Infinite Fire Webinar II – The Emblemata of the Atalanta Fugiens

With the Infinite Fire Webinar Series, the Ritman Library and the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (GHF) of the University of Amsterdam have joined forces and are planting the seed for a Scholarly Hermetic Circle. As we announced at the beginning of September, in the coming year we will broadcast a series of 9 webinars in a format of 3 x 3 featuring three experts connected to the GHF, who will elaborate on their academic passions in relation to the library’s treasures.

Titlepage of Michael Maier's 'Atalanta Fugiens', Johann Theodor de Bry, Oppenheim, 1618.

Today, the second webinar is online featuring  dr. Peter J. Forshaw, who shares with us his knowledge on Michael Maier (1568–1622), a Renaissance alchemist, composer, physician and counsellor to Habsburg Emperor  Rudolf II Habsburg. The webinar focuses in particular on Maier’s  Atalanta Fugiens (1618), a multimedia work containing 50 engraved emblems visualizing the alchemical stages and including corresponding epigrams, discourses and musical symphonies ‘fugues’, which he composed himself. Nothing is known about Maier’s ideas on how to perform the fugues, though some believe they serve as auditory support during corresponding alchemical work in the laboratory. Since Maier served as counsellor to Rudolph II, it might even be the case that the music was performed at his court. Besides discussing a selection of the emblemata of the Atalanta Fugiens at length, Peter Forshaw also highlights other works by Michael Maier, as well as other related sources.

The title Atalanta Fugiens refers to the myth of the fleeing Atalanta, a famous Arkadian huntress and a favourite of the goddess Artemis. During a race Atalanta was pursued by Hippomenes or Melanion who had been empowered by Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, with the gift of three golden apples. As Atalanta stooped to pick up the golden apples dropped by she lost the race and Hippemenes was able to marry her. However, Hippomenes forgot to thank Aphrodite and instead went on to celebrate his marriage with Atalanta, according to Michael Maier, in the temple of Cybele. Aphrodite decided to take revenge and sent flames of passion to the pair, which aroused their sexual passion and they made love. Cybele, appalled by their behaviour in his temple, transformed them into lions to cool his wrath.

Dr. P. J. Forshaw has published several articles on Alchemical and Renaissance Western-Esotercism, as for instance:

  • Peter, J. Forshaw, ‘Oratorium – Audatorium – Laboratorium: Early Modern Improvisations on Cabala, Music and Alchemy’ in: Aries 10.2, Leiden: Brill, 2010, pp. 169 – 195.

He is also editor-in-chief of Aries – The Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, which appears twice a year and is published by Brill academic publishers. (daarna sluiten we af met de bibliografie en de webinar video)

Bibliography of Infinite Fire Webinar II – The Emblemata of the Atalanta Fugiens

  • Alciati, Andrea (1551), Emblemata, Heinrich Steyner, Paris, Augsburg.
  • Appolonis, Hori (Horapollo Nilous) (1541), Hieroglyphica, Paris.
  • Ashmole, Elias (1652), Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. Containing Severall Poeticall Pieces of Our Famous English Philosophers, Nathaniel Brookes, London.
  • Hildebrandt, Johann Bernhard (1618), De Lapide Philosophico: Das Ist von dem Gebenedeyten Stein der Weysen, Joachim Krusicke, Halle.
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1597), Vom Hylealischen, Das ist, Pri-materialischen Catholischen, oder Algemeinem [sic] Natürlichen Chaos, Magdeburg.
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1608/1609), Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae, Hanau.
  • Maier, Michael (ca. 1614), Arcana Arcanissima Hoc Est Hieroglyphica Aegyptio-Graeca, London.
  • Maier, Michael (1618), Atalanta Fugiens, Johann Theodor de Bry, Oppenheim.
  • Maier, Michael (1616), De Circulo Physico Quadrato, Lukas Jennis, Frankfurt.
  • Maier, Michael (1617), Examen Fucorum Pseudo-Chymicorum Detectorum, Johann Theodor de Bry, Frankfurt.
  • Maier, Michael (1617), Jocus Severus Hoc Est Tribunal Aequum Quo Noctuare, Johann Theodor de Bry, Frankfurt.
  • Maier, Michael (1620), Septimana Philosophica Qua Aenigmata Aureola De Omni Naturae Genere, Lukas Jennis, Frankfurt.
  • Maier, Michael (1617), Symbola Aureae Mensae Duodecim Nationum, Lukas Jennis, Frankfurt.
  • Maier, Michael (1618), Viatorium Hoc Est De Montibus Planetarum, Johann Theodor de Bry, Oppenheim.
  • Tilton, Hereward, (2003), Quest for the Phoenix: Spiritual Alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the Work of Count Michael Maier (1569-1622), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.
  • Wooden panel (I) inspired by emblemata in Michael Maier‘s Atalanta Fugiens (1618).
  • Wooden panel (II) inspired by emblemata in Michael Maier‘s Atalanta Fugiens (1618).
  • (1615), Fama Fraternitatis, Frankfurt.

Stay tuned for the third and final Infinite Fire webinar by dr. P. J. Forshaw on John Dee’s  Monas Hieroglyphica (1564) to be expected in December. From January 2013 onwards the Infinite Fire Webinars will continue with Prof. Dr. W. J. Hanegraaff!

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