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There is a curious story told by Fordun in his “Scotichronicon," by Matthew of Westminster in his Chronicle, and by Roger of Wendover in his " Flowers of History," which has some interest in connexion with the legend of the Tanhäuser. They relate that in the year 1050, a youth of noble birth had been married in Rome, and during the nuptial feast, being engaged in a game of ball, he took off his wedding-ring, and placed it on the finger of a statue of Venus. When he wished to resume it, he found that the stony hand had become clenched, so that it was impossible to remove the ring. Thenceforth he was haunted by the Goddess Venus, who constantly whispered in his ear, “Embrace me; I am Venus, whom you have wedded; I will never restore your ring.” However, by the assistance of a priest, she was at length forced to give it up to its rightful owner.
This story occurs also in Vincent of Beauvais, whose version will be found in the Appendix“. Cæsarius of Heisterboch has also a story bear, ing a relation to that of Venus and the ring, A certain Clerk Phillip, a great necromancer, took some Swabian and Bavarian youths to a
Appendix B. Vincent. Bellov. I. 36, Spec. Historiale. Antonini Sum.na Histor. P. II., tit. 16.
lonely spot in a field, where, at their desire, he proceeded to perform incantations. First he drew a circle round them with his sword, and warned them on no consideration to leave the ring. Then retiring from them a little space he began his incantations, and suddenly there appeared around the youths a multitude of armed men, brandishing weapons, and daring them to fight. The demons, failing to draw them by this means from their enchanted circle, vanished, and then there was seen a company of beautiful damsels, dancing about the ring, and by their attitudes alluring the youths towards them. One of these, exceeding the others in beauty and grace, singled out a youth, and dancing before him, extended to him a ring of gold, casting languishing glances towards him, and by all means in her power endeavouring to attract his attention, and kindle his passion. The young man, unable any longer to resist, put forth his finger beyond the circle to the ring, and the apparition at once drew him towards her and vanished along with him. However, after much trouble, the necromancer was able to recover him from the embraces of the evil spirit'.
s Cæsarius Heister. V. 4.
Another mediæval story is founded on the same myth, but purified and Christianized. A knight is playing at ball, and incommoded by his ring. He therefore removes it, and places it for safety on the finger of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On seeking it again he finds the hand of the figure clasped, and he is unable to recover his ring. Whereupon the knight renounces the world, and as the betrothed of the Virgin enters a monastery.
The incident of the ring in connexion with the ancient goddess is certainly taken from the old religion of the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples. Freyja was represented in her temples holding a ring in her hand; so was Thorgerda Hörgabrúda. The Faereyinga Saga relates an event in the life of the Faroese hero, Sigmund Brestesson, which is to the point. “They (Earl Hakon and Sigmund) went to the temple, and the earl fell on the ground before her statue, and there he lay long. The statue was richly dressed, and had a heavy gold ring on the arm. And the earl stood up and touched the ring, and tried to remove it, but could not; and it seemed to Sigmund as though she frowned. Then the earl said, 'She is not pleased
Wolf, Beiträge z. deut. Myth. Göttingen, 1857, II., p. 257.
with thee, Sigmund ! and I do not know whether I shall be able to reconcile you; but that shall be the token of her favour, if she gives us the ring, which she has in her hand.' Then the earl took much silver, and laid it on the footstool before her; and again he flung himself prostrate before her, and Sigmund noticed that he wept profusely. And when he stood up he took the ring, and she let go of it. Then the earl gave it to Sigmund, and said, 'I give thee this ring to thy weal, never part with it.'
And Sigmund promised he would not?” This ring is the death of the Faroese chief. In after years, King Olaf, who converts him to Christianity, knowing that this gold ring is a relic of Paganism, asks Sigmund to give it him. The chief refuses, and the king angrily pronounces a warning that it will be the cause of his death. And his word falls true, for Sigmund is murdered in his sleep for the sake of the ring.
Unquestionably the Venus of the Hörselberg, of Basle, of the Eildon Hill, that of whom Fordun, Vincent, and Cæsarius relate such weird tales, is the ancient goddess Holda, or Thorgerda; a con
7 Faereyinga Saga. Copenhagen, 1832, p. 103; and Fornmanna Sögur, II., cap. 184.
clusion to which the stories of the ring naturally lead us.
The classic legend of Ulysses held captive for eight years by the nymph Calypso in the island of Ogygia, and again for one year by the enchantress Circe, contains the root of the same story of the Tanhäuser.
What may have been the significance of the primeval story-radical it is impossible for us now to ascertain ; but the legend, as it shaped itself in the Middle Ages, is certainly indicative of the struggle between the new and the old faith.
We see thinly veiled in Tanhäuser, the story of a man, Christian in name, but heathen at heart, allured by the attractions of Paganism, which seems to satisfy his poetic instincts, and which gives full rein to his passions. But these excesses pall on him after a while, and the religion of sensuality leaves a great void in his breast.
He turns to Christianity, and at first it seems to promise all that he requires. But alas ! he is repelled by its ministers. On all sides he is met by practice widely at variance with profession. Pride, worldliness, want of sympathy, exist among those who should be the foremost to guide, sustain, and receive him. All the warm springs which gushed