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.
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.
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.
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.
“With toaca I’ll halt you,(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)
Cursed cloud, you,
Over mountains chase you!
But if blessed art thou,
Over village you shall bough.”
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:
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!
“A Solomonar passed,(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)
Mighty dragon in grip,
He struck his whip,
He straddled his beast,
They twisted and spun,
Till the rain began.”
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