Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Wait, is it 2021? I thought it was 1575, in Shrewsbury.
Today is the first of only two days for the Siouxland Renaissance Festival, and as I’m writing this in advance, if all goes as planned, I am sitting at a booth explaining that I’m Marcus Bragadino.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota the Renaissance Fair lasts one weekend a year. Right now, it’s been 1575 for twenty years now. We’re just stuck in a loop in time, but that’s okay. We like this loop. It’s great fun, with entertainers, food, goods, and frankly, marvelous people. I always enjoyed working the front gate, greeting our patrons with some lighthearted banter. I enjoyed explaining why men would always bow by extending their leg and turning their heel. As it turns out, in this year of our Lord 1575, nothing is more attractive to a woman than a man’s leg calf. Ah, how can we ever explain the thinking of these mystic creatures called “woman”.
Marco Bragadino is such a fun character from history. There’s an inconsistency as I don’t believe Marco ever traveled to England (Shrewsbury or otherwise), but he was quite successful. In fact, he was probably one of the most successful alchemists of all time because he wasn’t an alchemist. He was actually a con man, a grifter, a cheat. Born with the name Mamugna, he didn’t take the name Marco Bragadino until after the actual Marco Antonio Bragadino, a celebrated officer in the Venetian Army officer died in battle. Shortly thereafter, Mamugna claimed to be Marco’s illegitimate son, and, of course, Captain-General Bragadino couldn’t refute the claim.
Marco claimed to have trapped the devil and refused to let him go free until the devil shared the secrets of true alchemy with him. With this story, he claims to be the only alchemist because he alone knew how to create the sorcerer’s stone. I myself will be using the story of Marco as an educational tool. If all goes according to plan, I have several handouts with me, one comparing the beliefs of alchemy to modern atomic theory. Another will have the moral lessons of alchemy, as alchemists all came from moderate wealth, looking for great riches and immortal life through the elixir of life. They spent their entire fortune buying lab equipment and usually died paupers, and usually young and in poor health since they were working with heavy metals and usually ended up with poisoning as a result. I also have a handout on Marco himself, and a bit of history on the actual man himself.
Eventually he was hung, three times, for his crimes. He was hung three times because back then, they would hang you until you stopped kicking, then revived you as often as possible to repeat the process. Marco was revived twice. Part of his con, sadly, involved three massive black dogs that he claimed to be demons given to him by the devil as a gift. Unfortunately, the dogs were hung as well.
What an incredible and rich character was for the Renaissance fair. Tragic to be sure, but an incredible free spirit, with great lessons in chemistry, and ethics. Hopefully my character will be a popular addition to the Siouxland Renaissance Fair (at the Lyons Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls if you want to meet me in person). I’m kind of hoping that I can do some distillation demonstrations, one of only about half a dozen alchemical operations while I’m there, but it depends on how stable the table is.
This is an odd day for another reason. Today also is the start of my Pampered Chef Launch Party, an online party to celebrate my becoming a consultant for the company ( https://www.pamperedchef.com/party/richardbleil0607 ). Online parties with Pampered Chef are actually pretty simple and more or less fly on their own. By the time I am at the Fair (as I’ve said, I’m ahead on these posts) the posts are ready to go, personalized, and my role is to interact with posts and comments as the party proceeds. I’m doing this one on my own as I am the host of my own party, but as a consultant, for those who host a party with me, I’m the one who sets them up, prepares the posts (I have five lined up as of now), personalize them…all of it. The party hosts will be asked to make a couple of posts (introducing themselves early and thanking people at the end) and can post anything they wish beyond that but otherwise are not obligated.
Yes, indeed, a big weekend for me.