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The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman EmpireMysteries of the Unconquered Sun$
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Roger Beck

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199216130

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216130.001.0001

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The Mithraic Mysteries as Symbol System: III. The Tauroctony

The Mithraic Mysteries as Symbol System: III. The Tauroctony

Chapter:
(p.190) 9 The Mithraic Mysteries as Symbol System: III. The Tauroctony
Source:
The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire
Author(s):

ROGER BECK

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216130.003.0010

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

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