6 Idioms Linguistically Identical in Afrikaans, German, English and Romanian

6 Idioms Linguistically Identical in Afrikaans, German, English and Romanian

Because idioms can be fun, here are 6 phrases linguistically identical in Afrikaans, German, English and Romanian, with a little historical background too. How else? 🙂

1. Hit the nail on the head – as old as the Bronze Age

(AFR) Slaan die spyker op die kop
(GER) Den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen
(ENG) Hit the nail on the head
(RO) A pune punctul pe i.
Meaning: to do exactly the right thing and also to know that acting differently will cause a great deal of pain. Ouch!

The origin of the phrase ‘to hit the nail on the head

Carpentry comes to mind and thus this expression must be as old as, well, the Bronze Age – bronze nails dating to 3400 BC were discovered in Egypt.

Searching for the use of hit the nail on the head in writing, The Phrase Finder mentions a medieval text, ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’ written during the 1430s. The book is a dictation of the life and divine revelations experienced by a woman, an English Christian mystic and pilgrim, yet not a nun, and is considered to be the first autobiography in the English language.

“If I hear any more these matters repeated, I shall so smite the nail on the head that it shall shame all her supporters.”

The Book of Margery Kempe, 1430s (in modern English)

In this context, the expression ‘hit the nail on the head’ probably means to speak severely.

idioms Afrikaans German English Romanian, Hit the nail on the head - as old as the Bronze Age

2. When the cat’s away, the mice will play – in Ancient Rome

(AFR) As die kat weg is, is die muis baas.
(GER) Ist die Katze aus dem Haus, tanzen die Mäuse auf dem Tisch.
(ENG) When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
(RO) Cand pisica nu-i acasa, joaca soarecii pe masa.
Meaning: when any kind of authority is lacking, someone will always take advantage.

When the cat’s away, the mice will play – its history

When the cat’s away, the mice will play is an idiom / proverb originated from the Latin dum felis dormit, mus gaudet et exsi litantro (when the cat sleeps, the mouse leaves its hole, rejoicing). The idiom was also encountered in 14th century France, ou chat na rat regne (‘Where there is no cat, the rat is king’). Surely, at any time throughout history it was observed that without moral standards, chaos ruled.

idioms Afrikaans German English Romanian. When the cat’s away, the mice will play - in Ancient Rome

3. Take the bull by the horns – in Ancient Greece

(AFR) Die bul by die horings pak
(GER) Den Stier bei den Hörnern (an)packen
(ENG) Take the bull by the horns.
(RO) A lua taurul de coarne.
(SPANISH) Coger el toro por las astas
Meaning: to face a difficult situation head-on.

Take the bull by the horns – its history

As many would have guessed, the rodeo practices of West America have bulled this saying into the everyday English vocabulary. During the 18th century, wrestling steers (castrated bulls) was part of the everyday working life of American ranchers.
Yet the practice of bullfighting and cattle wrangling originated with the sixteenth-century conquistadores, the conquistadors (soldiers and explorers of 15th – 17th centuries Spanish and Portuguese Empires), and the Mexican vaqueros, cowboys.
Obviously, a cowboy of any origin would be quite handy at controlling a bull by its horns, thus the literal use of the expression ‘to take the bull by the horns’ was long in use before it gained a figurative meaning.

What I love about idioms is that they seem to have an invisible connection with literature. And I remember now The Twelve Labours of Hercules (Heracles in Greek), especially the seventh one: capturing the Cretan bull.

Thus, could the expression ‘to take the bull by the horns’ originate in 600 BC with The Labours of Hercules written by Peisander of Camirus?

idioms Afrikaans German English Romanian. Take the bull by the horns in Ancient Greece
Detail – mosaic with the Labors of Hercules, 3rd century AD, found in Liria (Valencia), now at National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid, photo Luis García for Wikimedia

4. To have someone wrapped around your (little) finger – during the Middle Ages

(AFR) Sy draai almal om haar vinger
(GER) Jemanden um den Finger wickeln
(ENG)To have someone wrapped around your (little) finger
(RO) Il are la degetul mic
Meaning: to exert total emotional control over someone, but without a lot of effort, to have someone under total control without no effort

This phrase ‘to have someone wrapped around your (little) finger’ is my favorite of these six idioms linguistically identical in Afrikaans, German, English, and Romanian – because of its origin. You see, it could originate in sewing or… falconry!

A seamstress would reel thread on her index finger, then draw out the yarn as needed in her sewing work – taking stock for later use.

In hawking, the hunter will have a leash tied to the bird’s foot. After the bird lands on their arm, the falconer would wind the leash around their little finger so the bird won’t take off again that easily.

hawking, a possible origin for the idiom 'To have someone wrapped around your (little) finger' - during the Middle Ages
Goshawk Falconry, Lord Lilford on Birds, 1903. Hutchinson & Co. – wikipedia

In writing, a 1743 letter appears in The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia could be the oldest known mention of the idiom ‘to have someone wrapped around your (little) finger’:

“Watson could wind Parker round his finger; yet he was ready to swear twas all false.”

The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, 1743

5. To walk (tread) on eggshells – during the revolutionary 16th century

(AFR) Op eiers loop
(GER) Auf Eierschalen laufen
(ENG) To walk (tread) on eggshells
(RO) A calca / a merge ca pe ace
Meaning: to act cautiously as to not upset someone.

The oldest known written mention of ‘to walk (tread) on eggshells’ is in the 1591‘s translation of Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harington:

“So soft he treads, although his steps were wide,
As though to tread on eggs he were afraid.”

1591’s translation of Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harington

Surely, the expression is much older than that, dating from a time when humans would tread carefully looking for the places where (wild) hens and birds would have built a nest (or not) and hid their eggs.

Madonna-with-Child-Portal-of-the-Virgin-and-a-bird-nest-Notre-Dame-Cathedral-by-Lysandra-Furstenberg - To walk (tread) on eggshells - an idiom as old as the revolutionary 16th century
Madonna with Child, Portal of the Virgin and a bird’s nest, Paris Notre Dame Cathedral, Photo by Lysandra Furstenberg

6. To hang onto every word during the Industrial Revolution

(AFR) Aan iemand se lippe te hang
(GER) An jemandes Lippen hängen
(ENG) To hang on to (someone’s) every word / hung on her every utterance
(RO) A atarna de fiecare cuvant
Meaning: to listen very intently to someone.

I think this might be one of the youngest idioms in use, as it originated with the phrasal verb “hang on”, which came in use during the 19th century, when the cloth hangers were invented: 1860, hang on, meaning “to remain clinging.”

Although, here is a of beautiful quotes from the Bible, from Luke:

“and they could not find anything that they could do, for all the people [stayed close to Him and] were hanging on to every word”

The Bible, Luke 19:48

An idiom is a group of words that has a deeper, figurative meaning, other than its literal, word for word, denotation. But I think that an idiom also reflects the times when it surfaced, carrying even a minor historical aura around it.

Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories
Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories

I hope you enjoyed these 6 Idioms linguistically identical in Afrikaans, German, English and Romanian.

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COVER REVEAL, Transylvania’s History 100-Word Stories and Photos and Giveaway!

cover reveal 100 word stories Transylvania's history and book giveaway

Welcome to the COVER REVEAL for Transylvania’s History, 100-Word Stories and Photos and Giveaway!

Many of you may remember the 100-word stories I started publishing on this blog. The idea came to mind to finish the A to Z series inspired by snippets from Transylvania’s history and, together with snapshots from my travels, to publish them in a book.

Thus, A – Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1

Read on to the COVER REVEAL…

How the Giveaway works:

STEP !: Make sure you Follow my blog if you don’t do so already.

STEP 2: Comment on this blog post with something you know or have learned about Transylvania – it can be something you read on my blog – and you will be entered in the Giveaway!

(Giveaway closes on Saturday, 21 August, 6am GMT)
This Competition is now closed.

Read on to the COVER REVEAL…

What do you WIN in the Giveaway? An e-Book copy of my upcoming book!

Read on to the COVER REVEAL…

Here are the 100-word stories that were edited and made it into the book, along with others. Just click on an image to read it.

Paleolithic Murder in Transylvania 100 words story
Following a timeline of prehistorical discoveries, Conduct in a Neolithic Kingdom is a 100 words story inspired by Transylvania's history
Echoes of a Battle, Getae, Romania

Read on to the COVER REVEAL…

falx gladius Daoi Romans
Greed, of the Roman Kind, 100 words story

Read on to the COVER REVEAL…

hope has multiple faces, Roman history, 100 words story
Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance 100 words story

Cover Reveal for A – Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1 – almost there!

In Transylvania’s History A to Z, a collection of 100-word stories sprinkled with breathtaking photographs, Patricia Furstenberg uses the confining rules of the 100-word story form to stirringly capture Transylvania, Romania’s historical and geographical region.

Transylvania’s unspoiled natural beauty, its tumultuous history, and the people who touched it are depicted in this book.
Written as snapshots, tall tales, and descriptive narratives, these 100-word stories are the espresso of creative writing.

The unique beauty of a 100-word story is in the way the words are strung together, each one a gem, and in the spaces left between the words, and between the sentences. So much can be told, with little words. It is a challenge for the writer, and a thrill for the reader, as each time the tale is read, a new detail springs to mind.

Cover Reveal for A – Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1:

COVER REVEAL Transylvania's History Giveaway, A - Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1

UK Amazon Link
US Amazon Link
Canada Amazon Link
India Amazon Link
Australia Amazon Link
Germany Amazon Link

Release day Monday, the 23rd of August, exclusive to Amazon.

Remember the Giveaway!

Thank you for taking part in the COVER REVEAL for Transylvania’s History, 100-Word Stories and Photos and Giveaway!

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

The good, old bear, or the grizzly ursine, populated Romanian mythology since the times of the Thracians, and tales of its powers and wisdom have left their paw-prints on the Romanian folklore too.

The bear as a totem, as a symbol of one’s ancestry, was an animal revered by ancient Thracian religion, alongside the wolf. Why, it is even whispered in legends that the great Zalmoxix, the god worshiped by Geto-Dacians, was wrapped in a bear’s skin right after his birth. To soak up the power and the strength of the great beast, and perhaps even its endurance.

It isn’t a coincidence then that the bear held an important place in the beliefs and conscience of peoples all over the world. In the Celtic world, the bear was the symbol of warriors and even the root of its Celtic name, artos, sends us to the myth of the bear-goddess Artio and even tothe legend of King Arthur.

In the folklore of Siberia and Alaska, the bear is the beastly equivalent of the Moon as it disappears in late autumn only to reappear in spring. Here, plenty are those who consider the bear as man’s ancestor.

The Bear in Romanian Mythology

gold Dacian Helmet from Cotofenesti has with apotropaic powers

In Romanian mythology the bear is invested with apotropaic powers, able to avert evil influences or to turn around bad luck. While his presence, his spirit, also hold therapeutic and meteorological virtues.

As a result, the Bear Dance emerged. The choreography, as well as the symbology of the bear mask used, of the strength it inspires, depict both death and resurrection, nature’s natural cycle that no one can escape from. After all, the bear always defeats winter – this cruel mistress that leaves little but ice and snow along her path – and announces the forthcoming spring.

The Bear Dance represents the reminiscent of a pagan ritual and one can still observe it today in villages from Moldavian and Bucovina, in north-east of Romania.

Thus, on New Year’s Eve a sleuth of bears can be observed parading and dancing along the main road. Accompanied by drummers, pan flutes musicians, and whistles blowers, under the command of a bear tamer, the Bear Dance is supposed to bring a fertile New Year to the crowds of cheerful onlookers.

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

Much like the old year will soon fade, taking its ailments with it, during their dance the bears die and come back to life. Like the New Year will, stronger and happier.

Folk belief goes that the life cycle of the bear is responsible for regulating nature’s seasons. Not a coincidence then that the movement of the Ursa Major constellation is also closely connected to the sequence of the seasons.

During the 18th and the 19th century bear tamers were often seen along the roads of many European mountain villages. Apart from bringing good luck and spreading strength by their sheer presence, bears were, sadly, taught many tricks too. Luckily, no more life bears on a chain roam the country paths today.

The Bear in Romanian Folklore

In folk tales and legends the bear is indeed depicted as a peculiar creature. But how could they not? Bearing their cubs in the middle of winter; choosing to return to their burrows if the weather turns sunny; choosing forest paths over hibernation if glacial weather advances… Yet there is more. Bears would easily destroy a man-made bridge, yet knock over a tree if a river stops them in their pursuit of food.

Thus, Romanian folklore has associated the bear’s unpredictable behavior with the capricious weather looming between the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Bear tales…

Bears were believed to heal, through their presence or touch, ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, or fevers. For example in the area near Suceava, Moldavia, they say that if you allow a bear to step on the small of your back (and survive), you will be saved from any other diseases.

Bears could even heal the evil touch of Ielele, the evil eye, or bad spells. But a bear’s robust step was also meant to bring fertility and good fortune to a young family. Of course, once a bear stepped in one’s farmyard, no evil spirit or wild beast will ever set foot in it again. Makes sense…

Ursarii, bear-tamers of the 19th century Europe in a snowed Romanian village.
Old Postcard. Ursarii, bear-tamers of the 19th century Europe in a snowed Romanian village.

I can see now why the bear tamer was always welcomed in people’s yards, and in their homes. To have the bear dance on your property was considered auspicious, and many cheerful days were lined up ahead for your kin.

So, dreamed of a bear lately? Know that you’re in good luck!

Thus, there are a few important dates in Romanian folklore when the Bear, MoÅŸ Martin, is celebrated. Here are a few of them.

Theodor Aman, Ursarul (Bear Tamer)
Theodor Aman, 19th century Romanian artist, Ursarul (Bear Tamer)

The Winter Martinii, or San-Martini

Celebrated 40 days after Christmas, between the 1st and the 3rd of February, this celebration is meant to protect livestock and humans against any wolf or bear attacks.

The Bear’s Day, Stretenia (Feats of Presentation), or the telling of a coming spring

Bear’s Day (Ziua Ursului) is celebrated on 2nd February, coinciding with the Christian celebration of the Feast of Presentation, or Stretenia.

The ancestral origin of Stretenia

Stretenia is a celebration as old as the seasons. For it is now when winter and spring stare each other in the eyes. They finally meet again: from the old Slavic word for meeting, greeting, vstrecea –> vstrecenie –> stratenie.

Yet there is another layer to it.

During roman times it was now, in February, that one would prepare oneself, purify oneself to welcome the New Year, celebrated on the 1st of March. Ahead of new field labors meant to start soon, the purification was made with water and fire. Today, candles are used during the Feast of Presentation.

Stretenia, telling the weather

If the bear comes out of his hibernation on this day it means that spring is on its way – even if it’s cold and foggy, even if it snows. The summer will plentiful, the harvest enough for all. But if the bear spots its own shadow on the snow, he will return to its lair for an extra long nap. About 40 days long. Thus, spring is still a long way away.

It clear now why the winter celebrations are connected to the bear ending its hibernation; by following the bear’s behavior, farmers knew when the warm season was approaching.

Interesting to note is that a good wine is said to have bear’s power, while in Romanian folk tradition on the 1st of February Saint Trifon is observed, the protector of vineyards and orchards.

The Bear’s Saturday (Sâmbăta Ursului) – during Easter fasting

Women, especially, celebrated Bear’s Saturday to protect themselves against any beats when rummaging for berries, in summer. So during Bear’s Saturday no one would even whisper the beast’s name. People would not do any work either, so that their cattle and children stay protected against the brown bear.

This Saturday was also considered best for collecting medicinal and magic herbs. for only if picked today do they keep their powers. Like this: when the healing plant was found, a cross was made over it, and a prayer was told. The root was dug out, and in its place a crumb of bread was placed, wetted with a few drops of red wine.

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

Celebrating the bear in summer

The summer bear’s celebration is connected to honey/ fruit harvest and the peak of the bear mating season – a time when bears move around more than usual and they may accidentally come across humans. Which is why on these days of celebration no work should be performed. On August 13, a special celebration is held, honey pies and wine sweetened with honey are consumed, in the belief that it will protect both livestock and farmers against bear attacks during the honey and fruit and berry harvest (since honey and fruits are part of the bear’s diet). A blessed time, summer preparing for winter by reaping autumn’s bounty.

Romania still holds the largest and most spectacular wilderness of Europe. Its vast ancient forests still grow atop great mountains that reach up and kiss the sky (the Carpathians are 1600 km long, 2544 meters in height). Its winding waters twist and turn among lush flower beds (a third of Europe’s bouquet), and beasts from myth and legend, like the old bear, still roam free.

I’m asking you then, who is the king of animals in Europe?

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Enchanting Solomonars, Romanian Cloud-Chaser Sorcerers

Balea Lac mountain reflected in lake

Enchanting Solomonars, these Romanian cloud-chaser sorcerers, are also called eagles or hail-gatherers, by their skills; cloud-walkers by their powers; dragon-riders to the welkin and back, by their means of transport.

The Solomonars were revered, yet feared, called upon, yet shunned for their innate understanding of nature’s forces; for their instinctive ability to read the weather, even in its wildest exhibitions; for their solid grasping of what was there, yet not seen, felt, yet intangible, life-threatening towards everyone else, but themselves.

Where do Solomonars come from?

Solomonars hail from a millennial realm stretching along the border, suspended between valleys and clouds, MaramureÈ™, the one studded with archaic monasteries and earth-while fortresses.

Snow covered realm Maramures
Snow covered realm MaramureÈ™

And from a land that straddles the northern crease of Oriental Carpathians, the land of Hutsul people… the breeders of sturdy ponies, and crafters of wood.

Or from within the forests neighboring Corvin Castle, the Woodsmen Land. Where inside a defensive ring of ancient forests, amongst rich pastures set around lush meadows, mid orchards layered on man-made terraces, sprout colorful huts clustered around tiny wooden churches and a fistful of gardens.

View from Corvin Castle
Breathtaking Romanian Countryside

Solomonars, like their skill that borders myth and reality, originate from such realms where the fireflies, the Forest Girl or ghosts are as real as the stories they populate. Yet none can pinpoint the first hamlet, nor the time-frame to mark the Solomonars’ origin.

Before Solomonars…

Are they descendants of King Solomon and have inherited his wisdom? Or followers of Prophet Elijah, Saint Ilie in Romanian Orthodox belief and the bringer of rain during drought? Either way, the Solomonars hold the knowledge and the powers to bring rain when needed by opening the skies; to stow away hail and tempests; or to freeze waters, or split ice. And how could they not, when they studied their craft for seven years, away from the garrulous world, locked in their underground school from where they burst again into the light by the strand of clouds they hold in their fists?

How to spot a Solomonar

Don’t believe it yet? Search for them around you and you will spot them by the tome they hold in one hand. Not an ordinary book, but an extension of their knowledge; and not tattered for use, but for the long use of their skill. And by the staff they carry in the other hand. Not an ordinary staff, but a scepter to tame the weather with, and not to show off their powers. Also a cane to lean on, as well as a club to fight beasts with-such as snakes. And, hidden around their neck, hangs a wooden plate, a toaca. Considered the voice of angels and the song of wood, toaca is played with wooden hammers as a prayer to a higher spiritual power.

toaca lemn Christian Orthodox
Toaca, whose song in wood is like the voice of angels in the Christian Orthodox tradition, is struck with wooden hammers in a rhythmic motion as a prayer to a higher spiritual power.

“With toaca I’ll halt you,
Cursed cloud, you,
Over mountains chase you!
But if blessed art thou,
Over village you shall bough.”

(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)

Solomonars deal with forces of nature, unseen and immaterial, so they can’t be bothered with the concrete. They don’t mind their appearance, so don’t search for opulence. A white cloak secured with a birch-tree girdle. And seven vests that they keep on even during hot summers. A woolly hat, or a brimmed one, by the custom of the realm they hail from.

A story with Solomonars…

We ask for rain to come down, but only when it’s needed. And we ask for rain that’s right, and that when it rains, it does not pour… for then, when rain falls like a curtain, that’s when a dragon most probably has fallen from the sky… and when it hails, that’s when two dragons chase through the clouds, swirling past one another and causing such havoc, and such icy blasts, that all raindrops freeze.

What is there to do? For hay can only be made when the sun shines. And crops won’t sprout without blessed rain. Who can tame the weather, but a Solomonar?

So, after long debates, the villagers secretly call him. And he arrives straightaway, as if he knew he was needed. The wise men of the village nod they beards, standing together; the women cross themselves from behind door frames and pull their children into their skirts. Word goes that a Solomonar could steal one, keep him for seven years, and make him his apprentice. And none wish for such an eerie lifestyle.

But the man in the white cloak, the man whose age none can read, asked only for some milk and a few eggs as he strode to the edge of the village, to the lake. None dared follow, yet some stooped behind trees, watching. Blood curled in their veins, eyes sore from squinting. They think they saw him opening his book.
Can’t be all bad if he reads from a book?
And as he read, as the words left his lips and stretched towards the sky – ‘surely not sucked into the ground?‘ – the lake began to freeze. Some said they saw the ice creeping forward from his feet. Some said it started at the center and reached towards him, moaning and screeching like a demon of the night. But they all agreed that when the lake froze over, in the middle of summer, the man in the white cloak strode along it. With ease, with the same surety he showed striding on the road crossing their village. As if the soles of his boots were in perfect agreement with the ice on the lake. And then, after he reached the center of the frozen lake – and here the stories diverged again. Some said he pulled an axe from his belt, while others said he clenched both hands on his mighty staff. Yet they both agreed that while doing so, he was chanting:
What? What?!’
They couldn’t hear…
Oh, blast! And then?‘ Curiosity over-powering fear. And then, through the ice hole – and everyone agreed again – a mighty beast emerged from the lake. A dragon, a balaur! With a mighty tail and a sinuous body. And as soon as the beast emerged from his underworld the Solomonar, as fast as a thought, harnessed and saddled the creature, jumped on and together they reached the domes of the sky. The ice covering the lake following them.
And then? What else?‘ And then it rained. For we asked for rain.

And he was gone, the man in the white cloak, having had a mug of milk, and taking with him only a piece of cheese and boiled eggs, as many as he could fit in his shoulder bag. Few said, red in the face, that they engaged him in some banter. The few who knew better, cared not. The Solomonar was too far up the road, nearing the belt of trees, following the call of the wind. Alone.

If someone disappeared from the village afterwards, it was by their own will. And, again, the few who knew kept their mouths shut-the Solomonar out of sight already. And the crowd who did open up their ears? Why, that’s where I got part of my story from!

Bâlea Lake

“A Solomonar passed,
Mighty dragon in grip,
He struck his whip,
He straddled his beast,
They twisted and spun,
Till the rain began.”

(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)


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Dreamy Blues, Authentic 1885 Tulcea House by the Black Sea

Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, a Romanian county spreading between Danube and the Black Sea.

Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, that dips its shores in both the Danube and the Black Sea. You can visit it now, on my blog, or at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

We have a Romanian saying, Omul sfinÅ£eÅŸte locul, in English it carries the same meaning as “a good farmer makes a good farm.”

I spotted the bright blue shutters from afar. I quickened my step. I wanted to know who lived in a house with such cheerful windows, and such treasures painted on its doors. Who were they? What was their story?

blue double panel window

They say that one should never start work, or a journey, on a Tuesday for it won’t end well. The year 1654 started on a Tuesday, and it is the year when the great Russian Patriarch Nikon decided to re-examine the church books, for “the Greeks should be followed rather than our own ancients.” The schism that followed affected many during the following century, but especially (as always) the masses. Those who sicked to their old believes, the starovery, were forced to pay higher taxes, wear special clothing that will make them stand out… if not burned at the stake.

I have to pause and draw a parallel between the choice the starovery from the Tsardom of Russia were forced to make in the 17th century and the Romanian population of Transylvania who was forced by Hungarian authorities, during 15th – 16th centuries, to convert to Calvinism, “the true faith.”

Thus, the starovery migrated. Some reached as far as Alaska, others loved the serene land around the Danube and, being fishermen by skill and having the sea in their blood, settled in Dobruja, Dobrogea, at the beginning of the 18th century. Today they are known as Lipovans, or Flipovans(after their leader’s name).

Bright blues and wavy eaves in a house of a family of lipoveni from Tulcea

The Lipovans brought along their personal style, the men wearing long beards, the women dressed in bright reds, greens and blues, like the feathers of the birds, and the spring shoots, and the ripples of the rivers.

Do you see the thatched roof? The way it extends low over the narrow porch? They are distinctive architectural features, as are the wavy eaves:

The house, built as a home in 1885, came to the Village Museum (piece by piece and reassembled here) from the Jurilovca village, siting at the mouth of Razelm Lake – a freshwater lagoon on the shores of the Black Sea in Tulcea County, Romania.

The Lipovans who lived here painted the tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth“, on their door:

blue painted door Village Museum. the tree of life, "as in Heaven, so on earth"
The tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth

Originally painted in 1885, perhaps as a blessing on the threshhold of their new life, in a new land, and a new home:

dark teal painted door, Village Museum Bucharest
The Tree of Life in front of a full moon painted on a dark teal door, Village Museum Bucharest

And because it meant so much to them, the Lipovans painted it again. I like the wavy movement of the greenery depicted above and how the flowers appear to sway in the breeze.

A door with a painting in shades of green and a dark teal door frame, Village Museum
The Tree of Life again, against a happy background, a new life in Romania, a better life.

The Symbology behind the Tree of Life – Art in Romanian Folklore, Patterns

The tree of life can be spotted painted on a door, such as above. But more often we glance upon a diminutive symbol of it (such as the branch of a fir tree, flowers in a pot, shoots of wheat or rye, or mere leaves), be it carved on the wooden pillar of a home, on a piece pottery, or embroidered by hand in a Romanian peasant blouse, ia.

The tree of life, or its symbols, they all stand for the biblical image of Jesus Christ, and of the His everlasting spirit.

The leaves, symbolize immortality and resurrection.

It is a cheerful house, and I hope the Lipovans led a happy life in their new home in Tulcea County, Dobruja, by the Black Sea.

thursday doors, 100 words story

For Dan Antion’s exciting Thursday Doors and for Jude’s Life in Colour Photo Challenge 2021 – weekly challenges.

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