Saint Andrew – the Protector of Wolves

On November 30th, Romanians celebrate Saint Andrew, the first of Jesus Christ’s apostles who preached Christianity in the south of Romania. This way, Saint Andrew is also considered the protector of the country and many boys and girls are named after him. Thus, this holiday is actually a feast for many people, as they celebrate it like an anniversary.

But in ancient times, Romanian’s ancestors, the Dacians, used to celebrate another divinity, called Sântandrei, the master of wolves. November 30 also marked the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, as well as the day when wolves formed packs of twelve in order to hunt and prepare for the hard winter. Therefore, the Day of the Wolves was very important and the rituals were intimately connected with them. At present time, Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated like any other religious holiday but some old superstitions are also respected, which are in direct connection with ancient beliefs that survived the time. As a result, it is believed that this day enhances the magical powers of the wizards so the witchcraft and spells cast this day are stronger and more powerful than ever.

The myth of Saint Andrew

But, in Romanian mythology, Saint Andrew’s Eve is actually the moment with the highest intensity of magical rituals. The old traditions say that Saint Andrew, being the master and protector of wolves, descends on Earth at midnight to share with each wolf the prey for winter. Even today, in certain remote regions, people believe that on this night, the wolves become so agile that they can even turn their head in order to see their own tail, and that no prey can escape their chase. If the cattle start to roar at midnight, it means that the wolves are preparing for their hunt. In order to protect them, people prepare wax crosses and stick them on the right horn of the cows. Nobody is allowed to work, to comb their hair, or to pronounce the word “lup” (wolf in Romanian), as these might attract the thirsty wolves.

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Artistic depiction of Saint Andrew

But Saint Andrew’s Eve is not just about wolves. According to more ancient beliefs, the spirits of the dead are now allowed to re-enter, just for one night, into the world of the living. As the cosmic order is now profoundly disturbed, other malefic forces might slip through. So, along with wolves and spirits, the vampires and the moroi are also enjoying this moment of chaos, dancing and haunting abandoned houses, tormenting people and animals. As expected, people take strong measures in order to protect themselves, especially in the countryside, so don’t worry if you see people rubbing their doors and windows with cloves of garlic, hanging garlic around their house, or preparing different garlic-based dishes. An interesting tradition, resembling more like a party, is the Guarding of the Garlic. Each girl participating in the ritual brings three garlic bulbs which are put into a vase. The vase is then guarded by an old woman while the young people dance and eat and enjoy the party until morning. Then, the garlic is shared to all participants and each keeps it all year long in the most sacred place of the house, near the icons, to be used only in time of need as the garlic now is invested with magical and healing properties.

In cities, this ritual was adapted and transformed into a party quite similar to Halloween, so from villages to cities, this holiday keeps the entire Romania awake.

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