So did the tourist thing and visited Italy and took a guided tour of the Vatican. Word of advice, take a guided tour a skip the line ticket. The place is jammed and you otherwise wait 6 hours in line. It is an interesting museum. But as the guide was explaining when it was all built, I realized then why Luther and many others revolted. As I was thinking this the guide said, ”at that time there was a big war between the Christians and the Protestants.” I did a double take. A Freudian slip perhaps? Not one likely to play well with a group of American tourists.
But I was immediately reminded of a time when I was in a prayer group around the time I was losing my religion. We were asked to compare Christianity with other religions, and someone said, “Well, unlike Christians, Catholics believe . . .”
I guess I am naive in thinking that such thoughts had long since disappeared. It’s a fundamental aspect of religion, ours is the only true faith, anyone who disagrees is not a Christian. It doesn’t give me hope for mankind.
IAE, I still enjoyed my trip to the Vatican. I really enjoyed seeing a Tauroctony. But I wonder if the popes who built this really understood what it was. There were other pagan symbolism around it too.
View attachment 43346
- "Mithras (centre), kneeling on the bull, holding it by the nostrils with his left hand, stabbing it with his right hand, and looking towards us.
- The bull bleeds. A dog and a snake jump up to lick the blood. A scorpion grabs the bull's testicles.
- The bull's tail is a sheaf of corn.
- On either side of the scene are the "torch-bearers", or dadophoroi, Cautes (torch pointing up) and Cautopates (torch pointing down).
- All this takes place in a cave, whose roof is above Mithras. Woodland scenes take place above the roof.
- Top left is the sun, Sol, with a crown of rays. A long ray streaks down to light on Mithras. A raven sits nearby.
- Top right is the moon, Luna.
- Side-panels depicting events from the mythological life of Mithras appear on either side. The contents of these vary"
There’s a lot of astrological significance to these. I have heard that it’s a reference to the precession of the equinox, moving out of Taurus and into Aries at that time. Ancient astronomers knew about the precession, but didn’t understand it and attributed it to a very powerful god.
But I don’t understand why the scorpion is grabbing the bull’s balls? Sounds painful.
And the stars, are they the Pleiades? There’s seven but it’s a different shape. Maybe the four are Corvus which are close to the crow perched there.
of the world is the central episode of Mithraic mythology. According to the myths
, the sun god
sent his messenger, the raven, to Mithra
and ordered him to sacrifice
the bull. Mithra executed the order reluctantly; in many reliefs he is seen turning aside his face in sorrow. But at the very moment of the death of the bull, a great miracle happened. The white bull was metamorphosed into the moon; the cloak
of Mithra was transformed into the vault of the sky, with the shining planets and fixed stars; from the tail of the bull and from his blood sprang the first ears of grain and the grape; and from the genitals of the animal
ran the holy seed which was received by a mixing bowl. Every creature on earth was shaped with an admixture of the holy seed. One Mithraic hymn begins: “Thou hast redeemed us too by shedding the eternal blood.” The plants and the trees were created. Day and night began to alternate, the moon started her monthly cycle, the seasons took up their round dance through the year, and thus time was created. But, awakened by the sudden light, the creatures of the dark emerged from earth. A serpent licked the bull’s
blood. A scorpion tried to suck the holy seed from the genitals.
On the reliefs a lion
often is also seen. With the bull’s death and the creation of the world, the struggle between good and evil began: thus is the condition of human life. The raven symbolizes air, the lion fire, the serpent earth, and the mixing bowl water. So the four elements (air, fire, earth, and water) came into being, and from them all things were created. After the sacrifice, Mithra and the sun god banqueted together, ate meat and bread, and drank wine. Then Mithra mounted the chariot of the sun god and drove with him across the ocean, through the air to the end of the world.
was interpreted by the Roman Mithraists in terms of Platonic
philosophy. The sacrifice took place in a cave, an image of the world, as in the simile
of the cave in Plato’s Republic
. Mithra himself was equated with the demiurge
, or creator, of the Timaeus
: he was called “demiurge and father of all things,” like the Platonic
demiurge. The four elements, the mixing bowl, the creation of time, and the attack of the wicked animals upon the newborn creature are well-known features of the Timaeus
. The Mithraic doctrine of the soul
is intimately linked with the myth of creation and with Platonic philosophy. As in the Timaeus
, the human soul came down from heaven
. It crossed the seven spheres of the planets, taking on their vices (e.g., those of Mars
and of Venus), and was finally caught within the body. The task of human life is to liberate one’s divine part (the soul) from the shackles of the body and to reascend through the seven spheres to the eternal, unchanging realm of the fixed stars. This ascent to the sky was prefigured by Mithra himself, when he left the earth in the chariot of the sun god."