(Latin; derived from Greek tauros, "bull", and ballein, "to throw, to hit")
Ritual sacrifice of a bull, associated with the cults of Cybele and Mithras (flourishing c. 150-400).
The original significance of the taurobolium is unclear, but from c. 250 it became a sort of "baptism by blood", wherein a man (the initiates were invariably male) being initiated into the cult would lie beneath the sacrificial animal, and the blood of the sacrificed bull would then flow over him, the ritual serving as a symbolic rebirth.
Countless finds of altars connected with the taurobolium attest to its popularity in Rome and the Western provinces of the Roman empire.
With the dominance of Christianity, and the eventual eradication of heathen cults, the ritual fell into disuse. The Christian Roman poet Prudentius has written evocatively of the difference between the heathen blood ritual and the Christian baptism by water and Holy Spirit.