Aug 22, 2017

Divine bull Tur

From the beginning of mankind the bull was a holly animal which is a part of numerous mythological traditions and cults, due to its physical strength and imposing look. Among the oldest myths where he is mentioned is located in Mesopotamia and the legend about the deity Guagalanni, better known as the heavenly bull or bull from the sky. Gugalanna was the first husband Ereshkigala, deity of the underworld, dark world without light. Gods sent him to exact revenge upon Gilgamesh because he refused sexual advances of the goddess Inanna. During that occurrence, the heavenly bull, whose kick causes earthquakes, was defeated and dismembered by Gilgamesh and his follower Enkidu. In the middle east religious paradigm of killing a bull is frequent and we can find it in the legend about the genesis shaped in the Persian god Mithra, from whose description of his birth and life the mythological legend of Jesus was created, this god hunted and killed a wild bull. From the body of the dead animal, plants started to grow, from the bones wheat sprang up and from his blood grapevine. That’s when the first people were created. Even after the advent of Islam in these areas the bull didn’t lose his divine characteristic which is best confirmed by the Arabian myth, or better said cosmological representation, about the white bull Kujuta which stands on the head of a horrible beast Bahamut and holds the earth on his back.

Bahamut or Behemoth is the name of a mythological giant fish which in Arabic cosmology represented a backbone of earth, and for her mythology claims that she possesses numerous eyes, ears, noses and tongues. Certain myths claim that instead of a fish’s head it has an elephants head or hippopotamus head, and in some versions Bahamut is actually a sea dragon with sharp teeth and limbs. Bahamut holds on his strong body all seven spheres which in Arabic mythology constitute the entire universe. On Bahamut, i.e. on his head, the bull named Kujuta is positioned, which holds a mountain made out of rubies on his back. On top of that unusual mountain the angels are holding the seven layers of earth. Alternatively, on the back of Bahamut is actually a surface made out of sand. Kujuta is standing on that sand, and the mountain that he is carrying on his back has a vast ocean in the middle of which earth is floating. Underneath Bahamut is the dark and mysterious part filled with mist and water. Some mythological data claim that underneath that dark sphere there is a fire world in which the snake Falak dwells.

Bahamut is an original mythological creation of the Arabic mythology, data on it appear in cosmological tones which date since 1291. The name itself in Arabic means “the beast”. About it the ancient Arabic historian, Ibn al-Wardi  wrote, it is also mentioned in the 1001 night where the story about the man named Isa is mentioned, who after seeing Bahamut out of shock and fear loses his consciousness. Once he awoke, Allah asked him if he had seen a big fish. Isa replied that he saw a bull standing on top of the fish’s head. The Jews assimiliated this mythological being, like many other religious-mythological segments, in their mythological traditions.

Arabic Kujuta and Bosnian Tur

Certain segments of the presented legend have connecting points with Bosnian myths about the gigantic bull Tur, which holds the planet on his back, from whose will depends the fate of earth and all people. Generally, the myth about Tur is short and there are not a lot of details which would reveal something more about the wider representation of Bosnian cosmology and the only exception is Rogatica. Namely, in that part of Bosnia it was believed that underneath the land there was an endless sea, on its surface swam a giant fish, on the fish’s head a bull stood and on his back earth. When that bull moves slightly his ear, the earth shakes, and when he would move his leg or something else, the entire earth would plunge into the sea, but it was believed that Allah created a small fly which constantly flies around the eyes of that bull and he is so afraid of her that he literally can’t move. (1)

As among the Turks there is no recorded legend not about Bahamot nor Tur, we can conclude that there was no transfer of myths during the Ottoman occupation of BiH, instead it is a rudiment of an ancient pagan cult which was inherited by certain Mediterranean people, and among them the Illyrians. There is a logical probability  that Illyrian soldiers serving in the Roman Empire transferred the legend of Tur to the territory of Syria and further, or vice versa, inherited it and brought it to the Balkans. But, no matter how it happened we’re talking about a very old legend from the old, ancient times. The bull had a very significant place for the Illyrians in the religious-magical sense and even if we don’t have many written data about the Pagan rites of our ancestors, we discovered through archeological findings that they preferred to hang the horns of Bos primigenius at the front of the house which had a magical function to protect the family and give it fertility. Also we shouldn’t forget to mention the traditional custom among Illyrian tribes of offering sacrifice, gift of blood and meat to the gods for a successful harvest of wheat, when they would slaughter a bull during august up on a hill.

Unique Tur  

Other bypasses in the legend itself are evident, namely, as the Arabic mythology claims Bahamut will when judgment day comes be destroyed by its creator i.e. god, to whom this beast is only subjugated. Among the Bosnians it is narrated that judgment day will take place on the day “when Tur shakes his body”, i.e. there are no claims about the classic notion of Judgement day where everything happens by god’s will, which gives us ample space to conclude that Tur holder of the earth is the ruler of the planet and people.

Similarly, while in Arabic mythology the bull Kujuta is depicted with totally white skin in Bosnian mythology he is black, and is truly connected to an actual animal (Bos primigenius) which died out in Europe in the middle ages. The best proof of its presence on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina are toponyms which give a deeper historical connotation to everything. Tur in Bosnian tradition is without a doubt a deity and in that form it is not seen anywhere else on the Balkans, nor in Europe, which in and of itself implicates that we’re talking about an ancient supernatural being. In the past it was assumed that his name Tur comes from the abbreviation of the Latin word Taurus but it is clear that the original name stems from the actual name of the wild bovine Bos primigenius.

Divine plowman Vidasus

In the traditional life of Bosnia and Herzegovina a castrated bull i.e. ox was an integral part of a village household and it replaced the horse, which had a higher market price and that’s why he wasn’t owned by numerous village households. Researching ethnological build and oral tradition of the belief of Bosnian people about the ox it is noticeable that he was treated with care and attention primarily because of the existential but also holly purpose. When the summer plowing begins to the ox which was on the right side people would wrap around his right horn a red knit (thread), a chicken egg would be cracked on his forehead and his neck would be covered with butter. All of these ritual measures were undertaken with the goal of protection from evil and summoning good luck and fertility.

In folk astronomy the constellation out of seven stars so called pleiad is called the Volovi (oxen). It is interesting because the pleiad (Messier 45) is located in the constellation of the bull. Though Wikipedia claims that pleiad is represented in all mythologies from the southern hemisphere it is evident through legends about Tur, but also other folk beliefs and traditions, that we can notice a mythological connection with the pleiad in Bosnian mythology. Segments of the divine cult of Tur are hinted out of the two folk names of the constellations which are located one next to the other and they are Orion, assembly of three stars, which in Bosnia were called Štapovi (sticks) and the already mentioned Volovi (oxen). (2) In the spring, when it is time for sowing, when the Štapovi are visible on the sky, it is a sign that dawn occurred, morning is nearing, and that oxen must be fed and harnessed so they can plow.

Together these two constellations represent the one which operates the oxen i.e. ploughs the land i.e. represents the mythological divine sower, which could be no one else than the Illyrian god Vidasus, known as Žeteoc – the one that reaps (wheat). In addition to that goes the data that the plough was invented by the Illyrians.

Seven oxen – seven stars

According to folk tales from Velika Kladuša in ancient times lived a greedy man which had seven oxen. As he had an uneven number he yearned for another ox in order to have eight of them i.e. to have an even number. One day he remembered that in the neighboring village there was a poor man that owned only one ox. –When he has only one he doesn't need even that one, he concluded and he came up with a plan with his son to go there after midnight and steal the ox. What they conceived off they undertook. When they came half way home some unrest caught the father and he told his son they should stop so they can rest. Seeing a bale of hay close by he ordered him to bring hay and put it into nine small heaps, one next to the other, once this was done he let the stolen ox feast on the hay. But, instead of eating from the first pile the ox hesitated, he sniffed and only stopped at the seventh pile where he started to ear. That horrified the father and he said: “Can you see that, my son, what a sin we made by stealing this ox from that poor man, his curse will follow us up to our seventh generation!”. But, greed in him overcame his fear and he continued his way home. Somehow at that time, since dawn was nearing, the poor man awoke and headed towards the barn to feed the ox but as soon as he entered the barn he had seen that the ox was gone and that someone stole him. From sorrow and pain he started crying and he cursed the thief, let God punish him and take from him what the thief took from this poor man. Soon the father and son, together with the stolen animal, came close to their house. When they came next to the barn, the father was surprised by the silence that he noticed in the barn, he hurried to light a candle. The pale light of the candle shone light on the barn quickly. The barn was completely empty. There were no oxen. The father ran out wildly and he held his head out of torment and pain. He then looked to the sky wanting to wallow to God to what had happened to him and before he opened his mouth he noticed in the sky seven shining stars flickering together and wide eyed he realized that he cannot cry out to god, since he punished him because of his great sin that he did towards that poor man. That’s how, according to folk tales, the constellation of oxen (Plejade) came to be, as a warning to all that you shouldn’t steel from other people especially oxen. (3)


(1) It is interesting to mention that at one time the people from BiH represented the earth as a big foursquare slab, which in the edges on a hair of the bull leaned on four pillars, and it seemed that she might tip over at any moment. But it wouldn’t, the people claimed, since she stood there according to god’s will and mercy. That slab was of an even length and width. Pillars were oily, tall and thin, they were bending, so that it seemed that they might break off at any moment. They were made out of white marble and planted in an unmeasured sea depth, since under that entire slab (earth), an endless sea was located, which cannot be seen since it is underneath us. This is a vast sea and all others are small compared to this one.

(2) In Bosnian love magic a girl, if she is casting a spell with walnuts, looks at the oxen in the sky, since they’re numerous and powerful, and if she wishes to see (dream) her future husband then before going to bed she looks towards the pillars and utters the following: “Illuminate me Žarinko Nasiba, set me on fire Planinko Nasiba, so I can see my future husband. To see him tonight in my dream as in real life, or to see his face, or to hear his name. Until I see him he shouldn't walk nor work!"

(3) Motif of teleportation of a terrestrial occurrence which symbolizes a great sin onto the sky, which represents the worldly stage, is common in Bosnian traditions. Another famous folk tale about divine intervention and public punishment is the one in which god immediately put to death a disobedient son, when he swung his axe towards his mother, wanting to kill her, and his body, together with the axe, god teleported to the surface of the moon, so that it serves as a warning to all people that mothers must be respected.