Culturalmente Imparando

The bull is a creature that since antiquity has aroused respect and veneration in man. Many ancient peoples worshipped him as a god, creating rituals and celebrations whose traces reach the contemporary age. The testimonies in this regard are particularly profound in Western culture: from the golden calf rejected as a false god by Moses to the legendary Mintaur of Knossos; from the form of the divine bull assumed by Zeus to kidnap poor Europe to the Christian iconography that wants the beast as the symbol of the Evangelist Luke. Still today the bull is the protagonist of Spanish bullfighting.

What is bull-leaping? The original Greek term is "taurokathapsia" and it refers to a certain type of pictorial art from the Bronze Age and represents an ancient ritual in which one had to jump on a bull. The courageous participant, according to the findings testifying to this activity, jumped on the mighty animal to grab its horns and thus try to perform stunts and somersaults. Numerous representations of bull-leaping were found in Crete, where the figure of the bull was a highly felt cultural element. Other testimonies have been found in the Near and Middle East, Central Asia and even the Indus Valley.

The most famous depiction of the ritual is certainly the one preserved at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. The fresco dates back to a period between the seventeenth and fifteenth centuries BC, thus placing itself in the middle of the Minoan civilization (that is the Cretan culture of the bronze age). The name of this ancient heritage comes from the legendary King Minos, son of Europe and Zeus. The god of Olympus in the form of a bull took the girl away, and then led her to Crete where she later became queen.

This ritual is still practised today mainly in France but with a big difference. In this case young cows are employed, not bulls. As in antiquity the jumpers compete with each other performing stunts and skillfully avoiding the charges of the animal. Bulls are still used in the bull-leaping practised in some areas of Spain and even in India. Of course, depending on the place and the traditions, the ritual may present some differences, but it is almost always linked to some festivity.

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  • L'Autore

    Mario Rafaniello

    Mario Rafaniello Vice Responsabile della rubrica “Culturalmente Imparando”. Partecipa anche all’entusiasmante progetto “Japan 2020” e si interessa di arte, cultura e letteratura.

    Laureato in Giurisprudenza e laureando in Relazioni Internazionali. Attualmente collabora con diversi portali online.



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