The Legendary Baba Dochia – The return of spring
There is no Romanian who hasn’t heard at least once the legends of Dochia. Sometimes presented in the form of a beautiful girl, other times in the appearance of an old lady, Dochia is probably one of the most known legendary figures.
Famous legends of Baba Dochia
Some historical legends describe Dochia as the beautiful daughter of Decebal, the king of the brave Dacians – the Romanian’s ancestors. It is said that, after being defeated by the Romans in 106 A.D., the Dacians tried to escape hiding in the thick forests of the Carpathians. Decebal, seeing his army defeated, preferred to commit suicide rather than being captured and mocked by the Romans. Dochia tried to escape but the Emperor Traian ordered his best soldiers to capture the beautiful girl, whose eyes bewitched him deeply. Proud and brave, Dochia ran as fast as she could. For her, there wasn’t a greater shame than being captured and then forced to marry Traian. So, when Dochia saw she was on the edge of being caught, she climbed on a steep rock and threw herself. Even today, that mountain rock wears the Dacian princess’ name and tourists can admire it on their way to Ceahlau Peak.
But the most famous legends of Dochia are those connected with the arrival of the spring. There are many versions of the story spread all over Romania but, despite the different regional adjustments, the core is the same. Thus, it is said that once upon a time, there was an old lady named Baba Dochia. She had a son, Dragobete, a very handsome and kind boy who fell in love with a girl. Their love was so powerful that they got married immediately and only after that they said the news to Baba Dochia. She got madly furious so she decided to give a lesson to her new daughter-in-law. Thus, on a cold winter day, Baba Dochia gave the girl a ball of black wool and asked her to go to the river to wash the wool until turns white, threatening her not to dare to return until the job is done. The young girl realized that whitening the wool was an impossible task but she still went to the river, hoping for a miracle.
Her love for Dragobete was truly sincere and the thought of never seeing him was unbearable so she consciously began to wash the wool in the frozen waters of the river. Her delicate hands rapidly began to bleed but the wool remained black. But suddenly, out of nowhere, a strange man, touched by the girl’s grief, came close to her and gave her a beautiful red flower saying that if she will put the flower into the water, the wool will turn white and that’s exactly what happened. The girl gladly returned home to her love but Baba Dochia, as expected, wasn’t too happy about that. But when she saw the red flower pinned to the girl’s blouse, Baba Dochia believed that spring had already come so she hurried to take her sheep up in the mountains. She took twelve coats on her, but as she climbed the mountains, the weather began to be warmer and warmer and each day she got off one coat until the 12th day when she remained only in a blouse. But in the evening, a cold wind started to blow as winter was still present. Then Baba Dochia, as well as all her sheep, got frozen and then, God knows what forces, turned them into stone. On Bucegi Mountains, up on the plateau, there are some strange stone formations that apparently, represent exactly Baba Dochia and her sheep.
Some versions of this legend claim that the strange man who helped the girl was Martisor, the Messenger of the Spring, celebrated on the 1st of March. Other legends, probably influenced by the later Christianization, say that the girl’s name was Martisor and the man who helped her was Jesus Christ himself.
What is so interesting about these legends is that they make reference to some events and places of high importance for the Romanian’s history. First of all, it is remembered the battles between the Romans and the Dacians, two people that formed the actual Romanian nation. Secondly, the legends also make references to Bucegi and Ceahlau Mountains, two Dacian holy places often compared to Athos or Olympus. Also, Dochia’s stories bring together other legendary characters like Martisor and Dragobete so, it’s easy to observe that all these stories are in a very subtle way, connected. No wonder why Romania is so captivating if we think that only a simple rock can tell the story of a nation.
In Romania, the days at the beginning of March are considered days of a new beginning or Baba Dochia’s Day. So, before the 1st of March, especially women use to choose one day from the first 9 and judging by how the weather is on the chosen day, they know how the new year will be for them.