Today’s article could end after a few lines or fill entire libraries. About the goddess Bubona one knows almost nothing, but at least that her name derives from the Latin noun “bos” and that she was the goddess of protection for cattle and herds in the Roman Empire.
The meaning of “bos” contained in Bubona is already fixed with regard to the declension that seems crazy for Latin nouns.
While the common nouns of the 3d declension (or consonantal declension) usually have regular endings to the root,”bos” stubbornly adheres to its ancient Greek βοῦς (bous)/ βῶς (bōs) and has already driven some Latinists to despair. In addition, the word has two genera, male and female.
„Bos“, in English “bovine” has various subgenera such as aurochs, yak, water buffalo – and from there the path is no longer far to a cow-animal with what is probably connected the most widely ramified mythical storyline at all:
the bull or “taurus”.
Cow-animals were very important for the early humans. If you had one, you could say that you were set for life. They supplied not only food and clothing, but also fertiliser, medicine, heat and labour.
Cow dung is still used today to build simpler houses, there is a part of Ayurvedic medicine in which cow dung is used, and if dried properly, it can be used for heating a long time.
The bull in the original sense was called “taurus” by the Romans. In this word you can still see the etymological connection to Mino-taurus. The noun “taurus”, by the way, refers to the sexually matured male cow.
However, the beef – or the bull – did not really gain importance in the Roman era. It is even more likely to be assumed that the religious significance of cattle and other farm animals has diminished since classical antiquity (i. e. with the Greeks and Romans) unless one had a professional relationship with them. For example, as a shepherd who for a long time still worshipped the goddess Bubona.
During classical antiquity, a special literary genre emerged, the so-called “Bucolic” or “bucolic poetry”, to whose main representatives the Greek Theokrit (3rd century B. C.) was the most important. On the one hand, it deals with the idyllic way that shepherds live, whilst on the other hand it makes fun of them because they were not really familiar with mythology – in contrast to the citizens of Polis, where the stories were performed. It caused laughter among the educated citizens of Athens when two shepherds told each other twisted stories of cyclopses and human women, for example.
As a city dweller, one was something better and had moved away from these “profane” things like cattle.
At the same time, the Roman upper class developed an ever finer and more generous desire to eat.
Here is a short insight into a satire of Horace (Satire 2,8 – 1st century B. C.), a Roman humorist who sharply targets the eating habits of the Romans.
Although the guests have long gorged themselves up, the host always serves them more and more delicious delicacies. Among other things:
a Lucanian boar caught in a mildly blowing southwind, birds, mussels and fish, a ragout of echinoderms and turbot, a moray eel in the midst of floating crabs, a disassembled crane, the liver of a fig-fattened goose, blackbirds with tanned skin… and so on and so on and so forth.
The guests then decide to flee together, because the meal becomes a torture, but first loot the wine cellar to avenge themselves.
One of my favourite phrases in Latin: Nos nise damnose bibimus, moriemur inulti. If we don’t get drunk unrestrained, we’ll die unavenged.
So when you are concerned with the goddess Bubona, you cannot avoid questioning your own eating habits or the view of farm animals. In an early age, the cattle was considered to be very sacred to mankind and it is obvious to assume that this also applied to the people who owned many animals (cattle, sheep, goats).
By the way, n the 17th/18th century there was a kind of renaissance of the “Bucolic”, which can be seen in the countless paintings with shepherd and animal motifs of that time.
Van de Velde (17. Jahrhundert) By van de Velde, Adriaen (1636 – 1672) – Possibly afterDetails of artist on Google Art Project – mwEaSahFiFkfNw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Link
From the early cultures of history we know bull and cattle pictures, especially of the Minoans in Crete, who used them to decorate their palace.
But you can go even further back in history and discover:
Cow animals were then regarded worldwide as sacred, at least where they existed. Until the 16th century, when the country was colonized by Europeans, there were no cattle in Australia and America.
A good example of the religious and cultural importance of these animals is India. There the cow appears in the ancient writings of the Vedas (around 1000 B. C.) as the embodiment of the “Mother Earth” Prithivi Mata. A cow named Kamadhenu fulfilled wishes. The blue god Krishna grew up among cowherds, cows then also play an important role in his further life and the companion animal of the god Shiva is the bull.
The animals are still considered sacred there today, but are hunted illegally and transported to slaughterhouses.
A comparison of Indian and European cow myths would be interesting, one of the best-known Euoprean myths is certainly the story of Minotauros.
A woman named Pasiphaë and a beautiful bull. By Gustave Moreau – Own work, Public Domain, Link
Pasiphaë climbs into a dummy cow. By Giulio ROmano – http://gidvgreece.com/labirint-minotavra-i-sovremennyj-labirint-v-grecii/, Public Domain, Link
Minos, the legendary king of Crete and mythical founder of the Minoans, asked the sea god Neptune to help him establish his kingdom.
Neptune then sent him a beautiful white bull, which Minos was supposed to sacrifice. Minos liked the bull so much that he didn’t want to sacrifice it and chose another animal.
Neptune noticed this of course and cursed Mino’s wife Pasiphaë to fall in love with the unoffered bull.
What happened then can be seen from the pictures above.
The famous architect Daedalus, who later also built the labyrinth for the Minotauros, was at that time on the island of Crete and helped Pasiphaë to develop the above depicted “dummy cow” -construction, into which she climbs in the middle picture.
But not only Pasiphaë developed, let’s say, a peculiar sex life. She had cast a peculiar spell on her husband, King Minos, so that when he was with another woman, he would ejaculate scorpions, snakes and centipedes – and kill his loved ones most of the time.
Why do you think Michelangelo painted Minos like that?
By see filename or category – scan: De Vecchi, Cappella Sistina, 1999, Public Domain, Link
The donkey ears are said to signify stupidity, whereby Minos is declared judge of the dead after his own death by Pluto/Hades. The reason for this is the fact that he was a son of Jupiter/Zeus. Hades/Pluto is the brother of Jupiter/Zeus and King Minos, thus something like his nephew. All in the family.
But before all this happened, the child of Pasiphae and the bull, the Minotauros, was locked in a large labyrinth built by the scholar Daedalus (Daedalus and Ikarus).The half man half bull monster is fed with virgins every year and when there are almost no more on Crete, the beautiful king’s daughter Ariadne (the half-sister of the Minotauros) would have been the next victim, but at this very moment the hero Theseus passes by and everything is turning for the better. (Firstly.)
He heads into the labyrinth with Ariadne’s ball of wool, kills the Minotauros and marries Ariadne. But then he has to leave her, for he is to become the mythical founder of Athens.
Apart from the fact that there are unmistakable parallels to Aeneas and Dido Ariadnes fate has not been so bad. She was then found and loved by the cheerful wine god Bacchus/Dionysus.
Theseus Mosaik. By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany – Theseus Mosaic, discovered in the floor of a Roman villa at the Loigerfelder near Salzburg (Austria) in 1815, 4th century AD, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Austria, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link
A mythical story that changes from sacrifice of a bull to human sacrifice for the (evil) bull and then the dead of the evil animal.
Why that was the case can only be assumed. Gerd Hellmoodhas written an interesting, profound psychological interpretation of the story (told by Dürremat) in German. My approach therefore would be culturally anthropological.
Considering that the upper classes of the Romans and Greeks were probably starting to consume beef frequently, the myth could also be a subsequent or parallel “explanation” as to why it was okay to deviate from the original, probably only religiously legitimated meat consumption.
However, some of the “holy beef” has been preserved. Cultic bull sacrifices were still a big part of the Mithras cult , Jesus was born in a stable “between ox and donkey”, the symbol for the evangelist Luke is a bull and it took a while until cattle developed into a general consumer good.
Last but not least, this can be seen in the existence of the goddess Bubona during the Roman Empire. For even though the goddess does not come along with great significance, she was nevertheless the goddess of protection for cattle and oxen for centuries.
And there are other figures like Cyrene, that can probably be linked to the goddess Bubona.
Cyrene. By Edward Calvert (1799-1883) – http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/calvert/paintings/1.html, Public Domain, Link
Cyrene was a nymph whose ancestors included the Okeanos and the sea goddess Tetys. She was not so much interested in the work of women (weaving and sewing), but rather loved to protect her father Hypseus’s herds with sword and shield against savage animals. The sun god Apollo was so impressed by this, that he fell in love with Cyrene, married her and had two children (Aristaeus and Idmon) with her.
The descendants of Cyrene then became hunters, reached high positions (kings, accompanying the Argonauts, founding cities), but it is striking that both Idmon and Aktaion, the son of Aristaeus, died in hunting accidents.
Idmon was wounded by a giant boar and died. The story of Aktaion, Kyrene’s grandson, is a little more drastic.
The moon goddess Diana is not pleased when Aktaion she (accidentally?) observes while bathing.
Aktaion is then hunted as a deer by his own companions and mauled by his dogs. Public Domain, Link
Similar to the story of the Minotauros, “wild animals” become dangerous for humans in this myth – perhaps it goes too far, but possibly patriarchal or matriarchal thoughts also play a role here. The story of Aktaion (approx. 1200 B. C.) is considerably younger than that of the Minotauros (approx. 1700 BC)
A few speculative, concluding thoughts:
Like the Minotauros, Aktaion is also a “half” human being, because he is still aware of his state of transformation.
Aktaion is created by the moon goddess Diana, the Minotauros is in the responsibility of Neptune, King Minos` and Daedalus.
Both hybrids are killed.
I suspect that both stories may represent the detachment from the “animal” as something “holy”. Because humans (Minotauros, Aktaion) who are over-identified with animals are being killed.
If we consider the initiators – once it was men, once a woman – then all that remains to be said is that both genders were somehow involved in this development.