Every Hair Is Numbered

In this fabulous passage from The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, a book which led to Giordano Bruno being burned at the Vatican’s inquisitorial stake in 1600, the god Mercury details all that Jove has assigned him to do in a corner of Campagna, Italy:

That today at noon two of the melons in Father Franzino’s melon patch will be perfectly ripe, but that they won’t be picked until three days from now, when they will no longer be considered good to eat. Jove requests that at the same moment, on the jujube tree at the base of the Monte Cicala in the house of Giovanni Bruno, thirty perfect jujubes will be picked, and he says that several shall fall to earth still green, and that fifteen shall be eaten by worms. That Vasta, wife of Albenzio Savolino, when she means to curl the hair at her temples, shall burn fifty-seven hairs for having let the curling iron get too hot, but she won’t burn her scalp and hence shall not swear when she smells the stench, but shall endure it patiently. That from the dung of her ox two hundred and fifty-two dung beetles shall be born, of which fourteen shall be trampled and killed by Albenzio’s foot, twenty-six shall die upside down, twenty-two shall live in a hole, eighty shall make a pilgrim’s progress around the yard, forty-two shall retire to live under the stone by the door, sixteen shall roll their ball of dung wherever they please, and the rest shall scurry around at random.

Laurenza, when she combs her fair, shall lose seventeen hairs and break thirteen, and of these, ten shall grow back within three days and seven shall never grow back at all. Antonio Savolino’s bitch shall conceive five puppies, of which three shall live out their natural lifespan and two shall be thrown away, and of these three the first shall resemble its mother, the second shall be mongrel, and the third shall partly resemble the father and partly resemble Polidoro’s dog. In that moment a cuckoo shall be heard from La Starza, cuckooing twelve times, no more and no fewer, whereupon it shall leave and fly to ruins of Castle Cicala for eleven minutes, and then shall fly off to Scarvaita, and as for what happens next, we’ll see to it later.

That the skirt Mastro Danese is cutting on his board shall come out crooked. That twelve bedbugs shall leave the slats of Constantino’s bed and head toward the pillow: seven large ones, four small, and one middle-sized, and as for the one who shall survive until this evening’s candlelight, we’ll see to it. That fifteen minutes thereafter, because of the movement of her tongue, which she has passed over her palate four times, the old lady of Fiurulo shall lose the third right molar in her lower jaw, and it shall fall without blood and without pain, because that molar has been loose for seventeen months. That Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted. Martinello’s son is beginning to grow hair on his chest, and his voice is beginning to crack. That Paulino, when he bends over to pick up a broken needle, shall snap the red drawstring of his underpants….

By Jove, that is quite a lot of work for such a tiny corner of Campagna!

"Giordano Bruno Burning" (Andre Durand 2000)

The Fraternity of St. John the Beheaded recounted Bruno’s burning in this account which is considered authoritative by the Catholic Church:

“But he insisted till the end always in his damned refractoriness and twisted brain and his mind with a thousand errors; yes, he didn’t give up his stubborness, not even when the court ushers took him away to the Campo de’ Fiori. There his clothes were taken off, he was bound to a stake and burned alive [e quivi spogliato nudo e legato a un palo fu brusciato vivo]. In all this time he was accompanied by our fraternity, who sang constant litanies, while the comforters tried till the last moment to break his stubborn resistance, till he gave up a miserable and pitiable life.”

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2 thoughts on “Every Hair Is Numbered

  1. Pingback: February 17, 1600 (a Thursday) | Professor Olsen @ Large

  2. Ben C

    Interested to know where you sourced the curious quote attributed to the Fraternity of St John. Thanks.

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