Sonnets of Celebration: Hebrew Wedding Poems and Riddles in Honor of the Bride and Groom

Wedding Poem

Mantua? 1722
Bride: Stella (Kokhav)
Groom: Shabbetai Raphael son of the late Joshua Gonzaga

In post-Renaissance Italy, illustrations of the pagan gods of ancient Greco-Roman mythology occasionally served as decorative motifs in both Jewish and Christian wedding poems. In the Jewish example shown here, these images are an allusion, not to the pagan gods themselves, but rather to the astrological phenomena whose namesakes they were. Mercury, the messenger of the gods, is characteristically depicted with winged feet, a winged hat and a caduceus (a serpent-entwined winged staff). The second figure, a bearded man holding a scythe, is a representation of Saturn, the Roman god of time. In turn, these planetary names, in their Hebrew incarnations, mirror the names of the bride (Stella/Kohav = Mercury) and groom (Shabbetai = Saturn).

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