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Celestial Cervantes: Mauricio's Astrology, the Heavens, and the Search for Terrestrial Order.

Mauricio, el astrologo de Persiles y Sigismunda, es uno de los personajes mas enigmaticos de la ultima novela de Cervantes. El contraste entre su fe y su ciencia adivinadora presenta una imagen paradojica de la interaccion de estas dos cosmovisiones. Al analizar a Mauricio, las creencias de la Iglesia y la cultura europea con respecto a la astrologia judiciaria, y la presentacion de la magia en las obras de Cervantes, este articulo pretende situar a Mauricio de manera mas matizada para que el lector pueda entender la complejidad de los debates sobre la religion, la ciencia, y la magia en el contexto cervantino.


ASTROLOGY HAS PROVEN ITSELF a resilient survivor. The 2014 edition of the Science and Engineering Indicators report, which studies public perception of the sciences in the United States, revealed that skepticism with regard to the scientific nature of this pseudoscience has waned of late; "In 2012, slightly more than half of Americans said that astrology was 'not at all scientific,' whereas nearly two-thirds gave this response in 2010. The comparable percentage has not been this low since 1983" (National Science Board). This decrease has been accompanied by increased interest in this branch of quasiscientific divination since 2016. A casual search of media outlets reveals a plethora of articles written in 2018 that attest to its rising popularity; articles with titles such as "How Astrology Took Over the Internet" (New York Times, 1 January 2018), "Star Gazing: Why Millennial Are Turning to Astrology" (The Guardian, 11 March 2018), and "Why Are Millennial So Into Astrology?" (The Atlantic, 16 January 2018).

Many of these articles attempt to divine the reason for astrology's revitalization. References to the uncertainty created by the 2016 presidential elections in the United States abound, and we could easily add economic uncertainty and other geopolitical crises to the list of possible causal factors. Regarding this surge in interest, Rebecca Nicholson, author of the aforementioned piece in The Guardian, writes, "The idea of turning to an existing belief system in a time of crisis is as universal as it is familiar" (Nicholson).

This search for meaning in times of doubt is coupled with the internet's capacity to share astrology with a larger audience in new and diverse ways. Revolutionary technological innovations and new ways of using them have brought astrology out of its isolated niche. Julie Beck of The Atlantic equates astrology and a contemporary media phenomenon: "Astrology is a meme, and it's spreading in that blooming, unfurling way that memes do" (Beck). (1) The nexus of social factors and the means by which they are disseminated in society has once again created an environment in which reading the stars has captured the cultural imagination. For any reader of Golden Age Spanish literature, the echoes of the past are unavoidable. The rise of print horoscopes and the crises of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries similarly facilitated this previous renaissance in astrological thought. (2)

Human nature demands we seek a system upon which our anxieties and doubts can be projected in order to make sense of that which may seem unreasonable and causes cognitive dissonance. Like any kind of thought system--be it scientific, religious, or other--astrology attempts to construct a system that provides an approximation to a rigorous explanation of events and states within a cogent frame of reference known most commonly as "reality." (3) Its level of acceptance is contingent upon an individual's and/or a group's assessment of its efficacy in accomplishing this goal. The societal conditions are now right for a greater number of people to judge astrology as a useful way of looking at the world--though we will address the issue of what constitutes "useful" a bit later when we consider what Mauricio's astrology says about the insights Cervantes offers us in Persiles y Sigismunda.

That said, I would like to imbue the following pages with several overtones. First, despite its relegation to the curiosities of New Age beliefs and the Renaissance debate with regard to "magic," astrology is still a functioning part of our culture and many cultures throughout the world. In fact, looking to the stars to make sense of the human condition seems to be an almost universal phenomenon. Astrological thought can be found across the globe and throughout history.

Second, astrology allows its adherents to comment, via a proxy, more directly on terrestrial circumstances instead of on the state of the celestial sphere. Etymologically speaking, astronomy means star-arranging and astrology means the knowledge derived from star-arranging. (4) The heavens are the key through which astrologers attempt to decipher the system of the world, their place, and the place of others in it. As Paola Zambelli notes, both astrology and magic were heavily systematized during the scholastic period (1100-1700), and "magicians and astrologers worked out highly articulated bodies of knowledge, rich in complex argumentation" (20). This system's primary concern was how astrologers' observations of the stars made sense of the confused disorder of nature and human existence.

Finally, I would like to highlight that an astrologer's conclusions, though arrived at erroneously, can make "accurate" predictions. Of course, this can be addressed with the dictum that correlation does not imply causation, but I believe that astrology is a disguise that masks the true basis for some accurate heuristic judgments. (5) These mental shortcuts frequently need a system that appears to justify their conclusions. Astrology provides this as its flexibility and lack of precision make it adaptable enough to serve a wide-range of heuristics.

By briefly exploring the breadth and depth of early modern astrology, I hope to better frame, or perhaps unframe, Mauricio for the contemporary reader and analyze how he serves as a foil to other "magic" users and his fellow travelers in Persiles y Sigismunda. I will also attempt to nuance our understanding of astrology's role in the seventeenth century Spain while considering the long, multifaceted paradigm shift in magical and scientific thinking.

The elderly Hibernian astrologer whom Cervantes chose to make a central character in books i and 2 of Persiles y Sigismunda is a paradox. His faith in astrology is starkly contrasted with his staunch Catholic beliefs. When we first meet him, he proclaims, "Soy cristiano catolico, y no de aquellos que andan mendigando la fe verdadera entre opiniones" (97-98). Yet, two sentences later he states: "He sido aficionado a la ciencia de la astrologia judiciaria, en la cual he alcanzado famoso nombre." This initial statement of his creed, like many of the numerous others found throughout the text, is complicated by a subsequent declaration that could be viewed as running counter to the authenticity or purity of Mauricio's professed Catholic faith. He is a devout Catholic whose expertise is predicting the future, the purview of the Almighty. Even though his ability to foretell future events is not presented as peculiar or heretical in and of itself, his attempts to snuff out superstition through reasoned explanations for supernatural events set him apart from, but also align him with, other characters that make use of--or appear to make use of--sorcery, magic, and witchcraft. He, curiously, walks a fine line between heretical magic user and pious skeptic.

His attempt to convince Rutilio that werewolves do not exist, and that evidence supporting their existence is the fruit of misunderstanding or enchantment, is in line with Don Quixote's claim of the existence of malicious enchanters that frustrate his spectacular deeds and also the coming scientific assertions of the Enlightenment: "'Eso de convertirse en lobas y lobos algunas gentes destas septentrionales es un error grandisimo,' dijo Mauricio 'aunque admitido de muchos'" (122). Yet, as Eva Alberola notes in her study of witchcraft and sorcery in Cervantes's works, until the thirteenth century official church doctrine with regard to witches followed the Canon episcopi produced by the Synod of Ancira in AD 314. This canon law attributed supernatural powers to diabolically created illusions instead of true physical transformations (155). Alberola mentions the Canon in reference to Canizares's description of witches and the aquelarre in "El coloquio de los perros," but Rutilio's savior allegedly goes through a similar transformation. In response to Rutilio's story, Mauricio appeals to this idea in the following description of so-called werewolves:
   Lo que se ha de entender desto de convertirse en lobos es que hay
   una enfermedad a quien llaman los medicos mania lupina, que es
   de calidad que al que la padece le parece que se ha convertido en
   lobo, y aulla como lobo, y se juntan con otros heridos del mismo
   mal, y andan en manadas por los campos y por los montes, ladrando
   ya como perros, o ya aullando como lobos. (122)

Here, Mauricio doubts the authenticity of the physical transformation through supernatural forces, but he does not deny the perceived effect and subsequent existence of the phenomenon despite its fallacious nature. He merely applies a different thought system to this particular case than the others who surround him, ironically aligning him more closely with Catholic doctrine. In this sense, when we consider his adherence to canon law and his application of reason to lycanthropy, he is simultaneously antiquated and forward-thinking.

Mauricio's words are enough to convince Arnaldo, despite the fact that Rutilio, a flesh and blood Italian unable to explain his presence in northern Europe without relying on witchcraft, stands before him. He praises the astrologer when he exclaims, "Gusto me ha dado grande [...] el saber esta verdad, porque tambien yo era uno de los credulos deste error" (124). Arnaldo lends more credence to Mauricio's reasoned musings than to Rutilio's eyewitness account, an opinion that resounds with Neoplatonic idealism in the face of Aristotelian experience. (6) The preference toward this type of proto-rationalism over empirical observations is found in numerous other episodes throughout Cervantes's works. Let us not forget that the only flying woman described by the narrative voice, and not a character, is the woman who is thrown from a tower and is then saved by her billowy dress. (7)

Yet despite his proto-rationalism and adherence to medieval canon law, Mauricio is problematic--at least in part--within the cultural context of the age. Given our general understanding of the Catholic Church's stance on judicial astrology, it is easy to consider Mauricio a hypocrite and even a heretic. Dating back to antiquity, judicial astrology had been a point of contention in debates relating to its accuracy, but official proclamations made by the Catholic Church during the Renaissance undermined its legitimacy and proscribed its practice--despite its continuing popularity within the courts of numerous royals and pontiffs. Rachel Schmidt notes that an official prohibition by the Church was issued in Coeli et terrae in 1585 (19). Judicial astrology was frequently singled out as heretical among the many applications of reading the stars. From this perspective, Mauricio's identity as Catholic and astrologer is as ridiculous and contradictory as Alonso Quijano's identity as hidalgo and Don Quixote de la Mancha--if not more. Don Quixote follows one thought system while Mauricio attempts to straddle two seemingly opposed epistemologies.

Did Cervantes intend to give his reader another such character? One whose existence openly mocks an erroneously accepted belief system through his apparent hypocrisy (astrologia now instead of los libros de caballerias)? Or maybe Cervantes wished to hollow out a narrative space in which an astrologer could navigate this seeming paradox and thereby support a thought system Cervantes was familiar with and may have enjoyed. (8) Perhaps, but as in the case of Don Quixote, reading Mauricio's character is a much more complex affair, especially if we delve deeper into the debate over astrology and its subsequent decline. With that context in mind, I believe Mauricio is both a humorous caricature and an accurate reflection of the complicated role of astrology in early modern Spain and Europe.

Mauricio is a judicial astrologer; able to read portents, decipher the stars, and demystify the future. While more practical astrological knowledge and techniques were still a central part of European civilization, the prophetic branch practiced by Mauricio was officially proscribed by the Church in 1585. Yet, to better understand the complexity of judicial astrology's role and place in the European Renaissance and beyond, it is necessary to engage with the writings and legacy of Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola.

Both Florentine thinkers studied astrology and what Zambelli calls "natural magic" or "white magic," but Pico is often viewed as a critic of astrology due to his treatise titled Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinicatrium. In chapter one of her monograph White Magic, Black Magic in the European Renaissance, Zambelli endeavors to confirm that both Pico and Ficino were engaged in i486 in an effort to define "magia naturalis" and distinguish it from demonology and ceremonial magic in response to attacks from Pope Innocent VIII (26 and 34). The condemnation of these writings by the Pope and the publication of Malleus Maleficarum in 1487 prompted Pico to respond with his Apologia in which he retracts some of his theses but defends others. The Disputationes were not published until after his death in 1494. Therefore, we could read Pico's apparent refutation of judicial astrology as a way to reframe it more completely as "natural magic." Zambelli writes of the necessity of such actions:
   Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola were undoubtedly very
   different in culture and influence from the simple countrywomen
   accused of witchcraft. Nonetheless, these two scholars aimed at
   establishing a natural theory of magic urgently needed in a period
   when more and more witches were being burned at the stake. It is
   impossible to see all this as a mere coincidence. Only then could
   they return--without incurring too much danger--to their readings
   and hymns, free to continue their speculation and fumigation in
   peace. (22)

This project of framing "white magic" throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth century is obvious when one considers the work of other great Italian "magicians" such as Giambattista della Porta and his Magia Naturalis, which is considered an important work of protoscience. It should be noted that Della Porta died in 1615, only two years before the publication of Persiles y Sigismunda. In fact, this debate was far from over when Cervantes penned the final words of his last work.

Mauricio Molho argues that Cervantes's view of "magic" was most influenced by Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525), whose works Molho suggests Cervantes was familiar with (674). In his nuanced study of Mauricio and Soldino, he explains Pomponazzi's position:
   La originalidad de Pomponazzi y de toda la linea filosofica que
   dimana de su ensenanza, radica precisamente en la identificacion de
   todo lo sobrenatural, o por lo menos de todo lo que aparenta ser
   tal, en un caso unico que, por no natural, o sea, no racional, no
   puede tener existencia propia ante la inteligencia. (675)

The belief that supernatural phenomena are merely illusions seems in line with Mauricio's explanations and strengthens the philosophical/ theological ties between his worldview and the Canon episcopi of AD 314, but Molho notes that, despite this nuanced understanding of the nature of "magic," astrology in Persiles y Sigismunda cannot truly satisfy the requisite existence of free will that was of central importance to the prescient philosophical and theological debates of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He writes, "Por mas que se repita que las estrellas 'inclinan pero no fuerzan,' los personajes del Persiles parecen convencidos de que si fuerzan y que el inclinar no es mas que el preludio del forzar" (677). To complicare issues further, Zambelli recognizes that Pomponazzi's beliefs proved problematic with regard to certain aspect of Catholic doctrine:
   Catholic ritual and sacraments (confession, penance, baptism,
   indulgences) presupposed the existence of angels and devils, as
   indeed did the whole doctrine of retribution after death--heaven,
   purgatory and hell. Pomponazzi's denial of their existence was not
   available in print, but inquisitors of those who were close to him
   [...] were quick to accuse him of being the leader of the
   "strigi-magi" without religion. (7)

Therefore, it feels incorrect to claim that Cervantes or even the Church were capable of untangling "white magic" fully from other occult practices found outside and inside the power structures of ecclesiastical and societal entities. Though the Church attempted to exercise a centralizing and authoritative role, the media revolution of the time gave an outlet and platform to many diverse and divergent voices. This conundrum leads us back to the issue of the usefulness and social acceptance of judicial astrology in the years surrounding the publication of Persiles y Sigismunda.

Ironically--especially if we consider the consequences of the debate over "magic," astrology, and science during the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment--a judicial astrologer may have been the worst type of astrologer to find oneself with when adrift on uncharted seas. Mauricio offers no navigational help but instead spends his time attempting to divine the group's future circumstances. (9) His fellow travelers do try to avail themselves of his skills but are consistently frustrated. After Mauricio announces the arrival of an unknown danger, Periandro suggests they delay their departure. Mauricio's response is telling with regard to the usefulness of judicial astrology, "'No,' replico Mauricio 'mejor es arrojarnos en las manos deste peligro, pues no llega a quitar la vida, que no intentar otro camino que nos lleve a perderla" (119). Unlike other applications of astrology that afford humans insight into how to manipulate or better navigate the natural world, such as meteorological astrology in agriculture and navigational astrology in seafaring, Mauricio's judicial astrology describes that which is ultimately immutable but also not truly having taken form yet--the paradox that makes Mauricio a paradox. He can see the future but do nothing to change it. (10)

Finally, Mauricio even uses astrological imagery to criticize Periandro's endless story, "'Apostare' dijo a esta sazon Mauricio a Transila, su hija 'que se pone agora Periando a describirnos toda la celeste esfera, como si importase mucho a lo que va contando el declararnos los movimientos del cielo'" (229). It is a curious choice because it places his professed skill under the critical gaze of the reader, especially when paired with an earlier reference to the Devil as the best astrologer in the world (102). Does he simply use the vocabulary with which he is most comfortable to criticize Periandro's rhetorical skill, much like Cipion in "El coloquio de los perros"? Or, perhaps, he understands the story's ulterior motive and finds Periandro's attempts to use his skill as a storyteller to delay and deflect attempts to reveal his true identity to be ultimately unsavory. In conjunction with the many other curious ironies and seeming contradictions, this reinforces the tendency to judge Mauricio to be a foolish old man wedded to antiquated and heretical beliefs.

Nonetheless, there may be another side to Mauricio and how we could view him. We have already scratched the surface of the philosophical/theological debate over "natural magic" during the Renaissance and early Baroque, but in order to better understand the perspective of Cervantes's contemporary readers, it is essential to consider its role in the academic and popular cultures of the epoch. Recent scholarship shows that judicial astrology was not as forbidden as we once thought. In "From Intense Teaching to Neglect: The Decline of Astrology at the University of Valencia and the Role of the Spanish Novatores," Tayra Lanuza Navarro details the prevalence of judicial astrology at the University of Valencia during the seventeenth century, "Throughout the century, these professors taught judiciary astrology at the universities. They taught how to make natal charts, and published works on the same ideas during the same period. They quoted forbidden authors. They even translated them" (Lanuza Navarro 423). This is not an isolated case as Luis Miguel Carolino shows in "The Jesuit Paradox: Intellectual Authority, Political Power and the Marginalization of Astrology in Early Modern Portugal." He details a similar process throughout the seventeenth century at the College of Santo Antao, "an institution usually depicted as the main institution for scientific training of early modern Portugal" (440). (11)

This curious phenomenon shows that, in the academic realm, the argument over astrology was far from settled. The debate over free will that occupied the attention of many philosophers, theologians, and authors during the final century of Cervantes's life was nuanced to the point of being confusing. It was also central to a belief in astrology that effectively walked a line between doctrine and heresy. The concept of God's grace and its possible influence on free will opened the door for a counter argument in favor of judicial astrology. The stars like the Almighty do not dictate but merely influence the behavior of humans and the natural world. This concept is found in the roots of Renaissance astrology. Sheila Rabin, citing the work of D. P. Walker, shows how Ficino and Pico, despite their differences, both placed free will above and apart from astrological influence, "But Walker maintained that in the Disputations Pico, like Ficino, accepted astrology when it did not interfere with human free will or divine providence, and rejected it when it did" (173). Both scholars seemingly set a red line with regard to manipulating free will, but the other possible influences of the cosmos on earthly matters occupied a nebulous field of thought. (12) This lack of set beliefs with regard to astrology made excusing its ambiguity and inaccuracy much easier. Astrology and astrologers were able to carve out a niche between human free will and the inscrutable mysteries of God.

Other studies illustrate the quotidian and wide-ranging usefulness of judicial astrology. Mark S. Dawson's study "Astrology and Human Variation in Early Modern England" details the work of several astrologers in solving crimes through their cosmological observations. He observes, "Vexed owners or employers, injured victims, and grieving families turned to astrology. Astrology became profiling early modern style: consulting almanacs, casting horoscopes, and examining the physiognomy of victims or suspects crudely equivalent to a modern crime lab's microscopy and genomic testing, its psychological assessments and polygraphed interrogations" (33). This is important to note because as he states, "Astral surveillance was not the domain of a bookish minority. Genteel and middling people sought the advice of experts touted in the colophons of these same publications, or by handbills promising services ranging from medical therapy to figure-casting and one-on-one tuition in the same" (35). The popularity of horoscopes and astrological almanacs boomed with the rise of print media and became increasingly available to people of all walks of life. Judicial astrology and its divinatory relatives, despite their prohibited status, were commonplace throughout all levels of European society during Cervantes's lifetime.

Their prevalence, of course, does not neutralize the possibility that the author of Persiles y Sigismunda actively criticizes the practice of astrology, but it does show that he would not necessarily be following the general trend in the society of his time if he were to do so. (13) In fact, if Mauricio, as a character, constitutes a straightforward critique of astrology, his critical role would go against much of the popular and academic sentiment of the time.

So, with this nuanced understanding of astrology and Mauricio, how does this inform our more complete reading of Persiles y Sigismunda. Elsewhere, I have argued that Auristela/Sigismunda is a character trapped in a socially dictated orbit that she cannot fully escape. This led me to think of Persiles y Sigismunda as an astrological novel. By this I mean that it is a novel in which terrestrial order is explained and reified by looking to the heavens. Pondering the stars provides a reflection of earthly circumstances and cultural forces that dictate the movement of people throughout the social geography of the world--a functioning world picture or thought system projected upon the topography of nature and human existence.

The heavens and gazing at them is a central leitmotif in this novel beyond its treatment with regard to self-proclaimed astrologers. The initial image of the narrow daylit opening seen from the depths of a dark dungeon presents the reader with the sensation of looking up in the darkness toward a tiny point of light above. Periandro continues to look up toward even more points of light when he is finally extracted from the mazmorra-, "No mostraba el gallardo mozo en su semblante genero de afliccion alguna; antes, con ojos al parecer alegres, alzo el rostro, y miro al cielo por todas partes" (38). He searches there for another golden star: Auristela. The episodes that follow are replete with similar scenes. Almost everyone casts their gaze up to the heavens in a moment of desperation or deep reflection. (14) Mauricio is the only character to look to the heavens in a reasoned and methodical way. While others silently, or not so silently, implore the heavens to aid them or provide clarity, Mauricio attempts to make them speak through his scientific observations. Are his attempts more or less reasonable than those of his fellow travelers?

His relationship with the stars must be situated between his companions's search for heavenly mercy and the actions of "magic" users such as Cenotia. Her association with Zoroastrian astrology sets her up as a colleague of and a foil to Mauricio. She is a user of "black magic" who attempts to present herself as a user of "white magic." When we first meet her, she describes her astrology:
   Mi estirpe es agarena; mis ejercicios, los de Zoroastes, y en ellos
   soy unica.  Ves este sol que nos alumbra? Pues si, para senal de lo
   que puedo, quieres que le quite los rayos y le asombre con nubes,
   pidemelo, que hare que a esta claridad suceda en un punto escura
   noche; o ya si quisieres ver temblar la tierra, pelear los vientos,
   alterarse el mar, encontrarse los montes, bramar las fieras, o
   otras espantosas senales que nos representen la confusion del caos
   primero, pidelo, que tu quedaras satisfecho y yo acreditada.

The most important distinction between her astrology and Mauricio's is found in her claim that she can actively manipulate nature through this practice. Yet, this is ultimately limited by free will, "Puesto que en mudar las voluntades, sacarlas de su quicio, como esto es ir contra el libre albedrio, no hay ciencia que lo pueda, ni virtud de yerbas que lo alcancen" (192). Though she claims her magical science can produce quantifiable results, she too is unable to alter the course set by free will.

In her study of Cenotia, Rachel Schmidt succeeds in nuancing this complicated character but also recognizing that she diverges from characters such as Mauricio in important ways. Cenotia, due to her liminal social role as a morisca woman, is often viewed as a hechicera instead of as an astrologa and encantadora. The difference in connotations attached to these words is mirrored in Ficino and Pico's attempt to frame "natural magic." As Schmidt argues, Cenotia believes herself to be an astrologer and enchantress, not a diabolical sorceress (20). But her "white magic" is overcome by a "dark" licentious desire for Antonio the Younger. This unrequited attraction leads her to seek revenge through occult practices. She is aware she cannot change Antonio's lack of desire for her, but she can punish it.

This type of folk "magic" is a recurrent theme in Cervantes's works. (15) Other similar misguided attempts to create desire in an unwilling person, or simply to take revenge upon that person, are present in Persiles y Sigismunda (Hipolita) and beyond. Alberola argues that "El licenciado Vidriera" is meant, in part, to warn readers about swindlers who use filtros under the guise of magical love potions that are in fact poisons (164). Therefore, if we consider the charms that Cenotia places in a doorjamb as a practice akin to the use of poison or a "love potion" and not as part of her magic we can separate Cenotia's "white magic" from her "black magic." (16) In the end, she is a fallen astrologer who gives into the temptations presented by desire to control the will of another. Mauricio and she are similar in their beliefs, but it is this desire that causes her to believe that her thought system can effect a change in the world beyond its capacity.

This leaves one common feature shared among all the characters that look to the heavens; they are unable to know the effect of their supplications, analyses, and manipulations on other human beings a ciencia cierta despite their desire to the contrary. They, like the meandering planets, seem to follow predictable paths, but deviations are visible. Auristela, seemingly a fixed golden star, is in fact the wandering Sigismunda. Periandro, a simulacrum of all men, is in fact the pursuing Persiles. And Mauricio's astrology is the nuanced via media between those that look to a fixed and perfect celestial sphere--a rapidly crumbling misconception--and others who falsely claim they can usurp the powers of the Almighty. Instead of an antiquated fool, Mauricio can be seen as someone who casts a critical gaze to the heavens and sees the imperfect, unpredictable, and mutable world in which he and his fellow travelers move reflected on high. Like Don Quixote, his apparent foolishness reveals the foolishness of all that surround him. He is the fool who speaks the truth in that which he will not say with certainty.

Mauricio understands the limits of the thought system that constitutes his view of reality and is able to resist the temptations to think and act otherwise. In the end, Cervantes might have meant to attack astrology but he might also have meant to defend it. Both actions would seem to point to either a full acceptance or rejection of astrology, but I do not believe Cervantes does either. It seems to me that Cervantes was a fascinated student of astrology who saw its problematic and, at times, contradictory interactions with Catholic thought, and, instead of subscribing to the fallacy of true binary oppositions, provides his readers with complex and contradictory characters that walk the line between both sides of the issue. He may have been much like today's "millennial" astrologers. In her article on contemporary astrology Julie Beck points to the fact that many who have begun to study astrology in recent years are not rejecting rationalism completely in favor of mysticism (Beck). Like Cervantes's characters, they navigate the unclear border between that which rational, scientific thought clearly explains and that which escapes it. Their desire to make sense allows them to adopt a multiplicity of diverse thought systems, each with its own limits, in the pursuit of a functional understanding of reality, and, like their early modern antecedents, once again cast their gaze upward toward the heavens.


Stephen Hessel is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Ball State University. His research focuses on metacritical approaches to Cervantes's literary works and biography within contemporary culture. His scholarly work can be found in Cervantes, Anuario de Estudios Cervantinos, Hipogrifo: Revista de literatura y cultura del Siglo de Oro and books such as Metacritical Cervantes, Fear Itself Reasoning the Unreasonable, and an edition of Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (Cervantes & Co.).

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Nicholson, Rebecca. "Star gazing: Why millennials are turning to astrology." The Guardian 11 March 2018. Accessed: 18 December 2018. https://www.theguardian. com/global/2018/mar/11/star-gazing-why-millennials-are-turning-to-astrology

Rabin, Sheila J. "Pico and the Historiography of Renaissance Astrology." Explorations in Renaissance Culture 36.2 (2010): 170-80.

Schmidt, Rachel. "La maga Cenotia y el arquero Antonio: El encuentro en clave alegorica en el Persiles." eHumanista/Cervantes 2 (2013): 19-38. Accessed: 18 December 2018. sitefiles/cervantes/volume2/ehumcerv2.Schmidt.pdf

Williamsen, Amy R. Co(s)mic Chaos: Exploring LOS TRABAJOS DE PERSILES Y SIGISMUNDA. Newark: Juan de la Cuesta, 1994.

Zambelli, Paola. White Magic, Black Magic in the European Renaissance. Boston: Leiden, 2007.

(1) Mernes are defined in the context of the internet as a captioned video or picture that is spread from user to user on social media platforms, but more generally they can be a myriad of phenomena spread from person to person within a culture or cross-culturally.

(2) Tayra Lanuza Navarro claims that the eighteenth century was considered "the golden age of almanac publications" in Spain (411), though Carolino tempers the impact of this by stating that by the end of the seventeenth century, at least in Portugal, "the crowd that squandered money on mass-market literature no longer particularly looked for astrology in popular almanacs" (440). It would appear that as almanacs became more popular their astrological content declined, but the early seventeenth century could be seen as a sweet spot in which "massmarket literature" became more prevalent before the public began to lose interest in astrology.

(3) In their 2010 book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow argue that reality is constituted through the interactions of various world pictures (7). Therefore, in the absence of a "theory of everything," reality is cobbled together by applying models to natural phenomena. This anti-positivistic understanding of reality complicates the goals of the Enlightenment and emits echoes of the early Baroque when the rise of new technologies facilitated an unstable coexistence of a melange of authorial voices. Each vied to impose their own system of "reality."

(4) Both words derived from Greek contain "astron" meaning "star," but "nomos" and "logia" mean "arranging" and "treating of." The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the words were essentially used as synonyms for a long time, but this subtle difference in meaning is of importance in the context of Mauricio and Persiles y Sigismunda. His knowledge of the arrangement of the stars is applied to their effect on terrestrial affairs.

(5) In psychology, heuristics are defined as simple and efficient rules that aid in decisionmaking. They are primarily based on a type of rapid pattern recognition, allowing the brain to formulate an actionable assessment of something without exhaustively proving its veracity.

(6) Arnaldo's belief is humorous if we consider the fact that he tends to believe words over what is right under his nose. Clodio can see the truth about Periandro and Auristela but is unable to convince Arnaldo.

(7) "Alzaron todos la vista, y vieron bajar por el aire una figura, que, antes que distinguiesen lo que era, ya estaba en el suelo junto casi a los pies de Periandro. La cual figura era de una mujer hermosisima, que, habiendo sido arrojada desde lo alto de la torre, sirviendole de campana y de alas sus mismos vestidos, la puso de pies y en el suelo sin dano alguno: cosa posible sin ser milagro" (360-61; emphasis added).

(8) In her article '"Coluros, lineas, paralelos y zodiacos,'" Julia Dominguez shows through careful analysis of the episode of the "barco encantado" in Don Quixote that Cervantes was likely quite knowledgeable in astrological matters (143).

(9) Molho mentions that astrology helps Mauricio find Transila (677), but I would argue that his felicitous encounter with his daughter has less to do with where to go but rather when to be ready to find her. Transila's two-year absence is ended when Mauricio lifts her veil, but both his reactions and subsequent words evidence his doubt; he faints and then explains that the Devil is the only astrologer who can be certain of his own astrological predictions.

(10) In Co(s)mic Chaos, Amy Williamsen adds another problematic wrinkle to Mauricio's ability to foretell the future. She focuses on the irony of a chapter heading "Donde Mauricio sabe por la astrologia un mal suceso que les avino en el mar." She writes, "Here the irony stems from the incongruity of the sequence of verbal tenses. 'Sabe,' ['learns'] in the present tense, directly opposes 'avino' ['befell'] in the past. To learn, or to find out, something that has happened to oneself in the past does not constitute a psychic phenomenon" (136).

(11) Zambelli confirms this and shows it to be a much more widespread phenomenon, 'After all, astrology could be passed on more openly than other occult disciplines, since there were chairs of astrology in many universities and astrological science was apt to be formalized" (20).

(12) Rabin notes that much of what contemporary scholars group together as astrology may not have been considered astrology per se during the Renaissance: "The acceptance of celestial spirits, for example, was not necessarily astrological in the Renaissance because they were often seen as planetary movers, as Pico used them in book 4 of the Disputations" (174).

(13) Alberola, who situates Cervantes among the skeptics that doubt the authenticity of magic, notes that his criticism of magic is coupled with his fascination in it. This ironically led to a further authorization of these ideas: "Cervantes creyo hacer una constante burla de las practicantes de las artes oscuras, pero hizo mucho mas que eso. Fue un burlador burlado, en tanto fue uno de los principales potenciadores del tratamiento literario hechiceril y el primer autor espanol en dar vida a una bruja como personaje con su propia voz en un texto de ficcion" (164).

(14) I tried to accurately count the references to the heavens but ultimately gave up because they were too ubiquitous to keep straight.

(15) Christina Lee's forthcoming chapter titled "Sexual Deviance and Morisco Marginality in Cervantes' Persiles y Sigismunda" in Goodbye Eros: Recasting Forms and Norms of Love in the Age of Cervantes makes it clear that Cenotia does not in fact use the magic she claims to possess.

(16) It is important to keep in mind that during Cervantes's lifetime, medical knowledge was not well substantiated within a scientific framework. Poisoning did not have to come from ingestion of a toxin. Other practices, like the one described with regard to Antonio the Younger and Cenotia, could be believed without ascribing them to occult magic.
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Author:Hessel, Stephen
Publication:Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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