A Midsummer’s Night, from Magic Sânzienele to Machiavelli’s Dream

It is said that during the midsummer’s night of 1527, a night when Romanians celebrate Sânzienele, the magic Gentle Fairies, Niccolò Machiavelli had his last dream, and a telling dream it was.

It must have been the summer’s giddy energy firing between the Sun and the Earth at exactly ninety degrees during the Summer Solstice that caused this coincidence…

The Midsummer’s Night, Sânzienele, in Romanian Folklore

A Midsummer's Night, from Magic Sânzienele to Machiavelli's Dream

In Romanian folklore the night of Sânziene is a night full of spiritual fulfillment, considered the night when desires can and should be whispered into the Universe for they might just come true under the careful protection of the Sânziene. For the Gentle Fairies, Sânzienele, are good spirits, generous towards those who respect them. Flying on the wings of summer winds, Sânzienele bring, for only one night in the year, its the shortest night, peace and harmony to all, between sky and earth, among animals, plants, humans, and it is believed that during this night only beasts can speak and humans can understand them (or perhaps that man finally – and only now – can understand what animals have to say).

Sânziene Traditions in Romania

If in the eve of Sânziene the girls who wish to get married meet the lads they fancy, then they pick flowers, Sânziene, Lady’s bedstraw or Galium verum, and weave a crown that they throw over the roof of their home. If it gets stuck in the chimney that’s a sure sign that they will marry that year. The girls also place certain fragrant flowers (basil, jasmine, melilot, mallow, rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, chamomile, verbena, black nightshade) under their pillow during the Sânziene night, hoping that they will dream of the one they are meant to marry.

fragrant herbs Romanian folklore

The boys weave crowns of hazelnut branches to purify the earth. They set them alight and spin them in the direction of the Sun’s movement, and shout along, meant to speed up their wedding day. At dusk, the fiery wheels are rolled down from the hills and into the valleys, like a dancing sun, signifying the cycle of life. The top of the hills where the burning crowns started their journey marks their birth, and their long, fiery journey through the valley means life. After they cease their spinning, the crowns are left to burn till there’s only smoke left, and that’s death.

Sânzienele are also called Drăgaice, Queens of Heavens, Sun’s Brides.

It is after the night of Sânziene that the wheat ripens, but its stalk dries, the nights gets longer, but the days shorten, the flowers start to lose their fragrance and their holistic powers, and in the forests the fireflies show up and dance, while on the sky new constellations dance.

The Night of Sânziene is magical, as the Sun is at the height of its power and its energy spills all over the Earth absorbed by pants, animals and humans. Is this energy what really affecting our psychic, or is it only the fragrant air and the extra daylight what lifts our spirits?

It was during a Midsummer’s Night when Machiavelli had his last dream.

Namib desert at night - How the Snake Lost Its Legs

As was his habit, he had changed his filthy work clothes and put on clean ones, decent enough to receive the visit of princes and kings. And he would have sat by the window, awaiting their arrival, the air was so fragrant tonight, if it wasn’t for a dull ache in his belly.

So he went to lay on the bed.

He couldn’t see the green hills from his bed, nor the first fireflies of summer, yet he knew them to be there. Just like by daylight he couldn’t see the stars… And the stars was what he liked best, especially the earthly one, rulers who have long since died.

Whom shall he chat with tonight? Machiavelli closed his eyes to dull the pain, and think…

And he found himself by the side of the road, not far from his home. It was summer, that very day… he recognized the goldfinch he’d taught to sit on his finger and eat crumbs… But what was that in the distance? As the road soared, so was a cloud of dust. So he waited, forgetting all about the goldfinch, he waited till a group of travelers on foot reached him. They barely dragged their feet, so tired were they, hot from the sun too, they tattered clothes offering little shade for their skinny limbs. Crusty feet, covered in sores, hands and cheeks burned with the long travel, yet their foreheads were serene, their eyes clear, and wrinkles of smiles lined their parchment-like skin.

‘Who are you, good men? Where are you heading to?’ he asked, or he thought he did for he did not hear his voice, only the traveler’s feet moving through the dust.

And then the men, all of them, turned their heads towards him and replied in chorus, yet their voices were not loud, but soft, as soft as velvet. They said, while smiling, ‘We are the blessed ones. We are the Saints of this world. And we’re on our way to Paradise. Of course we are.’

And then they crawled up the road, taking their dust with them, while he remained put, waiting for his goldfinch. Or so he thought. For he’d forgotten what he was doing there, in the middle of the road.

When another cloud, of dust and noise, roared its way up the hill, following the same winding road.

Another group stomped past him, loud and bright, and Machiavelli had to shield his eye, so bright were their clothes, to shiny their jewels.

Could this be? thought Machiavelli, Platon? And Tacitus the politician? And Plutarh?

‘Good men,’ he said, ‘where are YOU going? And why are you all together?’

And they answered, and among the screeching and the yelling he thought he heard, ‘We are those condemned to Hell.’

Then Machiavelli blinked, for the thundering cloud had disappeared just like that, and he was laying on his bed again, while on his windowsill sat the first fireflies of summer. And he wondered, he did, what his dream meant and apparently he chose, he did, which group he liked better.

Had it been the Midsummer’s magic energy that revised Machiavelli’s mind one last time? The fireflies’ last hope? Who knows. For, just as the stars are up during the day although we cannot see them, we do not know which group Machiavelli chose either. We only know that he could choose, one last time.

Enjoy the Midsummer’s magic night, with its last gift of summer. Sweet dreams 🙂

15 Replies to “A Midsummer’s Night, from Magic Sânzienele to Machiavelli’s Dream”

  1. OMG! He did die on June 21st. Machiavelli that is. If you want my opinion he joined a group of scruffy travelers.

  2. There’s always magic and mystique woven in such stories. Prospective Weddings were very much the center of many such tales.
    Times have definitely changed.
    Wonder what the choice was at the end. Appearances are rather deceptive.
    Great sharing!

    1. Isn’t it? Although I’m glad that I don’t have to weave the wheel made of branches, set it alight and chase it down the hill! 😉
      Thanks for visiting, Susan.

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