Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sangiorz or a Holiday of Spring

Sangiorz or St. George is one of the biggest holidays in today's Romania. And yet, beyond it's Christian overtone, the holiday maintains its ancestral, pagan character.

Like many other Romanian holidays, Sangiorz starts the previous night, on 22nd of April. The popular tradition says that in this night, witches and female ghosts, naked and with their hair falling free down their back, meet on the borders of the villages in groups of thirteen. The borders between villages become metaphorical borders between countries and the groups of witches start to battle. The winners receive the rain, which will fall over the fields, bringing with it abundance and joy. The unfortunate losers take with them the draught. 

It is said that those who can not sleep in this night, can still hear the female ghosts singing at the crossroads and the men are absolutely forbidden to leave their houses without covering their hair. If they don't wear a hat, the female ghosts will put reins around their heads, making the men into their horses. Without a choice, pulled by his hair, the man has to run wherever the ghost orders.

In this fantastic night, the ghosts are scared of loud noises. This is why, the young men of the village play the alphorn and the pipe, while the children hit copper pots and scream, trying to banish the ghosts.
To banish the witches that fly freely in this night, the peasants sprinkle new or chanted water all over their possessions after which they sprinkle one another.  The windows and the doors are oiled with garlic and herbs are put in big pots, filed with water and left outside overnight. In the morning, the herbs are chopped and fed to the cows with salt and oats.

The tradition says that whoever walks in the grass in the morning, before the sun rises, when the dew is at its richest, will be blessed with beauty and good health due to the fact that the skies open to allow the trees to bloom.

Still yet on this eve, the young, unmarried men of the village, light the life fire by rubbing a pieces of soft dry wood into a pieces of hard wood. While the purpose of the life fire is to bring blessings and good luck to the entire village, the young man that crates the first spark is considered blessed more then any other. Chanting magical formulas, person by person jumps over the fire. The ashes of this life fire are mixed with plants and herbs by the old wise women, in order to create medicines for skin problems.

The legend says that in this night, fires can be seen over the places where ancestral treasures are buried.

In the morning, in order to earn blessings of health, young and old alike would wash in a river or a spring. Young girls hold basil and wheat grains in their mouths to be blessed with growing tall and willowy.

The rubbish collected durring the Sangiorz day is put at the roots of fruit trees.

From a group of unmarried men, one man is chosen to play th role of the god. The birth of the spring od, Sangiorz, is symbolised by dressing the chosen young man in plants and small branches of trees. A cap is made out of the bark of a wild cherry and a wood rod, decorated with young tree branches is given to the young god to wear. The other young men carry with then pipes and alphorns. In the morning, the young men and the chosen god start walking through the streets of the village, singing and playing their instruments. In the yards, the Sangiorz god dances and tries to hug the women, while hitting the man with fresh nettles and protecting himself from being hit with water. If a man manages to wet the Sangiorz god, it is a bad omen of poor harvests for that person. The entire group of young men receives as gifts eggs, wine and meat. Once the Sangiorz god had dances in every yard of the village, the man is undressed from his clothes made out of plants and branches and is thrown in a river or a spring, suggesting the passage of time and the god getting old and passing from this world. The "clothes" are ritualistically buried. The entire ritual has positive magical valences. Blessings are rained over the village, the harvests are assured to be plentiful, good luck and health are given to everyone.

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