Go on quest for ‘Youth without Age and Life without Death’. Engage with Half-man-riding-on-the-worse-half-of-a-lame-rabbit. Witness sorcery in the story of the ‘Enchanted Pig’. Discover that love is ‘Like Salt in a Meal’ and that you better be kind or the ‘Old Man’s Clever Daughter’ will teach you a lesson to remember.
The fruit trees start blossoming and the sparrows begin chirping at the break of dawn. The sunlight grows warmer and glows with care. Its fingers graze the small, pink flowers that are abuzz with bees.
C’est le printemps. Este primăvară. Dit is lente. It is spring.
The rebirth of nature, after the long icy months, is enough to open your mind to the beauty that nature seems to paint so effortlessly.
The warmer air is filled with the sweet scents of flowers and the promise of renewal.
Our hearts open hopefully to new sentiments and romance.
The seasons are not usually linked to the months of the year, but rather by the appearance of flowers on trees, or astronomy. ‘Equinox’ comes from the Latin words aequi (meaning equal) and noct (meaning night). Natural time is unstable and the lengths of day and night are usually not equal, yet on the spring equinox and autumn equinox-the angle of the Earth’s axis is positioned in such a way that daytime and night-time are equal. Spring is mostly thought of as the time between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. During the spring equinox; the sun is directly over the Earth’s equator at midday. The equal lengths of day and night (well, nearly equal) are due to the fact that the sun’s rays refract (bend) when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere.
This refracting causes the sun to appear that it is still above the horizon, when it has actually already set. Hence, the daytime is lengthened by roughly seven and a half minutes at the equator (countries like Brazil, Gabon, Kenya, Somalia, Maldives and Indonesia), eight minutes at 30 degrees latitude (places such as South Africa, southern Australia, Argentina and southern Brazil) and sixteen minutes at 60 degrees latitude (like in Sweden and Russia).
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year-this year (2020), it is on the 20th of December in the Southern hemisphere and on the 20th of June in the Northern hemisphere. So, if you don’t live on electronic time (like I do)-those are the perfect days to spend outside in the sun. Well, 20th of June was the perfect day. If you know how to build a time machine, then you know where to go!
I have always been fascinated by Egyptian history and have read up on as much as I could find on the subject since I was first introduced to it ten years ago. In those ancient times, seasons (and most things that are now explained with Science) were often explained with mythical tales. Spring often symbolised rebirth and resurrection-something which the Egyptians held at the core of their belief system. Osiris (the Egyptian god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation) was brutally murdered by his brother, Seth (the god of war, chaos and storms). Osiris was the first-born son to Geb (god of the earth) and Nut (goddess of the sky). As first born, he was considered the ruler of Egypt. He taught the Egyptians the proper ways to worship the gods, provided them with laws and taught them agriculture. He later took Isis (his sister) as his wife and she gifted the Egyptians equality and compassion. The paradise ensured equality among all and abundance of food. Set was jealous of his brother’s power and success. When his wife (Nephthys) became pregnant by Osiris-after disguising herself as Isis-Set’s resentment turned bitter.
He decided to eliminate his brother and had a beautiful casket made, tailored to Osiris’ exact measurements. A huge party was thrown and Set invited his brother-but with sinister motives. Set revealed the magnificent casket to the guests and told them that whoever’s body fit most perfectly inside could take the treasure home. As you can guess-Osiris’ fit perfectly. Set immediately slammed the lid shut and threw the casket-and his brother-into the Nile. Of course, this is only one version of how Set murdered his brother. Now you’re probably wondering where Spring comes in. Well, Osiris’ wife-Isis-found his body and buried him-which re-birthed Osiris as the judge of the underworld. Hence-rebirth, resurrection and the arrival of spring (with Osiris’ role as the fertility god-giving life to plants) was created in Egypt. Of course, this story also explains the annual flooding of the river Nile, as when Osiris’ casket was thrown into the river-it flooded, as it does every year since then in the spring.
Spring symbolises new beginnings: baby birds begin chirping in nests and the trees start making new leaves and beautiful blossoms.
The world is renewed and the air filled with hope. Maybe change is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. The flooding of the Nile in Egypt still provides farmers with water for their crops-and therefore food. The changing seasons all over the world provide us with new perspectives and opportunities.
It is up to you to jump in the flood and let yourself be renewed to a more powerful version of yourself.
Once upon a time, in a fortress far away, in the lost town of Iriin, an emperor known by the name of Sehachi (some called him Sachaisa) had twelve vivid dreams in one single night. No one in the emperor’s entourage could explain their meaning, until they heard of a great scholar and philosopher named Mamer, who could interpret such dreams. So they invited Mamer to court. He came, for he was wise enough to know that if the emperor himself invites you, then there is great cause and you must go at once.
In the safety of the royal rooms, the emperor shared his dreams with Mamer.
‘My lord Sehachi,’ said Mamer, ‘these dreams should not worry you, but cause great joy for God had sent them to you and to you only to show you what will happen at the end of days. Yet there is much you can still do to prevent it. But you cannot do it alone.’
The emperor gasped and a tear bloomed in the corner of his eye only to make its way along a deep wrinkle, down the emperor’s cheek until it got lost in his grey beard.
‘Tell it to me,’ said Mamer stretching out his hand as if to receive, ‘the first dream.’
The emperor’s eyes were looking straight into the philosopher’s cobalt ones, as clear s the sky, as deep as the sea.
‘There was a golden pillar that seemed to unite Heaven and earth.’
Mamer listened, his eyes searching the horizons. A ray of sun was shining,emerging between the palm trees lining the imperial gardens.
‘When the last days will arrive,’ he finally spoke, ‘there will be much evil in the world. Justice will seem to have vanished, and so will all good intentions, and heartfelt gestures, peace and understanding. No one will even think good thoughts or utter kind words, but only vile ones. The old people, the only ones still remembering how a good thought sounded like, will be too weak and too scared to say it out loud to the young. To teach them. And all will go to their graves taking their sins with them, without repenting. There will also be famine and the autumn will last through the winter, while the winter will stretch into summer. Yet men will be able to sow during any season and no one will ever remember that there was a time for each seed and an endeavor for each season. Men will sow all year long, yet there will be little to reap. Because the earth, too, will be tired. And during such times children will not respect their parents anymore and will marry whomever they choose. They will no mind the sin and many children will grow not knowing who their fathers are, nor who their ancestors came from, or where their roots spread. And kings and princes will care no more for their people, but will be violent towards the poor. Many will forsake their fate and embrace another. There will be day, yet the sun will get darker and no moon will come out to shine. The days will become short and many signs will show themselves. To everybody. Yet people will have none to turn to for advice for priests will not be recognizable from the uninitiated anymore, nor by looks and neither by speech. Priests will tell lies, and this will contribute to the crumbling of all truth and justice.’
The philosopher returned the king’s hard stare.
‘This is what your first dreams means, Sire.’ Then he said quickly, ‘how was your second dream, o king?’
The king sighed, caught his breath, his right hand over his heart, and said, “ I saw a woman holding a towel in her hand and it reached from heaven to earth.’
Mamer the philosopher thought, looked around the king’s large rooms, with bolted ceilings painted with stars and suns and moons, then said, ‘when the last days will be near the people will forsake their true faith and will think of adopting another one, but no one will think of worshipping God anymore. People will forsake their poor relations, but prefer the company of strangers.’
The king’s eye caught a small brown bird on the windowsill. His youngest daughter liked to leave crumbs there. The bird ate, sang a tune, and flew away.
‘And the third dream?’
‘I saw three kettles boiling over a big fire. One filled with fat, one with water and the third one with oil. Some of the fat was running into the oil, and some of the oil into the fat. But none fell into the water which was boiling by itself.’
A tray with gold rimmed glasses placed on a silver tray engraved with geometrical patterns as well as a wine jug was brought next to the king. Yet the philosopher declined the drink with a tip of his head.
He said further, ‘at the end of the days the men will plant villages in places where such villages had never been dreamed of rising before. At one end of the village a rich man will live, while at the other another rich man will raise his manor, while the poor will live in the middle. And the one rich man will invite the other to feast with him, while both will ignore the poor, even if the poor is their brother. And will be hypocrites, they will all neglect their own relations, hate their parents and brothers and love only the wife’s family, if it has money. Women will leave their husbands and run away with other men. Old women will marry young men and old men will marry young girls, much too young, for shame would have disappeared from among men and there will not be left a single pure woman or man in the world.’
The king looked at his family portraits, adorning the walls of his rooms. Mamer placed his hands in his lap, one on top of the other, and said quietly, ‘and the fourth dream?’
‘I saw an old mare chewing some hay and the foal neighing within its belly.’
The philosopher replied while watching his hands. Or perhaps he observed the thick carpet that felt so soft underfoot.
‘When the end of the day approaches, mothers will act immodestly and allow their daughters to meet with strangers and conduct immoral business. And the fifth dream?’
“I saw a dog lying in a pond and her puppies were barking inside her belly.’
The king’s carpets were dark blue, with gold details that matched the murals.
‘During the last days fathers will still teach their sons properly, but the sons will refuse to listen and will say ‘you have grown old and have lost your senses and you don’t know what you are talking about anymore,’ and the parents will be put to shame and will keep silent.’
The king kept quiet for a long time. The sound of a lute filled the room.
‘And the sixth dream?’
‘I saw a large number of priests standing in dirt up to their necks,’ whispered the king.
‘At the time of the ned of days the priests will still teach God’s word to the people, but they themselves will not follow it anymore but will only plan to enrich themselves, condemning their souls to the everlasting fire.’
The notes were turning and twisting with the leaves.
‘And the seventh dream?’
‘I saw a beautiful horse with two heads, one in the front and one looking at the back. One head fed on grass while the second drank water.’
‘When the end of days will come near, there will be wrong judgement in the world, bribery, and the bishops will appoint ignorant priests because they will be paid to do so and not mind it. A thing which ought never to happen. There will be plenty of priests, but only a handful of good ones among them. The rest will have neither fear of God, nor shame of men and will never think that they will go down to the torments of hell for their sins.’
The first drops of rain hit the leaves.
‘And the eights dream?’
‘I saw a great number of pearls strewn on the face of earth and fire fell from heaven and it burned everything.’
The room filled with the ozone rich scent of rain, overpowering the sweet incenses rising from gold vases placed along the walls. The philosopher filled his lungs, grateful. Then answered.
‘At the end of days all will become smugglers and the rich will make the poor to look like liars and will use treachery to take everything away from the poor. No worrying that by doing so they will lose their souls.’
The leaves of the palm tree seemed to rub one another in the wind, like giant hands.
‘And the ninth dream?’
‘I saw a large number of people working together in one spot,’ said the king, rubbing his own hands, absentminded.
‘At the end of days men will bring their riches to others, for safekeeping. And the keepers will smile and be glad to receive it. But when the owners will come to take back what was rightfully theirs, the keepers will pretend not to know what is being asked of them and they will even swear they speak the truth, not worrying that they will lose their soul for lying.’
A sudden outburst rose the curtains to the ceiling, pushing a vase over, its fall cushioned by carpets. Then the downpour came.
‘And the tenth dream?’
‘I saw lots of women and men sitting on the ground,’ called the king, in an attempt to make himself heard over the gale.
‘When the end of days will be near,’ answered Mamer, en will not shy away from trickery and pride, and will not worry for losing their souls for it.’
‘And the eleventh dream?’
‘I saw people wearing beautiful flowers in their hair.’
Mamer thought for a while, his eyelids almost covering his cobalt eyes that were cast on his hands, placed in his lap. Outside, the rain poured like a song.
‘At the end of days people will be stingy, greedy and many will gossip and will stray away from the righteous path and do that in their homes too. Good words, truth, will not be uttered anymore, not even between brothers. When a poor will say wise words, all will laugh, but when a rich man will say something stupid, all will gasp and clap and say ‘hear what he says for he speaks the truth,’ and all will agree with him. And all will end in hell. And the twelfth dream?’
‘I saw many people with a great deal of hair, with nails like a vulture and very long legs,’ said the king and two tears run down his face, one on each side. And when the philosopher looked up he saw the wet path that was already there, for each tear to follow.
‘At the end of days the rich will take advantage of the poor so much so that the poor will envy those who died before them, and were thus absolved from living such bad times.’
Then he placed both his hands on the sides of his chair and stood with great ease, given his age. And Mamer the philosopher bowed in front of the king and said, ‘your servant, my lord, for I spoke the truth, and dark times will be seen, at the end of days.’
And he turned, left the king’s rooms and the palace and headed down the road. And those who saw him walk did not knew who he was, just wondered how such an old man can walk at such a great speed and not mind the rain.
What are The Twelve Dreams of Mamer?
Dating from the 15th century and known today in several variations, the twelve prophetic dreams of king Sehachi is available also as a 17th century (1678) Romanian manuscript, being one of the oldest known manuscripts written in the Romanian language. The manuscript is entitled The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, Cele Douasprezeve Vise in Tâlcuirealui Mamer.
The Twelve Dreams of Mamer may very well be a an oriental story that reached the Slaves (and from there it came to Romania where it stayed among other local folktales) via an unknown Greek version.
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Thinking of the heroes from Romanian folktales, and any tales, they achieve so much more than rescuing the princess or defeating the dragon who endangers an entire kingdom. Heroes give readers hope and hope is the seed of dreams, of adventures and achievements.
Only four centuries ago, during a time when books would slowly, very slowly become accessible due to printing, yet reading was still a skill of the lucky few, written stories were cherished, their readers esteemed, and the entire experience treasured in group gatherings, artisanal sittings or during feasts. Stories were further narrated, enjoyed and treasured, past on to descendants, and the storybooks, if owned, were even kept next to religious icons and even protected by curses against possible thieves.
Be it religious accounts, mystical or magical tales, secular adventures, enigmatic predictions, parables or humorous accounts, stories have left their mark on people’s mindset, on their imagination.
Ask any Romanian 🙂 and Făt-Frumos, Beautiful Son, is the one Romanian folktale hero that’s on everyone’s lips. Well, he is a character quite hard to forget, handsome (as if it needed be said), smart, possessing great physical and spiritual strength, performing good deeds left and right, always keeping his word while going through some really queer adventures.
Usually the youngest son of a king, Beautiful Son always succeeds where his older brothers failed. I guess he is a bit like Superman or Spiderman – the underdog who eventually goes through tests and obstacles that surpass ordinary men’s power, fighting monsters – dragons – and other malicious characters – hags, witches, or even prejudiced, unreasonable kings, always emerging victorious.
He does have an aid, and this is one of my favorite parts as it is a magic horse, a Marvelous Horse, a Magic Horse, who looks old and shabby, but is given a second chance.
I am not sure I am cut to be the type of hero Beautiful Son is, having to overcome Frost’s dilemma as to which road to travel: “If you turn right, you will be in sorrow; if you turn left, you will be in sorrow as well“, and ending up traveling through deserts and snowy places on this land, but on the other land too.
Isn’t this what we love about heroes, the second chance they are offered and they offer to others?
For a child, a hero is the ticket to an adventure he / she can take from the safety of their own bed. But if we look at folk heroes closely, as adults, we can see that they encompass the history of the nation who birthed them. Romania has known centuries of harsh attacks from north, south, east and west (mongols, Turks, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, Nazis) – and Romanians always fought back, always forced to decide between two equally unfortunate choices: ally with your enemies or fight them.
Ileana Cosânzeana (or Ileana Simziana, Chira Chiralina) is the main heroine of Romanian mythological fairy tales, the female correspondent of Beautiful-Son, usually his love ideal. She is depicted as beautiful and kind – perhaps the other way around, her kind spirit shining through, therefor everyone finds her lovely?
According to folktales she is kidnapped by a dragon and locked in a tower or taken to the Other Land, the Netherworld. The heroine is saved by Făt-Frumos and most of the times the two have to defeat the dragon/ or the witch together. Thus, the fairy tale ends, most of the time with a wedding. And they both live happily ever after.
Worth mentioning is that the dragon is always in love with Ileana. It is interesting to notice that Ileana and her abductors never have children. In Romanian fairy tales a child can only be the result of a relationship based on love and consensual marriage.
Now, as Iana Sânziana (and many argue that the two are not the same character) she is the daughter of the Son from which she runs away for he loves her so, perhaps with too much ardor. She hides herself on a secluded island. In another version of the myth she is the Moon and thus God separates the Moon from the Sun.
The Romanian myth of the Sun and the Moon goes like this
The sun is presented as a young man who, wanting to get married, travels for nine years, on nine paths to find his chosen one. Finally, the sun finds the youngest of nine sisters and her name was Ileana Sinzeana, later nicknamed ‘The lady of flowers Of carnations, The sister of the Sun, The foam of milk. ‘ He wishes to marry her and travels through Heaven and Hell, accompanied by “old man Adam” and “mother Jehovah” (Eve), who try to persuade him to give up his intention. Back to earth, the young man again asks the girl to accept him as her husband, and she, as in the fairy tale, asks him to build her “A brass bridge, To not pay attention to it” (perhaps invisible) over the Black Sea (bordering Romania), at the end of which she knew there was a monastery where they can celebrate their marriage. But when the two reach the bridge, Ileana Sânziana throws herself into the sea, turning into the white foam that “the saints from heaven” in their palms took.
This hero we encounter in only one Romanian myth. The Sun and the Moon are stolen by three vicious dragons, balauri, and their wives. Greuceanu defeats them all and returns daylight to humankind. This is a precious motif of initiation symbolizing a new beginning for humans, the chance of a rebirth.
Prâslea cel Voinic, Young-One the Robust
The youngest of the brothers, again, proves to be the bravest and the smartest one. He is also the one who has to save the honor of the family by making up for his older brother’s faults – necessary for his success. But it isn’t only bravery that Prâslea has and his brothers don’t, but social skills too. In Romanian folklore Prâslea finds the thief of the King’s golden apples.
When I was young I found this story mesmerizing as Prâslea had to stay awake an entire night to catch the thief. He even fashions some spikes for himself that were supposed to impale him awake from his slumber.
Harap Alb, White Warrior
Harap Alb may be only a 19th century story told by Ion Creanga and based on Romanian folktales, but the theme of this fairy tale is still the struggle of good against evil, ending with the victory of good. The main character follows the same heroic adventure, a path of moral and ethical maturation sprinkled with various trials and obstacles. The world in which the action takes place is still a miraculous one, dominated by stereotypes and exaggerations.
It is the same reflection of reality, but in an embellished, fabulous way, which does distract the reader and thus the characters can and will react in ways that will not make sense nor be possible in the real world.
Harap might translate to moor, or Arab, but the character is the youngest son of a King and is depicted as having blond hair.
My favorite part as a child were some of Harap Alb’s helpers, his buddies: Frost-one, Thirsty-one, Hungry-one, Good-sight-one, Birdy-Widy-Lenghtly-One, one more colorful than the next.
Why do we love a good hero? Because they create order out of chaos? Because they show us that it can be done, any obstacle surmounted if we set our mind to it?
Folk tales remind us of a time when everyday life was passing at a slower pace, when people listening and let their imaginations unfold, when simple fables held the answer the world’s ultimate questions and dark forests still withheld secrets.
Today we rush through each day and fly over forests to spy on its last secrets. But perhaps at night, when we hear the last wolves howl, or a branch knocks in the window stopping us from our fast pace, sending shivers down our necks, our souls remember what was passed on from generation to generation until it was embodied in our DNA. Story-time.
I hope you enjoyed My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales. Which are your favorite fairytale heroes and heroines?
Enjoy Winternag, Winter Night by Eugene Marais here in both Afrikaans and English. Eugene Marais was a South African lawyer, naturalist, poet and writer. He wrote this poem in 1905.
Winternag, Eugene Marais
‘O koud is die windjie en skraal. En blink in die dof-lig en kaal, so wyd as die Heer se genade, lê die velde in sterlig en skade En hoog in die rande, versprei in die brande, is die grassaad aan roere soos winkende hande.
O treurig die wysie op die ooswind se maat, soos die lied van ‘n meisie in haar liefde verlaat. In elk’ grashalm se vou blink ‘n druppel van dou, en vinnig verbleek dit tot ryp in die kou!’
Winter Night, Eugene Marais
‘Cold is the slight wind and sere. And gleaming in dim light and bare, as vast as the mercy of God, lie the plains in starlight and shade. And high on the ridges, among the burnt patches, the seed grass is stirring like beckoning fingers.
O tune grief-laden on the east wind’s pulse like the song of a maiden whose lover proves false. In each grass blade’s fold a dew drop gleams bold, but quickly it bleaches to frost in the cold!’
English translation by Guy Butler)
Originally published in Afrikaans Poems with English Translations edited by A. P. Grove and C. J. Harvey, Cape Town, Oxford University Press, 1962
Eugène Marais (1871-1936) had twelve brothers and sisters and grew up between Pretoria, Boshof and Paarl, South Africa. Whatever Eugène learnt at home he learnt from his mother, Catharina. Much of his early education was in English, as were his earliest poems. In 1890, at only 19 years of age, Eugène became editor of the weekly Land en Volk, the only Dutch-Afrikaans opposition newspaper in the Transvaal. The following year he became the paper’s co-owner and by 1892 the newspaper’s readership doubled. He was responsible for writing the entire paper and selling advertising space. He is remembered as the father of Afrikaans poetry.
A Rose by Any Other Language or finding a suitable translation to ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet‘ in various languages to celebrate the Birthday of William Shakespeare, believed to have born on this day, the 23rd of April, in 1564.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” are words spoken by Juliet in the famous balcony scene of Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet. The line refers to Romeo’s house, Montague, and it implies that his name (and thus his family’s feud with Juliet’s family, the Capulets) means nothing to her and they should be together.
A name is but a label we affix to an object or a person. Its intrinsic value is not / should not be affected by it. Individuals or things are worth what they carry inside. Thus, even if we call a rose by an entirely different name, it would smell the same as it does by its name “rose.”
By extension, to show someone how important they are to us, we give them nicknames, and we often give our pets human names, to show that in our eyes they are valuable, equal members of our family.
But is Juliet right to minimize the importance of names? And isn’t this line perhaps summarizing the entire tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the play? Words have power and undermining their power can be a dangerous act. (More on this idea in a future blog post.)
One of the most quoted line from Shakespeare it appears that in the format we know it today, A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, was edited into the text of the play during the 18th century by Irish editor by Edmond Malone.
Plants are deeply rooted in Christianity and Romanian Folklore, this positive blend of cultural creations and ancient spirituality. Plants have been used as cures, in ritualistic traditions and for magic spells for centuries, all over the world. Let’s discover how a few of these herbs and flowers got their names in Romanian folklore, the legends behind it and their connection with Christianity.
Flower Sunday, Floriile or Palm Sunday
A special Christian celebration is on Palm Sunday: the day of Flowers, Floriile, Goddesses of Spring. Flora, in Roman religion, was the goddess of flowering plants and was the patron on month April. In Romanian folklore April is called Prier (from Latin aperio, to open, correlated with the opening of the buds’ leaves), and May is called Frunzar (leafy) and Florar (flowery).
So if you know someone whose first name is that of a flower, send them your best wishes on Palm Sunday, on Florii Day.
Sfintele Paști, Easter celebrations and Flowers: Wood Anemones and Violets
The wood anemones are Easter flowers and legend says that they sprouted from the earth wet by Jesus’ tears and that Saint Mary shared them to the four corners of the earth, at His request. Wood anemones have various nicknames in the folk tradition that symbolizes their strong correlation with Easter: the White Flower of Easter, the Flower of Blessed Friday, Easter’s Bread.
Folklore tradition calls for picking the White Flower of Easter this time of the year and decorating the Easter table with it as well as taking it to church as an offering on Good Friday. It is seen as a blessed flower.
Violets, too, are Easter flowers with a somehow mellow connotations. They represents young girls, children, metamorphosed into flowers. Is it pain, premature death that causes this? Certain is that violets are made into little crowns placed on the graves of young maidens or lads.
Plants and Christianity in Romanian Folklore
In Romanian folklore there are numerous plants named after Christian holidays, saints, Virgin Mary, and so on, depicting popular belief in the plant’s incredible powers in aiding the body and the soul.
Plain hogweed is called earth’ cross;
blue anemone hepatica is warrior’s cross;
orpine or livelong is Heaven’s Table;
bugleweed is God’s Mercy;
Mock Orange is Heaven’s Tree;
Sweet William is Priest’s Seat;
Rose Champion or Rabbit’s Ears is Saint Mary’s Belt;
begonia is Angel (îngeraș, probably due to the resemblance that popular imagination created between the angels’ wings and the plant’s leaves);
sage or Sage of the diviners is Virgin Mary’s Hand;
maidenhair fern is Virgin Mary’s Hair.
The common vervain, its Romanian meaning translating to God’s Arrow, is considered a holy herb, bringing wealth in the house and predicting the future too. It is believed to have grown first on the Mountain of Transfiguration and the plant can only be picked by fairies, Sânziene, who bring offerings before collecting it: bread, salt and a silver coin. It is believed that this specific plant helped heal Jesus’ wounds.
On the other hand Lunaria annua, honesty plant, is called the Plant of Thirty Silver Coins, Judas’ Plant and many banish it from their gardens.
The White Lily and its Symbology in Iconography
The white lily, Lilium Candidum, is believed to be Virgin Mary’s flower who is depicted holding baby Jesus with one arm and a white lily in her other hand. White lily is believed to be the first flower to ever be cultivated by humans and is associated with purity. Archangel Gabriel is also depicted offering Virgin Mary white lily after the birth of Baby Jesus. Saint Joseph is also depicted as holding Baby Jesus and a white lily as a symbol of purity and of Saint Mary.
We can clearly see that Virgin Mary is highly revered not only in the Christian Orthodox Church, but also in Romanian folklore. Yet by eighteenth century Carol Linnaeus), the founding father of modern scientific biological nomenclature, discouraged the practice of attributing names of saints to plants, a sign that scientific terminology was on its way towards gaining autonomy from the ancient naming practices.
Poppy flowers is believed to have been initially white. They turned red when a few drops from Jesus’ blood fell on them, underneath the cross. Since then poppy flowers are red, in remembrance of His sacrifice.
Basil in Christian Tradition and a Spell too
Basil is also a herb with deep christian connotations. It is associated with Jesus, Saint Mary and God. Romanian folklore says that basil first sprouted when Jesus was born, but also that it grew when Saint Mary wept by the Cross.
If maidens place under their pillow a strand of dry basil received from a priest, on the night of Boboteaza, Epiphany night,6 January, also considered the coldest night of the year, they can dream of their future husband. If they don’t dream that night they can try again on Sânziene Day, on 24 June.
On the same night maidens can take a handful of basil and go to a river, a running water. They dip the basil in water and then they wash their faces with it so they will be liked and loved by lads.
Basil and its role in Christianity and Romanian Folklore, Saint George’s Day, 23 April
To keep its holy powers basil must be planted on Saint George, on 23 April, and harvested on 14 September, on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is then hanged by icons till it dries.
Basil is considered holy because it has the power to turn water in holy water, agheasma, used in Christian churches.
On Easter, Christian believers wash their faces with the water in which they kept a basil, a red painted egg, and a silver coin – to be liked and loved.
On Saint George and Saint Andres old women hang basil tied with a red ribbon on the stable’s door so that the cow’s milk will flow on and on.
Siting under the shade of a tree
Myrrh, smirna, with its waxy branches and thorns, give us a resin that changes color from yellow to reddish, scented when burned and bitter to taste. Its scent a smoke are said to induce meditation and prayer and warn off any evil spirits.
Fascinating is how the effect of this resin spilled into the Romanian language. We say a sta smirna, meaning sitting quietly, or tacut smirna, meaning really quiet, as one would sit in meditation, which is exactly the effect of burning myrrh, smirna.
A branch from the bladdernut tree, clocotișul or clocoticiul, tied around your waist is said to warn off any evil spirits and no hail will bother you in your travels either.If you take these twigs to church on Easter Sunday their good powers will increase tenfold. Very long ago, before a woman would embark on a long journey she would fashion for herself a necklace made of young twigs of the bladdernut tree and wear it around her neck to warn off evil and not get lost Her courage will also increase, that she would be amazed by herself.
Also warding off evil spirits is the mugwort, a plant said to protect against pandemics too, so wear some around your neck.
Without any doubt, we can observe now everyday plants and flowers in a different light. From a sacred meaning to the scientific one, and through their legends, plants are so much more than they reveal to us. Don’t you think?
I hope you enjoyed reading about Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore. Do return for more herbal folk tales.