"Now it is fabled that Endymion, admitted to Olympus, whence he was expelled for want of respect to Juno, was banished for thirty years to earth. And having been allowed to sleep this time in a cave of Mount Latmos, Diana, smitten with his beauty visited him every night till she had by him fifty daughters and one son. And after this Endymion was recalled to Olympus."
-Diz. Stor. Mitol
The following legend and the spells were given under the name or title of TANA. This was the old Etruscan name for Diana, which is still preserved in the Romagna Toscana. In more than one Italian and French work I have found some account or tale how a witch charmed a girl to sleep for a lover, but this is the only explanation of the whole ceremony known to me.
Tana is a beautiful goddess, and she loved a marvelously handsome youth names Endamone; but her love was crossed by a witch who was her rival, although Endamone did not care for the latter.
But the witch resolved to win him, whether he would or not, and with this intent she induced the servant of Endamone to let her pass the night in the latter's room. And when there, she assumed the appearance of Tana, whom he loved, so that he was delighted to behold her, as he thought, and welcomed her with passionate embraces. Yet this gave him into her power, for it enabled her to perform a certain magic spell by clipping a lock of his hair.
Then she went home, and taking a piece of sheep's intestine, formed of it a purse, and in this she put that which she had taken, with a red and a black ribbon bound together, with a feather, and pepper and salt, and then sang a song. These are the words, a song of witchcraft of the very old time.
This bag for Endamon' I wove,
It is my vengeance for the love,
For the deep love I had for thee,
Which thou would'st not return to me,
But bore it all to Tana's shrine,
And Tana never shall be thine!
Now every night in agony
By me thou shalt oppressed be!
From day to day, from hour to hour,
I'll make thee feel the witch's power;
With passion thou shalt be tormented,
And yet with pleasure ne'er be contented;
Enwrapped in slumber thou shalt lie,
To know that thy beloved is by,
And, ever dying, never die,
Without the power to speak a word,
Nor shall her voice by thee be heard;
Tormented by Love's agony,
There shall be no relief for thee!
For my strong spell thou canst not break,
And from that sleep thou ne'er shalt wake;
Little by little thou shalt waste,
Like taper by the embers placed.
Little by little thou shalt die,
Yet, ever living, tortured lie,
Strong in desire, yet ever weak,
Without the power to move or speak,
With all the love I had for thee,
Shalt thou thyself tormented be,
Since all the love I felt of late
I'll make thee feel in burning hate,
For ever on thy torture bent,
I am revenged, and now content.
But Tana, who was far more powerful than the witch, though not able to break the spell by which he was compelled to sleep, took from him all pain (he knew her in dreams), and embracing him, she sang this counter charm.
Endamone, Endamone, Endamone!
By the love I feel, which I
Shall ever feel until I die,
Three crosses on thy bed I make,
And then three wild horse chestnuts take,
In that bed the nuts I hide,
And then the window open wide,
That the full moon may cast her light
Upon the love as fair and bright,
And so I pray to her above
To give wild rapture to our love,
And cast her fire in either heart,
Which wildly loves to never part;
And one thing more I beg of thee!
If any one enamoured be,
And in my aid his love hath placed,
Unto his call I'll come in haste.
So it came to pass that the fair goddess made love with Endamone as if they had been awake (yet communing in dreams). And so it is to this day, that whoever would make love with him or her who sleeps, should have recourse to the beautiful Tana, and so doing there will be success.
This legend, while agreeing in many details with the classical myth, is strangely intermingled with practices of witchcraft, but even these, if investigated, would all prove to be as ancient as the rest of the text. Thus the sheep's intestine - used instead of the red woolen bag which is employed in beneficent magic - the red and black ribbon, which mingles threads of joy and woe, the (peacock) feather, pepper and salt, occur in many other incantations, but always to bring evil and cause suffering.
I have never seen it observed, but it is true, that Keats in his exquisite poem of Endymion completely departs from or ignores the whole spirit and meaning of the ancient myth, while in this rude witch-song it is minutely developed. The conception is that of a beautiful youth furtively kissed in his slumber by Diana of reputed chastity. The ancient myth is, to begin with, one of darkness and light, or day and night, from which are born the fifty-one (now fifty-two) weeks of the year. This is Diana, the night, and Apollo, the sun, or light in another form. It is expressed as love-making during sleep, which, when it occurs in real life, generally has for active agent some one who, without being absolutely modest, wishes to preserve appearances. The established character of Diana among the Initiated (for which she was bitterly reviled by the Fathers of the Church) was that of a beautiful hypocrite who pursued amours in silent secrecy.
"Thus as the moon Endymion lay with her,
So did Hippolytus and Verbio."
But there is an exquisitely subtle, delicately strange idea or ideal in the conception of the apparently chaste "clear, cold moon" casting her living light by stealth into the hidden recesses of darkness and acting in the occult mysteries of love or dreams. So it struck Byron as an original thought that the sun does not shine on half the forbidden deeds which the moon witnesses, and this is emphasized in the Italian witch-poem. In it the moon is distinctly invoked as the protectress of a strange and secret amour, and as the deity to be especially invoked for such love-making. The one invoking says that the window is opened, that the moon may shine splendidly on the bed, even as our love is bright and beautiful...and I pray her to give great rapture to us.
The quivering, mysteriously beautiful light of the moon, which seems to cast a spirit of intelligence or emotion over silent Nature, and dimly half awaken it - raising shadows into thoughts and causing every tree and rock to assume the semblance of a living form, but one which, while shimmering and breathing, still sleeps in a dream - could not escape the Greeks, and they expressed it as Diana embracing Endymion. But as night is the time sacred to secrecy, and as the true Diana of the Mysteries was the Queen of Night, who wore the crescent moon, and mistress of all hidden things, including "sweet secret sins and loved iniquities," there was attached to this myth far more than meets the eye. And just in the degree to which Diana was believed to be Queen of the emancipated witches and of Night, or the nocturnal Venus-Astarte herself, so far would the love for sleeping Endymion be understood as sensual, yet sacred and allegorical. And it is entirely in this sense that the witches in Italy, who may claim with some right to be its true inheritors, have preserved and understood the myth.
It is a realization of forbidden or secret love, with attraction to the dimly seen beautiful-by-moonlight, with the fairy or witch-like charm of the supernatural - a romance combined in a single strange form - the spell of Night!
"There is a dangerous silence in that hour
A stillness which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and flower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
A loving languor which is not repose."
This is what is meant by the myth of Diana and Endymion. It is the making divine or aesthetic (which to the Greeks was one and the same) that which is impassioned, secret, and forbidden. It was the charm of the stolen waters which are sweet, intensified to poetry. And it is remarkable that it has been so strangely preserved in Italian with traditions.
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