Enchanting Solomonars, Romanian Cloud-Chaser Sorcerers

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, Maramureș, the one studded with archaic monasteries and earth-while fortresses.

Snow covered realm Maramures
Snow covered realm Maramureș

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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37 Replies to “Enchanting Solomonars, Romanian Cloud-Chaser Sorcerers”

  1. This is so incredibly interesting. I love all of the characters. By the way I couldn’t comment but in an earlier post I loved the photographs of the houses of the peasants. I loved the grass roofs and the bright blue painted windows. Extremely interesting. Hugs Joni

    1. I am so pleased to hear this, Joni.
      Yes, that little hut with grass roof is a darling. And I’ll let comments open for a longer time, sorry about that. But thank you for sharing your opinion with me 🙂
      Pat xx

      1. Right! I think the world fears especially a woman sorcerer or witch. Well, for starters, they seem powerful and unpredictable and men especially fear that. Whether it is used for good or bad is not the point, a sorcerer or witch will be demonized for such power. I don’t know, my take, I guess.

    1. Goodness, Philip, I appreciate your visit 🙂
      They might be a rarity these days, but I ma sure that one searches high and low, one might meet a Solomonar even today.
      I guess reading your book review the other day and the extra info you provided influenced my thoughts 😉 And thank you so much!

  2. I had no idea you could translate poems as well. Bravo, Patricia! ❤️ The legend of Solomonars was new to me. I used to associate Solomonars with Gypsies and that was all I knew about them. So thank you for an interesting read.

  3. It is such a challenge to translate old chants. I think it’s more of an adaptation or the rhythm will be lost. And that’s what gives it part of its hypnotic charm, I think 🙂
    A thrilling thought, that I could dig up some info you were not aware of, Jo 😉

  4. Patricia, there is always so much magic and mystique in these stories you share. I am a great fan of folklore and really believe that there are certain truths behind such tales. Though they could also be highly fabricated versions of imagination, but such tales often originate with some rhyme or reason. The Solomonars were in charge of the weather. That’s amazing and also beneficial. Do people still believe in them today? Are prayers offered to them? In India, many remote areas are still steeped in ancient beliefs and superstitions. Rain gods exist here too. You always research and write your articles so well. They are such a pleasure to read. Please keep them coming. 🙂

  5. Old beliefs and tales do contain a seed of truth, a grain of wisdom, and a valuable lesson 🙂 I am happy to discover that on this matter we think alike.

    Perhaps centuries of oral storytelling have wrapped them in so much imagination, that it is hard to discern where it all started.
    In a way is like reading the old Egyptian hieroglyphs. We can make up a cartouche, but that does not mean we deciphered the entire message the way it was initially intended.

    There are still rural areas where old beliefs are held in high regard. Some are still in use – there are so many cures and prayers, isn’t it? Who can keep track? I think that, in a way, even mentioning them connects us to our ancestors, at least on an emotional level. And that helps, to some extent.
    Yet the younger generation moves away from them, at a great speed. I don’t think that the Solomonars are still called out, but that does not mean that their skill is less important today than it was a century ago 🙂

    Thank you so very much for your encouragement, Terveen 😉

    1. Thanks for explaining this so beautifully, Patricia. Echoes from the past still resonate today. It depends whether we wish to hear them or not. 🙂

  6. THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS STORY WITH US I’M NEW HERE AND LOVE IT SINCERELY SHARON, I WOULD LIKE TO REBLOG THIS STORY TO MY CAT LADY SO OTHERS CAN ALSO ENJOY IT.

  7. Eu o să-ți las mesajul în română!
    Sunt născută la poalele munților Călimani, într-un sat plin de încredibile legături între lumea reală, de azi, şi lumea veche, precreştină. Poveşti despre Avizuha sau Fata Pădurii, despre iele, solomonari, animale cu puteri magice, descântece şi câte-or mai fi fost, mi-au marcat copilăria. Bătrânii satului care ştiau despre…s-au dus! Tinerii nu le mai ştiu sau mai păstrează puține obiceiuri, mai mult în virtutea inerției. De la bunica maternă am auzit multe descântece, bocete, cântări vechi, legende. Am şi scris o parte din ele. Inițial am inteționat să le pun într-o carte! Viața a avut alte planuri pentru mine.
    Te felicit pentru tot ce faci!
    Numai bine!

    1. Vai ce zona de poveste duci in sufletul tau! Cum, si Lacul Iezer e pe acolo… Asa este, povestile (care de fapt nu sunt povesti in sensul fictional) sunt o punte, mai subreda ce-i drept si nu prea aratoasa, pe care ne-o intinde trecutul. Lumea precrestina, asa este. 🙂 Ce copilarie bogata ai avut. Te admir ca ai ascultat … ca ai pus pe hartie. Bravo. Si cartea, o veni si timpul ei.

      Iti multumesc din suflet pentru cuvintele frumoase.Mi-au mers la suflet. 🙂

  8. Da, Iezerul Călimanilor…umblam cu oile pe acolo! Ştii ceva!? Am stat o vară la oi cu tata! Când le povestesc americanilor cum se făcea brânza (eu ştiu tot procesul!) sau alte lucruri, se uită la mine ca la un extraterestru!
    În copilăria mea, oamenii erau mai legați de credințele străvechi. Era de neconceput să nu onorezi “foca”, ziua focului! Tu îți imaginezi de unde vine!? Sau ziua ursului!? Sau “joia verde”!?
    Numai bine!

    1. Vai, o vara la oi – de vis! As vrea sa aud mai mult 🙂

      Doar din citite stiu despre Ziua Ursului – in februarie, nu? cand iarna se ingana cu primavara… Ziua Focului imi imaginez ca are radacini pre-crestine, dar nu stiam ca se numeste si Foca 🙂 Despre Joia verde, cu regret, nu stiu ;(

      1. Draga mea, o să-ți mai multe când o să am un pic de timp mai liber. Am nişte artworks comandate şi trebuie să le termin.
        Despre vara petrecută la oi, am mai scris câte ceva pe blog. Poate o să mai scriu cândva…
        Te îmbrățişez!

      2. Draga mea, despre vara petrecută pe munți, la oi, am scris mai demult pe blog şi poate voi mai scrie.
        Despre sărbătorile amintite, pot să-ți spun câte ceva acum. Ziua ursului, numită şi Macavei, se ținea la crucea dintre anotimpuri. Ziua focului sau Foca, era celebrată la începutul lunii iulie. A nu se confunda cu sărbătoarea lui Sf. Ilie. Dacă o să am timp un pic mai mult, voi încerca să-ți mai scriu!
        Te îmbrățişez!

        1. Ce povesti frumoase! Poate le scrii cate un pic, cate un pic, pe blogul tau?
          Multi s-ar bucura sa le citeasca, si eu printre ei 🙂
          Te imbratisez si eu. 🙂
          Patri

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