Erik Davis: On The Road 2: Italian Garden Magic

‘I am totally fascinated with the mythomaniac fantasia that characterizes some of the villa gardens that surround Rome, and that I first read about in Joscelyn Godwin’s great The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance. Renaissance Neopaganism was expressed everywhere, from frescoes to philosophy, but the garden, with its grottoes, statues, and greenery, not to mention its metamorphic implications, holds pride of place. (Or maybe I just feel that way because of my frequent and glorious incubation as a lad in the pop-cult grotto that is Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean.) The Neopagan impulse in the Renaissance is particularly delicious because of the fundamental ambiguity about its sacred or esoteric dimension: was the revival of the pagan gods merely the decorative icing on the Classical cake that characterized Humanist and Renaissance trends in Italy? Or was it something more, some nascent polytheism lurking behind the frescoes and the poesy? And what would such polytheism actually mean?’


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