“The Madonna is essentially the goddess of the moon.”
- — “Naples in the Nineties,” by E. N. Rolfe.
Once there was, in the very old time in Cettardo Alto, a girl of astonishing beauty, and she was betrothed to a young man who was as remarkable for good looks as herself; but though well born and bred, the fortune or misfortunes of war or fate had made them both extremely poor. And if the young lady had one fault, it was her great pride, nor would she willingly be married unless in good style, with luxury and festivity, in a fine garment, with many bridesmaids of rank.
And this became to the beautiful Rorasa–for such was her name–such an object of desire, that her head was half turned with it, and the other girls of her acquaintance, to say nothing of the many men whom she had refused, mocked her so bitterly, asking her when the fine wedding was to be, with many other jeers and sneers, that at last in a moment of madness she went to the top of a high tower, whence she cast herself; and to make it worse, there was below a terrible ravine (balza), into which she fell.
Yet she took no harm, for as she fell there appeared to her a very beautiful woman, truly not of earth, who took her by the hand and bore her through the air to a safe place.
Then all the people round about who saw or heard of this thing cried out, “Lo, a miracle!” and they came and made a great festival, and would fain persuade Rorasa that she had been saved by the Madonna.
But the lady who had saved her, coming to her secretly, said: “If thou hast any desire, follow the Gospel of Diana, or what is called the Gospel of the Witches (Il Vangelo delle Strege), who worship the moon.”
“Se la Luna adorerai
Tutto tu otterai“
“If thou adorest Luna, then
What thou desir’st thou shalt obtain!”
Then the beautiful girl went forth alone by night to the fields, and kneeling on a stone in an old ruin, she worshipped the moon and invoked Diana thus:–
Diana, bella Diana!
Tu che della grande caduta
Mi ai bene salvata!
Ti prego di farmi una altra grazia,
Di farmi far’ un bello sposalizio,
Una sposalizio ricco e ‘compagnato
Da molte signore…
Se questa grazia mi farai
Sempre il Vangelo delle Strege
Diana, beautiful Diana!
Thou who didst save from a dreadful death
When I did fall into the dark ravine!
I pray thee grant me still another grace.
Give me one glorious wedding, and with it
Full many bridesmaids, beautiful and grand;
And if this favour thou wilt grant to me,
True to the Witches’ Gospel I will be!
When Rorasa awoke in the morning, she found her self in another house, where all was far more magnificent, and having risen, a beautiful maid led her into another room, where she was dressed in a superb wedding-garment of white silk with diamonds, for it was her wedding-dress indeed. Then there appeared ten young ladies, all splendidly attired, and with them and many distinguished persons she went to the church in a carriage. And all the streets were filled with music and people bearing flowers.
So she found the bridegroom, and was wedded to her heart’s desire, ten times more grandly than she had ever dreamed of. Then, after the ceremony, there was spread a feast at which all the nobility of Cettardo were present, and, moreover, the whole town, rich and poor, were feasted.
When the wedding was finished, the bridesmaids made every one a magnificent present to the bride–one gave diamonds, another a parchment (written) in gold, after which they asked permission to go all together into the sacristy. And there they remained for some hours undisturbed, till the priest sent his chierico to inquire whether they wanted anything. But what was the youth’s amazement at beholding, not the ten bridesmaids, but their ten images or likenesses in wood and in terra-cotta, with that of Diana standing on a moon, and they were all so magnificently made and adorned as to be of immense value.
Therefore the priest put these images into the church, which is the most ancient in Cettardo, and now in many churches you may see the Madonna and the Moon, but it is Diana– la Dea della Luna. The name Rorasa seems to indicate the Latin ros the dew, rorare, to bedew, rorulenta, bedewed–in fact, the goddess of the dew. Her great fall and being lifted by Diana suggest the fall of dew by night, and its rising in vapour under the influence of the moon. It is possible that this is a very old Latin mythic tale. The white silk and diamonds indicate the dew.