Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage, and Power at the End of the Renaissance
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Mining the rich Venetian archives, especially the unusually detailed records of Venice's own branch of the Roman Inquisition, Guido Ruggiero provides a strikingly new and provocative interpretation of the end of the Renaissance in Italy. In this boldly structured work, he develops five narrative accounts of individual encounters with the Inquisition that illustrate the double-edged metaphor of how passions were both bound by late Renaissance society and were seen in turn as binding people. In this way new perspectives are opened on magic, witchcraft, love, marriage, gender, and discipline at the level of the community and beyond. Witches, courtesans, prostitutes, women healers, nobles, Cardinals, and renegade priests and monks speak from these pages describing their lives, beliefs, hopes, fears, and lies. With an imaginative flair for storytelling and impeccable scholarship, Ruggiero exposes the rich complexity of the culture and poetics of the everyday at the end of the Renaissance and illuminates a previously unexplored chapter in Italian history.
was also reputed to be one of the leading healers in Latisana. As the furor wound down, Maria was called before local authorities to be examined about her magical practices, as noted earlier. She admitted freely to signing but claimed to have stopped about a year before, when she was warned by a priest that it was against the faith. When asked who had taught her, she at first tried to avoid the question by replying that she had learned so long ago that she could not remember. Pressed, however,
speculation worth considering and suggests another reason why people turned on her so violently. Her vendettas had gotten out of hand; they no longer seemed to serve the community. Instead they had come to focus on her petty quarrels, such as the splashed water at the wash. The investigation of Elena Pedra, accused of witchcraft by her neighbors in 1589, reveals this honor dynamic well, again in the context of a negative case where vendetta had gotten out of hand. It seems that there had been a
called on God, the Devil, the spirits of the damned, or other evil spirits to bind love. Such typical eclectic mixing makes it difficult to gauge in any statistical manner the relative proportion of magic that might be labeled domestic as against the magic that drew on the space beyond the home. But a reading of the cases from the second half of the sixteenth century in Venice makes it clear that domestic magic was far more important, and even magic from beyond the home was often given a domestic
I did that witchcraft."71 Beyond the simple ring of honesty in her statement, there lies a familiar, seemingly practical and empirical approach to life that appears very modern after the alien mix of her magic. And behind that also lies a familiar feeling of human insecurity in the face of love: Elisabetta, even to her own detriment before the Holy Office, continued to see her lover's visits as being forced upon him against his will by the Devil, his passions bound to her by magic. Her own
and male priests, but Trent was just reaching the countryside at the end of the century, and even in the cities the theology of Trent may not have been enough for popular religion. Another prayer for staunching the flow of blood, in this case from wounds, reveals well the way sympathetic magic prayers could slide over into historiole or holy tales. This prayer came to light in an examination that developed out of Pietro di Venezia's preaching in Latisana. A servant named Aloysia, after her master