Some little girls dream of horses. I dreamed of having a cow of my very own. I still dream of this. It must be why on three separate occasions I have chosen to vacation on or adjacent to Irish and Swiss dairy farms. I would spend afternoons just watching the cows outside my window, watching the way they’d lie in the mud, rub up against one another, absorb the sun through their thick hides. I’d admire their amazing hip bones, I’d watch them slowly philosophizing as they chewed and chewed.
Cows make excellent listeners. Go ahead, tell them all your secrets. They’re not going anywhere, and they will listen attentively, twitching their ears in a sense of camaraderie.
So I love Taurus. I regret not having more Taurus. I imagine being a Taurus is like lying in the muddy fields with the sun bearing down all day, I imagine it is like the story of Demeter screwing a much younger man in a field at someone else’s wedding and then showing back up with her dress covered in mud and her hair all undone. Please do not ever tell me anything different I don’t want to hear it.
And with Mercury in Taurus, everyone must just be Daphne du Maurier all of the time. Smoking cigarettes, wearing trousers, seducing women, writing great, languid prose about passion and jealousy and time travel. So let’s think through some of the great Taurean qualities together, shall we?
Taurus rules money, so it would be helpful to be able to think about money. Without that grasping panic, that whole “Because this is how much money I make this is how much value I possess as a human being” nonsense. Great Taureans know that money is abstract, that its only value lies in how it can be converted into good works, or community, or pleasure. (Darling, go ahead and convert my paycheck into bottles of champagne, that’s a dear.)
So if you want to think about money, there are a lot of places you could go. Michael Argyle’s The Psychology of Money will tell you why you have such strong feelings about money. Georg Simmel’s The Philosophy of Money shows how money flows through a society.
But Taurus is also Venus, who is all about connection. How people are connected to one another, how they rub off on each other. And so maybe there’s no better book about that than
Debt by David Graeber
It’s all about how we value people (and don’t), the meaning we place in money over people, and how we separate people out by debtor and creditor. Also how we have lost the meaning of forgiveness when it comes to money and debt, and what that says about how we view others.
And by that I mean, actually, earth. Mud, dirt, the stuff that has worms wiggling around in it, the stuff some of us sees as unclean and gross and others want to roll around in. (Demeter, love you, write me back.)
I like Laura Kipnis’s The Female Thing for its insightful things about how dirt and dirtiness became something that women were supposed to deal with, I like The Rodale Book of Composting, which does exactly what it sounds like it will do. (I want to keep worms under my sink so badly, but my travel schedule keeps me from owning a dog, a cat, or a tub full of worms.) But then we have the woman who turned dirt and the earth into high art, Ana Mendieta.
Where is Ana Mendieta? by Jane Blocker
Mendieta’s art has been eclipsed by the story of her death (tossed out a window, probably — allegedly! — by her husband), and that is unfortunate. Her works, landscapes and “earth-body” sculptures, her outline cut into the earth and then consumed by fire or tide, her naked body pressed up against the earth and the trees… They are glorious. There’s also a graphic novel, Who is Ana Mendieta??, if you need more of a basic primer on her life and work.
The bull has long been associated with womanhood, its skull echoing the anatomical shape of the uterus as it does. And so when I think of Taurus I think of its women before its men: Jane Jacobs, Katharine Hepburn, Martha Graham, Charlotte Bronte… Taurus is not so into the abstract, it loves the physical and the real, and so seeing its themes in the lives of others in the form of a really good biography is essential. But the greatest Taurus dame of them all is of course, Catherine the Great.
Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie
People (and terrible writers) love to turn Catherine’s story into a salacious sensationalized tabloid affair, because people are terrible. No one rules the craziness of Russia and guides it into prosperity without being brilliant. She saw the nation through wars and upheaval, she oversaw its cultural and artistic development. I mean, she also let the serfdom policy stay in place which was basically just slavery, so she wasn’t perfect. But then so did all of the other Russian leaders.
And yeah, so what, she had sex. Not with a horse, let it go. She knew how to spend money, she knew how to allow herself to have pleasure, and she knew how to run an empire. We should take notes.
I keep writing about pleasure here, because that to me is the baseline of Taurus. Valuing pleasure. We Americans are not great at it, we have Protestant DNA and it freaks us out. It is no wonder we have to look to French writers like Anais Nin and Colette to tell us things about sex, and why writers like Julia Child and MFK Fisher had to go to France to write about the pleasure of food and taste.
Really, anything by MFK Fisher will do here. She was a super Cancer, but her stories of love affairs and oysters and the terroir of France will satisfy anyone trying to think about pleasure. The Art of Eating is a classic, Not Now, but Now, her novel, is beautiful. My favorite is secretly:
An Alphabet for Gourmets by MFK Fisher
Perhaps because it begins with a section on taking pleasure in dining alone, something I advocate everyone learn how to do. Fisher encapsulates the pursuit of pleasure, of taking it even when one is down and out and it looks like none is to be had. Because she knows the secret: pleasure is about living. Not just about loving one’s life when it’s a bubble bath every day, but also when Saturn is on your Venus and you’re using all your mojo and waggling your hips and that guy will just not look over and you’ve got about $3 on you for your big night on the town. But then all a cow really needs is a little sun, a little grass within reach, and someone to tell them stories. The rest will take care of itself.
Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. She is a tarot card reader, specializing in issues with creativity and writing. For more information, go here. Her first book, The Dead Ladies Project, about love and travel and art, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago, October 2015.
Image: Nicole Gustafsson