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.