Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vergil The Sorcerer

That is right. Vergil - a sorcerer. The guy who wrote the Aeneid had magical powers. At least, so it was thought in the Middle Ages.
I am reading some glosses on Aaron's Rod in Exodus and the latin 'virga' is bringing this thought to mind.
Vergil's name was misspelled in the Middle Ages as Virgil, which is partly how he became known as a sorcerer, since 'virga' is not just a rod or a cane but a wand as well. In Andrew Lang's Violet Fairy Book is a story about how Virgilius acquired his magic, that is by a spirit trapped in a hole who promised him books about magic if he would release him from his hole. The Gesta Romanorum contain several stories about a magical Virgil as well.
Of course Vergil did not help himself by calling himself Thyrsis in his Eclogues. Thyrsis or 'thursos' means 'wand' in Greek. But then, Vergil was also sometimes called 'virgo' or 'the maiden' for his modest and retiring ways.
You might be wondering why Dante would choose him to be the guide through Purgatory in The Inferno if he had a reputation as a sorcerer. It goes back to Eclogues again. The fourth poem was seen as predicting the birth of Jesus Christ.
If I ever get some free time, I will post a wizarding story from the Deeds of the Romans about Virgil.


Anachronist said...

I bet plenty of Romans were sorcerers/warlocs at that time. It was enough to find a trick nobody else had known before and you could be called even a deity, not only a humble sorcerer. Vergil was certainly a words sorcerer when I think about it.

Tracy said...

Belief in magic must have been pretty widespread back then - now nobody really believes in anything. (one of the themes of the book I've just finished reading)