In his remarkable book, Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods, Andrew Collins paints a portrayal of the possible cosmic significance of these great mysterious circles of stone pillars, in southeastern Turkey, whose origins go back nearly 12,000 years into the past, to the time of the ending of the last great Ice Age. They are believed to be the oldest megalithic structures in the world.
Obviously, no one today can know for sure what the builders of Gobekli Tepe intended or what they were thinking.
On some of the stone circles, imaginative depictions of animals are carved on the right sides of each of the great pillars – only on the right side, with no carvings on the left. Andrew Collins makes the point that these seemed to be designed for circumambulation – as devotees would have walked clockwise around the great circle, they would have been able to view all the carved animals; whereas, if they walked counterclockwise, they would have seen no carvings. In Hindu and Buddhist temples today, circumambulation is always clockwise. In Islam, on the other hand, during the hajj, pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba in a counterclockwise direction. Collins notes that sun dials, and later clocks, were designed to reflect the movement of the sun, and to go clockwise.
A century or so ago, it used to be thought that the Greeks invented the zodiac, dividing the sky and the seasons into 12 segments. There were many much earlier cultures, however, who used this division of the sky into 12 segments.
Andrew Collins states that, by at least 2400 B.C.E., and probably long before, the Indus Valley civilization had divided the celestial horizon into 12 parts, and they were using an instrument made of shell to mark off 360 degrees on the horizon. Some of the great enclosures of Gobekli Tepe are divided by their pillars or columns into 12 parts, though there is no evidence that these ancient builders were thinking in terms of a zodiac. Perhaps they were, or perhaps they weren’t. We may never know.
The placement of two large pillars in the center of the Gobekli Tepe enclosures suggests an axis mundi or world axis – portrayed in spiritual traditions throughout the world.
Seen as the cosmic tree or the cosmic mountain, the world axis is the line linking the earth, the heavens and the underworld – or the many worlds or levels, depending on the views of the particular culture. In Hopi and other southwest Puebloan traditions, the sipapu is the point of connection between the worlds and the point of emergence from the previous world into this earthly world. It is not a mountain, but a straight line, with openings from world to world. It is believed by many Hopis to be located in the Grand Canyon, the place of creation, where people emerged into this world from the previous world which was underground.
Collins points out what seem to be a number of celestial correspondences between the stone pillars and the stars, and he mentions that the Sabaeans, who were star worshippers living in the city of Harran, right near Gobekli Tepe, are known to have held an annual celebration, the Mystery of the North, during which they revered the northern direction as the source of life. These people, living around 8,000 BC were most likely the direct descendants of the people of Gobekli Tepe, who may have passed on to them their worship of the direction North.
They are not unique in their reverence for the North. Apparently, the Yazidis (or Yezidis) – the much-persecuted people who were in the news two years ago, stranded on a mountain top, in imminent danger from Isil forces, also turn to the north in prayer, as do the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. The Brethren of Purity, an Ismaili sect, do the same. All these peoples may have had their cultural views passed down to them from their Neolithic ancestors.
Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus. Though the name Cygnus means swan, the constellation is perceived just as often to be a vulture, as a swan. During the years prior to 9500 B.C.E., the time of Gobekli Tepe, Deneb was a circumpolar star that never set; it was the North Pole star, the position that Polaris occupies today.
Perhaps the builders of Gobekli Tepe were archeoastronomers who aligned their tall, elegant structures to the heavens, possibly with a particular worship of the northerly direction and the North Pole star.
Andrew Collin’s book, Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods is available on Amazon, click here.
Top photo: Erkcan / Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / The sculpture of an animal (perhaps a fox) at Gobekli Tepe, close to Sanliurfa.
In 1963, when archeologists first went to southeastern Turkey to investigate Gobekli Tepe, they found the surrounding hills littered with stone tools, remnants left by ancient hunter-gatherers, just on the verge of transitioning to a new age of pastoralists and farmers.
Andrew Collins writes about Gobekli Tepe in his very fascinating book – Gobekli Tepe – Genesis of the Gods. It must have been an extraordinary place for archeologist Klaus Schmidt to see when he visited there in 1994.
Who could explain these elegant, enigmatic columns – tall, well-finished and beautifully carved with animal forms – going back many, many thousands of years to around 9,500 BCE, thousands of years earlier than any other known megalithic structures? What language did these early people speak and what was their culture? What gods did they worship? What were their lives like? And what was the meaning of these great, eerie, magnificent, mysterious columns inscribed with such strange art and symbols?
There was certainly a meaning to these great creations in stone, and these are our ancestors – one way or another – over 12,000 years their descendants must have spread both east and west, across the earth.
Back in 1963, when a joint Istanbul/Chicago team of archeologists visited Gobekli Tepe, the importance of the site, which had not been excavated, was not immediately apparent to them. Instead they focused on a site about one hundred and fifty miles to the north, Cayonu Tepesi. Cayonu Tepesi is a few miles from modern Diyarbakir, an ancient city first identified in Assyrian writings from around 1300 BCE, as being an Aramean or Aramaic city. (It’s a very long and very complex history.) This whole region in southeast Turkey lies not far north of the Syrian border.
Cayonu thrived between 8630 BCE and 6820 BCE, or about one thousand years later than the beginnings (unless there are earlier beginnings not yet excavated) of Gobekli Tepe. The people were using beaten, though not smelted, copper. They had domestic pigs, and had developed linen as a fabric. The site is near Gobekli Tepe and may well have been the same civilization.
The floors in the Cayonu buildings were extraordinary, in one case the flooring was composed of polished limestone slabs over six feet in length. In another building, the flooring, a hard polished surface of crushed lime and clay, was 16 inches thick.
In the interior of the rooms were stone posts and tall stone pillars.
Another Pre-Pottery Neolithic site, Nevali Cori, stands on a hill overlooking the Euphrates, thirty miles (forty-eight kilometers) north/northeast of Gobekli Tepe. Its heyday was between 8500 BCE to 7600 BCE, around the same time as Cayonu.
One of the rooms at Nevali Cori featured twelve columns, with the stone at the top of each column forming either a T or an L shape, like those at Gobekli Tepe. A separate elongated stone head was found, with a long ponytail. A pillar ten feet (3 meters) high, that still stands, was carved into a stylized human form, showing two hands around the body. The way that the hands are carved, with long narrow stylized fingers and no visible thumb, and their placement, is very reminiscent of the hands on the great stone statues, called moai, at Easter Island. The Easter Island heads are mostly not just heads, but can be seen to be torsos once they are uncovered from their burial under the earth. Many have hands just like this.
When German archeologist, Klaus Schmidt stood on the slope of Gobekli Tepe and looked across the scattered bits of sculpture strewn on the ground, he reached an alarming conclusion. He realized that if he did not leave immediately, he would feel compelled to devote the rest of his life to excavating this site. Fortunately for us, he did spend his remaining years at Gobekli Tepe. This was good because the entire hillside had been about to be turned into a giant quarry, from which to dig up stones for the construction of a new highway. Without Klaus Schmidt’s intervention to save the site, the world would never have glimpsed any of Gobekli Tepe, now believed to be the world’s oldest known megalithic structure.
In his book, Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods, Andrew Collins begins with an account of the nearby ancient city of Harran. Both sites are in southeast Turkey, just north of Syria, within a few miles of each other.
Mongol hoards leveled Harran in 1271. It had existed since Mesopotamian times, and was known to the Romans as Carrhae.
The Great Mosque of Harran had been built during the early Islamic period on top of a pagan temple where the Mesopotamian moon god, Sin, was worshipped. Beside the now vanished mosque stands a 110 foot tower, which, it is believed, was used for astronomical observations. After the Moslem conquest, the people of Harran converted to Islam. It was lot safer to do that, but it is believed that they originally belonged to another faith, Sabaeanism. They worshipped the sun, the moon, and the planets.
Many ancient peoples, perhaps nearly all, also worshipped the sun, the moon, and planets. Today, icons of the nine planets can be seen in Hindu temples. Arranged in three rows of three each, they are the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, with Rahu and Kethu, the two nodes of the moon.
The moon god Sin was worshipped primarily in two centers in Mesopotamia – in Ur in the south and in Harran in the north. In the Sumerian language, the crescent moon was called Sakar. Sin was revered as “the father of the Gods,” “the creator of all things,” and the “lord of wisdom.” He rode on a winged bull.
Harran also appears in the Bible, and is the city where Abraham stayed with his family before setting off for Canaan. Harran has been around for a long time.
According to medieval sources, Abraham, while in Harran, set about trying to convert the Harranites to monotheism. Some, who were converted, traveled with him to Canaan, while others stayed behind, remaining true to the faith they believed had been handed down to them from Seth, Idris (Enoch), and Noah.
Abraham is regarded as the father of both Arabic and Jewish peoples. All around Harran, even today, people tell stories related to the Book of Genesis. In the mountains to the east of Harran, the peak Cudi Dag is believed to be where Noah landed the ark as the flood waters receded. Seth, the son of Adam and Eve, is said to have lived in the nearby Taurus Mountains, and the word Taurus, of course, means bull. The Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers have their sources in this area.
Archeologists have found that Harran has been inhabited since around 6,000 BCE, and six miles away, Tell Idris (Idris means Enoch) is 2,000 years older, going back to 10,000 years ago. Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah. In his apocryphal book, Enoch first mentions the Watchers, a kind of angel.
Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and the northwest corner of Iran are all right there, near the upper regions of the Tigris and Euphrates. In Shanidar, in northern Iraq, are found the oldest bones of domesticated sheep, dating back to between 11,000 and 9,000 BCE.
As early as 8,000 BCE, hard stone drills were being used to fashion beautiful necklaces. Mirrors made of black obsidian have been found in Catal Hoyuk.
Harran and this whole region were a pivotal point at the beginnings of history.
From the top of a mound in Harran, gazing at the northern horizon, one spots a low range of mountains. In these mountains lies the amazing, unbelievably ancient site, Gobekli Tepe. It is the oldest recognized monumental architecture in the world. Its great, massive, carved stone columns arranged in circles go back to 9,500 BCE., built at the end of the last Ice Age. It’s T-shaped columns are gracefully carved with many animals. Discovered when a farmer accidentally stumbled upon the site, it first came to light in 1963, but the first excavation did not begin until its re-discovery by a German archaeologist, Klaus Schmidt, in 1994.
Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods, by Andrew Collins is available from Amazon. Click here.
Second photo: William Henry Goodyear / Brooklyn Museum / Wikimedia Commons / “The author died in 1923, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 80 years or less.” / Assyria. Head of winged bull, 9th century B.C.
On Wednesday February 25, 2015, a team from ESAF set off for Port Said, which lies in the north of Egypt on the coast, just where the Suez Canal enters the Mediterranean.
Their first stop was the government veterinary clinic to do TNR for cats. Many local people brought their cats to be spayed/neutered, which the vets did, although the primary purpose of the program was to do surgery for street cats.
Next they paid a visit to the zabalin community, who are traditionally garbage collectors. It is a poor neighborhood. They found many animals there, and most looked well cared for. They gave a vaccine card to all patients’ owners, and also handed out fly masks and nose bands, which will make the working animals more comfortable.
The vets treated the teeth and hooves of a steady stream of horses, donkeys, goats, sheep and cows, all brought for treatment.
Three ESAF board members came along, volunteering their help; Mohamed Mamdouh, Riham Hassan, Jackie Sherbiny.
The veterinary team, Dr Ahmed , Dr Eman, Dr Lamis, along with assistants Mohamed Ibrahim and Mohamed Hassan, did a terrific job and were a great help to the animals.
The work in the zabalin neighborhood was sponsored by Animal Aid Abroad, and ESAF hopes to be able to continue their work here every two weeks for an extended period.
Animal Aid Abroad supports projects to help working animals in several countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
To visit the website of Animal Aid Abroad, click here.
Markandeya, one of the ancient sages, or rishis, was walking across vast expanses of the earth. Everywhere there was water, nothing but water, gray currents rushing over what had once been dry land. The sky was gray too, and there was no sun or moon, only the unending gray.
This was after mahaprayala, the great destruction, the time in between the time when the world was destroyed and the time when the new world would be created. Markandeya walked and walked and encountered nothing.
Then, he spotted a speck in the distance which he walked towards. The branch of a nagrodha tree was floating on the water. The nagrodha is the sacred banyan or fig tree, whose aerial roots grow downwards from the branches into the ground. On the floating tree branch, sitting on top of a curled up serpent was a child, a boy. Amazed, Markandeya asked the child, “Who are you?” The boy replied, “The waters have always been my home. I have called the waters “nara,” and my name is Narayana. I am the one who creates, preserves, and destroys the universe.”
In the very fascinating book, The Book of Vishnu, Dr. Nanditha Krishna retells this story, connecting it to other myths in other cultures.
In ancient Egypt, Horus was worshipped as the morning sun, Ra as the noonday sun, and Atum as the setting sun. With each new dawn, Horus-Ra was reborn from the waters and appeared seated on the petals of the lotus. With the close of the day, the lotus petals closed, enfolding the god Atum.
The lotus is also central to the story of Narayanan. Seated on top of the lotus that grows from the navel of Narayanan is the God Brahma, who creates the world.
In the Babylonian story of creation, Enki, who is the god of the waters, lies sound asleep at the bottom of the ocean. The gods call to him, complaining about the lack of food on the earth, but he does not respond. Then his mother, Nammu, mother of all the gods, wakes him up and sends him off to begin the work of creation. Enki’s head is a snake and his tail is a fish.
The snake is also the couch on which the child Narayana lies, on top of the fig tree branch floating on the waters. The snake has seven, or maybe a thousand, heads and is worshipped by Hindus as the god Adi Shesha, meaning the one who remains. It is he who remains after the cosmos is destroyed.
The tail of the fish recalls the fish, Matsya, who was the first incarnation of Vishnu, and Vishnu is the same God as Narayana – Narayana being an aspect of Vishnu. Or, looked at from another perspective, it is Narayana who is Brahman, the supreme being – the one ultimate reality who is both beyond and within all the gods, all the ages, and the entire cosmos.
These stories, like poems or metaphors, reveal visions of mystical reality. It is not that one story is true, and another is not. It can be helpful to regard the truths of all faiths and spiritual traditions as expressing views of reality. All are true in that they give insight through various windows to the truth that lies beyond.
In another, earlier, book, The Art and Iconography of Vishnu-Narayana, Dr. Nanditha Krishna examines extensively the derivation of the name Narayana and the possible history of this legend.
In the Tamil language, spoken in Tamil Nadu, the word tannir, which is tan (cool) plus nir (water) means cool water. In other Dravidian languages, spoken in south India, the word for water is nira, niru, or nir. But in Sanskrit, the language in which the early scriptures, the Vedas, were written, the words for water are apa or jala, which are completely different. Consequently, one might look to a Dravidian source for the origins of the story of Narayana on the waters.
Also in Tamil, the word ay means to lie down or to go to sleep, and the syllable an is a grammatical masculine ending; this gives the meaning for Narayana as “he lies down or sleeps on the waters.”
It would seem to make sense that the south of India, bordered on all sides by the ocean, might be the source of this evocative story of Narayana, who rises from the waters to re-create the world, after the mahapralaya, or great destruction.
To find these two of Dr. Nanditha’s books, along with several others of her books, click here.
For The Art and Iconography of Vishnu-Narayana, click here.
Top photo: “This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.” / Wikimedia Commons / Collection of the Kalabhavan Banares Hindu University. / Eighteenth century Vaishnava painting decipting Vishnu, on the serpent Anant Shesha with consort Lakshmi, sage Markandeya paying his respects to Vishnu, while Brahma emerges in a lotus.
Second photo: “Scanned from The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt by Richard H. Wilkinson, p. 117; artwork from the Book of the Dead of Anhai” / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / “Nun, god of the waters of chaos, lifts the barque of the sun god Ra (represented by both the scarab and the sun disk) into the sky at the beginning of time.”
His family was fond of animals, and they always had dogs and cats, Faizan Jaleel recalls of his childhood, growing up in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, around 150 miles (200 kilometers) to the west of Delhi.
Then, for six years, Faizan Jaleel, worked with the dairy industry. In the beginning, his aims were idealistic. He was striving to help poor farmers to increase the productivity of their animals, so that they and their families could have a better quality of life. However, the more time he spent in this work, the more he became aware of the cruelty to animals that was involved in the dairy industry. A devout Moslem, he felt that surely this was not what God wanted him to do. Finally he quit, he stopped drinking milk and became a vegan. He lives in Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR), with his cat and four rescued street dogs.
Working with the Brooke, a charity devoted to helping equines throughout the world, he is the Program Development Manager for 12 Brooke Centres in India.
As a dedicated animal advocate, Faizan Jaleel spends much of his time encouraging his fellow Moslems to take a deeper look at the inhumane practice of animal sacrifice.
His message is that many Moslems have misunderstood the teachings of Islam; Allah, revered as “the Merciful and Compassionate” is opposed to cruelty to animals. There is no requirement for animal sacrifice in Islam.
Bakr Eid and Ibrahim’s sacrifice
On October 5 and 6, 2014, Moslems around the world will celebrate Bakr Eid. This holiday commemorates the offering by Ibrahim of his son Ishmail to Allah.
In the Koran, it is stated that a miracle took place, and just as Ibrahim was killing his own son as a sacrifice to God, the boy Ishmael was transformed into a ram. Ibrahim had not killed his son, but had killed a ram instead. Mr. Jaleel says that this is spoken of in the Koran, therefore it is not a myth; it was a real event. However, it has been taken out of its historical context and has been misunderstood.
The story of Ibrahim sacrificing the ram is used today by many Moslems as a justification for animal sacrifice on the holiday of Bakr Eid.
Faizan explains that people in those days used to live in the deserts of the Middle East, where there is very little vegetation. It wasn’t possible to grow vegetables in the desert sands or to be a vegetarian; if they wished to survive they had to eat meat.
In those days in that region of the world, killing animals for food was a necessity that could not be avoided. The animal that Ibrahim killed was used for food. However, this is no longer the situation today.
The essential truth to be gained from this story is that Allah does require a sacrifice – but not that he requires that an animal be killed, which is no longer appropriate.
What kind of sacrifice?
The meaning of the sacrifice to Allah is not that it should be an animal, but rather that the sacrifice should be something that is very dear to the person – just as Ibrahim’s son was very dear to him. “The idea is to sacrifice the most beloved thing – that is the real purpose of the sacrifice. The sacrifice must be close to our heart.”
He explains that, these days, a sacrificial animal is not at all dear to the person who is performing the sacrifice. Either a person buys the animal the day before, or more likely, simply pays for an animal to be sacrificed in his name. This isn’t a real sacrifice at all. These people don’t care for the life of that animal, so it is meaningless. It is a cruel and inhumane act, which causes suffering, and it is not a real sacrifice, so it makes no sense.
Slaughter of animals for Bakr Eid is widespread throughout the world, including throughout India. In Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, it has recently be made illegal to slaughter animals in the street. They can be slaughtered only in a licensed slaughterhouse, which will greatly curtail the numbers that are slaughtered for Bakr Eid.
In Andhra Pradesh, many camels are still slaughtered as part of this celebration. In Delhi, where Mr. Jaleel lives, it is generally goats and buffaloes that are killed, not camels, and this is legal only in licensed slaughterhouses. It seldom happens in the streets. Though occasionally, in ghettoes where there is a majority Moslem population, it may occur.
Mr. Jaleel says that there are many Moslems who find this practice of animal sacrifice repugnant. Often they do not participate, but he calls on them to do much more than that. They must speak out against this inhumane custom to their friends and families.
He makes the point that animal sacrifice is not only done by Moslems; it takes place in other religions too, and one must oppose all animal sacrifice, not just that practiced by Moslems.
And so what is the best way for Moslems to observe Bakr Eid? Mr. Jaleel suggests that each person offer something that is important or that has value. Often, this may be money or resources. One may give a donation to a charity, and this gift will be of real benefit to society. By helping human beings or animals, it will be a genuine, positive sacrifice.
Is he making headway with his message? He admits that the going is slow. The custom of animal sacrifice “has been ingrained for many generations, so the pace of change is very slow.” Sometimes it takes many discussions with a person before they begin to understand. More open and more educated Moslems are more amenable to change. It is a big issue that needs a strategic approach. He gets a lot of help from individuals who are working towards the same goal.
Patiently and faithfully, he keeps going with his mission of spreading the word that God is compassionate towards both people and animals – and that Moslems are called to give a meaningful sacrifice to God, from the heart — not a sacrifice that harms animals.
If you’d be interested in volunteering to help with this outreach or if you’d like to contact Faizan Jaleel, he’d love to hear from you. He can be reached by email at email@example.com
Second photo: / author: Jjron / Wikimedia Commons /” This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license”. / Dromedary camel in outback Australia, near Silverton, NSW.
Third photo: Sharon St Joan / Columns of one of the oldest mosques in the world, at Kilakarai, Tamil Nadu, India.
When watching the stock market, we talk about the bulls and the bears – why? Well, the symbolism behind this isn’t so much really about the bears, but it is about the bulls, who from the very beginning of human consciousness have been known as a symbol of power, success, and victory. The bull stands at the top of the mountain, having conquered his rivals.
In the caves of Lascaux, in southern France, 17,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon man painted extraordinarily beautiful cave paintings. The largest of these, running about 17 feet long, depicts, a bull, not a modern bull, but an ancient wild bull, the auroch, a species that existed before bulls became domesticated. They were much larger then and fiercer.
Visiting Crete in the late sixties, I was struck by the many depictions in the ruins of Knossos of the bull. Even simple blocks of stone had double bulls’ horns carved at either end. Clearly, the bull was an archetypal symbol for the Minoans, whose civilization was at its zenith, around 1500 BCE.
In ancient Egypt, the bull was worshipped as the god Apis, symbol of strength and power.
Among Native Americans of the plains, where there were no cattle, the bison assumed the place of the bull, and the bison, who provided everything the plains people needed in terms of food, clothing, and shelter, were greatly revered.
In Vedic literature and other sacred texts of India, great heroes were referred to as “bulls among men.” Throughout history and today in India, the vehicle of the God Shiva is the bull, Nandi, who guards the entrance of every Shiva temple, and the devotee pays his respects to Nandi, who then graciously allows the devotee to enter the temple and to worship Shiva.
In the Christian Bible, the ancient Hebrews got into a lot of trouble by worshipping the Golden Calf, as soon as Moses had been gone too long on the mountain. When their faith in Moses waned, they reverted to an older tradition – worship of the bull.
The Mesopotamians worshipped the bull as Marduk, a magical being – god of water and the growth of vegetation, as well as judge of human affairs.
The Canaanite god Moloch was often portrayed as a bull.
Unfortunately, the position of great honor bestowed on the bull throughout history has drawn the attention of a darker aspect of human nature, which is the desire to kill whoever or whatever stands at the top. This is not at all the same as the legitimate fight against oppression and injustice, which is noble and heroic, but instead, it is the ignoble wish to subjugate anything that might be seen as a potential rival – the basic drive which seeks to eliminate all competition in any way possible.
This instinctive drive has a positive side which may lead to success and to excellence, but all too often, throughout human history, it has instead been overwhelmingly negative — leading to the wanton destruction of all that is perceived as not subservient enough.
The desire to destroy one’s rival leads to wars, to run-away arms races, to tyranny, to the accumulation of wealth at the expense of all who are less fortunate, to the oppression of the female, the young and the old, and all who are weaker or poorer. It leads to the destruction of nature, the elimination of wild species, the devastation of the planet earth and to climate change run rampant. At its most extreme, anything that is beautiful, untamed, or magnificent is the enemy of this drive for domination and becomes a target for destruction.
All this has lead to the bull being among the most persecuted of animals in many cultures, worldwide.
The bull in ancient Crete was the object of bull-baiting in which young men leaped on the backs of the bull to ride them, thus proclaiming their victory and superiority over the bull – and their worth as “heroes.”
Bull-fighting is the modern day form of this in Spain and other countries. In Spain and in Mexico, there are lesser-known “festivals,” sponsored by local Catholic churches, which far exceed bull-fighting in terms of extreme cruelty, torture, and the killing of the bull.
There are ritual tribal persecutions of the bull in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the history of Christianity, the devil has traditionally been depicted with the horns and the tail of a bull – thus showing the bull, who is an innocent animal, as the essence and symbol of evil.
The drive to dominate, subject, torment, and destroy all that is innocent and beautiful represents the very worst aspect of human nature, and it is based on fear, the fear of being defeated and replaced.
There is though a positive, iconic figure who is just the opposite of this – the protective hero, seen for example, in the great flood myth of India in the Noah figure, Manu. Manu saves a tiny, helpless fish, who calls out to him for help because he is about to be eaten by large, ferocious fish. Manu cares for his little fish with great attentiveness, for many years, raising him until he becomes a large, strong fish and then releasing him to be free again in the sea. The fish repays him for saving his life by warning him of the Great Flood and then by pulling Manu’s ship through the tempestuous waves to the top of a mountain, to rest in safety. There, all the seeds that Manu has brought along on the boat are planted in the ground, and the life of the earth is restored to begin anew. Manu is the archetype of the positive, protective figure, noble and kind, who cares for the good and the innocent. He is the true hero.
Even India though, which has for many thousands of years worshipped and revered trees, plants, and animals, is not free from the destructive instinct to dominate, especially to dominate the bull, and this is seen in the cruel sport jallikattu, a form of bull-baiting practiced in the south in Tamil Nadu, in which crowds of young men torment and persecute bulls as a spectator sport. It is also evident in the cruelties inherent in the illegal transport and slaughter of cattle – and in bullock-cart racing in the state of Maharashtra.
These abusive practices are being opposed by thousands of animal welfare groups in India, part of an energetic struggle that has been pursued over at least the past forty years.
The Supreme Court of India is expected soon to deliver a ruling on these three forms of cruelty to bulls, which are already illegal, according to the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act – 1960. If the ruling upholds the rights of the bulls and the integrity of the longstanding humane traditions of India, this will be a major leap forward for animals in India and the world – and a sign that the voices of kindness and positivity are not always silenced and will sometimes prevail, overcoming all obstacles.
Top photo: Prof saxx / “This building is indexed in the Base Mérimée, a database of architectural heritage maintained by the French Ministry of Culture, under the reference PA00082696.” / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / Lascaux Caves / Cave paintings of aurochs and deer.
Second photo: user:Rmashhadi / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / “This is a featured picture on the Persian language Wikipedia” / Marduk. Iran’s heritage in Musée du Louvre.
Third photo: Deror_avi / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / This is a duplicate, at the Minoan Palace, Knossos. The original is at the museum in Heraklion, Crete.
Fourth photo: Ramanarayanadatta astri / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / The fish Matsya pulling Manu and the seven rishis.