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Roman ian Folk lore. Creation of the world

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Romanian Folklore

Creation of the world

Stories suggest God made the earth with the help of animals, while Satan was trying to thwart his plans. In the majority of versions, before the earth existed, a boundless ocean called ApaSâmbetei was the abode of God and the Devil, seen as master and servant rather than equals. Upon deciding to create the earth, God sent the Devil to bring a handful of clay from the ground of the World Ocean in his holy name. The Devil set forth and tried to bring it to the surface in his name instead, but could not succeed until he brought it up in the name of God. As this piece of clay grew into the earth, God laid himself down to sleep. The Devil tried to push him over the side, but the ever-expanding earth would hinder that. After trying to throw God off the earth in every one of the four cardinal directions, he shied away from the cross he drew in the ground himself.

Romanian Folklore

Origin of evil

Other accounts, closer to the biblical one, suggest that the Devil and his demons were once angels of God. The Devil, however, tried to rebel, and, in response, God opened up the heavens so that he might fall to the earth. Fearing that Heaven might be voided, the archangel Michael re-sealed it, thus freezing the demons that had not yet fallen to hell in place. This is related to the concept of soul customs, where every soul is intercepted on its way to heaven by these demons, who force it into hell. It has also given rise to the Romanian saying pânăajungi la Dumnezeu, temănâncăsfinţii ("before you reach God, the saints will eat you").

Romanian Folklore

Origin of God

Another question commonly addressed is that of the origin of God, which is explained in a Russian doll type fashion; before every God there was another God that created him. Thus explaining the many names the Bible used for God, the Oltenians believed the first God was called Sabaoth, followed by Amon, Apollo, the Creator God of the Bible and, finally, Jesus Christ.

Romanian Folklore

The myth of the Blajini

Romanians generally perceived the earth as a disc, and they imagined what existed on the other side. This other earth is imagined as a mirror image of our own, and as a home to creatures called Blajini [blaˈʒinʲ] ("gentle/kind-hearted ones"), sometimes given the name Rohmani [ˈroh.manʲ] in Bucovina. They are described as anthropomorphic and short, sometimes having the head of a rat. They are either described as malicious or as having great respect for God and leading a sinless life. They are considered to fast the year through, and thus doing humans a great service.

The Romanian holiday PaşteleBlajinilor (the Easter of the Blajini) is a way to repay them for the benefits they bring. Since they live in isolation, they have no way of knowing when Easter comes. It is for this reason that Romanians eat dyed eggs and let the shells flow downstream, from there they believe they will get to the ApaSâmbetei, and from there to the Blajini.

Some explain them as the descendants of Adam's son Seth. Others state that they used to live alongside humans on the earth, but that Moses, seeing his people oppressed by them, parted the waters and, after he and his people had retreated to safety, poured the waters back onto them, sending them to their current abode.

Romanian Folklore


Strong folk traditions have survived to this day due to the rural character of the Romanian communities, which has resulted in an exceptionally vital and creative traditional culture. Romania's rich folk traditions have been nourished by many sources, some of which predate the Roman occupation. Traditional folk arts include wood carving, ceramics, weaving and embroidery of costumes, household decorations, dance, and richly varied folk music. Ethnographers have tried to collect in the last two centuries as many elements as possible: the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Romanian Academy are currently the main institutions which systematically organize the data and continue the research.

Wood used to be the main construction material, and heavily ornamented wooden objects were common in old houses. In Maramureş wood was used to create impressive structures such as churches or gates, in Dobruja windmills were made of wood, and in mountainous regions hardwood was used even for covering the roof. To preserve traditional houses many village museums have been created in the last century throughout Romania,such as the Village Museum in Bucharest, the Traditional Popular Civilisation ASTRA Museum in Sibiu or the Oltenian Village Museum in RâmnicuVâlcea.

Romanian Folklore

Linen was the most common material for clothing, combined with wool during the winter or colder periods. These are embroidered with traditional motifs that vary from region to region. Black is the most common colour used, but red and blue are predominant in certain areas. Traditionally, men wore a white shirt and pants (if made of wool they are called iţari) with a wide leather belt, usually over the shirt, and a vest sometimes made of leather and embroidered. They wore either boots or a simple shoe made of leather and tied around the foot called opincă and they wore a hat which differs in design from region to region. Women also wore a white skirt and a shirt with a vest. They wore an apron called şorţ or cătrinţă which is also embroidered and a headscarf called basma; on special occasions they wore more elaborate outfits.

Romanian Folklore

Music and dance represent a lively part of the Romanian folklore and there are a great variety of musical genres and dances. Party music is very lively and shows both Balkan and Hungarian influences. Sentimental music, however, is the most valued, and Romanians consider their doina (a sad song either about one's home or about love, composed like an epic ballad) unique in the world. Maria Tănase is considered to be one of the greatest Romanian folk singers and today Grigore Leşe and TarafulHaiducilor are two of the most famous musicians. The dances are lively and are practiced throughout Romania by a large number of professional and amateur groups, thus keeping the tradition alive; Hora is one of the most famous group dances but men's folk dances such as căluşari are extremely complex and have been declared by UNESCO to be "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity".

Romanian Folklore

Painted eggs from Bukovina

Romanian Folklore

Romanians have had, from time immemorial, a myriad of customs, tales and poems about love, faith, kings, princesses, and witches. Ethnologists, poets, writers and historians have tried in recent centuries to collect and to preserve tales, poems, ballads and have tried to describe as well as possible the customs and habits related to different events and times of year. Customs related to certain times of year are the colinde - Romanian Christmas carols, sorcova on New Year's Eve or the Mărţişor custom on the 1st of March marking the spring. Other customs are presumably of pre-Christian pagan origin, like the Paparuda rain enchanting custom in the summer, or the masked folk theatre or Ursul (the bear) and Capra (the goat) in winter.

Capra (The Goat) is a long standing winter tradition where young men accompany The Goat to their neighbor's doorsteps and dance and sing to bring mirth and wealth to the homesteads. The people reward them in exchange with specially prepared food, wine and sweet baked goods.

Romanian Folklore


(The goat)

Romanian Folklore

The Căluşari (Romanian pronunciation: [kəluˈʃarʲ]) were the members of a Romanian fraternal secret society who practiced a ritual acrobatic dance known as the căluş. According to the Romanian historian MirceaEliade, the Căluşari were known for "their ability to create the impression of flying in the air" which he believed represented both the galloping of a horse and the dancing of the fairies (zine). Indeed, the group’s patron was the "Queen of the Fairies" (DoamnaZinelor), who was also known as Irodiada and Arada, and who Eliade connected with the folkloric figure Diana.

Due to their connection with the fairies, the Căluşari were believed to be able to cure the victims of fairies and for around two weeks - from three weeks after Easter till Pentecost - would travel to all the local communities where they would dance, accompanied by a few fiddlers, in order to do so. In their dance, the Căluşari carried clubs and a sword, as well as a flag and a wooden horsehead. They swore on the group’s flag to treat each other as brothers, to respect the customs of the Căluşari and to remain chaste for the next nine days. Upon their return home, their flag was fixed into the ground, with one member climbing it and crying out "war, dear ones, war!".

The origins of the Căluşari are unknown, although the first written attestations are from the 17th century musical notations of IoanCăianu. Eliade noted that "Although the oath taken is made in the name of God, the mythico-ritual scenario enacted by the calusari has nothing in common with Christianity" and that, in the 19th century at least, there was clerical opposition to the group, with its members being excluded from taking communion for three years in some regions.

Romanian Folklore


Romanian Folklore

Sânziană is the Romanian name for gentle fairies who play an important part in local folklore, also used to designate the Galiumverum or Cruciatalaevipes flowers. Under the plural form Sânziene, the word designates an annual festival in the fairies' honor. Etymologically, the name stands for sân (common abbreviation of sfânt - "saint", "holy") and zână (a word used for fairies in general). Another likely etymology is that the word comes from the Latin Sancta Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and moon, also celebrated in Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). Diana was known to be the virgin goddess and looked after virgins and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Diana, Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry.

The folk practices of Sânziene imply that the most beautiful maidens in the village dress in white and spend all day searching for and picking flowers, of which one MUST be Galiumverum (Lady's bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw) which in Romanian is also named "Sânziànă". Using the flowers they picked during the day, the girls braid floral crowns which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There they meet with their beloved and they dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown over the houses, and whenever the crown falls, it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof of the house, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners. As with other bonfire celebrations, jumping over the embers after the bonfire is not raging anymore is done to purify the person and also to bring health.

Another folk belief is that during the Sânziene Eve night, the heavens open up, making it the strongest night for magic spells, especially for the love spells. Also it is said that the plants harvested during this night will have tremendous magical powers.

It is not a good thing though to be a male and walk at night during Sanziene Eve night, as that is the time when the fairies dance in the air, blessing the crops and bestowing health on people - they do not like to be seen by males, and whomever sees them will be maimed, or the fairies will take their hearing/speech or make them mad.

In some areas of the Carpathians, the villagers then light a big wheel of hay from the ceremonial bonfire and push it down a hill. This has been interpreted as a symbol for the setting sun (from the solstice to come and until the midwinter solstice, the days will be getting shorter).

Romanian Folklore


Romanian Folklore

The bucium (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈbut͡ʃjum], also called trâmbiţă or tulnic) is a type of alphorn used by mountain dwellers in Romania. Of Dacian origin[citation needed], it was used in the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia as signaling devices in military conflicts. The word is derived from Latin bucinum, originally meaning "curved horn", an instrument used by the Romans. The word is a cognate with English "bugle".

The tube is made from lime tree bark, wood, or even (partially) from metal. It is mostly used by shepherds for signaling and communication in the forested mountains, as well as for guiding sheep and dogs. Trâmbiţa produces sounds altogether different from those of the alphorn.

Under the name trembita it is also used by the Ukrainian Hutsuls.

Romanian Folklore


Romanian Folklore

The famous Maiden Fair of Mount Gaina (Targul de Fete) has many legends and traditional rituals surrounding it. The Maiden Fair of Mount Gaina is held annually around the feast of St. Elijah for mountain families to arrange weddings for their unmarried children. The celebration can take many years of preparation for the girls, who must collect a dowry packed into beautiful carved chests. Tens of thousands of people meet at the borders of Hunedoara, Arad and Alba and Bihor to spend the night around fires enjoying music, dancing and other traditional festivities.

Romanian Folklore

Targul de Fete

(Maiden Fair of Mount Gaina)

Romanian Folklore

Essence of Bukovina

Romanian Folklore

Costume from Bukovina

Romanian Folklore

Caloian is a rain ritual in Romania, similar in some ways with Paparuda. It is mostly found in Wallachia (Southern part of Romania). The origin of this ritual, as many other local popular beliefs and practices, precedes the spreading of Christianity, although it was in time associated with the period of the Orthodox Easter.

The ritual is celebrated in early spring as a fertilization ritual, or whenever around the year during the time of severe drought or excessive rain. Young girls make one to several clay dolls, resembling male figures, most important being either "Father of the Sun" or the "Mother of the Rain", depending on the purpose of the ritual. This doll is dressed in common clothes, placed on a wooden board or in an improvised tree-bark coffin, ornamented with flowers and so pursuits a mock-up of the traditional burial ritual, officiated by children. The suite marches through crop fields, around water courses and wells until the "caloian" gets to be buried. After three days, the "caloian" is unearthed, returned to the village and mourned again until it is finally set loose to float on the water of a river, lake or thrown into a well. This ceremony being ended, the young girls who had attained the ceremony were baking a special cake called "ghismán" or "ghizman"(from Ghetsemane, as this ritual was often related to the Easter period) which was shared with the rest of the children.

Romanian Folklore

Periniţa or Perniţa is a wedding party folk dance, typical of and deriving from Romania.

The dancers form a circle with a person holding a handkerchief or pillow dances inside the circle, then chooses a person of an opposite sex by placing the handkerchief around his/her neck. They kiss on the cheek, the first person goes into the circle, while the second one repeats the same.

The name of the dance comes from the pillow (sometimes handkerchief) on which a young man places his knee when kneeling before a girl he chooses. The Romanian word for pillow is "pernă" (from South Slavic "perina"), and the dance is called Perniţa or Periniţa after the "pernă" that is often used.