The Consequences of Post-Modernism (Part I)

I follow a historical channel on facebook that often posts really quirky or interesting facts about various periods in history. I’ve actually learned a few things from their articles and it’s one of the more enjoyable sites that I follow. Yesterday, they posted a clip of A. Moreschi, the last castrato. He was never a major operatic voice, but a well-respected singer in the Vatican choir. There are recordings of him made in 1902. They’re not great. Recording technology at the time lacked the capacity to record the fullness of a singer’s range. One sees the same issue with female sopranos who were recorded around the same time. The result is weird, thin, and reedy. Still, we have these recordings and they are an interesting nod to a group of men who transformed the musical world.

So, many of the commenters were unfamiliar with castrati and since this is pretty much exactly what my entire dissertation is going to be on, I jumped in and we were talking about it, except the women (and it was all women with whom I was conversing, something that, given the topic, surprised me) with whom I was conversing couldn’t get past “you’re disgusting” if you find beauty in this. The idea of transcendent beauty, of sacrificing oneself for something better, for an art that will impact generations, of considering an art worthy of self-transformation was completely beyond their comprehension. They could not get past, “that’s horrific and you’re disgusting unless you agree with us wholeheartedly that it’s awful.” Well, I don’t think it was.

The names of these men are sacred to me. When they were very young they (there are cases of individual castrati requesting it. I believe Caffarelli was one such) or their parents chose castration in service to Art. Instead of progeny, they reached for immortality. Instead of poverty, they chose a path that would, if they succeeded even at a modest career, elevate the standard of living and status of their entire family. They chose a path that transformed them into conduits for an awe-inspiring, transcendent beauty. I mourn the loss to our world of their living presence.

I think in a world poisoned by the post-modernism, where our idea of Art is to throw paint on a canvas and call it such, where we no longer connect the arts and the sacred, where we are, in fact, deeply suspicious of anything holy or sacred, and where we consider the human individual the height of majesty it can be very, very difficult to comprehend a time, a place, and people who have other standards. Art is the best and highest expression of who we are as a species. It is better and more important than any single one of us and those who sacrifice themselves to its fire should be honored. I was a ballet dance, professionally for a time, which means I started a career that left a brutal imprint on my body – one I still struggle with in terms of ongoing injury and chronic pain—when I was a child. This was my choice. In fact, I did it against my parents’ desires. So to say that a child cannot know what he wants, cannot make the choice to devote himself to a craft is nonsense. Children do this every day.

We have no problem today with celebrating children ranging from three on up who choose to take hormone blockers, pharmaceuticals, and to prepare for extremely painful surgery and who run the risk of rendering themselves permanently sterile to shape their bodies in accordance with their inner vision. How is this any different?

The castrati were not, despite efforts of queer theorists to use them as such, transgender. They were men, men who gave themselves over to something much bigger and more important than their individual selves. In doing so, in creating bodies capable of containing and producing a glorious, angelic sound, they transformed their world and ours. I think we must affirm their choice to shape their body as their will intends, or where is the freedom of the individual we so cherish today?   Beauty at that level is always horrific. That is why it is sacred. I, for one, praise it. Moreover, I’d like to see more people willing to give their all for Art, and most of all, for their Gods.

castrati

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on January 20, 2019, in Art, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I think it becomes a very troubling idea for people to think a child might legitimately know what they want and that it should be honored. It might sound flippant, but so many adults don’t know what they want and seem compromised in their decision making at times, yet that agency is privileged.

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    • that’s a really good point. Im not generally indecisive about anything so I find it often incomprehensible when adults I know can’t figure out what they want. (i have many other flaws lol but indecisiveness isn’t one of them). I do think there are times when parents need to parent and tell a child , ‘No.” but i would not make wanting to pursue the Arts one of those times, regardless of the sacrifice.

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      • And there is a lack of consistency when you compare the reaction to the castrati against the reaction to a minor surgically and chemically transitioning. It does seem hypocritical, but the issue at stake for people seems to be “one is working in tandem with religious authority” vs. “self-expression.”

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  2. I read historical romances and some of them are set in the Middle Ages. One author who researches the 1300s for her novels remarked that marriage for girls and women was at 12 to 14 years old. If they were 20 and unmarried, it was very rare and usually unheard of. However, in writing for modern readers, she has to figure out how to have 20 year old unmarried women while still adhering to the period. Modern audiences would not stand still for child marriages.

    I am sure if it is post-modernism or what. I do know that people do read history backwards – i.e. interpret from their own period and know what has already happened. James Gallagher of UVA teaches U.S. Civil War classes. He says people need to read forward, and when you study the Civil War, you have to start at 1859 or 1860 reading the documents, not start at 2015 and decide what is relevant. He is the bane of the Lost Cause people and the Pro-Confederacy people. He keeps telling them to read the documents that each state legislature wrote before voting succession. They all discuss slavery as the reason. It is the only thing that takes up all of the legislature’s time.

    I mention this because if you actually read history forward, your pet theories of life are usually blown out of the water. People do not like being challenged about their world views.

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  3. Jean-Pierre, it makes a fuck ton more sense to me to be doing something out of piety or religious respect than “self expression.” self expression is all too often following the trend of the masses.

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  4. I think castration is immediately attached in the postmodern kind to undue influence or predatory religion a la Heavens Gate where members gave their will over to a leader and castrated themselves before committing suicide— Or that castration supports the assumption that natural bodily desire is sinful so a poor soul goes through with it having internalized shame and guilt. That is different than willingly changing ones own body to be more creative/useful/beautiful in an other-than-normal way. The nuances of motivation and intent are important here. I agree art and beauty are born of pain or at least discomfort bc it usually comes from tension of opposing forces. Birth is a baseline example of that.

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  5. I think castration is immediately attached, in the postmodern mind, to undue influence or predatory religion a la Heavens Gate where members gave their will over to a leader and castrated themselves before committing suicide— Or that castration supports the assumption that natural bodily desire is sinful so a poor soul goes through with it having internalized shame and guilt. That is different than willingly changing one’s own body to be more creative/useful/beautiful in an other-than-normal way. The nuances of motivation and intent are important here. I agree art and beauty are born of pain or at least discomfort bc it usually comes from tension of opposing forces. Birth is a baseline example of that.

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  6. What’s that historical channel please?

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  7. A lot of people fall into “I find this icky and disturbing, therefor it is wrong” ideology when exposed to thoughts, concepts, actions, and desires outside of what they consider the norm.

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  8. My art teacher in high school was a sculptor and glass worker (he made some exquisite stained glass windows) who had been crippled by some of the toxic material he worked with. I wondered, at the time, why he had done it, and why he never regretted it.

    Later in life, I, too, was crippled by my art. I look back on all of the pain it caused me, and the lessons I learned from it, and the experiences I had because of it, and I wouldn’t trade away a second of that pain. It was that valuable. The creation of art is akin to touching the sacred, sometimes. I think I would agree that it is a sacrifice – that which is surrendered to it is made holy. The process of creating and of giving a part of myself up to do so transformed me as a person, and for the better.

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    • that’s it exactly: it’s touching the sacred. i love the way you describe it!

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    • Hello Owlet, i´ve just loved what you wrote in here. Let me paraphrase you, in regards to how your words echoed in me:
      “Later in life, I, too, was brought to pain by the Sacred. I look back on all of the pain the Powers have caused me, and the lessons I learned, and the experiences I had, and I wouldn’t trade away a second of that pain. It is that valuable. Touching the Sacred is a sacrifice – that which is surrendered to the Gods is made holy. Their process of creating something anew of me and my own process of surrendering myself up to Them constantly transforms me as a person.”
      I should add that this transformative process is freaking terrifying, it brings pain and love and laughter and pleasure beyond human understanding. You´ll never know what to expect, you´ll never be “safe” again. And you want more and more of it. You pay the price, you do, for Them.
      Thank you

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  9. Anyone who undertakes a sacrifice which results in fewer children is ok in my book.

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  10. Ok. Sorry, my poor spelling got the better of me.
    “Articles of Secession” – documents that 13 southern U.S. states and Az. territory voted to leave the union of the United States.

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