The summer folk holidays begin on June 24, on Midsummer Day (Sânzienele Feast), and end on June 29, on St. Peter's Day. Villagers throughout the country collect medicinal plants and use them to cure illness and to protect agains sorcery and spells.
For Orthodox Christians, this holiday has special meaning because it is also the day when, it is believed, John the Baptist was born. This mixture of Christianity, paganism, and witchcraft enhances the charm of this holiday.
Remnants of ancient solar cults of Greece and Rome can still be detected in Romania's summer solstice traditions. And just as those two cultures were different, so too are the traditions inherited from each — representing either peace or war.
Depending on the region, the summer solstice is dedicated to one of two similar, but slightly different, goddesses— Sânziene and Drăgaica. These two goddesses show subtle differences in their personalities
Sânziene is celebrated in Transylvania, Banat, Maramureş,Bucovina, and Oltenia.
Her name is most likely a derivative of the Roman goddess Diana.
Fragrant, yellow herbal flowers (Sânzienele) that bloom at this time of year bear the name of this goddess.
Evil Sânzienele Fairies
Sânziene and her fairy-like followers, collectively known as Sânzienele, are evil beings. In some regions, however, they are not evil, merely mischievous.
Storms and Illness
If you fail to observe their feast they will unleash destructive storms on your crops and spread illness throughout the village.
If anyone happens to come upon the place where they sing and dance, it will be an extremely unlucky happenstance. For they will make that person severely ill, an illness that can only be cured by returning to that exact same spot a year later.
Her name is most likely a derivative of the Greek goddess Demeter
Fragrant, white herbal flowers (Dragaice) that bloom at this time of year bear the name of this goddess.
Good Dragaicele Fairies
Drăgaica and her fairy-like followers, collectively known as Dragaicele, are good beings (the root of her name is the same as the root of the Romanian nouns for sweetheart,dragă, or love, dragoste).
Queens of Wheat
Drăgaica is an agrarian goddess of fertility who protects the crops, young women, and virgins. In this role, her and her followers are referred to as the "brides," the "queens of the wheat," or the "mistresses of the sisters."
The girls from a village gather together to choose the most beautiful and hard-working girl as the queen. She then leads a procession as it sweeps through the fields. To the accompanyment of a boy playing a flute or bagpipe, the girls dance from house to house singing an ironic tune: "Dance Drăgaica, Dance! / For in the winter you will spin / Till your fingers grow thin."
On this night, the goddess and her fairy cohorts float in the air above the fields, singing and dancing, and enriching the crops .They also confer specific healing powers to each of the herbs that bloom in the summer.
If approached correctly and respectfully, the Drăgaica feast will also help to prophesy who will make a good husband for the young maidens.
There are a lot of customs for this feast :People dance around the bonfires and the braver young people leap over the fires to gather the magical properties of the fire.People dance around the bonfires and the braver young people leap over the fires to gather the magical properties of the fire.A girl who sees nine Midsummer fires will marry before the end of the year,and placing certain flowers under her pillow that evening will cause a girl to dream of her future husband.
In ancient times, people organized Drăgaica fairs and dances, which provided an excellent occasion for young men and women to meet and for parents to arrange marriages for their sons and daughters.
The young men and young women who are eager to marry should dance together, circling east to west in the same direction as the Sun travels.Many of the customs of the day pertain to the women and girls in the village,Girls gather yellow Sânzienele flowers (Lady's Bedstraw) and weave them into a wreath that they wear around their head like a coronet.
If she wears a wreath around her waist, she won't suffer from a backache during harvest.
Girls wear these wreaths to ensure that they'll wed a handsome man. Tradition says that the wreath makes a young man desirous to ask her to marry him.
Unmarried girls cut the petals from a thistle on Midsummer's Eve. They then keep the cutting in a glass of water. Tradition says that the faster the petals on the thistle grow back, the better her chances are to marry the man she loves.
In some regions, young women toss their wreaths over their shoulder into the cattle pen (so they can't select a specific target). If the wreath lands on the horns of a bull, then the girl will marry and older man. But if it catches on a calf or young steer, the girl will marry a younger man.
In some regions, girls toss their wreaths on the roof of their house. If the wreath stays on the roof, it's a sign that her wedding will soon occur. But if it rolls off or falls off, then it's a sign that she should wait a little longer to get married.
At night, they'll remove the wreaths (which have absorbed magical powers during the day) and keep them throughout the year for use as a preventative measure against various illnesses.
If the flowers haven't faded in the morning when the girl awakens, she'll have a string of good luck.
To further guarantee good luck and weath, she should gather many of the flowers from the forest and place them at doorways, on doorsteps, and around windows.
In Moldavia, Wallachia, and Dobrogea, four maidens, two of whom are dressed as boys, perform the Wicked Fairy dance. They might also be accompanied by a boy who plays the flute or bagpipe and who carries a banner decorated with bedstraw flowers, colored handkerchiefs, garlic, and wheat ears.
In some villages the Wicked Fairy actors wield scythes and simulate fighting among themselves.
The maidens represent ripening wheat, which magically transfers fertility from the animals that are used to plow the fields into the plants that grow during the summer.
The scythes and sickles represent the eternal duel between summer and winter, between the forces of good and evil, and between youth and old age.
Some good comes out of the real dance of the wicked faries, however. This is the time when they spray curative magic on herbs and fragrent smells on flowers.
Women who are unable to bear children should go into the forest on this day and gather specific herbs, which are embued with potent magical powers.
In Maramureş girls light small heaps of straw at one of the crossroads in the village and jump over them. This action magically makes them healthy and pure.
In some regions, girls and young women are advised to go into the forest and roll around in the dew clinging to the flowers on this night in order to ensure that they are beautiful and loved.
It must work because, in my opinion, Romanian women are some of the most beautiful — inside and out — women in the entire world.
For MenA few of the customs of the day pertain to the men and boys in the village.
Boys gather yellow Sânzienele flowers (Lady's Bedstraw) and weave them into cross-shaped braids that they wear around their waist.
In Maramureş young men climb the hillsides on Midsummer Eve and light torches. They then circle around on the hills, holding the torches aloft, pretending to represent the light of the sun.
Meanwhile, they shout greetings to all the other boys up there doing the same thing.
When the torches are about to burn out, they run down the hillside and hand the torch to their parents, who thrust them into the soil of their gardens. This embues the garden with the life-giving magic of the sun.
People should decorate windows, gates, landmarks, and cemetery crosses with flowers to protect those places from evil forces.
According to old superstitions, people shouldn't look directly at the sun on this day — which is also good, non-superstitious advice as well. Otherwise, they'll have a headache for the rest of the summer or, worse, will go blind.
Some people desire to wake up early so they can see the sun in the east washing his face, with water flowing under the suns rays.
Others, on the other hand, have no desire to awaken early for fear they'll be blinded by the summer sun's glare and won't see the three suns (sunrise, midday, and sunset).
At midnight on the summer solstice, according to tradition, a special herb blooms for just a few minutes. It is known as the herb of beasts and it is prized by theives. Legend says that this herb can be used to open any lock.