Jul. 25th, 2013

hth: (Hth the 2nd)
[personal profile] hth
Seasonal and relevant! Irish folklore on Crom Dubh and bulls

We've made an effort not to put Our Bull, the Durham one, into too much of a mental box. Is he a land spirit? Is he a spirit generated by the life of the city itself? Is he an emanation of some primordial Great Bull? Is he a localized expression of some particular god? (We got a fairly visible omen at our Neptunalia one year just as A. was invoking a bull-related aspect of Neptune, which was interesting.) Who knows? Every year, I think I become -- not less curious as a theologian, but curious in a healthier way, less needy about answers. I don't know who he is, but I've made many an offering at his feet, and I've become more sensitive over the years to the specific quality of his attention and presence. He feels watchful and protective to me in a somewhat dry, world-weary way, as though he's seen enough human foolishness to expect it by now, but dumb as we are, we're his responsibility. There's affection there, but its dominant note is unbending strength rather than warmth. On any given tv show, he'd be the grouchy but ethical Chief of Police who claims to want to retire but would never really do it voluntarily.

We do a lot of small ritual in the Plaza, often just hello-we-see-you offerings, sometimes slightly larger rituals aimed at the health of our city. Public ritual -- genuinely public ritual, in front of random passers-by -- is an interesting experience. We performed one recently, midmorning on a Saturday after the farmer's market. I held the space in the center of the Plaza with our little travel/camping candle, while A. crossed the street to offer to the Outsiders. She did what she always does on the way, stopping to put her hand on the Bull's nose and say a brief prayer.

I was the one in a position to see that after she did this and then crossed the street, a very ordinary-looking black man in his mid-20s came along just behind her, and then paused to do the very same thing. He put his hand in the same position on the Bull's nose and held it there a moment, looking up into its eyes, and then walked on about his business. It was a beautiful example of how places and objects of power draw people in toward themselves, how we don't always need to know why we're doing what we do in order to experience a connection to something numinous. Whoever that man was, whatever thought process motivated him to pause during his day just to touch and to look at a giant brass bull statue, I think he experienced what Hindus call darshan, the experience of reciprocally seeing and being seen by the divine. I wonder how it might change him, without him ever knowing it.

Taurus Civitate, macte esto.


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