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Violin: the Devil's Instrument?
The violin has been associated with Satan in Western culture for generations (think of the rock song "The Devil went down to Georgia"), but the "devil as fiddler" motif has evolved in stages over the past two millennia - religions, folk tales, and literature all merge to produce a central myth.

The roots of this association trace back to ancient Greek religious cults, where musical instruments were commonly associated with special dieties and ethical attributes. Aristotle pronounced the aulos "not an instrument that expresses moral character; it is too exciting."

The modern violin emerged in the 16th century, and was often used as an accompaniment to dancing. Peasant performers in dances were denounced in the afterglow of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic counter-Reformation. Many writers blamed the devil for the very existence of dance. The devil, as agent of death and creator of dance, bcame linked to the violin during the Renaissance period, as depicted by paintings such as Pieter Brueghel's "The Triumph of Death" and Hendrik Goltzius's "Couple Playing, with Death Behind."


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Perhaps because of his otherworldly skill, devilish tales swirld around Paganini. He was rumored to:


  1. Have sold his soul to the devil, or even himself be Satan incarnate
  2. Use the guts of murdered women as string material for his violins

  3. Have been imprisoned for gambling debts

Due to the superstitions surrounding him, and the fact that he didn't receive last rights before death, permission to bury his body in consecrated ground was withheld until five years after his death, after an official inquiry could be made into his orthodoxy, and his son could give a generous "donation" to the church.


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