The Mithraic Mysteries as Symbol System: III. The Tauroctony


in The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216130
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191712128 | DOI:
The Mithraic Mysteries as Symbol System: III. The Tauroctony

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This chapter explores how star-talk, the language of astral symbols, was employed in the Mithraic mysteries and in particular in the design of the tauroctony. Although a celestial identity is proposed for the tauroctonous Mithras, ‘Sun-in-Leo’, this identification is not the icon's message. Close attention is paid to the great cosmic oppositions expressed in the tauroctony (east/west, north/south, up/down, earth/heaven, hot/cold, summer/winter, life/death, etc.) and to their symbols, the torchbearers Cautes and Cautopates; also to the ‘esoteric quartering’ of the zodiac, which privileges the signs following the tropic signs rather than, as is usual, the tropic signs themselves: thus, Taurus rather than Aries, Leo rather than Cancer, Scorpio rather than Libra. Two comparable structures outside Mithraism are also considered: the augural templum and the anaphoric clock.

Keywords: star-talk; astral symbols; tauroctony; Sun-in-Leo; oppositions; torchbearers; Cautes; Cautopates; esoteric quartering; signs of the zodiac

Chapter.  22197 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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