Domestic cattle, cows, and bulls are members of the herbivorous Bovinae sub-family. As livestock, they are raised for meat, dairy products and, sometimes, employed as draft animals. Their hides are used as leather for clothing and accessories and their dung is used as fuel. Cattle’s predators are wolves, coyotes, wild dogs, bears and mountains lions. Druids associated the bull with solar energy; the cow, earth energy. Cattle are one of three mammals that have different symbolism for males and females. The others are deer, hind and stag, and wild boar and sow. Cattle symbolize protection as the buffalo does.
Celtic Cow Symbolism
Cow, Bò, was held in such high esteem that ancient Irish lords were called Bò-aire or cow-lord. The keynotes for Bò, sacred to the Goddess Brigit, are the Goddess, motherhood, and nourishment. She symbolizes mother earth, fertility, contentedness, female power, defending the inner child, nurturing, the feminine, healing, potential, calmness, beginnings, patience, generosity, abundance, possibilities, grounding and provision.
Bò bestows protection against harmful and negative influences. As a representation of the Goddess on earth, she connects people to the endless flow of nourishing energy from the universe that restores all.
Celtic Bull Symbolism
Bull, Tarbh, was revered by the Celts who believed he had the power to extend the life of the clan. The keynotes for Tarbh, associated with Taranis, God of Thunder, are potency, wealth and beneficence. He symbolizes fertility, virility, riches, luxury, strength, strong will, stability, determination, reliability, helpfulness, provision, peacefulness, and helpfulness.
Tarbh teaches people that wealth is found in the soul and heart before it’s found in the material world.
Cow Symbolism and Myths
The Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut was, sometimes, depicted as a cow having four stars on her belly that represented the four cosmic quarters of the earth and the respective energy from which each direction’s energy flows.
Hathor, the Great Mother Goddess of Joy and the nourisher of all was worshipped as a cow-deity. She symbolized protection and was a symbol of royalty. She personified the Milky Way, which was seen as the milk that flowed from a heavenly cow. In Norse belief, Audhumla was a cow whose utters emitted the four rivers of power that provided nourishment for the giants that ruled the First World.
The cow, in Vedic writings, symbolized abundance and fertility and represents both the earth and sky. Hindus and Buddhists symbolism of the cow is patience and holiness. She is India's most sacred animal and, due to her calm, gentle nature, also with the Buddhists.
Bull Symbolism in Astrology and Semitic Culture
The ancient Greeks believed that Zeus, King of the Gods and God of the Sky and represented by the constellation of Taurus, transformed himself into a shining white bull so he could get the attention of Europa, the beautiful daughter of the Phoenician King of Tyre, Agenor. Classic art depicts Europa riding Zeus in the form of a white bull which symbolizes virility, passion, strength, transformation, and fulfillment.
The bull ox, in Chinese astrology, is symbolic of perseverance, hard work, systematic progress, determination, stability, materialism, and endurance.
To the ancient Sumerians and Semitic cults, the bull symbolized protection and guardianship.
Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Some postulate that the symbol was derived from the Semitic word for bull because it resembles an ox’s head. Aleph symbolizes the ability to work with all of nature to bring about abundance, provision, and harmony.
Cattle Cow and Bull Superstitions
The following are several cattle- and bull-related superstitions that have arisen over the years.
- At midnight, on Christmas Eve, cattle turn to the east and kneel.
- The Irish believed that, if cows and hares are in the same field on May Day, witches are stealing milk. People hang mountain ash or rowan branches over stables’ doors to protect the cows from witches.
- Scots placed tar behind cows’ ears and under their tails to prevent witches from stealing milk. Cattle were driven through the smoke of bonfires made from ash and rowan wood to protect them from faeries. White cows give inferior milk; red ones, the best.
- If cows turn their tails upright or lie down in pastures, rain will soon come. An omen of bad weather is a cow slapping her tail against a fence or tree.
- Cows are regarded as death omens if they low into a person's face or break into one’s garden.
- Keeping a tip of a calf’s tongue protects people from danger and ensures that they will always have money.
- Cows eat buttercups to help them produce butter.
The Bull, The Most Powerful Animal and Symbolic of The Earth
- Animal Magick, D. J. Conway, (Llewellyn Publications, 1996).
- Animal Speak, Ted Andrews, (Llewellyn Publications, 2002).
- The Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, (A .Fireside Book, 1994).