by Oraia Helene
The constellation of Taurus stands squared off with Orion, his lowered head menacing the hunter with the great V of his horns. The brilliant cluster of the Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters, shines in his shoulder. The constellation is clearly visible in fall and especially winter in the northern hemisphere, and easy to find by tracing the three stars of Orion’s belt northeast to find Aldebaran.
Aldebaran is the constellation’s brightest star, a red giant more than 44 times the size of our sun, and one of the brightest stars in the night sky. In fact, it’s actually big and bright enough for its red-orange color to be visible to the naked eye. The name Aldebaran comes from the Arabic for “the follower,” as its path follows that of the Pleiades.
In ancient Near Eastern astrology, Aldebaran was considered one of the four Royal Stars that guarded the four cardinal directions. Aldebaran was assigned the eastern quarter, because back in those days Taurus was the constellation the sun was in on the spring equinox. These four Royal Stars, also called Watchers – Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares, and Fomalhaut (pronounced FOH-mal-owt) – are still used as names for the Watchtowers by some magickal traditions. You can also find versions of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram that use them in place of the Hebrew God names for the four directions.
Aldebaran sits within the big V shape that gives the bull his horns; you could see the star as forming one of the bull’s eyes. The V shape is primarily created by the brightest stars in the Hyades star cluster, and although Aldebaran appears from our perspective to be a part of that cluster, in reality it just falls within our line of sight to it. (I should note also, that in the southern hemisphere the Hyades appear to form an A shape, rather than a V – I apologize for my northern focus here, but having never seen the southern hemisphere sky I find it hard to remember that things there appear upside-down compared to what I’m used to.)
The Hyades cluster is formed by a group of 300-400 stars, and unlike many groupings of stars in our sky, these are actually related to each other, with the same origin, composition, and motion through space. It is the nearest open star cluster to our solar system, at 151 light years away. In England they’re called the April Rainers, and are seen as heralding the April showers in spring. In Greek myth, the Hyades were the daughters of Atlas, who continually weep for their slain brother Hyas (and thus also associated with wet weather there). They are also the half-sisters of the Pleiades.
The Pleiades are another open star cluster, and one of the best-known features of the night sky. Though sometimes called the Seven Sisters for its seven brightest members, magnification will show hundreds of stars in the cluster. The Pleiades are often seen as a group of nymphs pursued by the hunter Orion, turned into stars by Zeus as they sought to escape Orion’s attentions. The astronomy and mythology of the Pleiades probably warrant giving them their own article sometime, so I won’t go into great detail here, but if you have even a small pair of binoculars, it’s worth taking a look at the Pleiades through them to catch a glimpse of their full glory.
Other deep-sky objects in Taurus include the Crab Nebula, which is a supernova remnant, and a really cool one at that. The supernova that formed it was actually recorded by Chinese and Arab astronomers in 1054 CE – in fact, it could be seen in the daytime for 23 days. The nebula that resulted is still rapidly expanding, but it requires a small telescope to be seen. A pulsar at the heart of the nebula emits pulses of radiation, which are used to study other celestial bodies that pass between the nebula and earth. For example, astronomers have been able to measure the thickness of the atmosphere on Titan, which is one of the moons of Saturn, from how it blocked the X-rays being emitted from the nebula. We’ve also learned a lot about the structure of the Sun from its passage in front of the nebula.
The figure of the bull was a prominent fixture in the religions of the ancient world, especially as a symbol of strength and virility. And this grouping of stars we call Taurus has been seen as a bull for a very long time. It was a constellation of great importance in the ancient world, because as I briefly mentioned before, during the period from 4000 and 1800 BCE the sun was in Taurus at the time of the spring equinox. The Babylonians called the constellation the Bull of Heaven, while in Greek mythology, the constellation of Taurus was associated with Zeus in his guise as the white bull who seduced Europa and swam away with her to Crete. This is why only the bull’s forequarters appear in the sky; he’s swimming!
Astrologically, Taurus is the sign of fixed earth, which really makes it the most solid and, well, fixed, of the earth signs. It is ruled by Venus, and associated with the second house, which relates to money, property, and possessions – or, being more abstract in our thinking, our personal growth, substance, and self-worth.
Generally speaking, the energy of Taurus is earthy. As the second sign after Aries, you could think of it as giving form to the boundless energy of Aries so that it can manifest. It provides some stability to that fiery Aries energy, giving it form, consistency, and persistence. Taurus, in essence, provides a container within which that energy can be given form and substance – otherwise, it would never amount to anything at all!
Taurus is also earthy in the sense of enjoying physical existence. Experience in the physical realm is sought out for its own sake, out of a desire to be part of it all. Taurus, though often not terribly social, is very sensual, and that includes physical sexuality. And this sensual element (as well as the fertility symbolism of the bull itself) relates back to the rulership of the sign being given to Venus, though it’s arguable that the planet most relevant to Taurus would be the Earth itself. But, since that’s not one of the options in traditional astrology, Venus it is.
As a Sun sign, Taurus carries with it a strong need for security in financial and relationship matters. If such security is achieved, however, the Taurus person is well equipped to accomplish a great deal. Although Taurus is often seen as slow and plodding, patience goes a long way, and although they usually enjoy a steady and predictable routine they can get a lot done within that routine as they tend to be skilled at either making money or stretching money. Taureans will tend to have comfortable homes with beautiful possessions, which are often very important to them. In fact, possessiveness is the major fault of the Taurus Sun, and needs to be guarded against in the case of possessiveness over other people.
As a Moon sign, the influence of Taurus will lead to slow but determined – one might even say “stubborn” – initial reactions to things. (In fact, stubbornness tends to be a trait that results from Taurus in any of these three prominent placements.) Once again the need for security will be felt, but primarily as a first reaction rather than an ongoing requirement. This would allow for the possibility of calculated risks, as long as enough time was available for a detailed analysis of the situation. Once again, an initial feeling of possessiveness, especially in emotional matters, may need to be guarded against.
People with Taurus as a Rising sign will still need a sense of security in both financial and emotional matters, though it may not be as evident as in those with a Taurus Sun. They will progress gradually and patiently toward the important objectives in their lives, with a strong emphasis on material gain. In relationships, Taurus Rising may lead to feelings of possessiveness and jealousy, but can also provide a great deal of passion and enjoyment of life.
So that’s Taurus the Bull, taking the enthusiastic and fiery energy of Aries and containing it, molding it, giving it form in order to bring it into manifestation in the physical world.
This article was adapted from the Astra segment of Media Astra Ac Terra Episode #6.