(Photo source) ‘Sanzienele‘ represent a charming midsummer Romanian tradition with pre-Christian roots celebrated in the Banat, Maramures, Oltenia and Transylvania and coincides with the Orthodox holiday, Ioan Botezatorul (St. John the Baptist). Noaptea de Sanziene (June 23rd- 24th marking the beginning of summer a few days after the solstice) is considered mystical - a time when nature is at its peak and displays its most vital forces, so stand back! The traditional belief is that miracles happen during the Noaptea de Sanziene, when the skies are perfectly likely to open, releasing all kinds of magical happenings. What a shame I hadn't known about it last night, for I would have sat outside staring at the sky to see if anything happened - or perhaps it only works in Romania?
There are many superstitions related to this day, particularly those involving marriage or death. The term Sânziene originates from the Latin, "Sancta Diana” (still used in Transylvania), and superstitions relating to this day are mainly erotic in nature, referring to young girls and their marriage prospects.
(Photo source) Sânziana is a wild golden flower that grows in the orchards, meadows and near the forests. It’s small, yellow and rich in pollen with a perfume of hay and honey. As soon as it’s touched, it spreads golden 'dust' (magical for sure) and, as it’s a flower of the solstice, it is short-lived and dies as soon as the sun starts to fade. The golden flowers are not only used for healing: they protect homes from evil, bringing good luck and health. Girls put them under their pillows to dream of their future husbands, and women wear them in their hair.
In peasant stories, Sânzienele are fairies. At night, they turn into fair-haired beauties who dance under the moon. These beautiful fairies fly across the country, o'er valley, mountain, hill and dale singing and bringing fertility to crops and to married women, to birds and animals, curing the sick and defending sown fields from hail. If people do not honour them in an appropriate, respectful and grateful way, they become extremely upset and take revenge - who would blame them after such a busy night doing so much good.
It is said that the Sanzienele take away the cuckoo’s voice, because, as the day dawns, it is struck mute and flies away to the mountains in the form of a hawk furiously and jealously getting its own back on other birds still able to sing. The 'day the cuckoo leaves' however, is a total mystery. There is even a proverb that says: "Women will understand what men think when they know the day the cuckoo leaves.” In other words, never! Wise words indeed.
(Photo source of festivities in Baragan) The term 'Dragaica' is also used in Oltenia, and in traditional Romanian villages, the Hora Dragaicelor is performed by a group of 5-7 young girls. One is chosen as the Drăgaica and is dressed as a bride with a wheat wreath crowning her head while the other girls wear pretty white veils laced with bedstraw flowers. Midsummer fairs are held in many Romanian villages and cities. The oldest and best known midsummer fair in Romania is the Drăgaica fair, held in Buzău between 10-24 June every year.
(Image source) Romanian writer and philisopher Mircea Eliade used this festival in his novel Noaptea de Sanziene (initially published under the name La Foret Interdit – the Forbidden Forest) with references to folk beliefs and paranormal events in the Băneasa Forest (much of it now chopped down by corrupt politicians and wealthy big-cats).
Noaptea de Sanziene is one of peace and tranquility. The dew that falls is drenched in enchantment and if you bathe your face in it you will be (even more) beautiful. If you take it from the flowers at dawn, it will cure rheumatism, arthritis and other aches or pains of the bones, rejuvenating and energising. Any object left outside during the night touched by this magical dew may be considered an amulet. And in addition to all this sparkling, glistening alchemy, storms never happen aaaand, says legend, even the wind is silent.
What a lovely festival!