NABOKV-L post 0020689, Tue, 7 Sep 2010 13:07:01 -0400

THOUGHTS: Phanessa/Vanessa, more dark and light
Shade's lines 269-271:
Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,

My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest

My Admirable butterfly!...

Kinbote's note to 270:
It is so like the heart of a scholar in search of a fond name to pile a butterfly genus upon an Orphic divinity on top of the inevitable allusion to Vanhomrigh, Esther!

In Boyd's PFMAD, he says, "Quite what Orphic divinity Kinbote has in mind I cannot ascertain--although an Orphic divinity would be one who comes back from the Underworld, like Orpheus almost leading his Eurydice with him" (171). I believe I have found the divinity in question--one who has emerged not from the Hades but from the so-called egg of creation. The divinity is Phanes, which means light or light-giver. See the following entry for Vanessa in A Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art (1867):

Some scientists doubt that this was the origin of the genus name, but VN must have seen the connection somewhere and noted it. Phanes would seem to connect to Shade's passage in a number of interesting ways. As noted, Phanes is aka Eros, which seems fitting in this passage, where worshipful Shade celebrates the erotic aspects of his relationship with Sybil. Directly after this passage, he counts up how many times they have had sex. But the phrase "dark Vanessa" is also curious, since Phanes was the god of light. I noted before that Shade's parents, Shade & Lukin (whose name means the same thing as Phanes!), are a combination of dark and light, and here Shade seems to cast Sybil in similar opposing terms (dark/light).

A bit more about Phanes:
According to the Orphic poets, Aether and Chaos together produced a silver egg, from which burst Phanes (aka Metis, Protogonos, Eros, Ericapaeus, Dionysus). Phanes contains the germs of all creation, so he is androgynous, animal-headed, etc. Phanes creates the sun (thus light-giver) and afterwards the moon. From himself he produces a daughter, Nyx (Night), and with her begets Uranus and Gaia (heaven and earth). They then beget the titans, including Cronus and Rhea, who beget Zeus, who wants to rule all. Therefore he swallows Phanes, thus containing him, and begins the new creation.

By invoking Phanes, Shade is clearly referring not only to Sybil as Eros, but as the mother of their child--the life-giver, in a sense, as befits Phanes. At the same time, there is a doubling of wife and daughter here (as Nyx was both wife and daughter to Phanes) which may be related to both Sybil and Hazel inhabiting (in different senses) the Vanessa atalanta.

According to some sources, the three primary Orphic divinities are Phanes, Uranus, and Cronus. In the Pale Fire cosmology, these are related to the Vanessa, Kinbote (Uranist), and Father Time (more on him in a different post).

Any other ideas?

Matt Roth

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