Omnia transformat sese in miracula rerum."--VIRGIL, Georg,. 1. 4.
As to what became of the old god of war Mars since the victory of the Christians I can tell you but little. I am inclined to believe that during the Middle Ages he exercised the law of the strong hand. The nephew of the executioner of Münster once met him in Bologna."--HEINE, Die Götter in Exil
OF Maso I could learn nothing more, save that he was a very great folletto, or spirit, who protects or presides over the crops, and is a special patron of girls or "women who make love," by which, I suspect, those are meant who make it rather freely than otherwise.
"The old root of Mars," remarks PRELLER, "seems to be Mar or Mas, and indicates, the virile strength of a generating and inspiring deity, who was originally a god of nature, but whom later ages reduced to simply a god of war. From mar came by reduplication Marmar and Marmer, by which name he is invoked in the song of the Arval Brothers, to protect and bless the fields. In old times he was honoured as a protecting deity of marriage and of married life. Here Martea is allied to Mars as the goddess of love and of desire."
If Maso be Mars, it is probable that we have him here known only by his first name and earliest attributes. My informant positively denied that Maso was in this case only the diminutive of Tommaso, or Thomas--as was (of course)
Maso. After Gerhard and Gori
promptly suggested by one of the learned. And I am inclined to believe the former, because there is no apparent reason whatever, beyond mere resemblance of name, why a spirit of nature should be called Thomas after a saint, while that
between the modern Maso and the ancient Mas is very great. A single coincidence, be it of name or attribute, or incident, gives basis for nothing more than an hypothesis, or supposition; two, as of name and attribute, entitles us to form a theory; three, as when both are borne out by established tradition and testimony, constitute authentic history. In this case the latter is wanting, but great allowance must be made for the fact that Maso appears in company with a number of others of whose authenticity there can be little doubt.
It is to be particularly observed that in the prayer to Mars given by Cato (de re rustica, cap: 141), which is of very great antiquity, this deity is, as Panzer (Bayerische Sagen, p. 525) observes, invoked solely as a god of crops, "ist ganz als Ärntegott dargestellt," and that all the offerings brought to him indicate that he was a god of harvests. This view of Mars, according to Panzer, is confirmed by passages in the Euguban tablets, so far as they have been deciphered.
Elias Schedius (De Dis Germanis) has gathered together much learning to prove that Mars autem nullus alius nisi Sol ("Mars is none other than the Sun"), that is to say, the fructifying and vivifying principle of nature. And it is as such that he appears in old Etruscan mythology.
"The real god of the world below among the Tuscans, or Tusker," writes OTTFRIED MÜLLER, "was called Mantus, who was therefore compared with Dis-pater. In Etruscan histories the name of Mantua was derived from him. With him was worshipped a goddess of the lower realms--the Mania. . . . This was a truly Etruscan divinity . . . . . To the strange and terrible gods to whom the Tuscan libri fatales give human sacrifices . . . belong Mantus and Mania. Terrible to the old Italians seemed Mania . . . who is inseparable from the Tuscan faith of the Lares, being allied to the Manes. She was an awful divinity to whom, under TARQUINIUS SUPERBUS, boys were offered. Her fearful image--afterwards a child's toy--was in early times hung on doors to avert contamination. This Mania was the mother or grandmother of the Manes, also the mother of the Lares." MÜLLER indulges in much speculation as to this chthonic goddess, or deity of darkness.
And she still lives in Tuscany, and is called Mania della Notte (Mania of the Night), but regarded simply as the Nightmare, and Succuba, and as a mysterious nocturnal spirit inspiring wanton dreams.
It has been suggested to me that "the Greek word mania, meaning insanity or madness, has nothing to do with the Latin mania," which to a degree weakens
the connection between the nightmare and the spirit of the night. This I leave to others to discuss; it is enough for me to have shown that there was an Etruscan Mania of the Night of old, and that the nightmare is called by the same name now, in La Romagna Toscana.
It may be observed that both Mania of the Night and Martha of the Day, or her prototype Mater Matuta, were said to be the mothers of the Lares. This indicates the existence of a primal goddess of both night and day. "Mania," writes Mrs. Hamilton Gray (Hist. of Etruria), "was a most fearful spirit to the old Italians. Her frightful image used to be hung over the doors, like a scarecrow, to frighten away evil." This is quite identical with the old Assyrian observance recorded by Lenormant of placing the images of evil or dreaded deities in places to scare away the demons themselves.
I have mentioned in the Preface that Enrico Rossi testified of Mania della Notte that she was "remembered once by many, but it is now a long time since any one at Galeata has spoken of her." From which it may be inferred that the name is passing away rapidly, and but for my inquiries would soon have been among those
"Of the gods who had their turn,
And whose fires no longer burn."