Having deep mythological roots, Romania is, without a doubt, the home of unimaginable mythological creatures, ancient Romanian rituals, fictional heroes, unusual mythological places, fascinating folk tales, thrilling fairy tales, strong witchcraft and Christian beliefs, unique customs and traditions, and so much more.
Romanian Rituals in the Romanian Folklore
There are eleven Romanian rituals, but most important of them are Paparude, Călușarii, Focul lui Sumedru and Dragaica/ Dragobete.
Paparuda, or how it’s known in the Slavic mythology, Dodola, is an old agrarian divinity of 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 certified in all of our regions, except Bucovina and Maramures. She is celebrated by the Romanians from Banat, Hungary and all over Moldova.
Part of the folk rituals, Paparuda is the name of the most spread rainmaking ritual practiced when it’s drought. The game is practiced in the third Thursday after Whitsuntide; but it can occur on any summer day, after a prolonged drought. Usually, it is played by young girls and boys rarely under 14 years.
Paparuda invokes the rain dance onomatopeic by slapping hands, by snapping fingers, by drumming drums improvised from pans, especially through the magical chant:
“Come little rain/ Come and make us wet/ When you come with the sieve/ Let it be a barnful”
In the modern times, this chant was performed by Romanians and Moldavians. You can find an example online.
Paparuda sings and dances from house to house having around the women from the village. During or after the game, it is mandatory to water Paparuda or the entire group. For their dance, they 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, paparudele go to a flowing water, then they throw their clothes from leaves.
Female symbol, water is the main element of the ceremony to bring rain, through the similarity principle of magic.
Calusarii are part of a fraternal society of the men who practices the ritual dance named calusul. The calus tradition is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists since 25 November 2005, alongside Doina, Horezu Ceramics, Christmas carols in masculine horde and lad’s dances.
Calusul is a rite of passage, which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another and it is practiced on Whitsunday.
Calus tradition includes a number of games, songs, shouts and dances performed by groups of men dancers named calusari, in an odd number. Calusarii wear special clothing: shirts embroidered with flowers, belts, sticks, custom cover they wear over their head, metal bells and tassels fixed around the calf, heel spurs. The members are invested with magical powers by female spirits called Ielele, but they use them exactly against the girls and for the people.
Focul lui Sumedru
Focul lui Sumedru is a Romanian tradition that dates back two thousand years. This old tradition marks the renewal of the calendar time.
On the night of 25 to October 26 the defender shepherds, fires are set up high on hills and young people gather around them. Village people call everyone to take a part in this ritual shouting “Hai la Focul lui Sumedre!” meaning “come to Sumedru’s fire”.
In the old days, the fires were set on the hills so that everybody can see them from a high distance. In the fire was put the stem of a tree from the forest as a symbol of the god who dies and is reborn every year.
Dragaica is an agrarian ritual celebrated by a dance group of 5-10 girls. Only the most beautiful one is chosen to be Dragaica. The girl who was Dragaica can not marry three years after this event. The fairies fly through the air, sing, contribute to the growth of animals and birds, heal the sick and defend crops from hail.
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.
The main purpose of all Romanian rituals and customs is to develop the fructification of the earth, the abundance of crops. Some habits were rituals of fertilization, prevention, and protection against natural disasters, and others constitute an offering to the divinity as gratitude for the obtained products.