Monday, 20 February 2012

Sanziene or Summer Solstice

Every year, on 24th of June, Romanians celebrate the holiday of Sanziene, or the summer solstice.

The legend says that in long lost times, the Sanziene used to be priestesses of the Sun, but as their believes are lost in the mists of time, today they are considered beneficial fairies of extreme beauty. Some specialists say that  the Sanziene celebration is a Geto-Dacian celebration of the Sun, millenniums old.  In the night of 23-24th June, the Sanziene, who live in forests and plains, come out of their hiding places and dance the night away in circles. Where the Sanziene dance, the plants grow healthier and stronger, filled with healing properties.

The Sanziene Night, or the solstice night, is considered one of the most magical nights of the year, when the curtain between the worlds is at its thinnest and the parallel universes meet. The people believe that in this night the fairies are flying through the air or walking on land, singing and dancing, bringing love, healing and protecting the grains. The legend says that if people don't celebrate the fairies as it is meant to, the fairies get upset and punish the unbelievers.

The Sanziene celebration is a good night for love, where young people meet to sing and dance. In the evening, the young unmarried men of the villages light big fires and with torches dances around them replicating the movement of the Sun while singing:

"Go Sun, Come Moon/ Good Fairies/ May the flowers grow the flower/ Yellow and sweet smelling/ For the girls to harvest it/ To make it into wreaths/ To wear on the hats/ Flowers for marriages/ The old women to spell them/ To get married by the autumn"

The young unmarried women go to the forest and pick up the Sanziene flowers to create wreaths which they throw on the house roofs. If the wreaths get stuck on the roof is a sign that the maiden will marry before the following year is ended.  The flowers are yellow, tiny, highly used in natural remedies.

In the morning, the young men get together and walk around the villages wearing flowers on their hats. They choose the maiden that will represent the fairy. The maiden is chosen from a group of seven girls and she has to be not only the most beautiful, but also the one with the nicest character. Once chosen, the maiden, a Sanziana now, has wheat added to her hair and surrounded by the other girls, dressed in white, walk around the villages and the fields, stopping to sing and dance in the places where paths intersect.

The elders of the villages say that the maidens that wish to marry fast need to wash themselves in the dew from the flowers on the morning of Sanziene. For it to work, however, the girls need to respect some traditions: before sunrise, in places where no human stepped over, the old women harvest the Sanziene dew in a white container, in new cotton. Walking back home, the women can not talk at all and are not allowed to meet anyone in their path. If these conditions are met, the ones that wash in the dew are said to be healthy, beautiful and lucky in love over the year. Married women can attend this ritual, in order to be loved by their husbands and to have beautiful and healthy children.

Sanziene is a very magical celebration, with strong roots in Paganism. Being considered the middle of the summer, it is the best time to harvest healing plants that are to be later used in magical practices.  The rituals are connected to harvest, fecundity and healing practices and even today are a fascinating mix of paganism and witchcraft with slim christian undertones.

The Sanziene holiday is a celebration of love, connected to both the Sun and the Moon. Rituals start at dawn and continue through the middle of the day, dusk and the middle of the night under the clear light of the Moon. At the Solstice, as the Sun dances in the sky, down, on Earth, the women connect in the Sanziene dance. As above so below. In this day of balance between two time intervals, the villages practice rituals for fertility, protection and healing. Many rituals are lost or changed, but one can still feel the magic of a long lost time.