Atalanta Fugiens

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Michael Maier -Atalanta Fugiens Emblem 14

The German physician and alchemist Michael Maier served as a counsellor to the occult besotted Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, Capital of Bohemia, however the forces that would lead to the Thirty Years War were conspiring against the Emperor and Maier was forced to leave, first to England, where he composed a song for the royal wedding of Frederick V of the Palantine to Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I, and then back to Germany in 1616, settling in Frankfurt am Main.

Atalanta Fugiens (Atalanta Fleeing) was published in 1617 by Johann Theodor de Bry in Oppenheim. de Bry published numerous works by authors aligned with the Rosicrucian movement and/or followers of the Swiss physician and occultist Paracelsus (incidentally also known as the ‘father of toxicology’).

An early example of a multi-media project, Atalanta is comprised of 50 discourses, each accompanied with an engraving by Matthias Merian of an alchemical emblem, an epigram, prose, a poem and a musical fugue for three voices.

Atalanta, as suggested by the title, frequently references Classical mythology, especially the story of the virgin huntress Atalanta, in addition to alchemical allegories featuring dragons, lions, the worm ouroboros and eagles..

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17 thoughts on “Atalanta Fugiens

  1. There is an interesting website “How to read alchemical texts” An introductory study course for the perplexed by Adam McLean. Thank you for the background on Michael Maier and a look into multimedia. The artwork is intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They portray a very strange reality, with its colour symbolism, stages, Queens that are Moons that represents copper. Then after all that laborious effort to transmute base metal into gold it ends up being women’s work (sexist I know, however we are talking the 16th and 17th Century) and child’s play? However the whole magical theory of that time did lead to empirical science, though the sciences soon disowned such disreputable beginnings. Francis Yates books on the subject are brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Heron, yes you really must…her Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition is an absolute classic and shows how the standard reading of Bruno as a martyr for science and hence a forerunner of Galileo completely misses the mark, he was a occultist who believed in hermeticism. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment is another must read featuring a vast gallery of occultists including John Dee and Edward Kelley all getting involved in the febrile politics of the day, (usually centered around Prague, a tradition that the surrealist Toyen knew about). I could go on, but I will send you a couple of links instead.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank-you Mr. Cake you have just made my day! I am sure Mr. Severs writes fascinating books.
        “I know a thing or 2 as well..well I pretend to anyway”. You are hilarious!
        I always feel that all roads lead back to Memphis. I think the rock foundations of so much knowledge that we haven’t even uncovered yet originated there following the collapse and end of that earlier civilisation.
        I also have always thought that Prague would be a fascinating city to visit.
        I was shown many years ago in a teaching vision that it was the vibrations of the sounds and combination of dual sounds in the Hebrew alphabet that were significant.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do have a sense of humour, though when I am being serious people think I am joking, and when I am joking people think I am being serious. Oh well. I am glad I have made your day. Aegypt indeed. Prague does have a long and illustrious occult history, and Bohemians aren’t called Bohemians for no reason. That is an interesting thought in Hebrew. Language is magic!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. These are wonderful. I have only heard of ‘Atalanta’ in association with the butterfly: Vanessa Atalanta- the red Admiral. And once again for some strange reason your posts are not appearing in my reader…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are wonderful…Atalanta was a Virgin huntress (like Diana) who refused to countenance marriage. Swinburne wrote a salacious poem about her rationale and tendencies (you can guess what Swinburne thought they were). Hmmm are you following me?

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      1. I am. Ghosts in the machine…

        And yes I can imagine the allusion he made. Regarding the images, you know how I love details. They beg to be examined closely

        Liked by 1 person

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