A March Amulet For You All

martisor_potcoava1_zpsa18d7635I am offering each of you a March amulet, according to the tradition in my country, to bring you good luck, happiness, love, good health and everything else you wish. Well, my wishes for you include inspired muses too.

The 1st of March is the traditional holiday of the March amulet, day when Romanians celebrate the coming of spring. In most parts of Romania, on this day girls and women receive “March amulets” from men. In some areas of Moldavia, there still exists the ancient custom that men receive also a “March amulet” from women. “March amulets” are bicolor (white and red) twisted braids to which various figurines are bound. They celebrate the rebirth of life after the hard winter.

The name ‘Martisor’ comes from the God Mars (Marte, in Romanian) which was celebrated in March (Martie). According to the Roman calendar, it was then when they celebrated the beginning of the year on those times. The amulet called Martisor became a traditional gift for the New Year’s Eve, which was supposed to bring luck and happiness. It has remained a March celebration even after the new calendar was adopted. Now it is a happy celebration of Spring which comes to brighten our days after so much snow and freeze.

“March amulets” bring happiness and luck and are worn at sight (pinned on the blouse or around the wrist) for one week, until the 9th of March. The March amulet is a Romanian tradition more than 8,000 years old, as the earliest proofs of this holiday discovered by archeologists showed.

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The pin-charm could only be made during the winter months and worn after March 1st. In earlier times, little silver coins were tied on a thin, twisted black and white or red and white wool rope. The coin charms were originally used to provide both luck for the future and protection from the environment to the wearer. The ropes stood for the advent of summer, warmth, and regeneration, while intertwined with the constant presence of winter, cold, and death. The amulets were also believed to enhance fertility, provide beauty and prevent sunburn in women. Young girls even threw the amulets toward the sun to prevent freckles. They were worn on the wrist or pinned over the heart. Many wore the pins until trees began to bloom, hanging the amulets in the tree branches after that point.

As in all traditional cultures, based on a dualist mentality, March was the time when the old and the new, the good and the evil confronted. For young people, it meant ritual games, gift-giving, and the well-known March amulets.These “tokens” of an old culture survived. We can find them in jewelry shops, sold by street vendors, everywhere, a sign of love, appreciation, respect, everybody is happy to receive.

In ancient times it was a silver or gold coin suspended on a white-and-red braided thread with a silk tassel. Red symbolizes love and white symbolizes purity. This tradition is also considered to welcome in Spring time – by uniting Winter (red) and Summer (white). Parents customarily tied around their children’s wrist, young men offered to young women, and young women used to exchange among themselves was believed to bring good luck, good health, “like pure silver, like the river stone, like the seashell”.

The March amulet is offered early morning on the first day of March; it used to be worn for 9-12 days, sometimes until the first tree would bloom when it was hung on a flowering branch to bring good luck to its bearer. The recipient used to wear it around his neck until he would see a blooming rose and the present was then placed on its branch; in this way Spring was poetically welcomed.

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This custom began as a magical gift meant for protection against evil spirits of the winter-ending. Even doors of homes and stables were knotted with white-red thread for protection! Now, family members, friends and sweethearts exchange symbolic pins – any jewelry or (more often) trinket, generally with symbols of spring (flowers, leafs, birds, ladybugs), good luck (four-leaf clover, horseshoe, chimney-sweeper), love (a couple kissing, a heart, etc.). Recipients wear the pins beginning March 1st for one to two weeks. If a person wears many March Amulets it shows they are held in very high esteem by friends and family. In this regard, the charms are also a status symbol.

In most places of Romania only females can receive amulets. (But I sent also to males abroad, when corresponding with them, to know how it is, and some liked them very much!)

In Moldavia (both the one still part of Romania and the Republic of Moldavia), all persons can receive a little March amulet – and mainly boys. In Bulgaria also everybody can receive a March amulet, but they have only the threads, without any trinkets. (The boy and girl made of red and white thread offered above is a Bulgarian [b][i]Martenitsa[/i][/b], as they call it!)

In Northern Greece, only children (both girls and boys) can receive it, and it remained a coin put at the wrist or at the neck by the thread.

I gave one to each of you! The ones who want to know the legends of March amulets please click on this link.

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In modern times, the pins lost their talisman properties and became symbols of love. The delicate silk or wool ropes are still a “cottage industry” among the country people today. They still comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. But now students can make them too. Or some, unfortunately, are made in China the most recent years.

The March amulets can be made now of gold, silver, or any metal, but also of plastic, glass, cloth, shells or even feathers. Some have the form of an animal, bird, bug or cartoon characters, flowers etc. The most representative are the 4 leaf clover, the horseshoe and the chimney sweeper which are the symbols for luck. All the men and boys are giving these amulets to women and girls, not only the husbands or sons or lovers, but also bosses, colleagues from school or from work.

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Medieval Themed Hobbies

I guess it is very useful.

Cheyanne Murray

These are not to be confused with medieval themed occupations, this one is a list of hobbies your characters might enjoy on free time.  
“But, Cheyanne,” You say, “Medieval people lived in a primitive time and did not have free time.”  Well, according to this article, the average American works more hours than a medieval peasant ever did. Citing the article, “records from 13th century England show many families only worked 150 days a year on their land.” So there were days off work. On top of religious days, medieval peasants also had to build their lives around daylight hours, growing season, and even the weather.
So yes, in short, medieval peasants did indeed have free time. To help fellow writers out, I came up with a quick list. All these just came off the top of my head, so I apologise if a few are not historically accurate.

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Another Valentine’s Day for me

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Valentine’s Day has not been celebrated in Romania until imported together with Halloween and other aspects of UK/US culture, but we have a local traditional equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day, almost forgotten except some country regions. Called Dragobete (a kind of local Cupid elf – Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia, which stands for the main character in the pagan myth related to spring arrival and the end of the harsh winter), it was traditionally celebrated by the 24th of February by young people.

That day, clothed with holiday suits, young men and women of the villages meet in front of the church and go searching the woods and meadows for spring flowers.

They gather to pick snowdrops (first flower of Spring) if the weather was not too rainy. A feast would occur in one of their homes, complete with dancing and merriment. This was considered to be the time when single people would “pair up”. The young people were convinced that they had to be happy and joking all day else love would elude them all year long. If a girl did not meet a boy that day, it was told that no one would love her all year long.

They sit around fire on the hills of the village and talk. At noon, the girls run to the village, each followed by one boy who had fallen for them. If the boy is fast and reaches the girl of his choice and if she likes him, she kisses him in front of everyone. This tradition triggered the expression “Dragobete kisses the girls!”. The kiss show the two lovers’ engagement, Dragobete being an opportunity to show the love in front of the community.

There are a number of Dragobete customs in rural areas, many of which are not kept by modern Romanians anymore.

In the old days, single women used to gather the last remnants of snow, called “the fairies’ snow”, and the water resulted from the melted snow was used throughout the year for various beauty treatments and love spells.

On this day, no animals are sacrificed because it would ruin the point of mating.

The tradition goes that men should not hurt women, nor argue with them, otherwise they will not do well the whole year. Youngsters believe that on this day they should be joyous and respect the holiday, so that they can be in love the whole year.

Modern Romanians embraced Valentine’s Day in the early ‘90s. More recently, a new movement has emerged in Romania – that of celebrating the traditional holiday instead of what is seen as the commercial, Western European -imported celebration. Bar and clubs organize Dragobete-themed nights, media outlets put up themed campaigns to remind Romanians of their traditional holiday.

I like this, but I don’t like the hate messages which are usually implied together with the invitations to celebrate Dragobete, that one shouldn’t want Valentine’s Day because it is foreign. I think people should not be encouraged to hate, but to embrace both holidays, because love is worth celebrating. (And any opportunity for a little celebration, for getting out of the usual routine, is a good one).

Since I got married to a man who is as fan of the Chinese and Japanese cultures as I am of the Age of Sail and of the Greek, Spanish and Latino-American ones, I admit that we do celebrate Chinese New Year every year too 🙂 This, in the same spirit, that everything is worth celebrating, if it means being out of routine for a day or an evening…

The love between Valentine and Dragobete is lost in translation, how I saw a funny Valentine on Facebook saying…

LA MULŢI ANI DE DRAGOBETE!

Feeling cheated

Sometimes I am feeling cheated of character development. Cheated in my writing, in the story we are writing together, not receiving the same thing I am offering, but only a tenth part. I have said before that nothing happens if you don’t write. Everybody knows it is true, still they don’t write even if they all declare they love their characters and they want the plots they have suggested and we have planned for months, waiting for their free time to actually write the story.

In some cases, this leads to “this has happened” decisions between writers, without showing how in a thread, but just mentioning it in passing in another thread. I this case, if I feel cheated of the character development, usually  there are remedies for this: some characters have journals and tell their version of the story, with their thoughts and feelings about it. Some characters, for whom it isn’t in character to keep a journal, might write a letter to somebody dear and confess there if it is a thing which can be confessed, or can open up to a friend in a certain circumstance. I guess one of these three solutions can be applied unilaterally in most cases, so that at least my characters gain the character development they have been cheated of.

In some cases, after waiting longer than anybody else would have had patience for, the thread starts and continues (from their side) with one post a century, written quickly, as if wanting to get rid of it instead of developing their characters and making them enjoy the story. I receive something emotionless, without letting their charachters develop through the plot, making them less than wallflowers. What satisfaction would they gain from this kind of writing, I can’t understand.

I do write my characters normally through the threads, giving them time to feel, to think, to watch, to react and to make the story happen, to take in through all the senses what happens. But by their lack of proper reactions, of a real contribution to a story they wanted/ asked for, I still feel cheated of my character development. They get even less than mine, too, but by their choice, because there would have been a lot to react to and vibrate to in my posts. And sometimes I don’t know what to do to fix the story, at least on my side.

I feel cheated, I feel that writing in partnership doesn’t attain that partnership feeling, that I am giving everything and I receive just crumpets in exchange, that I am doing all the work and the others are sabotaging their own character development, and mine as collateral damage. That the story isn’t anymore how it should have been, because it lacks… enthusiasm? Feeling? Life? And that if I wrote it alone from both characters’ perspective, it would have been more pleasant to read, more developed and immersing the readers into the proper athmosphere of the setting.