Religion is Weird. That is All.

Stumbled across a new word today: Tauroctony.

Wikipedia defines it:

The tauroctony scene is the [central icon] of the Mithraic Mysteries. It depicts Mithras killing a bull, hence the name ‘tauroctony’, given to the scene in modern times, probably after the Greek word tauroktonos (ταυροκτόνος) “slaughtering bulls.”

The Mithraic Mysteries, now referred to as Mithraism, was

a mystery religion practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery. [...] The mysteries were popular in the Roman military.

[...] Numerous archeological finds, including meeting places, monuments, and artifacts, have contributed to modern knowledge about Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire. The iconic scenes of Mithras show him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun). About 420 sites have yielded materials related to the cult. Among the items found are about 1000 inscriptions, 700 examples of the bull-killing scene (tauroctony), and about 400 other monuments. [...] No written narratives or theology from the religion survive, with limited information to be derived from the inscriptions, and only brief or passing references in Greek and Latin literature.

Here’s a tauroctony, a more recent recreation of older, existing paintings and sculptures:













Lemme call your attention to the creepy little dog and the snake, going after the blood gushing from the stab wound. What’s that all about?

But then notice this:


Note that this wasn’t something just thrown up there like teenagers tagging a freeway overpass with spray paint. This feature, a scorpion latched onto the testicles of the sacrificial bull, is shared by all the depictions. It was IMPORTANT, a central feature of a religion that lasted hundreds of years.

You get the feeling that if the sculptor left that out, it would be an insult to the faithful.

“No, Appius, look, you gotta have the scorpion here, pinching the bull’s balls. You want riots? I ask you: Do you want riots? Because that’s what you’ll get. I tell you, bubbie, these are simple people. They don’t understand all this modern sentiment, with no scorpion on the balls. Tell you what, kid, throw me a scorpion on there and I’ll introduce you to my sister with the big cahooties.”

Freaky, right? Because we’re outside it.

Now picture the Catholic rite of consuming the blood and body of Christ, the Jewish ritual of circumcision, the Pentecostal practice of handling poisonous snakes, the conservative Islamic practice of requiring the women to wear burkhas.

Five hundred years from now, what’s that going to look like? Right. Equally freaky.



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  • MikeTheInfidel

    And Mithras forbid that you give the scorpion the wrong number of legs.

  • Cardunculus

    *Reality* is weird. That is all.

    As you said, we don’t know much about Mithraism; but the mere fact that one of their sacred symbols involved a scorpion pinching a bull’s testicles is no reason to dismiss the significance of their tradition and of their spiritual experiences.

    We belong to a world containing hippos, rotifers, humans, lobsters and siphonophores.

    Frankly, I would be much more inclined to dismiss a worldview as obviously mistaken if it was *not* somehow freaky…

  • steveschlicht

    It’s a good thing that humanity has fully outgrown the insanity of such
    primitive and brutal mythology nowadays in church – where folks can
    kneel down to a totem pole depicting an innocent man brutally tortured
    and executed as a human sacrifice to their loving God so that they can
    eat his flesh and drink his blood to attain forgiveness and atonement
    for the crimes and offenses they committed against others in their