February 27, 2015

Mysterious Romania (VIII) Martisor

I  wrote about Martisor, a lovely  Romanian spring tradition, in two 2013 and 2014 posts. Mărțișor, marț and mărțiguș are all names for the red and white string from which a small decoration is tied, and which is offered on the 1st day of March. 
Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be happy and healthy for the year to come.  Today I will tell you the legend of  Martisor and some of the customs linked to it in various areas of Romania.

 Once upon a time, the Sun came down to Earth. The Sun reached a village where many young people were dancing a hora (traditional dance). To be able to enjoy the fun, the Sun turned into a pretty young maiden  and joined the hora. A dragon kidnapped the young woman and closed her  in a cave. The whole world was devastated. The birds no longer sang, river no longer flew to the sea, mankind was threatened by famine. Nobody dared fight with the dragon. At last, a young man decided to try his luck and save the Sun. Several men  gave him their powers to make him invincible. His journey lasted for three seasons: summer, autumn and winter.


The brave young man found the dragon and they fought for days on end. Weakened and wounded, he managed to defeat the dragon and release the sun. This rose  high above on the sky, and all the world rejoiced. Unfortunately the valiant young man died. The blood oozed from his wounds on the snow covering the earth. And while life ebbed away from his body,  white snowdrops,  flowers heralding spring, appeared.
 Ever since that day, young men offer the girls they love,  either two tassels, one white, the other red, or a white and red thread.  Red means love for everything that is beautiful in our life, reminding us of the brave young man’s blood, white symbolizes health and purity, reminding  us of snowdrops, the first spring flowers that appeared at his death.  

The white and read thread – Martisor – is put around the wrist of small children to protect them from bad spells and bring them luck.  In some areas, children wear the thread around their neck for twelve days and then tie it to a  young tree branch.  If  that year the tree goes well,  it means that the child will go well in life  too.


In Moldova and a large part of Romania’s villages there’s the belief that hanging the Martisor thread on a tree branch will bring wealth and health  into people's homes. There's also the belief  that if someone  thinks of a wish while hanging the red-white thread on a branch, the wish will come true. A funny thing in Moldova is that girls and women offer martisoare to boys and men, while in the rest of Romania there's the belief that if a man receives a Martisor he will cry that year. 
  In Transylvania, Martisor is hung on doors, windows and horns of farming animals as this will frighten  evil spirits.

                Nowadays, on March 1, Romanians buy silky red-white threads tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to the (female) family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.
  What a pity other people don't borrow this tradition from us, the same we did with Valentine Day or Halloween.


.

10 comments:

  1. Fascinating, Carmen! I love learning about different customs/traditions. Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is one of the traditions that I'm sure will survive all along the years. It has up to now.
      As a teacher, on 1st March I received so many martisoare that when coming out of a class I looked like a general wearing decorations.
      Thanks for leaving a comment, Mary!

      Delete
  2. Very interesting to learn new things that you described so wonderfully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes there are things that we take for granted but they are in fact what makes us different from the rest.
      Thank you for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. What a beautiful tradition, Carmen. Thank you for sharing it. I hope these practices are being shared each year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do hope too. Unlike Dragobete that was more known in the countryside, Martisor is a long time tradition all over the country.
      Women, girls are supposed to wear it, like a brooch, the whole March month.
      Thank you for checking the post, Susan!

      Delete
  4. Wow, somehow I completely missed this post, and it's riveting! I love learning about these customs and hearing the tales behind them. The story of the dragon, the young man and the sun was especially touching. Martisor is a fascinating spring tradition. Thanks for sharing, Carmen. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for checking my post, Mae!
      This is a tradition that, I hope, will not perish like many others. It's of I think right even better than Dragobete. It is known and kept all over Romania.

      Delete
  5. A beautiful legend with links perhaps to the story of Persephone. I think this is a beautiful tradition and its wonderful that it continues today. Thanks so much for sharing and explaining it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Daisy, though I haven't thought about it. The legend of Martisor has some resemblance to the abduction of the vegetation goddess which is a Pre-Greek myth.
      Thank you for stopping by!

      Delete