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Falconry as a Transmutative Art:

Falconry as a Transmutative Art:

Dante, Frederick II, and Islam

(p.133) Falconry as a Transmutative Art
Dante and Islam
Daniela Boccassini
Fordham University Press

This paper argues the hypothesis that the condition of the souls in Dante’s Purgatorio and Dante’s own journey of ascent of that transformative mountain lend themselves to be understood in terms of falconry — the art of training a wild raptor to relate to the presence of the falconer and respond to his call. By analyzing the falconry techniques Dante mentions in the Commedia and tracing their origin in the practices that Emperor Frederick II had imported from the Islamic world, we can also better gauge the symbolic value Dante attributes to falconry as an initiatory art of inner transmutation. Seen in the larger perspective of a Mediterranean shared culture, Dante’s understanding of falconry clearly mirrors, on European grounds, the views of some of the towering figures of Islamic medieval poetry and speculative thinking, such as Attar, Ibn Arabi and Rumi. The article finally explores the way in which the concept of inner transmutation, foundational to the art of falconry, contributes to a renewed understanding of Dante’s Purgatory as the locus where Law transmutes into Love — where “amor d’animo” paradoxically learns to respond to the call of “amor naturale”.

Keywords:   Dante Alighieri, Frederick II Hohenstaufen, falconry, Purgatory, Transmutation

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