Mithras as he slays the Bull

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The Slaying of the Bull. The sacrifice in the Mithras cult.

Mithras slaying the Bull

This vertical triptych shows us Mithras as him who is slaying the bull. He holds the animal at its hard breathing nostrils to incapacitate the breath. To block any living beings ability to breathe occurs often as a part of killing rituals because the method increases death agony.

In the process of slaughter Mithras pushes his short sword into the carotid artery of the animal and a bloodstream rushes out of the wound into the big clay vessel, that Farangis gives the meaning of a baptismal font. In the vessel a naked Miles (Roman soldier) stands immersed in blood. The sacral action takes place in the moment in which the blood of the sacrificed animal turns into blood that creates life.

To kill living beings as a sacrifice for creating new life, is an act which which different religions have been practicing since long times. Especially in the monotheistic religions, acts of killing, as a proof of obedience, assure of God's favor and promise a redemption of guilt and sin in the sense of a clearance.

In this painting Farangis gives an extended view on Mithras, who kills the bull. Images of the scene on the sacramental altars often show Mithras as turning his sight away from the animal and looking to an imagined upper point, as if there was something which in a superordinate way gives an order to kill, and he, Mithras, simply fulfills the deed like an obedient servant.

On this triptych two aspects of the position of one who believes in God are pointed out: to kill a creature when God ordains you to, and to appear in front of God as being cleared through the blood of the sacrifice.


  • See the first part of the Mithras Werkzyklus Zum Beispiel Mithras, Part I, on:

On Mithraism

Large view of the paintings