Category Archives: Romanian Heritage

What to do in Romania after the winter holidays season?

So, the winter holidays season has finally ended, all the cabbage rolls have been eaten along with all salads du beouf, the dances of the masked spirits marked their way into the new year, and now everyone has entered their routine. This begs the question: is there anything else that happens in Romania after the winter holiday season? Is there anything else Romanians do or look forward to? The thing is, at least until the winter season itself has ended, there are plenty of things that are celebrated in Romania, so let us tell you about some of them.

1. Saint Peter’s wolves

Similar to Saint Andrews, the wolves’ apostle we told you about in our last article about the Romanian Halloween, Saint Peter is celebrated on the 16th of January, on the month of Frosty (January’s folk name), being a tradition transmitted from generation to generation.

Pack of wolves howling
Source: madelaine.ro

The elders say that this is the day when Saint Peter is the “patronus” of the wolves, when all of them gather in packs, howling. It is said that this is when Saint Peter comes and shares pray to the wolves for an entire year, at midnight, riding a white horse. The pray consists of a sheep or a deer, the wolves “agreeing” to only touch said pray, while leaving the humans be.
The folk stories depict him as both an earthly and a divine being. He walks the earth alone, but sometimes accompanying God when checking how the humans are doing.

2. The small Union – the Union between Romanian Principalities

158 years ago, on the 24th of January 1859, a great deed was accomplished, one that stood at the base of what now we know as modern day Romania. Romanians remember with great pride the day of the Unification of the Romanian Principalities.

The Union of Wallachia with Moldavia that happened on the 24th is the political act that stays at the base of modern day Romania and the overall forming of the Romanian nation. The historical circumstances of those times didn’t allow the union of all three Romanian countries (Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania), but it was the jumpstart to a gradual formation of the Romanian state, starting with the small Union in 1859, and ending with the Grand Union back in 1918 when the fight for the freedom of the Romanian people will be victorious.

Recently, the Romanian Government even passed a law that declared the day of 24th of January to be a free one from work, given the great importance in the history of the country that needs to be cherished as such.

3. Saint Valentine

Known as the lover’s day, Saint Valentine is celebrated in Romania as well, on the 14th of February, so if you want to spend your Valentine’s day with a touch of Romanian scent you can come over. Although this celebration has its roots in English culture, where young lovers take their partner out on a date, you’ll discover another facet here: elders say that this is the day known also as the day in which the birds choose their partners. It is well known as “the day of bird’s matrimony”. Maybe this is where the “lovebirds” saying stems from? It sure seems like a plausible thought.

Tradition here says that the first bird a girl will see it will foretell her the kind of man she’ll later marry. If it will be a blackbird, she’ll marry a priest, yellow feathered birds will bring her a rich man, while sparrow will bring forth a farmer. The blue feathered birds will be the ones foretelling her a marriage with a joyous man, while the dove a loving man. However, if she were to see a woodpecker, no marriage for her.

4. The “Dragobete”

Being the magical personification of love itself, the Dragobete is celebrated on the 24th of February, being considered the God of youthfulness and joy. This day is considered among Romanians as the old “lover’s day”, a more “authentic one” than Saint Valentine, given its inheritance, being passed down from generation to generation ever since the older days of the mighty Dacians.

Traditions here say that in the morning of Dragobete, girls would gather around fresh snow and wash their hair with the water that came from the snow, saying that their hair will get more beautiful.

Source: click.ro

Also on Dragobete you’ll hear around people saying “Dragobetele kisses the girls!”.

Besides that, if the weather permits it, girls and boys would wear traditional clothing and walked together along the woods singing and picking the first flowers of spring.

Other times they’d meet at a house where everything would turn into a big party, celebrating love and cheerfulness.

Dance of the masked spirits – Romanian traditions of winter holidays

Winter holidays have already begun in Romania by now, with the coming of Saint Nicholas who, as you already found out by now, brings gifts to the children who have been well behaved over the course of the year. The tradition is that you have to clean your boots in order to receive the gifts he has brought for you. And this is not all!

maramures-jocul-mosilor
Source: one.ro

Many other traditions follow as the other holidays of the winter season come around in Romania. Some of them are what we like to call the “dance of the masked spirits”, which occur around Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The masked dances are archaic habits that have transcended time and are still practiced nowadays in Romania. About them, the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade (who wrote “The History of Religions”) said that: “such ceremonies are still popular in the Balkans, in Romania especially during the 12 days of Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Originally, they were ceremonies in connection to the periodical return of the dead wearing all sorts animal masks“.

Want to know what sorts of masked animal spirits are we talking about? Well, let us immerse you in the magic of the Romanian winter holidays…

The dance of the bear

Practiced mostly in the region of Bucovina, where this animal is worshiped, the dance of the bear is a masked dance that takes place mostly around New Year’s Eve. These are archaic habits, being a millenary agrarian and pastoral tradition.
The dance of the bear symbolizes the death and renewal of nature, as presented by Mihai Coman in the Romanian mythological bestiary: “In the Bear carol, the animal dies and is revived, in a symbolical dramatization of the cosmos’/nature’s re-birthing myth. Thus, the rolling of the bears in circles, the beating and the death of the bear followed by its miraculous revival, likewise its ascension on the bat (rod), play in a metaphorical way the succession of the seasons which, a long time ago, were standing on the sign of this animal, capable of defeating the winter and announce the spring“.

Source: omofon.com
Source: omofon.com

The cult of the bear is known from the most archaic of times, being present in the geto-dacian culture as well. Here, the bear was seen as a sacred animal, and as a testimony of that stands even the name of the great god Zalmoxis, where zalmo translates as skin and oxis as bear, therefore dealing with the God covered in bear skin.

In the Romanian mythology, the bear is invested with multiple apotropaic (protective) virtues, therapeutic and wheaterly ones. Earlier, there was even a belief that if a newborn was anointed with bear fat on the body on the first wash, he would gain strength and the bear’s luck.

The dance of the goat

Just like the dance of the bear, the goat’s one is another millennia old winter holidays tradition, being another representative of the Romanian people’s rich spirituality. Same as the bear, the goat was a totemic animal that would tell the people if what was to follow was good or bad times.

At its origins, the goat’s dance was a harsh ceremonial – the killing, the weeping, the burial and the resurrection -, however during the agrarian holidays, the dance became a ritual meant to bring richness to the following year, growth in animal numbers as well as richness to the crops.

Source: agrointel.ro
Source: agrointel.ro

The dance itself is very lively and it’s mostly used to capture the attention of the viewer. However, that’s not the only way one can do this, as the costume itself can also do that, given that it’s a very lively one, as well with its multitude of ornaments – antlers, mirrors, colored rags, dried flowers or tinsel.

The goat itself (or deer in other parts of the country, depending on the features of the area it’s played in) is accompanied by other characters meant to symbolize the shepherds, old men or women, and dancers in traditional costumes.

So, what do you say? Curious to get your attention fully drawn into the dance of the masked spirits? If you come over, we promise you that you can definitely get to live one of these magical millennia old experiences firsthand. Plunge into the multitude of sounds and colors that accompany these old spiritual traditions the Romanians still keep and get to live some of the most authentic experiences of your life!

The Romanian Halloween

Oh, we know, everybody knows the American Halloween, but did you know that Romania has its own night of Halloween as well? It’s okay if you don’t know, we imagined, after all Romania is most known for being the homeland of the world’s most intriguing vampire – Dracula. That is why, now, we invite you yet again, to go a bit beyond Dracula and find out more about the other facets of the Romanian culture.

Celebrated on the eve of Saint Andrews – the first-called, Night of the Spirits – or Noaptea Strigoilor as you’ll hear it from the mouths of your Romanian friends, is celebrated on night of 29th of November going on the 30th, being the night when it’s said the wolves gather around, and Saint Andrews – who is known as the wolves’s apostle, shares pray for each wolf given the winter that’s about to come, and also protects every human from any wolf attack that might happen.

wolf-picture
Source: danais.ro

The beautiful traditions for the night of Saint Andrews are a legacy passed down from the Romanian ancestors, the Dacians – or the wolf warriors as they were known given their battle symbol in the figure of the wolf headed dragon, a custom shrouded in mysticism that you definitely must know about. Old legends say that the wolves accompanied the warriors when Sarmisegetusa fell, and that the one who was their leader watched over apostle Andrew through the wilderness of Dobrogea to the cave that was offered to him as shelter.
So, what else besides the wolves coming around does the traditions say it happens on the Romanian Halloween? Well, let us tell you a couple of them.

The spirits come to surface

In the traditional belief of the Romanian people, in the eve of Saint Andrews it is said that the spirits “come to surface” or “walk around”. But what are these spirits, these strigoi as you’ll hear your Romanian acquitances naming them? Well, none other than spirits of the dead who don’t get to make it to the “other world” after their funeral. Other cases might be that they refuse to go back “there” after they’ve come to visit their relatives on earth on the occasion of really important holidays.

Source: aplostapes.wikia.com
Source: aplostapes.wikia.com

However, while on the occasion of the American Halloween people costume themselves and go trick or treat because the spirits there seem to not be that mad, on the Romanian Halloween they don’t seem to be so indulgent with the living given that they become very dangerous for them: from taking the lives of close relatives to bringers of grave diseases. Spooky, isn’t it? And that’s not all!

It is also believed that these strigoi can leave you mute if you answer their calling whenever they’ll come to your house searching to enter it. If they don’t find a place where to enter from, they’ll call you out and ask you if you have eaten garlic. If you are unlucky enought to answer to them, they’ll steal your voice, if not, they’ll continue their journey to another house where they’ll try doing the same to its inhabitants.

An auspicious night for magic and finding your chosen one

What else happens on this remarkably spooky night? Well, it is a perfect night for casting a spell or finding out who your chosen one is. Yes, you’ve heard that right! In this frightening night that looks almost hopeless, not only you can perform different spells, but you can also find your true love by… dreaming about your future spouse!

dreaming about your chosen one
Source: webcultura.ro/Raymond Peynet

That is if you put 41 wheat grains under your pillow in that specific night and dream about how someone comes and gets them all away from you. Yes, that’s the way it works.

On Saint Andrew’s night, everyone from the family sows wheat grains in a bowl with some soil on it, especially older girls and boys. Whoever gets their grain bigger and nicer, that’s the one whose year is going to be the luckiest one, as well as the healthiest, since health and luck are two main ingredients for a prosperous life.

So, as you can see – or better said read, the Romanian Halloween is slightly different than your usual American one, but not less spooky, as you may observe!

So, what do you say? Coming over for an adventure? We’re waiting for you with garlic for protection, and some wheat grains for lucks and good health! And we promise you we won’t let the strigoi steal your voice, as we already know how to deal with them. So if you know you want to live the experience of the Romanian Halloween, leave it all behind and come over!

5 magical Romanian regions where you can spend the winter holidays

The winter holidays are drawing near with each passing day. If you have thought about visiting Romania to spend the winter holidays here, and want to experience true Romanian authenticity, then we have just the perfect places for you to immerse in the beauty that surrounds these magical days. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Bucovina

Often called the land of fairy-tale like landscapes, Bucovina is well-known for its firmness in still keeping alive the traditions and the rituals that come along with them, after so much time has passed, and so many things that have happened with the changing times. Especially when Christmas comes. So if you want to feel the purely authentic taste of Romanian holidays, you definitely need to visit Bucovina and witness firsthand the genuineness of the place and the people that live there and contribute to the feeling.

people-chanting-bucovina-christmas
Source: proiecte-structurale.ro

2. Maramures

Another equally beautiful and authentic place to spend your holidays in Romania is the Maramures region. Here, centuries-old traditions inherited from the elders have remained untouched by the hand of civilization or any other ideology or current. Spending your holidays in Maramures means going back in time, to the spirituality of older days, where you’ll meet unique customs and traditions.

Group of carolers in Maramures
Sources: radiocluj.ro

3. Poiana Stampei

Another location we think you should visit if you want to have a wonderful winter holiday is Poiana Stampei, in Moldova. Located at the pass between Transylvania and Bucovina, Poiana Stampei will conquer your heart with its picturesque-like landscapes, that together with the locals that have kept the traditions alive, make it another place perfect for living a truly authentic Romanian holiday experience.

Source: monitoruldedorna.ro
Source: monitoruldedorna.ro

4. Bran-Moeciu

Hundreds of years old unchanged traditions – that is how you can describe the Bran-Moeciu region. Close to the place that is known as Dracula’s Castle, the Bran-Moeciu area is one of Transylvania’s spiritual cradles, so if you are looking for a place where authenticity is at home and your soul can be tranquil, you’ll definitely love it here, and fully live the genuine experience that you’re looking for. It’s also well known for the delicious culinary experience it can offer.

Source: romaniatv.net
Source: romaniatv.net

5. Apuseni

Last but not least… Apuseni region, where the mountain ridges dress themselves in accordance to the holidays, like the locals, in order to celebrate the good times of the holidays season. That is why we also have in mind Apuseni when thinking about places you should visit if you want to live an authentic Romanian experience during the holidays. We bet you’ll be delighted when you’ll see the carolers coming at your door, as Apuseni is another region where traditions have been kept untouched.

dinner-table-christmas-holidays-apuseni
Source: cabanamotilor.ro

So, are you ready to have the ultimate Romanian experience during the holidays? Ready to be shrouded in the beauty of the lands, and feel your spirit more alive than ever by partaking in some of the local traditions? If you know that deep down below the answer is yes, then don’t forget, we’re waiting for you!

Dracula – the man, the myth, the legend

Who doesn’t know him by now? The one about whom the history books talk as being one of the most ruthless rulers the Romanian land has ever seen, the same one who inspired the main character of the world’s most notorious gothic novels, as well as many other movies that followed for decades thereafter, and last but not least, the one who gave life to one of the world’s most popular legends – Dracula. But who exactly is Dracula, after all?

The man

Vlad the 3rd or Vlad the Impaler – the man, was a well-known voievode of Wallachia, who ruled the lands three times in 1448, between 1456 and 1462, and last in 1476 before his death. Son of Vlad the 2nd and a noble Transylvanian woman, he was born in Transylvania in the citadel of Sighisoara. In turn, Vlad married three times.

The first time it was in 1442 with a noble woman from Transylvania named Anastasia-Maria Holszanska of Transylvania (also known as Cneja Bathory), niece on the sister lineage of Sofia Jagello, queen of Poland, wife of Vladislav the 2nd. From this marriage Vlad fathers two sons: Radu and Vlad. Sadly, in 1462 she commits suicide because she didn’t want to be prisoner of the Ottoman Empire – Vlad’s sworn enemies, by throwing herself in the river that surrounds the fortress of Poienari, which was a branch of Arges river, giving thus life to the legend and the name of The Lady’s River.

His second marriage is with Jusztina Szilagyi, cousin of the well-known Mathias Corvinus. As a result of this marriage, he fathers Mihail and Mihnea 1st the Evil – who later becomes ruler of the Wallachian lands himself.

Following after, his third marriage is with Ilona Nelipic of Wallachia in 1463 (as it seems to result from a letter to Mathias Corvinus), with whom he lived in the Hungarian capital. From this marriage resulted a girl named Zaleska.

vlad-tepes
Source: pinterest.com

As a ruler of Wallachia, during his reign he obtained temporary independence from the Ottoman threat. He became infamous because of his cruelty methods and his usual way of impaling his enemies.

Despite cruelty being a common method of the times, Vlad got more “recognition” in this matter because of his disputes with the merchants of Brasov, which were the ones that characterized him in a very propagandistic way, as being very cruel.

The myth

From how and from where did the myth of Vlad being a vampire came to be? As we all know, it all came from the world’s most renown Gothic novel written by none other than Bram Stoker. It is believed that the circumstances under which Stoker wrote the book, as well as those under how his novel was received is what gave birth to such mythical thinking.

Be it that Stoker took his inspiration from the British Museum’s collections where Vlad is described as being a monster, a vampire that drinks human blood and a big cruelty amateur, or as historians suspect, from his friendship with a Hungarian professor from the University of Budapest, Arminius Vambery (Hermann Vamberger), who might’ve gave Stoker information about Vlad (in the 1897 novel, dr. Abraham Van Helsing recalling his friend Arminius), the author writing about this subject increased the reader’s belief that the novel had been inspired by real facts and that the story was maybe just a little bit romanticized, given its nature.

bram-stocker-dracula
Source: rebloggy.com

Behind all of this might be the genuine epidemic of “vampirism” that had spread across Eastern Europe at the end of the 17th century and continued throughout the 18th century with a reported number of cases that ascended dramatically, especially in the Balkans, later travelling towards the West, to England, Spain, Germany and even France. That is what might had given birth to this widely accepted “truth”, since travelers that were returning from the East kept telling stories about the undead, which helped keep the perpetuating of this mythical thinking.

However, years later, the contemporary researchers “bust” this myth suggesting that behind all of this epidemic was actually cholera.

The legend

It is undeniable that from the man to the myth, the path led later to the globally widespread legend of Dracula. Everybody knows the vampire lord that feeds on the blood of his opponents. Where does Dracula come from, though?

dracula-untold
Source: http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/

Well, being the son of Vlad the 2nd, Vlad the Impaler gets his name from his father, who was a renown member of the Order of the Dragon. But what does the Order of the Dragon have to do with the name of Dracula? Well, very much.

It is where the name of Dracula comes from, as for his father’s great deeds the Order – being comparable to that of the Teutonic Knights, gets bestowed upon him, which later grants him the name of Vlad Dracul (in Latin the word for dragon being draco). Therefore, Dracula – the title Vlad Tepes receives, and which later will pass through centuries as a legend, means Son of Dracul ( or son of the Devil – as in Romanian, the word Dracul stands for evil, given the biblical association of the devil to the serpent that tempted Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, despite in medieval times dragons serving as a symbol of independence, strength and wisdom).
Moreover, what also might have inspired count Dracula’s well-known attire – black cloak over red accouterments, was possibly the ceremonial uniform of the Order.

With all of these details put together, the legend was going to rise from the depths of Stoker’s imagination, and mixed with facts from the real life that inspired his character, gave birth to what we know today as one of the most controversial and spooky characters – Dracula.

A trip to the past: royal Romania

On a valley of the Carpathian mountains, 120 kilometers away from Bucharest, right in the heart of Romania, dwells a special construction, which remained impregnated in the sentimental geography of the people that reside there: the royal castle, Peles.

Peles Castle’s beautiful history begins in the year of 1866, on the 5th of August when the newly-installed ruler of Romania, Carol the 1st, accompanied by renowned personalities such as Dimitrie Sturdza, Carol Davila and others, visits for the very first time that little mountain village that would later become what we know today as the village of Sinaia. Being absolutely mesmerized by the beauties of the place, he decides that he should build there a summer residence for his family. To make this happen, he then sells an estate he owned in Germany, and from his own money, in 1872, bought at Sinaia a swampy area of 1000 acres.

regele-carol-1
Source: istorie-pe-scurt.ro

In a letter sent to his father in the same year, he writes: “Here, the air is always clean and cool… So, by each passing day, my desire of beginning the construction of a residence here strengthens.”

After all the negotiations with Dimitrie Ghica – the man who owned the land where Carol wanted to build his residence – were closed, in the following year, 1873, began the work for stabilizing the land where the palace would later be seated.

Initially, laying of the foundation stone kept being postposed because of the landslides. A lot of underground springs had to be captured through a series of drains. That is how the professor architect Wilhelm von Doderer makes his entrance, being brought to Sinaia by his highness in order to help him with problem, given that he had previously built the spa complex from Mehadia. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone was held later on, on 10 august 1875, on a Sunday.

Let this castle be raised and finished, and serve as the cradle of my dynasty, the national dynasty!”, Carol said, visibly touched, after which he put on an apron and together with his wife holding the trowel puts the plaster at the cornerstone, after the three traditional hammer blows. Next to the stone, he sits the foundation act as well as the building one, and along them dozens of gold coins of 20 lei, being the first Romanian coins with the face of Carol the 1st.

carol_i_of_romania_coin
Source: wikipedia.org

Peles Castle’s construction lasted 10 years – from 1873 until 1883. As a matter of fact, Peles was going to become an entire complex, that would eventually include many more buildings – like castles Pelisor and Foisor, the power plant or the royal stables. The initial plans were drawn by architects Schultz, Benesch and Liman, but over the years dozens of other engineers, architects and artists, Romanian or of any other kind, worked for broadening the complex.

Although in the year of its inauguration, back in 1883, the castle was very close to the borders of Austro-Hungary which began beyond Predeal, after the unification with Transylvania back in 1918, the royal castle of Peles became the second capital of the country, right in the middle of Great Romania.

On October 7th 1883, the chalet shaped castle is finished, and Carol offers a gala lunch, toasting with Romanian wine “in honor and happiness of Romania”. The well-known poet Vasile Alecsandri accompanies the toast with the following lyrics:

“Me, Carol and my nation

Have built in one mind and miss

A kingdom in times of altercation

A palace in times of peace”

At the end of the construction, Peles Castle would occupy 3200 square meters, having 160 rooms. With the improvements made after the war, the castle would be one of the most coherent ensembles of Art Nouveau in Europe.

castelul_peles_sinaia_-_vedere_panoramica
Source: wikipedia.org

In the interior decoration, Carol the 1st wanted to combine the modern with the old. For instance, although the heating was done via radiators, he still kept the fireplaces. The equipments were the most modern ones. A Viennese firm installed an elevator and an electric buzzer in December 1883. Almost all rooms had buttons “from the grand marshal to the servant.”

In October 1885, Peles is equipped with three telephones that would connect with Sinaia railway station, Sinaia post office and Bucharest. The electrical plant is made by a German company and an Austrian one, and the power plant is maintained by the Electrical Society of Bucharest, which offers the supporting staff as well.

Carol the 1st then orders two monographs to make known the wonders of the palace, both making their debut in 1883. One of them spoke in German and announced the speaking public of that language about the great achievement from the Carpathians, and the second one, in French, addressing specially the Romanian elites, highlited the superiority of German art over the French one.

Peles Castle, inspired by the German Renaissance, is a sumptuous building, with a great wealth of forms and decorations; a royal residence that rivals the beauty of castles such as Miramar near Trieste on the Adriatic coast, Neuschwanstein or Berg from the Bavarian Alps.

A connection long forgotten: the Romanian individual and his horse

In the rush of today’s world, many connections get lost with time due to drastic changes that follow, or are purely forgotten because the battle of tomorrow’s worries knocks at our doors. One of those connections which has not only been forgotten, but purposely severed as well, is the one between the Romanian individual and his horse.

From immemorial times, the horse has been a friend of the Romanian individual, his companion, and a symbol of courage and freedom. From fairy tales, to songs and to the real world, the horse has accompanied the Romanian individual everywhere: fieldwork, travels, battles, or just pure walks along the plains of the earth. Thanks to this companionship between the two, the horse has become a symbol of its own in Romanian culture.

Source: razvanpascu.ro
Source: razvanpascu.ro

Proof of this connection and journey together throughout the times comes from early ages, where we can see the horse being present in the “Danubian rider” legend, such rider belonging to the Geto-Dacian culture, the Romanians’ ancestors, and follows the individual along in his journey until present times.

Source: romanianhistoryandculture.com
Source: romanianhistoryandculture.com

One of the most renown man in Romanian history, Michael the Brave, known not only for his great leadership skills, but for his bravery and strong spirit, who also managed to unite all the Romanians under one ruling, is always pictured along his horse.
In any parts of Romania you’ll go, when you’ll see his statue, you’ll notice that he is almost always pictured alongside his horse, riding it, once again proof between the Romanian individual and his companion, the steed. One would get to think that this connection between the two is sacred.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Likewise, the horse is omnipresent in Romanian fairy tales at all times, where it accompanies the Romanian hero – such as Făt Frumos – all throughout his challenges, and even undergoing some itself (like eating hot coals), so he can be of great use and help to the hero.

Source: anidescoala.ro
Source: anidescoala.ro

The horse is so deeply rooted in Romanian culture that we can even find songs that has it as a subject, one of the most well-known Romanian songs being “Fir-ai tu sa fii de murg”, where the artists Liviu Vasilica tells a story about how he cannot sell his studhorse, no matter how much he’d want, preferring rather to do anything else than to sell it.

We can once again take notice of this very deep connection between the two beings –  the Romanian individual and his horse -, and we can observe how even though both of them come from different planes of existence, their spirits intertwine and form a profound communion, one that would become such symbol over the years, that will transcend time itself and be talked about even in the books of history.

It’s this link between the two and its sacredness that was used by the communists against the Romanians, back when the regime got installed, and the collectivization process started.

Given what the horse symbolized for the Romanian individual, and their connection, it quickly became a public enemy of the regime. If one possessed horses, not only this would mean an economical value, but given its socio-affective value it would mean that the individual possesses some sort of mental strength against the regime. People would rather separate from their lands than from their horses. And this couldn’t be possible.

That is when the Romanian individual’s spirit took the biggest hit: in order to mentally break him, thousands of horses were killed, and so what was viewed then as a symbol of freedom and resistance against the regime, was now just a painful memory.

The Romanian individual and his horse have gone through a lot since then, and even now, they still do. The last remaining wild horses from Letea forest, Danube Delta, were few years ago under great danger of being killed to serve as raw meat for the industry, but thanks to great Romanian individuals, they have been saved and now roam free.

Source: http://www.four-paws.org.uk/projects/horses-2/the-horses-of-letea-master-the-winter/
Source: four-paws.org.uk

And so, even though this special connection between the two seems very much severed, actions such as these show us that the link is still there, and whenever one is in danger, the other comes to the rescue, and for a moment, the connection is made again.

  • by Chatte Georgiana

Eternity was born in the village: the Romanian peasant and his connection to Heaven & Earth

In a world where speed and technology is all we find around us, where the connection with the land beneath our feet seems to be more and more severed, many times making us look like walking zombies, there’s still someone who stands firm in his convictions and connection to the world around us: the Romanian peasant.

“Eternity was born in the village” says one of the most famous quotes by Romanian philosopher, poet, playwright and novelist, Lucian Blaga. In his poem “The Soul of the Village”, Blaga talks about the scenery of the Romanian village and its connection to the Romanian peasant, where “every thought is slower,/ and the heart throbs more slowly,/ as if it beats not in your breast/ but deep down somewhere in the earth”.

Source: Domino Harvey / BoredPanda.com
Source: Domino Harvey / BoredPanda.com

In Romania, the village is considered the heart and the soul of the country, the Romanian peasant combining simplicity in his way of living with kindness, keeping thus alive the moral and spiritual values that have been passed down from generation to generation, making him and his way of living a symbol of the link between Heaven and Earth. As priest Dumitru Stăniloaie – a great connoisseur of the Romanian soul -, used to say: “The biggest two passions of the Romanian peasant are the earth and faith (heavens)”.

Source: Tudor Jelescu / Boredpanda.com
Source: Tudor Jelescu / Boredpanda.com

The understanding the Romanian peasant has over the world and the very land he stands on, is deeply grounded in his connection with the spiritual world, given that between these two worlds there is no breach: As above, so below; as it is on Heavens, so on Earth. The Romanian peasant lives his live in accordance to these two simple rules, and this is from where his soul stillness, his balance comes from. Ovidiu Papadima emphasizes that the Romanian peasant “considers God’s right both the earthly world, and the heavenly one. This is why he will never see them fighting, but harmonizing in a deep interpenetration”.

This culture the Romanian peasant has built still remains strong in Romania, like in no other parts of Europe. Here, the traditions along with the traditional craft and original customs, the music and folk costumes talk about an intense spirituality, that together with the rich history and landscapes to die for, gives Romania a unique, special and irreplaceable environment.

Source: Adina Voicu/Pixabay.com
Source: Adina Voicu/Pixabay.com

The Romanian peasant considers, quoted by Ernest Bernea in a collections of sayings, that: “The world is as God left it; as it is, that’s how it holds itself, has a natural order, can’t you see?”. From here, we can see that he feels deeply about the natural order of things, and his role within it, as he is an observer of this order and tries his best to not meddle with it, but do his part in the process of harmonization.

That is why, the Romanian peasant never considered himself owner of the land he possessed, but saw it as a gift from God to work with, in order to keep the good living and natural order of things, a good that was to be used for him and his community, as he was taught that the owner of everything he has it’s not him, nor his neighbor, but God itself, this teaching making out of the Romanian peasant a person with a great sense of sharing and belonging, at the same time. Is this very connection with both the Heavens and the Earth that gave birth to the well-known hospitality of the Romanian people.

Sadly, nowadays, with the rapid development of technology and urbanization, this connection is at risk of being severed for good, as the Romanian peasant is forced to transition to a new status. It’s not the first time this has happened, as the same thing happened back when the Communist regime was installed.
The Romanian peasant was stripped away of his land and forcibly displaced to the city, where he would become nothing more than a “production unit”, the system thus severely rupturing the organic connection between the Romanian peasant and his land, turning him into something that he was not, something that was against his own natural self.

Source: Mircea Bezergheanu Photography
Source: Mircea Bezergheanu Photography

Although Communism has long fallen, the Romanian peasant’s status still remains the same: he is at great risk of losing that connection he had for millennia because the world nowadays is too preoccupied with speed and technology, something that stands in antithesis with the organic connection between the Romanian peasant, the Earth beneath his feet and the pace at which the natural order of things happens.

Is he a “species on the verge of extinction”, is his connection to Heaven and Earth going to be severed for good? That is something we cannot tell for certain, and all that remains for us is to witness how these changes that we’re undergoing nowadays, are going to take effect.

But what we can tell for sure is that, if his connection is severed, the symbol of the link between Heaven and Earth will disappear, and along with it, the harmony that for so many millennia he has fought to preserve.

by Chatte Georgiana

The Wolf Warriors

The first to mention the “Getae” or the “Dacians” was Herodotus, the “father of history”, in the fifth century BC. They belonged to the Thracian sphere of influence, but they clearly distinguished themselves by particularities of religion and custom. The Dacians were known as Geta (plural Getae) in Ancient Greek writings, and as Dacus (plural Daci) or Getae in Roman documents. The historian Strabo specified that the Daci are the Getae who lived in the area towards the Pannonian plain (Transylvania), while the Getae proper gravitated towards the Black Sea coast.

After the unification of the Dacian tribes by Burebista, the Kingdom of Dacia was spread on a territory encompassing today’s Romania and the lands adjacent to it. The Dacians are one of Europe’s few indigenous peoples who have never left their inherited lands.

The history of the Dacians is little known, and the historical records are sometimes contradictory and confusing. Fortunately, though, part of this history is written in stone. One of Rome’s most famous tourist attraction is Trajan’s Column, built to celebrate the most fruitful invasion in the history of the Roman Empire. The column is adorned with figures representing the Dacians’ defiant and heroic spirit in battle.

Trajan’s Column, Rome Source - Wikipedia
Trajan’s Column, Rome
Source – Wikipedia

Prior to 100 AD, Dacia was a wealthy kingdom, with natural resources of gold, silver, copper and salt, fact that attracted Rome’s envy. It was only a matter of time until the powerful empire of Rome would send its legions to subdue this rich and independent kingdom. It took three major campaigns, almost 2 centuries, and its most capable generals to finally defeat the Dacians, in 106 AD.

The Roman people celebrated Trajan’s triumph in Dacia with the longest and most expensive celebration in their history; it’s said that the celebrations lasted 123 days. The Dacian goldmines helped Rome finance its future military campaigns and continuous expansion, so the Dacian Wars marked the beginning of a period of sustained growth and relative peace in Rome. A year after the victory in Dacia, the people in Rome didn’t pay any taxes, such was the wealth that the empire found in Dacia.

Today, you can still see the powerful impact the Dacians had on the Roman Empire when you visit Rome. Besides Trajan’s Column and Trajan’s Forum, statues of proud Dacian war captives can be found  in museums such as Musei Capitolini, Museo dei Conservatori, Musei Vaticani, but also in some of Rome’s most iconic places, like the Villa Borghese, Piazza del Popolo, Arch of Constantine and many others. Almost all the statues had two words written on them: ”Captivus Dacus”. The intriguiding fact is that these statues are portaying proud and strong figures, not what you’d expected of a captive. Most of them are also larger than those of the Roman Emperor Trajan’s and some are made of granite red-porphyry, a material which at the time was under royal monopoly. Why would the Romans put so many statues of captive Dacians even 200 years (the Arch or Constantine is build after 300AD) after their victory in Dacia?

Dacian Prisoners, Boboli Gardens
Source – Digital Images

Another interesting fact we can see on Trajan’s Column is the Dacian “draco”, or the troops’ standard ensign. It’s the head of a wolf attached to a dragon tail, metal tongues coming out of its open jaws. The dragon’s head was hollow, and mounted on a pole with a fabric tube affixed at the rear. When held up into the wind, it filled with air and gave the impression it was alive while making a shrill sound as the wind passed through it. The draco shows a religious syncretism between the wolf and the dragon as well as the serpent.

Dacian Draco on Trajan's Column Source - Wikipedia
Dacian Draco on Trajan’s Column
Source – Wikipedia

The wolf is the symbolic animal of the Dacians, who also called themselves “wolves”. The legend says they could turn into wolves. Some legends say that a big white wolf fought next to the Dacians when their capital Sarmizegetusa fell to the Romans.

Even if the history of the Dacians is quite evasive and we mostly rely on legends and myths to decipher as much as we can of this intriguing civilization, the truth is they were fierce warriors, but also a diligent people, who thrived in the lands in and around the Carpathian Mountains.

Dacians gold bracelet from Sarmizegetusa Regia, dated the 1st century BC or 1st century AD Source - Wikipedia
Dacians gold bracelet from Sarmizegetusa Regia, dated the 1st century BC or 1st century AD
Source – Wikipedia