The Goblin Messengers of Diana and Mercury
The following tale was not given to me as connected with the Gospel of the Witches, but as Diana appears in it, and as the whole conception is that of Diana and Apollo in another form, I include it in the series.
Many centuries ago there was a folletto, goblin, or spirit, or devil-angel–chi sa?–who knows what? and Mercurio, who was the god of speed and of quickness, being much pleased with this imp, bestowed on him the gift of running like the wind, with the privilege that whatever he pursued, be it spirit, a human being, or animal, he should certainly overtake or catch it. This folletto had a beautiful sister, who, like him, ran errands, not for the. gods, but for the goddess (there was a female god for every male, even down to the small spirits); and Diana on the same day gave to this fairy the power that, whoever might chase her, she should, if pursued, never be overtaken.
One day the brother saw his sister speeding like a flash of lightning across the heaven, and he felt a sudden strange desire in rivalry to overtake her. So he dashed after as she flitted on; but though it was his destiny to catch, she had been fated never to be caught, and so the will of one supreme god was balanced by that of another.
So the two kept flying round and round the edge of heaven, and at first all the gods roared with laughter, but when they understood the case, they grew serious, and asked one another how it was to end.
Then the great father-god said:–
“Behold the earth, which is in darkness and gloom! I will change the sister into a moon, and her brother into a sun. And so shall she ever escape him, yet will he ever catch her with his light, which shall fall on her from afar; for the rays of the sun are his hands, which reach forth with burning grasp, yet which are ever eluded.”
And thus it is said that this race begins anew with the first of every month, when the moon being cold, is covered with as many coats as an onion. But while the race is being run, as the moon becomes warm she casts off one garment after another, till she is naked and then stops, and then when dressed the race begins again.
As the vast storm-cloud falls in glittering drops, even so the great myths of the olden time are broken up into small fairy-tales, and as these drops in turn reunite
“En rivière ou sur l’estang,“
(“On silent lake or streamlet lone,”)
as Villon hath it, even so minor myths are again formed from the fallen waters. In this story we clearly have the dog made by Vulcan and the wolf-Jupiter settled the question by petrifying them-as you may read in Julius Pollux his fifth book, or any other on mythology. Is canis fuit postea à Jove in lapidem conversus.
“Which hunting hound, as well is known,
Was changed by Jupiter to stone.”
It is remarkable that in this story the moon is compared to an onion. “The onion,” says Friedrich (Symbolik der Natur, p. 348), “was, on account of its many skins, among the Egyptians the emblem and hieroglyph of the many-formed moon, whose different phases are so clearly seen in the root when it is cut through, also because its growth or decrease corresponds with that of the planet. Therefore it was dedicated to Isis, the Moon-Goddess.” And for this reason the onion was so holy as to be regarded as having in itself something of deity; for which reason Juvenal remarks that the Egyptians were happy people to have gods growing in their gardens.