Călătorie prin Vlăhia mare – de azi, de ieri și de odinioară

Am descoperit pe multele cărări neexplorate ale internetului linkul către o arhivă a unei scrieri pe care o publicasem demult, la sfatul cuiva care nu mai este în viață, Dumnezeu   să-l odihnească, într-o revistă online intitulată NEAMUL ROMÂNESC.

Calatorie prin Vlahia mare

Povestea a fost scrisă în 1999, conținând amintiri din două călătorii în Grecia, din 1999 (AZI) și, respectiv, 1994 (IERI). ODINIOARĂ este istoria…

Și, bineînțeles, scriitoarea de astăzi nu mai crede tot ce credea cea de acum 18 ani. Timpul trece, oamenii învață și evoluează. Anumite realități, din păcate, nu se pot schimba în bine, în tot acest timp…

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.

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!

Christmas carols Before the Mast

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The story above doesn’t belong to me, but it is suitable. However, these below are a few known carols adapted during the years for the athmosphere Before the Mast – the Age of Sail RPG (ie interactive swashbuckling adventure story) we are writing together for 6 years and 5 months already:

Christmas in the West Indies

Christmas Season in the West Indies has its charm,
No matter if in the cities of in the pirates’ realm.
There is no snow the European mother country to remind,
But it’s closer to the athmosphere the Divine Child
Was actually born under the star in the Middle East.

On islands and on ships it’s an important feast.
Catholics are building rich scenes of Nativity,
Rhum adn punch flow on the throats free,
A good look coin is hidden in the King’s cake
If yours’, then choose your Queen, for party’s sake!

Pirates and colonists tonight will toast
With warmest season’s greetings BEFORE THE MAST!

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I saw three ships

I saw three ships aboard the site
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”
I saw three ships ready to fight
In the West Indies at war time.

And who was in those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And who was in those ships all three,
According to their prior agreement?

Captain Crawford and Raoul were there,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And Sharky with his privateers,
In the West Indies at war time.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
In the West Indies at war time?

O they sailed into the straight
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Wanting the pirate ship to fight,
In the West Indies at war time.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That gunned down the “Siren” sank,
In the West Indies at war time.
.
Then let us all rejoice again,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That those we love did survive,
In the West Indies at war time.

(The peace is settled already for a while… and all the ships mentioned there got sunk in battles some years ago).

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Deck the site

Deck the site with gimps and holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
For the holidays to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We have weddings, fun and contests,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
And witty negotiations,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the story grow before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the keys and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Follow us and write to measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
And you’ll surely get a treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old plot passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Let’s write joyous, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Contests to win, story to further,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

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The fantastic five NaNoWriMo winners

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I think it is very important that NaNoWriMo endeavours made possible for all of us, the people in Bucharest interested in writing and in challenging ourselves to at least 1,667 words daily to meet. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed otherwise, given that we come from different generations and academic backgrounds and we are writing in various genres – some of us in Romanian, some of us in English. And I am glad and grateful we have met with this opportunity!

Many thanks to Raluca, our local municipal leader, for organising everything and making it possible! (She is the one who drew the portrait above too). She kept the group united and in permanent communication, so that we keep meeting regularly even when NaNoWriMo isn’t eating our souls anymore. Which means that our connections will deepen.

Yes, we are the five winners of a group of initially 8 or more Bucharest fans of writing. And I am missing from this photo below.

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You may assume that I was taking it (even if I don’t really like appropriating credits which aren’t mine, for things someone else had actually done). And I like them portrayed as the castle ladies of a literary tower of dreams… (No, I don’t intend to confine them to the tower until they finish the actual novels, though, making them ready for publishing. Because if I did it, I would have to share their fate too…).

Congratulations for having persevered and having won NaNoWriMo! Congratulations for haing a story to tell and the patience and determination to actually tell it. We all know it was not easy, and we all have been there for each other in moments when feeling like giving up, or merely feeling tired and demoralised by the too little progress, or stuck with the plot in a point.

From this photo below, however, I am not missing.

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This is a scene at one of our weekly meetings in a cozy tea house, peppered with writing right there and catching up with missing words, as the present laptops may witness, as well as with discussions  about writing methods, resources, inspiration sources, about our stories, characters, about publishing our stories when they will be ready and so on.

We have found a way to support each other and to forge new connections. Georgiana and Veronica are already classmates at Uni and writing together their story, so this is an older connection. But just after NaNoWriMo ended, Bianca invited Raluca to a TV show, where I am honoured to have been mentioned too. Another new connection. Bianca is my new friend and beta reader, and I invited her to literary events in my group of mature writers. Raluca told us all about a writing workshop to be organised, and Bianca and I attended it, in order to open up to new literary challenges.

Also I’d mention within the category of the Bucharest NaNoWriMo group that we have also given each other prizes for having won NaNoWriMo. I received, therefore, besides the group portraits above, including the drawn one, a pirate -themed room decoration set,

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a pirate polar bear to hang in my Christmas tree, a Christmas card with an inspiring quote…

…and an audio cd with music to listen to while writing. Pirate-themed too, since I am the pirate of the group, Bianca the baby elf, Raluca the immortal mystery queen, while Georgiana is the Devil’s daughter and Veronica …just is (given that her novel is titled “I am“, definitely otherwise I couldn’t make such a statement).

We could and did turn it into a celebration that the official NaNoWriMo, too far from us and focusing more on receiving donations than on anything else, wouldn’t have granted. Next year I might be in charge of the trophies, making them even more meaningful than this year – but I loved everything this year too, and we had trophies somewhere too.