Sanziene – the Summer Fairies

Each year, on the 24th of June, Romanians celebrate the pagan holiday of Sanziene. Along with the Fates, Sanzienele are part of the big and charming family of Iele – gracious fairies with magical powers. Unlike the most of Iele, Sanzienele are always good and kind to humans. It is said that on the night before their day, they use to fly over meadows, smelling and touching the wildflowers, enriching them with special healing properties. Sanziene is also the Romanian name of a wild yellow flower, commonly known as the Lady’s bedstraw, frequently used in ancient healing potions. So, the 24th of June is the perfect day for collecting this flower, along with other local medicinal plants. Moreover, on Sanziene’s Eve, it is said that they bless the animals and the fountains, strengthen the marriages, heal people of different diseases and then like to dance and sing until dawn.

Sanziene – Midsummer celebration in Romania

But this holiday also focuses on celebrating the Sun. This is way, on Sanziene’s Eve, people still use to make huge campfires on top of the hills and to dance around it. The bravest men even try to jump over the fire as it is believed that the fire will purify them and all their sorrows will disappear in the flames. In some villages, the young boys are trying to impress the girls by playing with fire, literally. They take burning torches and start to rotate them, creating circles symbolizing the Sun, in a dangerous but captivating sparkling show.  Then, the unmarried girls go to gather some Lady’s bedstraw’s flowers to put under their pillow asking Sanziene to help them dreaming their true soul mate.

As expected, Sanziene’s Day has its own specific rituals, mainly focused on love spells. In some regions, especially in the countryside, it is common that the young girls to play the role of Sanziene. One of the girls is chosen to represent Dragaica, the most powerful Sanziana. After she is dressed in white and embellished with golden wheat spikes – the symbol of Sun and Summer – she must gather all the other girls into a big circle and dance. Then, they all go collecting Lady’s bedstraw flowers and create beautiful wreaths. In some regions, the girls throw their wreath in water while chanting their wishes of love. In other parts of the country, the wreaths are thrown over the house; if the wreath stays on the roof, the girl will marry soon, if not, the girl still has to wait.

Sanziene’s Day is, in short, a feast of love and happiness, quite similar to the famous Midsummer Night, when the skies are opening and miracles happen and the entire world becomes a magical realm.