Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition by Charles Godfrey Leland
This reminds me of the task on which I am engaged. If it were only to gather, collate, and correct a collection of fairy tales, or proverbs, or parables, or games, or Exempla, it would be an easy, or at least a defined work. Such pools are not hard to fathom, or count, or measure, or exhaust. But this mass of old, obscure, unrecorded mythology, comes pouring and foaming down like the Arno from the mountains of La Romagna, in whose mysterious recesses still dwells
the dragon’s ancient brood,
And rocks fall over roaring in the flood.
Well, it is a strange country little known–we have Goethe’s word for that–and it has sent me, all in a spring freshet, obscure deities of doubtful name and fame, sorceries, rhymes, legends–dirt and diamonds–tutti confusi e misti. What should I give? What should I suppress? As compared to anything which I have as yet met in folk-lore this has been more like counting Ossian’s ghosts than aught else. Many a time have I almost despaired over it, and many a time been awed.
But hope springs eternal in the human breast, and so I will proceed to discuss my last discovery of a divinity who is generally supposed to have utterly died out nearly two thousand years ago, and yet who lives as a real folletto among a few old witches in La Romagna. I mean Faflon.
FUFLUNUS was the Etruscan Bacchus. “His name,” writes MÜLLER (Die Etrusker, vol. ii., p. 79), “was sounded (lautet) Fuflunus, Fuflunu, Fufluns–generally Fufluns. GERHARDT, i., 83, 84, 87, 90, &c.; CORSSEN (i., p. 313-5). We find on goblets Fufunl (FAHR. P, Spl. n. 453) and Fuflunsl (CORSSEN, i., p. 430), according to CORSSEN from poculum, and poculum Bacchi. He derives the name of the god from the Indogennanic root fu, to beget, ab. Gerhard from Populonia”–which is very doubtful.
On inquiring from my best authority if there was in La Romagna Toscana a spirit of the vineyards, or of wine, I was promptly informed that there was such a being known as Fardel, or Flavo, but among the witches, or those better informed in such mysteries, as Faflon. And at once there was narrated to me a legend which was then written out:–
“Faflon is a spirit who lives in the vines, and when women or men have gathered grapes and filled the panniers, then comes this Faflon and scatters them all on the ground; but woe to the contadini should they be angered at it, for then Faflon knocks them right and left, and tramples (on the grapes), so that they get no profit. But if they take it good-naturedly, he gathers them again, and replaces them in the panniers.
“Now there was a peasant who greatly loved the spirits, and frequently blessed them. One year everything went wrong with him, his crop of grapes and all other fruit failed, yet for all this he still loved Faflon and blessed him.
“One morning he rose to gather what little there was on the vines, but found that even that little was gone. The poor peasant began to weep, and said: Non mi resta che morire. All that remains for me now is to die, for I have lost what little crop I had in my little vineyard.’ When all at once Faflon appeared, but beautiful with a beauty like enchantment–ma tanto bello di una bellezza da fare incantare–and said: ‘Oh, peasant with great coarse shoes, but with a fine brain, thou hast loved me so well I will reward thee. Go to thy cellar, and there a great quantity
D’uva mastatata tu troverai
E gran vino tu lo farai.
(Pressed grapes thou shalt see,
And great thy store of wine will be.)
“Now what Faflon had said seemed to be like a dream to the peasant, but he went to his cellar, and truly the wine which he had that year made him rich, e non ebbe piú biogna di fare il contadino–he was no longer obliged to live as a peasant.”
No one can doubt that this Faflon–it was written in the MS. sometimes Flaflon–is the Fufluns, or Fufunal, of the Etruscans. His appearance as a very beautiful being is perfectly in accordance with that of Bacchus. It is exactly in this manner that Bacchus flashes up in beauty from disguise in classic tales. Bacchus of old carried off mortal beauties for mistresses, and I now give word for word as related by a witch a story of a modern Ariadne:–
“There was a contadino who had several vineyards, yet all went so ill with them for several years that he had not wine enough to drink for his family.
“Now he had a daughter–di una belleza da fare incantare–of enchanting beauty. And one evening as he was sitting almost in despair, his daughter said: ‘Father, dear, do you not know how all this came to pass? Have you forgotten that strange and beautiful youth who once came to you and begged for me–he was so much in love? And when you denied him what he asked, he replied: “If I cannot have her neither shall you have any vintage.”‘
“Then the peasant was very angry, and beat his daughter, so that she had to go to bed. Then he went into the cellar, but what a sight be saw! On all the barrels were devils frolicking; fire flashed from their eyes and flamed from their mouths, and as they danced they sang:–
Give Faflon that girl of thine,
And henceforth thou shalt have wine
If the maiden you deny,
As a beggar thou shalt die.
“Then the man gave his daughter to Faflon, and lo! all the barrels were filled with the best, and from that time his vintages were abundant.”
The picture of the cellar full of frisking Bacchanals and Fauns is good. I suspect that a Catholic influence made them “devils with fire coming out of their mouths.”
But perhaps it was only
Il vino divino
Che fiammeggia nel Sansovino.
(The wine divine
Which flames so red in Sansovine.)