held one kid over his
shoulder, and two under his arm, and one of those goats gives its name
to this constellation's brightest star, the third brightest star in the
Northern skies: Capella ("Little
Goat"), actually a quadruple star system.
In spite of His terrible
Justice, as symbolized by Orion, He is full of mercy for us and will
forever protect those who belong to Him.
Taurus can be
seen between October and March.
to other stars in the Winter sky: