From as long as 15,000 years ago, from areas as far ranging as Africa, the Near East, to the Atlantic coast of Europe, early civilizations satisfied their craving for a god through the cult of the bull. Many times, the bull is needed merely as the gods’ footrest--what else could support the weight of a deity? Other times, the bull’s strength rewards its own end, an observable idolatry.
This fascination with the bull perhaps comes from the animal’s rare distinction of being a non-predator who would not back down from man’s gaze. Early man would fear the lion, dominate the horse, but worship the bull.
That is not to say it’s all green pastures, as it were, for the bull.
It is believed that the Golden Calf episode from the Exodus is actually a ret-con by later Yahweh priests who wished to discredit popular bull cults of surrounding kingdoms, dropping in a parable from earlier mythology or their own imaginations. The tale of the Minotaur reinforces the fall of brutal, animalistic Crete and the rise of reasoned, courageous Greece in the Mediterranean world.
However, if you want to see a continuation of the bull cult into modern times, look no farther than the yonder side of Gordo, past the state line, into a pit of clanging cowbells, to Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon.
Dixon’s stellar senior season does more to reinforce the notion that a “spread” offense is more philosophy than playbook, as he is far from the prototypical back one sees in a spread team. Dixon, a bruising, momentous, pad-lowering monster, is no Noel Devine; and if mass is the only consideration, he is closer to two Noel Devines!
Virility and ecstasy also play into the longevity of bull cults, explaining how they survived the transition from nomadic peoples to farming societies. A dud bull could kill a would-be farm, so a potent bull was more valuable than his symbolic meaning. The bull was a marker of a people’s continued health, their survival, their success against nature’s entropy. Hence, rural populations incorporated the cowbell into their own folk music and observances--SEC rulebook be damned.
And a new generation of livestock provided as good a reason as any to start trying for a new generation of people--in the ancient world, often preceded by public rites; in contemporary cultures, charcoal briquettes. Any reason to party, after all.
As an analogue, there’s no telling how many new generations of Crimson Tide fans got their start three weeks ago thanks to Mr. Cody’s heroics.
But there is a key fact our neighboring bull-worshipers should remember: from the temples of the Elamites to the roadhouses of the Austinites, the bull frequently ends up sacrificed atop his own holy pyre.