Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Master and Margarita - In the Woland's Apartment

The novel The Master and Margarita is rich in symbols and ambiguous interpretations of the events. Speaking about the witchcraft framework in the novel, I shall say that of course, this is not what the novel is about, but it is very important for the development of the characters. The elements of magic create a surreal world in which you have to find the real meanings. 
 "The room appeared to be not very big. Margarita saw a big broad bed with creasy and crumpled bed sheets and a pillow. An oak wood table with carved legs, on which was placed a chandelier with sockets in the shape of clawed bird's paws, stood in front of the bed. The thick wax candles were lit in these seven sockets. Besides this, a big chess board with the figures, remarkably adept, was on the table. A small bench stood on a shabby carpet. There was one more table with some gold chalice on it and another chandelier, branches of which were made in the shape of the serpents. The smell of sulfur and resin was in the room, shadows from the lamps criss-crossed on the floor...", - as seen by Margarita when she has her first meeting with the devil before the Spring Ball of the Full Moon.
We can see that the room is full of symbolic objects and details. There are seven lit candles. No need to say that the number seven is one of the most powerful and known for its magical properties. Number seven is associated with Venus and more recently with Neptun. This is the number of feelings and of instincts. Remember that we are talking about the novel and a love story in it?
Another object of interest for us is the chalice, which properties are known from the Meet witches' tools post. The chalice can be a part of Hella's altar (Hella is a witch and a vampire from the Woland's retinue). The animalistic details like bird's claws and serpents are those which belong to the dark symbols. Especially the serpent as the devil's disguise in the Old Testament. 

The chess board represents spiritual life and the choice. Playing chess with the Devil stakes your life. Even the chess party in Harry Potter, though wasn't with the devil, nevertheless was supposed to reward the winner. The smell of sulfur is traditionally associated with the Devil, evil spirit.
The room, where Woland resides, speaks for itself and gives hints that it is habitation of the dark power. Margarita's sight was attracted to the bed where Woland sat and Hella was applying some ointment onto his aching knee. The aching knee, limping is a reference to the fall of Satan from Heaven after which he damaged his leg. However Bulgakov's Satan Woland appeared in front of Margarita with very human features too: "he wore a long night gown, dirty and with patches on the left shoulder", "his face was skewed and a mouth was drawn down, there were cut deep wrinkles parallel to his sharp eyebrows on his high bald forehead".    
Margarita also notices that "the skin on the Woland's face seemed to be burned evermore", what refers to the fire of Hell, because even Woland's hands seem to be very hot when he makes Margarita sit beside him on the bed. Margarita notices "a beetle, skillfully carved from a dark stone, on the golden chain and with some script on its back" on the hairless Woland's chest, which is definitely is an Egyptian scarab.
Woland greets Margarita and excuses for his "homely look" , he has a very low quality of voice. Woland is very frustrated (!) because of his knee as he has to participate in the upcoming ball. When Hella is told to do preparations for the ball, Margarita willingly offers her help to apply the ointment on the Satan's knee. The ball is going to start at the midnight which is nee, Woland suggests Margarita to be calm and not to drink anything except water during the ball. Let's see what other witchcraft elements are used by Bulgakov at The Spring Ball of the Full Moon .
One more interesting note: Margarita was surprised that the chess figures were alive! They were moving, fighting, getting upset... about 70 years prior to that idea of Harry Potter magical chess :)!
P.S. the passage describing the room and  other snippets of the novel are translated by me.
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

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