Dancing the Witches’ Goat Dance

The Ensouled Violin (1892)  by Mme. Blavatsky (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   October 8, 2013        Women in Horror Month

Words create images. Does this headline conjure up images of craggy women flying on goats or witches dancing back to back around fiery circles? Press refresh in your mind. What if musical notes could create thick shapes and figures right before your eyes? Imagine the dance of violin music. If you’ve ever listened deeply to Paganini’s Witches’ Dance  (La Streghe) you might know how his music can enter us in a very muscular way. But could music transform into a spell of images before our eyes? If music could perform such a supernatural event, is it the violin or the violinist that has that power?

Witches+Dance+Pagnini+Songsheet

Mme. Blavatsky brings us a story full of musical mesmerism, and Paganini is a major character drawn in full color. Paganini’s reputation for becoming bewitched by the devil in exchange for his brilliant career holds the central theme. The Italian was revered for playing his Witches Dance “pizzicato” with the left hand directly on the gut strings—without the aid of the bow. Was his superior talent singularly human?

In The Ensouled Violin, Franz Stenio, our semi-talented, young and aspiring musician dreams with his eyes open. He daydreams of nymphs and sirens, Calliope, Orpheus, and Olympus. These muses contribute to his Bohemian and penniless life. Until an old German, Samuel Klaus, a generous and hearty music teacher, decides to take Franz into his home as his own son. Klaus instills in Franz an ambition for exceptional talent and worldly fame, fame that might compete with the great and powerful Paganini. Off they go to Paris.

Paganini_by_Richard_James_Lane

 

Yep, there are lots of discordant notes going on here, cacophonous cries of frenzy, a phantasmagoria, and Eastern Black Magic. Violins are mysterious instruments, singing out to us with the smallest swipe of the bow from their enchanting gut strings. One wonders, exactly whose gut strings are they that can create such beautiful sounds? Goats? Cats? Sheep? This is where the story gets especially ghastly. What kind of gut strings does Paganini use in his violin?

The old German teacher tells Franz the story of Paganini’s supernatural art and the Italian’s reputed deal with the devil. Franz is shocked but deeply curious. He asks Klaus, “Do you really believe that had I only the means of obtaining human intestines for strings, I could rival Paganini?”

Klaus unveiled his face, and, with a strange look of determination upon it, softly answered:  “Human intestines alone are not sufficient for our purpose; they must have belonged to someone who had loved us well, with an unselfish holy love.”

Unselfish holy love? Blavatsky doesn’t leave us hanging for long with this sinister turn in the story. By the witches of Thessaly and the dark arts of Circe, our young and tender Franz chooses his fate … and the fate of another.

BlatvaskyPortraitimagesBlavatsky was a seductive storyteller. She became famous for being a philosopher, spiritualist, pioneer in the occult, one of the first people to coin the phrase the sixth sense, and  was co-founder of The Theosophical Society in 1875. Her fiction is a small batch of stories in Nightmare Tales, published in 1907.

Read The Ensouled Violin at Gaslight:

http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/gaslight/ensoulvn.htm

 

May I suggest, for an added appreciation of this very extraordinary short story, you listen to Paganini’s Witches Dance at Classical Music Online. What could be better than a classic horror story and a magnificent piece of classical music to complement the experience? Well, perhaps a glass of wine, preferably in a cut-glass goblet. Magnifico!

http://classical-music-online.net/en/listen/43608

You can access more of Mme. Blavatsky’s short stories in the links below,  at the Theosophical University Press Online Edition.

CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER? — (c. 1876-77)
AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY — (c. 1876-77)
KARMIC VISIONS — (June 1888)
THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS — (April 1890)
A BEWITCHED LIFE — (c. 1890-91)
THE LUMINOUS SHIELD — (c. 1890-91)
THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES — (c. 1890-91)
FROM THE POLAR LANDS — (c. 1890-91)

THE ENSOULED VIOLIN — (c. 1890-91)

http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/nightmar/night-hp.htm

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

GoodReads     WattPad    The Story Reading Ape Blog   Interesting Literature    Bibliophilopolis.wordpress.com    Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify    Rob Around Books  

 Books on the Nightstand    GoodKindles.net

 For Authors/Writers:   The Writer Unboxed

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under horror, literature, occult, quiet horror, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror, weird tales, Women In Horror

9 responses to “Dancing the Witches’ Goat Dance

  1. Pingback: Deal Me In, Lunar Extra ~ “The Ensouled Violin” | The Writerly Reader

  2. Jay

    Hi Paula,

    As a former violinist myself, I doubt I will be able to resist reading this story. 🙂

    I haven’t previously read any of Blavatsky’s work, but I have heard of her before – from the horrible book “The Haunting of Twentieth Century America,” which turned out to be little more than a re-hashing of every paranormal, pseudo-scientific hot-button topic of the past couple hundred years. It stayed true to neither the twentieth century nor haunting nor American confines. It was so bad I couldn’t stop reading. 🙂

    She was fortunate to live in a sort of “golden age” of spirituality and took full advantage of that fact. My personal impression was that she was a willful fraud in her non-literary pursuits.

    -Jay

    Like

    • Oh, wow, Jay, I love your post here. I did read that Blavatsky had plenty of critics in her time. Lots of personal defamation and accusations of being everything from a Satanist to a Russian spy. With such a colorful history, one has to figure her fiction to be more than a little unusual. You were a former violinist?! You must post a review of The Ensouled Violin!

      Like

  3. latasha

    i found a reading of this from Librivox. I listened to this rather than read it because I could get through it faster. I have never read or listened to anything by Mme. Blavatsky before this. I really, really liked this story and plan on looking into more of her stories. : )

    Like

    • Latasha, I’m so glad you’ve discovered Blavatsky. I searched for a recording but could not locate one. Can you post the link you found? I’m sure my readers here would appreciate it!

      Like

  4. TOM JARUS SR

    Feta anyone?

    Like

  5. Camille Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre is good shiver-y classical music, too. I’m looking forward to cracking open my Nook and reading The Ensouled Violin. Great post!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s