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Hi, this is Alexei Maxim Russell, also known as the Guerrilla Ronin wRiter. This is the third video of my top 5 series, which explores the strange directions a writer's life can take, or any creative person for that matter, when they let their imagination lead them, and the subtle powers of their creative energies channel their life force. The sheer power of creativity is said to attract otherworldly attention, and whether it's the ancient Greek Muses or the Ghosts of our dreams, the supernatural often seems to co-exist, with those mysterious forces which come forth, from out of human creativity. Sometimes, as a part of the creative process, we have to explore our dark side and the darker sides of the human soul. Some people believe this power of these dark, creative experiences can channel evil spirits, if an artist fails to keep their guard up, and protect themselves. As a nod to this supernatural element of creativity, I've decided to make this video, which is entitled "5 Artists Thought to be in League with the Devil."
Paganini is often called the greatest violin virtuoso of all time. Born in 1782 in Genoa, Italy, he was so famous in Europe, as a muscian, that he can well be considered one of the first true "rock stars" of Western history. The fanatacism of his followers are more akin to the modern groupee, than anything that existed in the music world, before then.
So ridiculously skilled and technically brilliant was he, that famous musicians of his day, such as Schubert and Berlioz, were in awe at his talent and his creative passion; and so utterly famous was he, that he served as the personal violinist for monarchs, including The Grand Duchess of Tuscany and the Empress Marie Louise of Austria. But the seemingly impossible intricacy of his fingering techniques when coupled with his wild lifestyle, his seductive good looks and his tendency to look sepulchral and menacing, dressing in all black, led people to call him "The Devil's Violinist" and it was always rumored that Paganini was in league with the devil.
For someone who spent his entire life mixing with royalty, and being -- quite literally -- worshipped for the depth of his talents, Paganini was born into a poor family -- the son of a failed tradesman. Although poor, his father was a trained musician and taught his boy the violin. Young Paganini showed startling ability, as a muscian, and it was always rumored that his mother had made a pact with Satan, trading her son's soul in exchange for a promise to make him the most famous violinist in the world. If this story is true, than the evil one certainly did deliver. Paganini seemed to have the ability to mesmerize his listeners and charm them -- leaving legions of hopeless fans, everywhere he went.
With his flaming, passionate eyes, his long nose and face, with hallow cheeks, luxuriant hair and tall, darkclad figure, he was certainly the very image you'd expect of the devilishly handsome rogue, who gains his irresistable powers from the devil. This mystique was reinforced by the circumstances of his death. His powers, his looks and his known weakness for wine, women and gambling had already incited no end of gossip, among the nobility, that Paganini was in the service of dark forces, but when he refused the priest, who came to give him last rites, on his death bed, and when the Catholic church refused to give him a Catholic burial, the rumors of his infernal pact spread far and wide. Although dying in 1840, Paganini was not permitted Christian burial, until 36 years later, in 1876. Whether he got his incredible talent from infernal powers or from the natural talent, that was in his blood, Paganini definitely earned the love and respect of the world, and the innovations he brough to music are still used by the thousands of musicians, whose technique have benefitted from his example.
Do you believe Paganini was really in league with the devil? I admit, that I'm one of his many fans. I think his music is, indeed, out of this world, but I'm inclined to think it was merely shock and disbeleif at his skill, along with the tendency of the upper classes, at the time, to amuse themselves by spreading intriguing rumors, that accounts for this rumor about devil worship, but then, I doubt I've heard the whole story, there might be more, to help explain why this rumor came to be so enduring. If you have more info about it, please leave a comment, and let the rest of us benefit for your insights.
2, Pope Sylvester II
Pope Sylvester II was Pope from 999 AD to 1003. He was the first French pope and was born Gerbert d'Aurillac, in 946 in the town of Bellac, in France. Sylvester is known today for being one of the greatest example of the early Scientist/Clerics who, during the dark and middle ages, were often the only preservers and protectors of knowledge, in countries that were largely ignorant and illiterate. As a youth, Sylvester joined a monastery and was famous for his love of knowledge and study. So great was his reputation, that when a visiting Spanish nobleman, the Count of Barcelona, visited the monastery, the Abbot of the monastery asked the Count if he would take the curious monk with him, back to Barcelona, where study of Mathematics and the mysterious libraries of the ancient Arabic kings, were available for study.
The young Sylvester flourished in this atmosphere of higher learning and soon had the chance, alongside his noble benefactor, the Count, to visit the lavish courts of the old Arab world, at the great Palace of the Caliph, Al-Hakam II. During those times, of dark ages Europe, it was the genteel Arabs who were the holders of knowledge and the great scolars and scientists of the world. From his learning, in the great Caliphs libraries, Sylvester eventually brought back such inventions as the Abacus and the astronomical Armillary sphere, which were unknown in primitive Europe, at the time, and spread such new Arabic-invented concepts as the decimal system, geometry, algebra and the philosophies of the ancient Greek masters, who had been forgotten and lost, in Europe, since the times of ancient Rome, but had been preserved by the Arabs.
In 969, the Count made a pilgrimage to Rome, and Sylvester came along. There, he met with Pope John XIII, and the Emperor of Rome, Otto I. Once again, thanks to his great benefactor, Sylvester was given the coveted position of serving as a tutor for the emperor's son. As a result of these high profile connections, in Rome, Sylvester quickly made his way up the ranks of the church, until he was finally appointed the Archbishop of Ravenna, in 998. With the support of his former student, who was now the Holy Roman Emperor, Sylvester was elected Pope, in 999 AD. As Pope, Sylvester cleaned up the church and did an amazing amount, to spread knowledge and enlightenment, that was far ahead of his time. Sylvester is known for being one of the very first social humanists and enlightened thinkers, long before the cultural liberation of the renaissance.
It was thought, however, that Sylvester had gained his great knowledge, and acquired his alliances with great powers, through a secret pact with the devil. It was rumored that, during his secret studies in the strange and mysterious libraries of the old Arab kings, that he had also studied their ancient magical arts, and even that he had secretly carried off a spell book of black magic, preserved since the ancient days of Arabic magic, before Islam became the official religion. Since it was only from this time -- after he had visited the King's libraries, that Sylvester seemed to begin on his journey to great fortune -- having the favor of kings and popes -- it was thought that this legend could be true and Sylvester may, in fact, have traded his sanctity and his priestly oaths, in exchange for the knowledge that he had always craved, since his earliest days.
It is documented that rumors existed, since the time of Sylvester, and he is reported to have been able to disappear, at will, and to foretell the future, through his knowledge of Astrology. One of the strangest and most grotesque tales, of Sylvester's dark art, is that he had created a profane familiar, called a Brazen Head, who would assist him in his wizardly pursuits, by answering his questions and providing secret knowledge. It was also thought Sylvester had formed a sinful relationship with a female demon, named Meridiana. She had appeared to him soon after a failed love affair, and had apparently helped him to pursue his forbidden knowledge and attract the good wishes of powerful people.
Although well-documented and historically verifiable, it is also known that a lot of these rumors were started by a rebellious cleric, named Cardinal Benon, centuries later, who was joining a general revolt against the Papacy and so, had a vested interest in making the popes look bad. Do you think there's anything to the rumors, which surround Pope Sylvester? I'm inclined to think it was merely the distrust, the ignorant people of the day had for learned people, back then, as well as their distrust for the Arabs, which caused them to fear and gossip about Sylvester, but I'd love to learn more about this. The reasons for these rumors seem flimsy and I imagine there's more to it. If you know of anything that might help explain these rumors, please share them .
3, Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page, best known as founder and guitarist of the legendary musical group, Led Zeppelin, is still alive today. He is one of the world's most well-respected and honored guitarists in music history and is now a well-known record producer. Born in London, in 1944, Page started his musical career as a busker, but, after getting attention from important figures in the music industry, Page eventually went on to contribute guitar work to the recordings of such famous recording artists as the Beatles and Eric Clapton.
Eventually, Page took over a band called The Yardbirds, and changed their name to Led Zeppelin, in 1968. And so was made one of the best selling music groups in history, with some estimates counting over 300 million records sold, since the beginning.
One thing that has always characterized Led Zeppelin, however, is the use of occult symbolism on thier record covers and dark, arcane and mystical imagery, in much of their music. It has even been rumored, that Jimmy Page, himself, worships the devil.
It is certainly well known that Page has always had a strong interest in the occult. In his fourth album, the occult word Zoso is used as a personal "magic word" meant to symbolize Page, and he would often wear this word, embroided on his clothing. This word originates from an ancient magical tome,Called Ars Magica Arteficii -- an old alchemical grimoire, written by Gerolamo Cadrano, in 1557. Page has also been documented, praising the notorious early twentieth century occultist, Alastair Crowley, who is known for his worship of a great beast and is venerated by modern day devil worshippers, as a pioneer of the movement of spiritual self-interest.
But is this reputation warranted? Although it can't be denied that Page is interested in the occult and has called his study of magic and sorcery "extensive," this doesn't necessarily equal a pact with the devil. I'm tempted to think there's absolutely nothing in it, and it's just the legacy of a lot of tongue-clucking parents, back in the 70s, who felt threatened by the new music which pioneers like Page helped to bring about. But then, I may not know all the details. I have yet to hear a decent tale of Page partaking in any truly profane activity. If you know more then I do, however, I'd love to hear about it. I'm always open to being convinced by a well presented and well-sourced argument.
4, Giuseppe Tartini
Another devilish violinist, Giuseppe Tartini could well have been the earlier incarnation of Paganini. Also Italian, Tartini was born about 100 years before him, in 1692, in the town of Piran. He was the all-important Magister violon of the town of Padua, later formed a highly successful music school, and is honored as the very first famous violinist to play on a Stradivarius. His tremendous skill and his imposing physical appearance, mesmerized and charmed his audiences, as if in foreshadowing of the coming of Paganini, and he seemed to be in every way as talented, skilled and captivatiting. Perhaps fittingly, it was also thought, that Tartini had gained his great powers through a deal with the devil.
This seems to have come from the musicians own conflicts with the church -- he had refused to join the Franciscan Friars, as his mother had hoped, and famously fell out with the Cardinal Giorgio Cornado, when he eloped with his young girl, and was even charged, by the church, with abduction. One undeniable connection to Satan comes from out of Tartini's own mouth, when he credited his composition of a violin sonata called "The Devil's Trill" to the direct instruction of the devil. Tartini said that he dreamt of the devil, playing a violin. When he woke up, he composed the sonata, he saw the devil play, from memory. Even centuries later, the incredible technical skill, required to play the Devil's Trill, can only be achieved by the most talented of violinists. This admission certainly added to the belief that Tartini was in league with the devil, and inspired, in all likelihood, the folklore which made such a compelling figure, a century later.
I'm not inclined to think Tartini was a devil worshipper, as there's no evidence of that, but he did say that Satan inspired him to create what is, perhaps, his most famous peice, and so, you can at least say that, on some level, whether subconscious or not, Tartini did deal with the devil, at least in his dreams. But what do you think?
No list concerning a pact with the devil would be complete, without mention of the legendary tale of Faust. The epic tale of a great scholar who, disatisfied with life, makes a pact with the devil, in order to gain unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. So widespread is the Faust legend that we use the term Faustian to describe any situation where we trade in our integrity, in exchange for impermanent forms of power or success -- you know, the kind of thing that happens in the business world, pretty much every day. Well anyways, few people know that Faust was a real person, whose real name was Johann Georg Faust. Many of the details have been lost in the mists of time and through the literary machinations of many authors, who have written variations on the Faust tale through more than 20 distinct tellings.
The real Faust, was an alchemist, astrologer and magician of the German renaissance, Because of the confusion, however, caused by the mish-mash of information, that has followed him in legend, historians can't be sure of the year or place of his birth. But the best estimates seem to fave 1480, in the German town of Helmstadt. The town of Gelnhessen does record Doctor Faust performing magic and casting horoscopes, in that town, in 1506. Over the next 30 years, there are records all over Germany, documenting Faust's performances, as he travelled around the country -- seemingly always on the move. There is also record that he was often accused of being a fraud and was officially declared to be a devil worshipper, by local religious authorities. These charges may help to explain why the persecuted Doctor Faust never stayed in one place for very long. In 1528, in the town of Ingersol, there is a record of Docter Faust being forced out of the town, by a committee of townsfolk, on the grounds that he was a dangerous necromancer (this being a kind of sorceror who can raise the dead, command undead servants and use them to achieve thier wicked, sorcerous ends).
As if this isn't enough, a priest of Faust's acquaintance said that Faust travelled with a dog, who was capable of transforming into a servant, who would serve Faust's needs, when need be. This same priest documented the cause of Faust's death. Apparently, his alchemical experiments led to a dreadful, devastating explosion, which tore the unfortunate wizard to pieces. It is documented, in this historical record, that Faust was found in a grieviously mutilated state, which led the priest to believe the devil had come to Doctor Faust, at last, to claim his final price, for the many magical powers he had bestowed upon him, in the course of his lifetime.
So, what do you think? I admit, I'm tempted to think there is something to this tale of Doctor Faust, just based on the fact there is, indeed, historical record of him, all over Germany, everyone telling the same tales of wizardry and dark powers, even in towns completely unconnected, and far removed from eachother. Towns didn't exactly communicate, after all, back in the renaissance days and they didn't have mass media or internet, to help spread the word. Couple that with the fact that the very first Faust tale was written only a few years after the original Faust's death, I'm swayed to the viewpoint this may well have been, a true flesh and blood Faust -- as fantastic as that idea seems to me... and as unbelievable. But what do you think? Do you think there was a real Faust, or do you think it's just a story? If so, do you think the real Faust did make a deal with the devil? Or was he just a charlatan? If you have an opinion, please leave a comment, and share any additional evidence you may have.
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