Romanian Rituals | Exploring the beliefs and superstitions of Romania
Being a country with deep mythological roots, Romania is home to numerous mythological creatures, fictional heroes, peculiar places, and superstitions, all of which are fueled by the belief of the Romanian people in the supernatural. Thus, the Romanian folklore became an abundant source of inspiration for popular culture.
Rituals of the Romanian Folklore
Paparuda, or how it’s known in the Slavic mythology, Dodola, is an old agrarian divinity of the Romanian mythology, and a Romanian Goddess of Rain. In the Romanian folklore, Paparuda is represented as a girl (or an unmarried young woman) wearing a skirt made of danewort or burdock leaves. Paparuda was accepted in all of the regions of the country, except Bukovina and Maramures. She was, and in some places still is, celebrated by the Romanians of Banat, Hungary and in Moldavia.
In order to please the Goddess of Rain, the local people created a special rain dance that was usually practiced on the third Thursday after Whitsuntide, as well as during seasons of prolonged drought. Most of the time, this ritual is performed by young boys and girls, no younger than 14 years old. The rain is invoked through a series of onomatopoeic sounds, such as clapping, finger snapping, drumming on improvised drums, and magical chants:
Come little rain
Come and make us wet
When you come with the sieve
Let it be a barnful
In modern days, this chant was performed by Romanians and Moldavians. You can find an example of Paparuda online.
The ritual is performed from house to house, involving all the women of the village. During or after the performance, it is mandatory to splash with water some or all of the performers. For their dance, the young are offered gifts that signify abundance: eggs, corn, wheat, milk, fruits, money etc., and sometimes old clothes which link the ritual to the cult of the dead. When they finished walking through the village, the performers go to a running water, then they throw their skirts made of leaves in the river.
Calusarii are part of a fraternal secret society who practice a ritualic dance named calusul. The calus tradition is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List since November 25th, 2005, alongside Doina, the Horezu Ceramics, the Christmas Carols performed by a group of boys, and the Dance of the Lads.
Their origins are unknown, but they were mentioned for the first time sometimes during the 17th century. They are widely known for their agility and “ability to create the impression of flying in the air“, which associated them with horses and with fairies.
Their connection with fairies made many people believe that the Calusari had magical healing powers, thus they spend around two to three weeks traveling around local communities, where they would perform their dances.
During the show, the calusari wear custom-made shirts embroidered with flowers and custom hats, and they carry clubs and a sword, as well as a flag and a wooden horsehead.
The fire of Sumedru
Focul lui Sumedru is a Romanian tradition that dates back to approximately two thousand years ago, and it marks the renewal of the calendar time.
On the night of Between October 25th and 26th, on the highest hills surrounding rural villages, bonfires are set up by the youth and people gather around them. The villagers call each other to the ritual, in order for as many people as possible to be present. In the middle of the fire, the stem of a tree is placed, in order to symbolize the god that dies and is reborn each year.
After the fire goes out, the villagers gather coal from its remains, in order to fertilize their gardens and orchards.
In Romanian mythology, Sumedru (or Simedru) is a god that was cremated in a ceremonial bonfire, and it got its name from Saint Demetrius.
Dragaica is an agrarian ritual celebrated by a dance group of 5 to 10 girls, out of which the most beautiful one is chosen to be Dragaica. The Dragaica is dressed as a bride and her hair is decorated with ears of wheat, while the other girls are dressed in white and wear a vale over their face. They then make their way through the village, stopping at crossroads in order to dance and sing.
The purpose of this ritual is for the fruit to ripe faster, and to be guarded by rot.
In the Romanian folk mythology, sanzienele or dragaicele are mythical nocturnal creatures. Compared to Iele and Pentecost, Sânzienele or Dragaicele are kind towards people and with nature in general. However, Sanzienele would become extremely upset and get their revenge if people do not respect them.
As you can observe, usually, the main purpose of all Romanian rituals and customs is to develop the fructification of the earth and the abundance of crops. Some habits were rituals of fertilization, prevention, and protection against natural disasters, while others constitute an offering to the divinity of gratitude for the obtained products.