The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s Day Novel with Something for Everyone

Happy Tuesday!

Okay so Valentines day is tomorrow.  I have expressed how seriously I take this “holiday”(1) in the past.

However as a shameless self-promoter and a young writer/artist desperate for ever more attention as a form of validation (for a struggling artist, everyday is like being single and drunk on Valentine’s day: an emotional fucking roller coaster), I always try to jump on whatever will grab me more traffic without completely whoring out my “talents”.  Which this time of year means writing something about Valentine’s day.

This post started out as a simple etymological exploration of the English word “love”(2) and myth of Eros and Psyche, particularly inspired from the brilliant video from Overly Sarcastic Productions: Miscellaneous Myths: Eros and Psyche.

Then I remembered: this is OBOP what’s so offbeat about writing about “love” during valentines week? It’s onpoint but not offbeat.  So I. Dug. DEEPER. And what I found was…really interesting.

the golden ass

The book in question this week is one that, like the word “love”, has a few different faces and lacks the simplicity that a four letter word seems to promise.

NOTE: I haven’t read this book in it’s entirety yet.  I’m working on it but I couldn’t finish it in time however I promise this will not be the last time I visit t his unique piece of literature.  I have big plans for this rare volume.

There are more than a few interesting(3) things about this novel other than it’s rather lewd title.  The first being is that the original title was “Metamorphosis”, which as far as I can tell has very little to do with the Kafka novel of the same name, but then was renamed by St Augustine of Hippo to the more appropriate “The Golden Ass”(4) and the second is that this is the only novel from the Grecco-Roman to survive in it’s entirety.  Some one cared to make sure that this piece of literature survived the fall of the Roman empire.

As promised, The Golden Ass is about an Ass or more specifically about a man who is driven by curiosity and the desire to learn about magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey and then goes on adventures.  These adventures include adultery, witches rasing a familyreplacing a man’s heart with a sponge, golden showers, murder, necromancy, , thievery, kidnapping, anonymous sex with an invisible being, animal cruelty, catamite priests, cuckolding, incest, and bestiality.  These are just the highlights, folks.  Truly something for everyone.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be wondering “Fin: what does this lewd and strangely appropriately titled piece of ancient literature have to do with Eros and Psyche?”

One of the inset stories in The Golden Ass is Eros and Psyche. I feel like the entirety of The Golden Ass, rather than one hand-picked and relatively tame piece, does a better job of reflecting the complexity, beauty, and occasionally taboo aspects of love.  Love, for me, in every capacity from romantic to platonic has many different forms and facets.  Sometimes love is beautiful, other times it’s gross, but most often love much more complex than just a couple of star-crossed lovers who get a lovely ending or the loyalty between individuals who have grown together and die together.

Happy Valentine’s day.

-fin

STAY TUNED: The next comic in The Adventures of Fin and Louie is coming soon (probably this week), it’ll be the second to last comic before the end of the “Looking for a Friend/Count Rubber’s Keep” story arc.

Footnotes:

  1. Valentine’s day started out as a guilt trip from a Saint named Valentinus (there are two, no one knows who it was about originally) who, according to legend, was marrying Roman soldiers illegally, they took vows not to be married, and then healed the judges blind daughter.  The judge ruled to against the Saint and the Saint wrote a farewell note reading “Farewell, your Valentine”.  At best, being someone’s “Valentine” is like a passive aggressive death curse or something.

2. Which does have an interesting and complicated history which reflects it’s relatively sloppy application because of how ambiguously it can be used from sports (Tennis) to phrases like “for love or money” roughly meaning “for anything” which it self has revealing implications of motivations.  If you’re interested, read more here: “love” etymology online dictionary

  1. I recognise that one of my weaknesses as a writer is the over-use (I prefer “liberal”) of the word “interesting” however this is one of those posts where “interesting” might be the best word to use liberally to talk about this ancient novel.

  2. I understand that St Augustine of Hippo was not, publicly, a fan of Metamorphosis and likely nicknamed the book a less polite title as a way to smear the reputation of the book.  I think the title is an improvement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have looked into this book in the first place.

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Martenisa: Grandmother March has a Spring in her Step (Folklore)

Cover Photo Source: Adventure Flair

Happy Monday!

A few weeks ago one of my flatmates gifted me a red and white bracelet with a purple butterfly charm on it.  I asked her why and she went to explain to me that it was a Bulgarian Spring ritual.  “It is just what we do.”

bulgarian spring twist
The martenitsi is usually made of red and white yarn. The red to ward off the gaze of evil spirits and the white represents long life.

Naturally I was curious for more and went digging around.  What I learned was that Martenisa is a spring celebration starting on March 1st when Martenitsi are tied around children’s wrists and necklaces of the same colours are hung around young women’s necks.  Martenitsi are always given as gifts, never bought for one self, and are given to loved ones, friends, and people they feel close to (aww thank you Tsveta!) with  the wish of good health and luck.

The Martenitsi is meant to be worn until the wearer first sees a stork, swallow, or blossoming tree (all signs of spring). What is supposed to be done with it at which point varies however I was told to tie it around a blossoming tree branch to pass on the good health and luck I have been gifted over the last month to the tree.  I like this a lot, trees are okay people.

The idea of wearing the Martenitsi is to protect the wearer from Baba Marta (Grandmother March) who is subject to mood swings bringing more cold weather.  By wearing a Martenitsi it’s a sign of welcoming Baba Marta and asking for a short and less bitter end to winter.

With that being said, I’m still wearing my Martenitsi but I’m hoping that soon (seeing as today is the first official day of spring) that I’ll see a blossoming tree so I can pass on the love.

If you want to read more, check out this wonderful post on Adventure Flair “What is Martenisa?”

Happy Spring!