A Fantastic Find and I’m Going to Brag

I don’t usually share things like this, but I am so excited about a recent acquisition that I cannot help myself. Y’all know that I venerate the castrati as a family of ancestral spirits (yes, I know, but it doesn’t matter that they’re not technically my blood ancestors; I love them and they are spiritual ancestors for me). Well, being the tactile person that I am, when I am learning how to honor and engage with a new family of spirits, it often helps to have physical objects. If I am learning proper veneration to a new Deity, I’ll set up a shrine for the same purpose(1). If I’m engaging with an animal spirit as a spirit worker, I want a tooth, claw, or bit of fur, and likewise with my ancestors whenever possible, I like to have a photo or some item that belonged to them. Is this a bit reductionist? Yes. Is it absolutely necessary? Not at all, and in fact, I’ve been honoring the castrati both as a group and as individuals for close to a decade now without having anything approximating a physical object, unless one counts the music they once sang. 

Well, today I can happily say that I now own a scrap of music handwritten and signed by one of the last of the great vocal castrati: Girolamo Crescentini (1762-1846) (2). He was equally regarded as a singer, teacher, and composer and what I acquired today was a bit of music written by him for a correspondent or friend (It is unclear from the provenance for whom he originally wrote the piece). Crescentini was a favorite of Napoleon, (who otherwise despised castrati) who knighted him in 1809. 

What is pictured here is an autographed six bar musical quotation of an arietta, in Crescentini’s own hand. Since he signed it ‘cav. (cavalier) Crescentini,’ we know it must have been written after 1809. There is a little note: Due note sol da mi fibra mi! Assai di piu assai di pire tene do no (You wish to receive just two notes from me, I give you more and more of them). Signed: carattere, e compisizione del Cav. Crescentini (Character and composition of Cavalier Crescentini). 

 I never expected to find something like this and in fact, last year I had an antique dealer who specialized in autographs and musical scores tell me it was nearly impossible to find anything written or signed by the castrati (a Meissen teapot owned by Senesino (1686-1758) came up for auction last year, I believe, but it was way, way, WAY out of my price league omg). I do have a couple medieval manuscript leaves. I pick up inexpensive ones here and there, usually at the medieval conference at Kalamazoo – their book room is heaven and the MSS dealers always have at least a bit priced low for grad students–because they are helpful when I teach. I find students become really engaged when they can actually touch a piece of history and hold it in their hands. It brings it alive like nothing else. None of leaves approach this 5.24×6 inch scrap of music. This is a personal connection to a family of spirits, to one particular spirit that I never, ever, ever expected to find and I am grateful to the Gods and ancestors that I happened to stumble across it (and that it was both relatively inexpensive – it’s small—and within my budget). 

Look. Look at the pretty thing. ^___^. (I’ve very inexpertly blurred my address bc I liked the photo and didn’t want to pull everything out to take it a second time when I realized my home addy showed).

musical notation, inscription, and signature of G. Crescentini. Personal collection of G. Krasskova

  1. At least, that is part of the purpose. The other part, of course, is that this is a space for veneration and a visual sign of welcome for that Deity into one’s home and life. 
  2. The very last of the great operatic castrati was Giovanni Velluti (1780-1861), a younger contemporary of Crescentini. 

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 19, 2021, in Ancestor Work, Art and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I always meant to ask. How did your devotion to the Castrati start?

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    • I can’t remember a time when I didn’t long to hear their voices, when I wasn’t fascinated by their music, when I didn’t want to know their stories. I figure working in ballet through my early twenties, it was natural to know about them, then as I grew deeper into ancestor veneration and more sensitive to the presence of the dead, some of them sort of …showed up.

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      • Well, as you yourself taught me: what is remembered lives. Maybe they liked that a living person was so willing to keep their memory alive that they felt it just made sense to get in touch?

        Hail the Castrati! May their songs resound throughout eternity!

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  2. Do you have any advice (or links to resources) on honouring spiritual family? There’s a few people I admire and would like to forge a closer relationship but am unsure how to approach them.

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    • I treat them pretty much like I do my regular ancestors save that they have their own section of the shrine. I’m sure I’ve written something on it before here. You can check “ancestors” and “ancestor work” tabs. 🙂 My approach really doesn’t change though (with any ancestor I try to suss out what that particular ancestor or group wants, if it’s different from my normal instinct).

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  3. What a wonderful find, Galina! Girolamo Crescentini sounded like a very interesting person. May he and the other Castrati be remembered and praised!

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  4. I’m so happy for you!

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  5. Did you ever hear the “Weird Studies” podcast episode on castrati. One of the hosts is a music professor, but he is pretty free-ranging. My favorite podcast, really.

    https://www.weirdstudies.com/72

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    • Chas. I hadn’t, but thanks for the link. I’m heading there right now. 🙂

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    • they seem very surprised with the idea that one would sacrifice one’s body and generative potential for the beauty of art. lol. Ballet dancers do the former all the time. All excellence demands sacrifice. but this is a really interesting podcast and I’m enjoying it (plus, I’ve read the book they’re talking about). Thank you so much for recommending it!

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