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Star Lore

Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere's winter sky.

It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox.

Technically, the star cluster of the Pleiades is part of the constellation Taurus. Because of the overwhelming amount of star lore related to the Pleiades, we treat them separately.

For myth and star lore about the Pleiades, click here.

Middle East and Europe
Prehistoric Europe

In 1996, German researcher Dr Michael Rappenglueck of the University of Munich suggested, that the famous Stone Age cave paintings in Lascaux, France actually contain a star map.

The theory is controversial, but the International Astronomical Union accepts it as a posibility and writes:

"Archaeological studies have identified possible astronomical markings painted on the walls in the cave system at Lascaux in southern France. Our ancestors may have recorded their view of the night sky on the walls of their cave some 17 300 years ago. It is thought that the Pleiades star cluster is represented alongside the nearby cluster of the Hyades. Was the first ever depiction of a star pattern made over seventeen millennia ago?"

Source: International Astronomical Union

A similar cave painting, dated to be about 20,000 years old was discovered in 1963 in another cave in France, the Grottes de Saint-Marcel.

Source: Wikipedia

Cave painting, Lascaux
Source: International Astronomical Union

Cave painting, Saint-Marcel
Source: Wikipedia

Prehistoric India

A rock carving in Burzahom in India's Kashmir Valley, dated 4500 BC shows a hunting scene involving humans and animals and two celestial objects.

Joglekar, Vahia and Sule concluded, that the two celestial objects are the moon and Supernova HB9, which would make this the earliest record of a supernova in human history.

Based on the location of the supernova, they also suggest that the hunting scene is a star map with the stag representing the constellation Taurus and the hunters and the dog representing Betelgeuse (α Orionis), Rigel (β Orionis), Mirach (β Andromedae) and Alpherg (η Piscium), which would make it one of the oldes star charts in the world.

Source: Joglekar, Vahia and Sule

Burzahom Rock
Source: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

Ancient Mesopotamia

Around 3200 BC, three early zodiac constellations, lion, bull and scorpion had been defined. At that time, these constellations marked three of the four cardinal points (both solstices and the spring equinox).

Source: J. H. Rogers

In Babylonian star catalogues, Taurus is called GU4.AN.NA, meaning Bull of Heaven.

Source: Wikipedia

In the same catalogue, the star cluster Hyades was called the
"Crown of Anu".

Source: J. H. Rogers

Bull man on a cylindrical seal from
the Elamite capital Susa, ca. 2500 BC;
Highlighted by the author
Source: J. H. Rogers

Ever since cattle were domesticated from wild Aurochs, which started 10,500 years ago, numerous peoples throughout the world have at one point in time honored bulls as sacred.

The constellation's importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, and Babylon.

As mentioned above, the "Bull of Heaven," the constellation Taurus originated with the Sumerians. Next to it was modern-day Orion, called URU AN-NA, the "Light of Heaven" by the Sumerians.

The two constellations depicted Sumer's great hero Gilgamesh, fighting the Bull of Heaven.

Sources: Ian Ridpath's Star Tales

Neo-Sumerian Terracotta Relief
2250-1900 BC; Source: Wikipedia

Greek Mythology

Ian Ridpath tells us that Taurus, the Bull was "...was said to represent Zeus in the disguise he adopted for another of his extramarital affairs, this time as the bull that carried away Europa, daughter of King Agenor of Phoenicia.

Europa liked to play on the beach with the other girls of Tyre. Zeus instructed his son Hermes to drive the king’s cattle from their pastures on the mountain slopes towards the shore where the girls were playing. Adopting the shape of a bull, Zeus surreptitiously mingled with the lowing herd, awaiting his chance to abduct Europa. There was no mistaking who was the most handsome bull. His hide was white as fresh snow and his horns shone like polished metal.

Europa was entranced by this beautiful yet placid creature. She adorned his horns with flowers and stroked his flanks, admiring the muscles on his neck and the folds of skin on his flanks. The bull kissed her hands, while inwardly Zeus could hardly contain himself in anticipation of the final conquest. The bull lay on the golden sands and Europa ventured to sit on his back. At first, she feared nothing when the bull rose and began to paddle in the surf. But she became alarmed when it began to swim strongly out to sea. Europa looked around in dismay at the receding shoreline and clung tightly to the bull’s horns as waves washed over the bull’s back. Craftily, Zeus the bull dipped more deeply into the water to make her hold him more tightly still.

By now, Europa had realized that this was no ordinary bull. Eventually, the bull waded ashore at Crete, where Zeus revealed his true identity and seduced Europa. He gave her presents that included a dog that later became the constellation Canis Major. The offspring of Zeus and Europa included Minos, king of Crete, who established the famous palace at Knossos where bull games were held.

Source:Ian Ridpath

The Abduction of Europa (partial)
Noël-Nicolas Coypel, 1727
Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Bull Fresco at the Minoan Temple in Knossos, Crete
Source: Margaret Derrick

Wikipedia tells us, that "...In illustrations of Greek mythology, only the front portion of this constellation is depicted; this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea.

A second Greek myth portrays Taurus as Io, a mistress of Zeus. To hide his lover from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into the form of a heifer.

Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of the Twelve Labors of Heracles."

Taurus in Urania's Mirror, 1824
Source: Wikipedia

The Hyades

The face of Taurus is marked by the V-shaped group of stars called the Hyades. The Hyades are a star cluster consisting of a roughly spherical group of hundreds of stars in a radius of ten light years.

Source:Wikipedia and Ian Ridpath.

Map based on map
provided by Sea & Sky

In Greek mythology the Hyades were a group of Nymphs, daughters of Atlas, which made them sisters to the Pleiades, the Hesperides and Hyas.

According to legend, when Hyas was killed, the Hyades wept from their grief and were changed into a cluster of stars.

The ancient Greek word Ὑάδες translates to rain-makers" or "the rainy ones." In many cultures from Greece to China, the rising of the Hyades at certain times of year was seen as a sign of rain.

Source: Wikipedia
Bathing Nymphs, Palma Vecchio, 1528
Source: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Ancient Rome

A similar sounding Greek word, ὗςhys, which means "swine" let to the Romans calling the Hyades "piglets."

Taurus' main star Adebaran was called Palilicium in ancient Rome, referring to the Feast of Pales, a festival to honor Pales, the Patron of sheep and shepherds.

Sources: Wikipedia and Constellation Guide.

Festival of Pales
Joseph-Benoît Suvée, 1783
Source: Wikipedia
Celtic Mythology

In Celtic culture, Druids celebrated the Tauric religious festival at the time when the Sun passed through the constellation Taurus.


Ancient Egypt

Quoting Wikipedia: To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. When the spring equinox entered Taurus, the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This "sacrifice" led to the renewal of the land.

Source: Wikipedia


In ancient Persia,In ancient Persia, Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus was known as Tascheter, one of the four Royal Stars.

Source: Wikipedia

The Persians believed that the sky was divided into four districts with each district being guarded by one of the four Royal Stars. The stars were believed to hold both good and evil power and the Persians looked upon them for guidance in scientific calculations of the sky, such as the calendar and lunar/solar cycles, and for predictions about the future.

The four royal stars were:

Aldebaran (Tascheter) – vernal equinox (Watcher of the East)
Regulus (Venant) – summer solstice (Watcher of the North)
Antares (Satevis) – autumnal equinox (Watcher of the West)
Fomalhaut (Haftorang/Hastorang) – winter solstice (Watcher of the South)

Source: wikipedia

Hebrew Astronomy

Taurus was the first constellation in the early Hebrew Zodiak and was represented by Aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

Source: R.H. Allen

Taurus in a 6th cent. Hebrew Zodiac
Source: Wikipedia

Medieval Islamic Astronomy

Several of the stars in Taurus carry traditional Arabic names. Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi based his description in the Book of Fixed Stars on Ptolemy and depicted the constellation accordingly. But some of the Arabic names might go back much furthern than Ptolemy.

Aldebaran (α Tau) comes from the Arabic al Dabarān, which means "the follower," referring to the star following the Pleiades.

The Pleiades form the third Arabic Lunar Mansion, called al-Thurayyā. The Arabic name of α Tauri was taken from the name of the fourth Lunar Mansion, al Dabarān.

Sources: Wikipedia, Ihsan Hafez: Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and his book of the fixed stars: a journey of re-discovery

Elnath (β Tau) is derived from the Arabic word an-naþħ, meaning "the butting," referring to the bull's horns.

Source: Wikipedia

Colored European copy of
al-Sufi's illustration

Ain (ε Tau) means "Eye" in Arabic and refers to one of the bull's eyes (the other, bloodshot one being Aldebaran).

Source: Wikipedia


Ancient India

In Hindu Astronomy, Adebaran is the main star in the 4th Nakashtra, called Rohini, meaning "The Red One."

In Hindu mythology, Rohini was one of the 27 daughters of Daksha given to the god Chandra as wives. Chandra, the Moon god, fell in love with Rohini and spent all his time with her, neglecting his other wives. This angered Daksha, who cursed the god to suffer from tuberculosis. Other gods intervened and the curse was changed so that Chandra suffers tuberculosis for 15 days and gets well for the other 15 days, which explains the lunar phases.

In Buddhist tradition, Gautama Buddha was born when the full Moon was in Taurus. In Buddhism, Antares is called Buddha's Star.

Sources: Wikipedia, Constellation Guide

Source: mythology.wikia

Ancient Persia

In ancient Persia, Adebaran was honored as one of the Four Royal Stars. (The other three Royal Stars being Regulus, Antares and Fomalhaut.)

Aldebaran, called Tascheter in Persian, was believed to be the watcher of the eastern sky.

The concept of the Royal Stars has been criticized as "as largely a relatively modern invention, and / or a misunderstanding of the original source texts" in a 1945 article in Popular Astronomy.

Sources: Wikipedia, Constellation Guide

Ancient China

In Chinese, Taurus is written 金牛座.

In Chinese astronomy, the entire constellation known in the west as Taurus covers no less than 18 asterisms in five Lunar Mansions.

The largest number of stars, including the Hyades and Aldebaran are in an asterism called , representing a net with a long handle (which is λ Tau) for catching animals such as rabbits. The asterism gave its name also to the 19th Lunar Mansion The Net.

The 19th Mansion extends all the way to the tips of the Bull's horns. Elnath (β Tau) is part of the Chinese asterism Wuchē, the five chariots of the celestial emperor. (The other four are located in Auriga.

Tianguan (ζ Tauri) the other "horn" is a gate in the ecliptic. It lays directly opposite in the sky to Tianyue in Sagittarius and Ophiuchus, which represented a lock or keyhole on the ecliptic.

Between Tianguan and the Hyades, also in the 19th Lunar Mansion, lies Tiāngāo, a group of stars including ι Tauri. Wikipedia translates Tiāngāo as "Celestial High Terrace", while Ian Ridpath calls it a "Lookout Tower."

The Pleiades are located in an asterism called Mǎo, the "Hairy Head", which is also the name of Mǎo, the 18th Lunar Mansion.

Pleiades star lore is covered separately here.

Also part of the 18th Lunar Mansion is Yue, (37 Tauri), the "Moon Star." Yue lies on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun star, Ri, in Libra, reflecting the fact that when the Moon is full it lies opposite the Sun in the sky. Yue and Ri divide the year into two equal parts and in ancient times, the full Moon in the 19th Mansion signaled the start of the rainy season in China.

With the exception of the 22nd Lunar Mansion, which is in the direction of the Vermilion Bird of the South, all asterisms in Taurus are located in the the direction of the White Tiger of the West. The stars at Taurus' bottom, including ν Tauri anf ο Tauri belong to Wèi, the 17th Lunar Mansion, which is the Stomach of the Tiger.

A few faint stars in the west of Taurus are part of , the 20th Lunar Mansion, called the Turtle Beak and of 22nd Lunar Mansion, Jǐng, the Well.

Sources: Wikipedia and Ian Ridpath
Chinese constellations in Taurus
Map based on

Lookout tower and Moon at the Great Wall

White Tiger of the West



Most myth about this constellation concentrate on its bright red main star - Aldebaran (α Tau).

For the /Xam, Aldebaran is The Male Hartebeest, with Betelgeuse (α Ori) being his mate.

Source: ASSA - African Ethnoastronomy

Hartebeest by Philip Sclater, 1894
Source: Wikipedia

For the Ibibio in Nigeria, Aldebaran is a Mother Hen and the Pleiades are her chicks.

Source: ASSA - African Ethnoastronomy


The Nama in southern Africa called Aldebaran (α Tau) Aob. He was the husband of the Khunuseti (the Pleiades). One day, the Khunuseti asked their husband to hunt three zebras, which were represented by Orion's Belt.

Aob fired his arrow (Orion's Sword) but fell short of his target. He did not dare to retrieve his arrow because of the fierce lion (Betelgeuse) which sat watching the zebras and he dared not return home because he had killed no game. Thus, there he sits forever, shivering in the cold night and suffering thirst and hunger.

Sources: Royal Museums Greenwich - South African star myths, Astronomy Blog
and Theophilus Hahn, Tsuni-llGoam: The Supreme Being of the Khoi-khoi

Rock art in Matobo Hills National Park, Zimbabwe



Hawaiian lore attributes the discovery of Hawai‘i to a fisherman named Hawai‘iloa. He is said to have discovered the islands during a long fishing trip from a homeland in the west. The Big Island was named after him, while Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, and Maui were named after his children.

Hawai‘iloa’s navigator, Makali‘i, steered in the direction of Iao, the Eastern Star, and Hoku‘ula, the red star. According to Pukui & Elbert Iao is the Hawaiian name for Jupiter, when it rises in the east. Hoku‘ula has been generally identified as Adebaran.

Source:Voyaging Chiefs of Havai‘i and Fornander: Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore




In Kiribati, the V-shaped stars of the Hyades are seen as a canoe and Adebaran
is called te-boto-n-aiai, meaning "the base ribs of the canoe."


The same V-shape let the people of Fiji sea a sail, called laða.

Source: Lexicon of Proto-Oceanic

Canoes of the Kiribati Islands

On the island of Anuta and Tikopia in the Solomon Islands, the V-shape of the Hyades and Adebaran was seen as bamboo tongs, called te-aŋa-aŋa and te-ŭkopi, respectively.

Source: Lexicon of Proto-Oceanic
The same interpretation (called sȃkai) was used on the Lau Islands (now a part of Fiji).

Source: Lexicon of Proto-Oceanic
In Māori, Adebaran is called wero-i-te-kokota meaning "Herald of the digging season."

Source: Lexicon of Proto-Oceanic


In Tahitian lore, the sky is held up by ten supporting pillars, each one associated with a star.

Adebaran was the rear pillar, called Ana-muri.

Source: Rongorongo

Traditional Polynesian roundhouse,
held up by pillars



Gellarlec is an old man, represented by Aldebaran (α Tauri). In Boorong tradition, Gellarlec chants and beats time to the dance of the Kulkunbulla (Orion's Belt) and Larnankurrk (Pleiades).

Source: John Morieson B.A.: The Night Sky of the Boorong

©: Tommy Barnes


The people along the Clarence River in New South Wales call Aldebaran (α Tauri) Karambal, a man who fell in love with another man’s wife. He was pursued by the husband and took refuge in a tree. The pursuer set the tree on fire, the flames of which carried Karambal into the sky, where he still retains the color of the fire.

Source: Dianne Johnson: Night Skies of Aboriginal Australia p. 169

Wandjina Fire Spirit
© George Dean

The Americas


The Inuit in northern Canada, call the constellation Taurus, Nanook, the "spirit of the Polar Bear."

Source: Inuit legend: How Stars Got Into The Sky

Another Wikipedia source uses the word Nanurjuk.

Source: Wikipedia

Nanook, the Great Polar Bear Spirit
Source: Gods & Goddess Wiki


The constellation Sò‘ Ahóts’i’, Pinching or Doubtful Stars is located in the Hyades star cluster. It is associated with Dilyéhé and Átsé Ets’ózí. The name Sò‘ Ahóts’i’ refers to doubtful or pinching stars. Pinching may allude to the closeness of the twin stars, while doubtful may refer to their parentage.

Another story relating to the pinching concept refers to two women fighting, with their hands pulling each other’s hands, arms, and hair. The bright star Aldebaran is the fire of the Twin Stars. There is an interesting story about Sò‘ Ahóts’i’ which is part of a larger, more comprehensive story: According to the storytellers, Átsé Ets’ózí and Dilyéhé were arguing over which of them were the rightful parents of two beautiful twin girls. In Navajo the names of the girls are Sà’àh Naagháí and Bik’eh Hózhóón, loosely translated as Long Life and Happiness. These two terms embody the whole of life, in terms of complementarity.

When the girls attained maturity the Sun visited them and in time they gave birth to children. Sà’àh Naagháí, gave birth to a son, Yé’iitsoh, who became one of the monsters who terrorized people on earth. Bik’eh Hózhóón gave birth to twin sons, who became the Hero Twins in Navajo oral histories: Naayéé Neizgháni and Tóbájishchíní (Monster Slayer and Born For Water).

These twin boys eventually visited their father the Sun, and received weapons with which they slayed most of the monsters on earth. The Hero Twins have their own stars, close to Sò‘ Ahóts’i’í.

Source: Navajo Skies

The Hyades star cluster also includes two stars that depict the Hero Twins, who slay the monsters and make earth safe for humans. There are many stories of their exploits, which are well known to most Navajos.

Major Enemyway ceremonies that take place in the summer months feature the healing energies of Naayéé’ Neizghání and Tóbájíshchíní - Monster Slayer and Born For Water.

In many versions of the stories Monster Slayer is the warrior who kills enemies, and Born For Water is the gentler side of man, who provides assistance and healing.

The specific stars for both groups of twins are kept secret by Navajo elders.
Source: Navajo Skies

Naayéé’ Neizghání & Tóbájíshchíní
© Melvin Bainbridge


On the Ojibwe Star Map, Aldebaran (α Tau), together with Procyon (α CMi) and the stars of Orion, are called Biboonkeonini, the Winter Maker, as their presence in the night sky heralds winter.

Wintermaker is a strong Ojibwe canoe man and an important mythological figure in Ojibwe culture. His outstretched arms rule the winter sky. Wintermaker is seen overhead during the winter months.

Sources: St. Cloud State University Planetarium,

Source: Ojibwe Constellation Guide


Serpent Mount in what is now Ohio is a large Effigy mound. Those mounds are remnants of early Native American cultures, raised piles of earth built in the shape of a stylized animal, symbol, human, or other figure and generally containing one or more human burials. Carbon dating suggests, that Serpent Mound was erected by the Fort Ancient people around 1070 AD.

This date coincides with the 1054 Super Nova that created the Crab Nebula.

In the 13th century, the Dhegihan people lived in what is now Ohio. The Dhegihan are believed to be one of the ancestor nations of the Dakota, one of the main sub-groups of the Sioux.

The Dakota had a legend in their oral tradition, in which Aldebaran fell to Earth and killed a serpent, which led to the formation of the Mississippi River.

Source: Constellation Guide

Serpent Mount in a 1890 drawing (above)
and in a 2013 photography (below).
Source: Wikipedia

Please note that the connection between the Serpent Mount and Dakota star lore is a mere speculation by the author.


to the Maya people in Central America, Theta Tauri was known as Chamukuy.

In the language of the Yucatec Maya, Chamukuy means "small bird."

Source: Wikipedia


Modern Day

Music, Film and Literature

As one of the brightest and best-known stars, Aldebaran (α Tau) has been featured in many works of fiction. For an extensive list, see Wikipedia's Aldebaran in fiction.

The 1967 song 2000_Light Years from Home by The Rolling Stones ends with:

Bell flight fourteen you now can land
Seen you on Aldebaran, safe on the green desert sand
It's so very lonely, you're two thousand light years from home.

Writer Mick Jagger exercised some creative freedom in the lyrics, as the star Aldebaran is actually "only" 65 light-years from the Sun.


Single cover Wikipedia

Aldebaran Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage that appeared in several episodes of the Star Trek Universe, notably in the Star Trek: The Next Generation's episode Relics.

Aldebaran Whiskey Data to Scotty: "It is green"
In The Galileo Seven, an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock makes an emergency landing on the Taurus II, a rocky, fog-shrouded world that is the second planet of β Tauri.

Sources :Wikipedia,

An AMT Model Kit features Spock engaging an Aldebaran serpent, a three-headed serpent mentioned in the Star Trek Encyclopedia.


Aldebaran serpent

Taurus II

Ursula K. Le Guin's 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven describes a fictional alien invasion of Earth's lunar colony Moondome by "natives of a methane atmosphere planet of the star Aldebaran..."

Source: Wikipedia

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