I'm working on a post on masks, strangers, and ghosts.“For in the year 1544, Martin Crusius, in his Annales Svevici, cites a curious tale, borrowed from an older chronicle. Wandering about the Swabian countryside were certain clerici vagantes who wore yellow nets draped about their shoulders in the place of capes. They had approached a group of peasants and told them they had been on the Venusberg and had seen extraordinary things there. They claimed knowledge of the past and could foretell the future; they had the power to discover lost objects and possessed charms which protected both men and animals from witches and their crimes; they could even keep hail away. With such boasts, intermingled with fearsome words mumbled ominously through clenched teeth, they shunned both men and women, especially the latter, and extorted money from them. As though this was not enough, they also declared they could call up the 'Furious Horde', made up of children who had died before they were baptized, of men slain in battle and of all 'ecstatics' – in other words of those souls who had had to abandon their bodies, never to return. These souls, they said, were accustomed to gather in the deserted places on Saturday nights of the Ember seasons and on Thursdays of the Advent, andering about, sorrowing, until the appointed timeof their deaths, when they could be received amongst the blessed. These clerici vagantes claimed that they had two lenghts of rope, one for grain, the other for wine: if one of them was buried, the price of grain or wine would increase that year...Once again, if this evidence had come from the Fruili instead of Swabia, we can be certain that these clerici vagantes would have added being benandanti to their boasting. Here too there are obvious similarities: the journey to the mysterious kingdom of Venus (where, in the popular mind, there was believed to be a real afterlife as we shall see later) gave them the power to cure spells, and, during the Ember Days, to summon the ranks of those who had died prematurely, to which 'ecstatics' like themselves belonged, whose souls had not been able to return to their bodies; it also gave them abilities to obtain wealth for farmers by working their magic, not on the fertility of the fields, as did their Friulian counterparts, but curiously enough, on the prices of agricultural products. This was the year 1544... At any rate, groups of clerici vagantes who claimed to have been on the Venusberg appeared at Lucerne in 1576... and again in 1599 and 1600. A similar group, belonging to an association called Johannesbruderschaft, was tried at L'vov in 1694: like their Swabian fellows of a century and a half before, these clerici vagantes searched for treasures, claimed to have seen the souls of the dead on the Venusberg and tried to call them forth.”
- Carlo Ginzburg, The Night Battles. (p.55-56)
But in the meantime, I'm feeling very 'Tannhauser'-ish. Not that I'm a Minnisinger, mind you, but some days I just want to go and hang out on the Venusberg with other ecstatics.
So here are some images revolving around Tannhauser and Venus:
|Otto Knille's Tannhauser and Venus. 1873|
|Henri Fantin-Latour's Scene from Tannhauser. 1864.|
|Lawrence Koe's Venus and Tannhauser. 1896.|
The following come from Willy Pogany's (1882 - 1955) illustrations of Wagner's Tannhauser: