Today we celebrate Spring and Love in Romania, with a holiday we call Dragobete. Dragobetele or Cap de Primăvară (Start of Spring ) is a mythological figure from our Romanian folk, which predates Orthodoxy. He is the son of Baba Dochia /Dachia , another famous figure in the Romanian lore, thought to be a princess and the daughter of the Dacian king Decebal; she is said to have been willingly turned into stone with her people, by Zalmolxis, the God of Sun , in order to escape Roman Emperor Traian.
Dragobete is portrayed as a young and giddy God, who due to his beauty, had a lot of luck in love and drove budding ladies , insane. Therefore, he was also called Năvalnic , (which means one who cannot be contained, impetuous, impulsive).
It is said that he was turned into a plant by Virgin Mary , when he crossed her pathways in the forest.
This plant is called “Năvalnic ” in English : hart’s-tongue , a type of evergreen fern, with medicinal benefits, which was thought to be having magical properties, and was picked -up by young boys and girls, to be used in love spells, as a form of low magic. It would be worn as an amulet, in a silk sachet, tied up around the neck, to attract love and abundance.
Dragobete is a holiday of fertility and of mating birds, a day in which birds and all the other animals, would find a partner and sire off springs.
Much like birds, young boys, and girls from the traditional villages, would gather up and roam the forests, picking up plants and meeting their future life partners.
There is a saying : “ Dragobetele sărută fetele” meaning Dragobete kisses the girls, and it refers to the custom that depicts boys chasing after the girls they fancied, in order to steal them a kiss. If the girl would agree with the kiss, this meant she liked the boy as well and they would engage and eventually get married; their union being blessed by the God of Love.
There were many such customs, depending on the region the villagers were from.
Today, these habits rarely take place, especially in the urban areas. However, the Dragobete spirit carries on as this Holiday is celebrated as a local and traditional alternative or a continuation of a more known Valentine’s day.
How do you celebrate love in all its forms and Spring, in your country ?
This drawing was inspired by the blue color of the Romanian Korund pottery and the sign above the two birds is a symbol of ” the Winged Cross” , “the Bird Goddess” or the “Column” a representation of the “Mother Goddess”. It is a very common symbol in the Romanian folk art. Its embodiment is believed to accompany the souls to Heaven and be the connection between the physical and the spiritual plane, it is considered to bring protection and many blessings.
Close your eyes, and tell me what comes to your mind when you think about autumn evenings?
I for sure can think of a hot cup of herbal tea and a wonderfully scented apple pie.
Oh yes, the fall season is officially upon us, and apples are the first of many gifts that the Earth has to offer, currently.
Apples. They have been the most common fruit throughout Europe and bear a much deeper meaning than just the one that is for display.
So where does their story begin? An article from Science Daily, claims that ancient preserved apple seeds were found across Europe and West Asia, suggesting that people have been using wild apples for more than ten thousand years ago. This theory could go back to the hunter/gatherer times when, alongside hunting, trees represented an important food source, thus making them central to human survival and identity. Also, more studies have concluded that the apple as we know it today, is actually a hybrid of at least four wild apple families. Furthermore, it is hypothesized that the Silk Road trade routes were responsible for causing their hybridization.
Starting from these premises, it is easily understandable why apples were in some instances considered to be sacred, and why they became the archetypal fruit standing for any tree fruit, vegetable, even nuts. For example, potatoes are still referred to as Earth Apples – Aardappel in Dutch or Pommes de Terre in French and oranges are called Sinaasappel or Appelsien in Dutch –meaning Apple of China.
Apples have been also associated with health and youth, hence the saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, rhyming proverb postdating earlier versions from the late 19th century like:
“Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” – A Pembrokeshire Proverb
In Celtic and Germanic cultures, trees and more specifically apple trees, are associated with female entities, always fertile, always bountiful.
Idun or Iðunn, for instance, from the Norse Mythology is the personification of Spring and immortal youth. She is the bearer of the golden apples that keep the gods young and healthy. As a side note, the Scandinavian Gods, because of their mixed-race, were not all immortals and were prone, just like humans to disease and decay.
According to the story, Loki was forced by the storm giant, Thiassi, to lure Idun out of Asgard , the Land of the Gods, and into the woods, after describing her some particular apples he had found. Thiassi, metamorphosed as an eagle, seizes Idun from the woods and takes her to his barren and desolate home, called Thrym-heim. In Idun’s absence, the Gods begin to grow old and weak, and as soon as they realise that Loki is responsible for her disappearance, they order him to go and save her from the giant’s den. He finds her and takes her back to the land of the Gods but Thiassi follows them and eventually gets killed when he falls, after his feathers catching fire.
Some of you who are familiar with Norse Mythology might already know this story. What I would like to bring to your attention, is another story, from the Romanian folklore, that is called Prâslea cel Voinic si merele de aur, which could be translated to Prâslea the Brave and the golden apples.
Now the word Prâslea in itself, refers to the youngest member of a family.
The story goes like this: Once upon a time there was a king who had a gorgeous, spectacular garden, at the end of which he had an apple tree that made golden apples. The problem was that after seeing the tree flourish and making fruits, he would never actually get to taste them ripen because someone would come during the night and steal all the apples away . He also had 3 sons, two of whom had already tried and failed to catch the thief. After the first two brothers’ failure, the youngest son also took his shot at catching the robber, and because he was smarter, he managed to injure but not catch him and triumphantly bring back some of the golden apples for his father to have a taste of. Since they absolutely wanted to find the culprit, the 3 brothers decided to follow the trail of blood that the thief had left and bring him to face justice. The siblings were lead to a pit, that was actually the entrance to the Otherworld /Tărâmul Celălalt , a magical realm in Romanian mythology, home to fantastical creatures, where the notion of time seldom disappears and where everything is possible. Out of the 3 brothers, only Prâslea was brave enough to descend, and after he manages to battle two Zmei (the term Zmeu is a sort of Slavic Dragon), and save two captive princesses in the process, he finds and defeats the third Zmeu who turns out to be the apple thief. Of course, the latter had also kidnapped a princess, who occurred to be the youngest sister of the two others Praslea had already saved. Trying to get back home, he was tricked by his siblings into being abandoned in the pit, after he had managed to bring the girls to the surface. He succeeded in getting back to his realm, with the help of a Zgripțuroaică , a kind of Harpy, as a reward for having rescued her babies from death. Once arrived at his father’s castle, he lets the Divine intervention punish his 2 older brothers and marries the youngest princess.
So, do you notice a resemblance between the two narratives, here?
Both stories are about the abduction of something that another entity desires. There are two dichotomous realms in both tales: Asgard the land of the Gods coincides with the reality realm from Prâslea the Brave , then we have the other realms, where the apples are taken to, which in both stories, represent the barren land, the world of the Evil Ones. In the Nordic story, this realm symbolizes Winter. I would also continue by making a parallel between Idun, the bearer of the golden apples and the golden apples from my Romanian folktale, only that here I would dare to say that the apples and the girls are, symbolically one and the same. They represent, just like Idun, everlasting youth, fertility and abundance. In this story, the golden apples are directly linked to the girls, who were also abducted by the Zmei. The apples are thus, only the means of getting to something far more important, the young princesses, feminine figures, supposed to be a promise to a bountiful life ahead, always fertile and plentiful.
So, I guess this theory, eases the transition into another subject:
Apples as symbol of Fertility, Sex and Magic
If you have the slightest interest in symbolism, you probably already know that apples have been considered since, forever, a symbol of fertility, sex and magic. For example, I ran upon a Vice article, in which it was stated that Apple Bobbing, a seemingly innocent, children friendly Halloween game, had really started as a fertility ritual, drawing its origins from Celtic traditions, later on adopted by the Romans.
If you slice open an apple, the seeds from the core are arranged in a five-pointed star or a pentagram. This have probably enticed people into using this fruit in Love and Fertility Spells or just plainly associating it with these concepts.
Apples in the Romanian Folklore
In some regions of Romania like Banat, Oltenia and Muntenia, the water from the first bath of a new-born baby, is discarded at the base of a blossoming or fruit-bearing apple tree. This custom has been interpreted as a health spell for the infant and a fertility-keeper spell for the new mother. Apples also symbolise women breasts, being one of the oldest erotic symbols and having a wide occurrence in the Romanian folk-songs and folktales. It stands for the love fruit, often associated with the Golden Apple, offered by the girl to the lad, whom he must catch in order to gain her affection. The apple tends to be linked to fertility; in Romanian folktales, the leading ladies become pregnant only by tasting the apple. It is associated with health, we often say: Este roșu în obraji ca mărul, meaning that someone is rosy-cheeked like an apple. It stands for the forbidden fruit in love, the fruit of the original sin in the Biblical story. It represents love without restraint, the lovers who share the same apple, reveal mutual and boundary-less love. In Translivania, it is accustomed for the newly wed, to adorn an apple tree, within one year of marriage, symbolically adorning the tree of Eden. It is said that she who finds 9 seeds inside an apple core, must place them under the pillow to dream of her chosen one; apple dreams often foreshadowing love and marriage.
APPLES- a link between the sacred and the profane
Trees are often associated in the Romanian folklore, with the Tree of Life, AXIS MUNDI– which according to Mircea Eliade, represents a manifestation of the Divine, a disruption in time and space that allows our world to connect with the worlds above and below . In other words , it embodies the connection of human beings with the Divine. The apple tree and the pine tree or the Christmas tree are both a metaphor for immortality. But while the pine tree represents masculine vigour, the apple tree stands for feminine energies and fecundity.The apple, as the archetypal tree, is the equivalent of humans in the vegetal world. Celtic people had this similar iconography where they focused on trees as supernatural female figures, associating them with fertility and birth, so essentially reproduction and life cycle in a broader sense. In Romanian folklore the apple tree and the pine /Christmas tree, bear magical properties meant to “solve” issues and “help” in difficult situations, often being a “tool” used to defeat Evil.
A lot remains unsaid about apples, but I am afraid the article might get longer than it already is. However, if this subject fancy your curiosity, you may consult the links and books I have referenced below, in Sources.
So next time you take a crisp bite into a juicy apple or a smooth and velvety bite into a soft and cinnamony apple pie slice, stop for a moment and reflect on how ancient and full of meaning, this wonderful fruit can be.
I have recently visited Transilvania, a part of Romania that holds a very special place in my heart, for various reasons which I’m not going into detail about, in here.
What I want to talk about, though is the connotations of the color Blue and the symbolism it holds within the Romanian and more specifically, Northern and Transilvanian folklore.
During my visit to a very special village called Viscri, where the rural setting has been purposefully frozen in time, I was mesmerized by the blue colored houses which, apart from their aesthetic purpose, also bear a far more profound meaning.
By looking more into this, I found an article about Stefan Vaida, a Transilvanian house restorer who claims that 100 years ago, 50 % of the traditional houses from northern and central Romania, were blue on the outside and almost 70 % of them, had this color on the inside walls.
An interesting fact about this would be that the Romanian peasant, had a specific term for this kind of blue he adorned his house with, which he called <mnieriu> -an indigo shade of blue, obtained from natural pigments like violets and later on, cupric sulfate.
In what was kept from traditional Romania, various shades of blue may be found, represented on a variety of mediums, from garments, houses or ceramics to famous, medieval churches like Voronet from Bucovina or burial sites like the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta from Maramures.
So what symbolism does the colour blue carry?
Well, in an article with Fine Arts professor, Loredana Tomsa, it is promoted the idea that colors are defined and invested with meaning by members of a community/society. (notion retrieved from the book Bleu: histoire d’une couleur, by Michel Pastoureau)
It is thus expressed that, beginning with XVIIth century Europe, with time, the colour blue, would start to be associated with Divinity -the sky and Religion, so much so that in religious iconography, the garments of Mary were depicted by using crushed Azurite (which had become more precious than gold itself), to render vibrant and long lasting shades of heavenly blue.
*Side Note : Azurite was also called the stone of Heaven.
From this connotation to the association of blue with nobility and coats of arms , there was just a small step.*See the divine-right theory of kingship.
In traditional Romania, the color is also associated with God, Divinity and Spirituality
It calls upon meditation and introspection.
The color blue on the Romanian Blouse represented that the woman who wore it was no longer a young girl anymore, but a young woman, in her prime, ready to become a mother, making thus a parallel, from my point of view, with the supreme, purest figure of motherhood in Christianity, Mary of Nazareth.
The color would also represent, water, the creative fire and spiritual profoundness.
Therefore, coming back to its significance regarding the blue houses from 100 years ago, I think, this color embodied the connection that the Romanian peasant had with God and its surroundings, the respect he bore for traditions and his ancestry and by painting his house blue, he would invite peace and serenity into his home, and within his soul.
Albastru- culoarea trecutului în România Tradițională
Am vizitat de curând Transilvania, o zonă ce ocupă un loc special in sufletul meu din varii motive.
Însă nu despre asta vreau să vă vobesc astăzi , ci despre semnificațiile culorii Albastru și simbolismul său in România Tradițională , cu precădere și nu numai, in Transilvania și Nordul țării .
În timpul vizitei mele la Viscri, un loc în care caracterul rural a fost menținut neschimbat de-a lungul timpului, în mod intenționat , am fost de-a dreptul impresionată de casele albastre care, pe lângă valoarea estetică , dețin și o profundă însemnătate .
Pe măsură ce mă documentam asupra acestui subiect, am dat peste un interviu cu Ștefan Vaida , un resaturator de case din Transilvania, care susține că acum 100 de ani, 50 %din casele din centrul și nordul țării , erau albastre la exterior iar 70%, aveau această culoare pe interior.
Ceea ce mi s-a părut interesant este faptul că țăranul român avea un termen specific pentru albastrul cu care își văruia casele: < mnieriu> și anume un albastru indigo, obținut la început din pigmenți naturali precum viorelele, iar mai apoi din sulfat de cupru sau piatră vânată.
În ceea ce a rămas ca moștenire din România tradițională , se pot regăsi diverse nuanțe de albastru, redate pe diferite medii , de la bluze românești , la ceramică ,sau case bătrânești până la vechi biserici medievale ca cea faimoasă din Voroneț, Bucovina și locuri de veci, precum Cimitirul Vesel de la Săpânța din Maramureș.
Așadar , care este simbolistica Albastrului?
Ei bine, într-un alt interviu , Loredana Tomșa , doctor și profesor în Arte Frumoase, pleacă de la premiza că în general, societatea este cea care , atribuie sens și definește culorile, în funcție de contextul cultural. Noțiune discutată pe larg de către Michel Pastoureau , in cartea sa Bleu: histoire d’une couleur.
Apare așadar ideea că de-a lungul istoriei în Europa, debutând cu secolul al XVII-lea , culoarea albastră a început sa fie asociată cu Divinitatea -cerul și religia. În iconografie, veșmintele Mariei erau pictate cu pigment obținut din Azurit, mineral care la vremea respectivă devenise chiar mai scump decat aurul, și care era folosit pentru a reda un albastru puternic și de durată . (Azuritul mai este denumit și Piatra Raiului).
De aici si până la asocierea culorii albastru cu nobilimea și stemele caselor regale mai este doar un pas – a se vedea teoria Dreptului Divin.
În România tradițională această culoare este asociată cu Divinitatea, Dumnezeu și Spiritualitatea invitând la meditație și introspecție .
Albastrul regăsit pe ia românească , simboliza că femeia ce o purta a depășit stadiul de tânără fată și a pășit intr-o nouă etapă a feminității depline,a maternități si fertilității, facându-se astfel o paralelă , aș putea spune, cu Maria Preacurata, imaginea maternități absolute, în creștinism .
Albastrul mai reprezenta și apa, energia creatoare și profunzimea spirituală .
Revenind astfel la semnificația mnieriului de pe casele tradiționale de acum 100 de ani, aș putea încheia prin ideea personală că această culoare întruchipează conexiunea pe care țăranul român o avea cu Dumnezeu, mediul înconjurător și respectul pe care îl purta tradițiilor si strămoșilor gliei. Văruindu-și casele albastru, el invoca pacea și liniștea în căminul și sufletul său .
Artemis -Bendis is a Geto-Dacian and later Thracian Goddess, patron of the Moon,the Forest, Hunting, and Magical forces.
Her cult survived, in Roman Dacia, which led to her being assimilated by Diana, goddess of mountains, flowers, rivers, mother of all divine nature present in every person, place or thing (belief stemming from the concept of the GENIUS Latin: [ˈɡɛnɪ. ʊs]; plural geni , in Roman mythology).
In Romanian folklore, the Calusari (members of a fraternal secret society who practiced a ritual acrobatic dance believed to bring healing and ward off evil spirits), recognize as patron Irodiada or the “Queen of the Fairies” (Doamna Zînelor).
In a discussion on Calusari , in his book < Magia si fiintele fantastice din arhaicul romanesc> Cornel Dan Niculae, approaches the theory that Irodeasa or Irodiada is not derived from Irod the king, but from Heradiana <Herodiana or Herodiasa>, who among other things, is the matron of Iele and Rusalii (good and bad fairy figures from the Romanian Folklore).
Herodiana or Herodiasa was made the object of a widely spread belief and superstition that she would teach women the magical and healing properties of plants and would support them in their spells and incantations. Later , she would also be reffered to as Madonna/Signora Oriente.
In this sense , I suppose she could also be superposed with the Hecate figure -Greek goddess of the Moon , associated with Magic , Witchcraft and nocturnal feminine spirits.
Bendis-Diana: Doamnă a Frumoaselor, Călușarilor , și a femeilor tămăduitoare
Artemis -Bendis este o zeiță Geto-Dacă și ulterior , Tracă , asociată cu Luna, Pădurea , Vânătoarea și Magia.
Cultul ei a supraviețuit in Dacia Română , prin asimilarea ei de către Diana , zeiță a munților , florilor, râurilor și a geniilor naturii ( concept provenit din mitologia greacă unde geniul Latin: [ˈɡɛnɪ. ʊs]; plural geni, era întruparea individuală a unei naturi divine generale, prezentă în fiecare persoană, loc sau lucru).
În folclorul românesc , Călușarii (membrii ai unei frății secrete care practica dansuri acrobatice cu scopul de a vindeca oamenii și a alunga spiritele rele), sunt patronați de Irodiada sau Doamna Zânelor .
Într-un Capitol asupra Călușarilor, din cartea sa Magia si ființele fantastice din arahicul Românesc , Cornel Dan Niculaie , abordează teoria care susține că Irodeasa sau Irodiada nu își are etimologia de la regele Irod ci provine de la HERA DIANA <Herodiana sau Herodiasa > care printre altele patronează Ielele și Rusaliile (figuri feminine magice sau zâne ale folclorului românesc )
Herodiana sau Herodiasa , era obiectul unei credințe si superstiții , larg răspândite și anume aceea că le învăța pe femei tainele și proprietățile magico- tămăduitoare ale plantelor. Tot ea se invoca pentru reușita descântecelor și a vrăjilor mai tarziu fiind denumită și Madonna sau Signora Oriente.
Venind din această direcție , se poate concluziona , că Bendis Diana poate fi fuzionată cu Hecate, din mitologia greacă , zeiță a Lunii, a Magiei / Vrăjitoriei și a Spiritelor nocturne feminine.