The Romanian ritual of căluşari – between an obsolete meaning and a preserved structure, ,,Anthropos , 108(2): 2013, pp. 565-575.

The Romanian ritual of căluşari – between an obsolete meaning and a preserved structure, ,,Anthropos , 108(2): 2013, pp. 565-575.

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  A NTHROPOS 108.2013: 1 – 11 Abstract. –   Călușari , a ritual performed during the Orthodox holiday of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after the Easter Sunday, is one of the most recognized rituals in the Ro-manian folk ritual cycle. In 2008, it became the first monument of spiritual culture in Romania, and as such it was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heri- tage of Humanity. In traditional culture, this ritual was part of the entire system of beliefs concerning the souls of the dead and dangers of being possessed by evil powers ( rusalie ). It possesses a clear structure consisting of a number of interrelated elements. These include, for instance, the creating of an all-male broth-erhood, the flag-raising, the distribution of roles, the călușari   dance, and the use of apotropaic means. With time, the ritual be-came a point of interest of not only researchers and enthusiasts of the regional culture but also communist ideologues. It was transferred from its natural habitat to the theatre stage, which in turn initiated its transformation. Călușari  became a specta-cle played on a stage and the “tradition” was spread with its own festival, created for that purpose. Gradually, many Roma-nians forgot the srcinal meaning of numerous symbols and par- ticular components of the ceremony. The author describes the practice of călușari  in its historical and cultural contexts, and explains how the political manipulation, on the one hand, and the activity of researchers, on the other, led to its transforma- tion. [Romania, călușari  ritual, intangible cultural heritage, folk tradition] Ewa Kocój,  PhD, ethnographer and cultural anthropologist who has graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Po-land. – She is Assistant Professor at the Culture Institute of the Jagiellonian University, editor of the journal  Zarządzanie w kulturze  ( Culture Management  ), and co-founder of the Polish- Romanian Society in Cracow. – Her fields of interest include contemporary religiosity, anthropological interpretation of repre-sentations and cultural symbols as well as Eastern Christian spiri-tuality in the regions of the Carpathian Mountains, Eastern Chris- tian iconography, and folk art. – Recent publications include: “Świątynie, postacie, ikony. Malowane cerkwie i monastyry Bu-kowiny Południowej w wyobrażeniach rumuńskich” (Sanctuar-ies, Persons, Icons. Painted Orthodox Churches and Monaster- The Romanian Ritual of  călușari Between an Obsolete Meaning and a Preserved Structure Ewa Kocój ies of South Bukovina in Romanian Representations) (Kraków 2006) and articles published in Poland and elsewhere. “It is a bad place, where they dance, the  Beauti-  ful ones  (rom.  frumoasele ) … The grass dries there and turns red. If you sleep there, they will cast a spell on you” – over 60 years ago, in 1948, Wale-ria Pîșeu, who lived in a village of Poiana Mărului, said those words to Romanian ethnographer Ernest Bernea (Ciobanu și Gorneanu n. d.).These words seem significant from the point of view of the world from which călușari  srcinated and existed for ages. It needs to be emphasized that this world stopped existing after communism was abolished. Only a substitute of the lost traditional vision of the world, often nostalgically invoked by ethnographers, has survived. The aforementioned words stemmed from a system of beliefs related to the Romanian way of celebrating the “Descent of the Holy Spirit” (Pentecost), also colloquially called “Rusalie.” 1  It is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday, generally at the end of May or in June. Pen- tecost is one of the twelve Orthodox great feasts and possesses many underlying meanings (Calivas 1999: 64 f.; Patsavos 1999: 72 f.). 1 As this day is celebrated seven weeks after Easter Sunday, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ, it is called the Pen-tecost. 108_2 -- Artikel Kocójuk1 || page 1/11 || 2013-06-19hd ecker  2 Ewa Kocój Anthropos 108.2013 1  Moșii  (Forefathers) – Worshipping the Dead Ancestors in the Orthodox Religion The time spent celebrating Pentecost had been ex-tended by a few additional days in traditional cul- ture. A Saturday, falling on the eve of Pentecost, is significant for Orthodox Romanians. Even today this Saturday is called  Moșii  or  Moșii de Vară   (Sum- mer Forefathers). There had been at least 25  Moșii   Saturdays celebrated every year in the Romanian past (Marian 2000: 189).According to the Orthodox religion, a  Moșii  day commemorates the souls of the dead ancestors. After Christ had been crucified, descended to hell/Sheol, and rose from the dead, death was abolished by God. When life won over death, it stopped being a threat for Christians. When a body abandons this world, it is believed to go into a sleep leading to the afterlife. The Orthodox religion interprets death by referring to symbols of resurrection found in gos- pels. The most important examples are two stories about the resurrection of the dead: Lazarus, son of the widow of Nain and the dead daughter of one of the synagogue rulers named Jairus. Jesus said to the girl’s family: “Do not weep, for she has not died, but sleeps” (  Ewangelia  2007: Luke 8: 53; Vasilia- dis 2005: 123–126). Followers of Orthodox Chris-tianity believe that souls that left their bodies in this world are still alive in the “world beyond.” They pass the so-called partial judgment soon after phys-ical death, arrive at their appointed place, and stay there, asleep, until they are called to the valley of Josaphat for the Last Judgment. Furthermore, Or- thodox Christians believe that by remembering the dead they can alter their destiny and influence the Last Judgment sentence made upon them. The dead are, therefore, remembered in individual prayers as well as collectively in every liturgy. During the Proskomedia , for instance, the priest takes out piec-es of bread and lays them next to the Lamb of God – the last piece belonging to the dead. There are also special days appointed to the dead, and on these days memorial services called Panikhida  or Paras-tas  are held. These days are often called  Moșii . The prayers and related customs srcinated in antiqui-ty and early Christianity. In the canonical under-standing of the Orthodox religion, this is the day to remember dead ancestors, forefathers who had left this world. The moșii  are usually celebrated on Saturday, and this day is devoted to the dead in the Orthodox Church. During the celebrations, wor- shippers bring alms to the church for both the liv-ing and the dead. These alms generally are given in the form of a special ritual food called kolivo , made from cooked wheat or rice with honey, apples, and nuts. Kolivo  is consumed after the service in order to mark the unity of the dead and living in Christ. Moreover, people bring also wheat kalaches , drinks (wine), and sometimes even clothes and other ev- eryday items (Pamfile 1997: 16). They are laid on a special table in the church. The priest prays over them and blesses them with holy water. At the end of the service, the believers share food between the poor and the strangers, part of it is left in the church, and whatever is left is then taken home. 2  On that day the names of the dead, entered in Pomianik   memo-rial books that people have brought with them, are read out aloud. Orthodox Christians living in rural areas share a popular belief that the souls of the dead can be awaken from their sleep. Therefore, the days when it is possible or even recommended to connect with the dead are of particular value. One of such days is the  Moșii  before Pentecost. It is also a crucial moment in folk mythology, as it closes the cycle linked to the arrival of the souls of ancestors in the human world on Great Thursday. Having been hov-ering among the living for almost two months, the souls finish their wandering and prepare to return to their eternal place of rest (Pamfile 1997: 15). This causes certain souls to become aggressive, as they see that from then on they are not able to roam free-ly among people anymore. Consequently, they des-perately want to hold on to the human world carry-ing out some form of malicious activity.On a Pentecost  Moșii  Saturday in the past, Ro-manian women bought all kinds of dishware – pots, cups, bowls, glasses, watering cans, and plates. Af-terwards, they were filled with  pomana , a bountiful meal that honors the person who had died. The con- tainers were filled with water from a well or spring or with wine, milk, hone, or borsch. Kolaches  and candles were placed on top. An entire bundle was ornamented with flowers on the top. It was preferred to use roses, carobs, and basil and add sweet treats previously purchased on the market. The woman of the house carried moșii  to nearby neighbors, fam- ily, and friends and accepted it from them as well. In many places in Romania, it was believed that one should not eat before sharing the alms with others, as the dead were waiting for help from the living. Therefore, the first thing to do in the morning on a  Moșii  day was to take the food to the neighbors and family. Upon entering a house, a candle was lit and the food was shared. The ones accepting food were 2 The Orthodox Church assumes that services for absolving the dead souls from sins can be consecrated every day, but alms are especially welcome by God when they are offered on a Saturday. 108_2 -- Artikel Kocójuk1 || page 2/11 || 2013-06-19hd ecker  Anthropos 108.2013 3 The Romanian Ritual of călușari expected to express gratitude for it with the custom-ary reply  Bogdaproste  (“God be praised”), and pray for the souls of the dead. As it was believed that not all souls would return to their appointed places, people attempted to protect themselves against their evildoing. Apotropaic plants – garlic and lovage – were laid on houses, windows, doors, and gates to ward off the evil spirits (Pamfile 1997: 19).In present times, those rituals are mostly obso-lete, although certain elements of the lost tradition are still present in the liturgical and customary reli- gious practices. Carrying moșii  from house to house is slowly dying out. It is replaced by common cel-ebrations and prayers at churches and cemeteries: … in our area everyone gathers in the wooden church nearby cemetery, they bring water in wooden buckets and have it blessed by the priest. Everyone brings a container with a green item inside. After the blessing we go cele-brate  Dziady  at the cemetery and then we arrange a table for  Moșii  (Rom. masa moșilor) in the courtyard of the church.  Moșii  are made from eggs and kolaches  just like during Easter (Bilţiu și Bilţiu 2009: 172). … the souls desire the same things as the living. They want to eat and drink. Therefore we prepare the food – cabbage rolls, cozonac 3 , gogoși , plum brandy, and cher-ry vodka. We go to the cemetery to share the food, which is given to the dead, poor, strangers, each other, and we leave what remains on the graves. The souls arrive at 3 Cozonac   is a sweet bread, to which milk, sugar, eggs, butter, nuts, and raisins are added. It is baked for religious holidays or family celebrations. night, some people stay at the cemetery until midnight to see them come. Afterwards they say that they had seen them. I have never stayed and have never seen them, but other people say they did. 4 2  Rusalie The belief in the “Descent of the Holy Ghost,” the arrival of the ancestors’ souls on earth, and moșii  is intercepted by traditional Romanian beliefs in nymphs of the air, who can pose a threat to people. The nymphs bear various names; they usually called rusalie  and, less frequently – iele  or  frumoase  (Ghi- noiu 2002: 327). In folk imagery, the rusalie  exist as female ghosts of dead rebels. They left their graves on Maundy Thursday and refused to return to their earthly dwellings. In traditional beliefs, they were included in the group of the so-called nymphs of the air. They were said to be endowed with magi-cal powers, and in this way they were able to live in the air (Pamfile 1997: 15). Thus, in traditional be-liefs, the structures of time had to become suspend-ed on the Thursday, just before the rusalie  celebra-tions. From that moment on, they start performing their malicious deeds. Many activities were banned at this time – one could not work in fear of being punished by the rusalie . One could not laugh, as 4 Field research in October 2011: interview with Maramuresz, a Romanian, Orthodox woman at the age of 56. Fig. 1:    Moșii de toamna  (Au-tumn’s Forefathers), Saturday of St. Dumitru, Bogdan Voda, Mara-mureș, Romania (October 2011). 108_2 -- Artikel Kocójuk1 || page 3/11 || 2013-06-19hd ecker  4 Ewa Kocój Anthropos 108.2013 they may hear it and bring misfortune upon the peo- ple. Children could not tease others for fear of be-ing paralyzed by the nymphs. Outsiders who hap- pened to see them were punished by suffering an illness called “being taken by the rusalie ” (Rom. luat de rusalie ) in folk dialect. The illness resulted in all kinds of psychophysical symptoms – madness (“taking away the reason”), loss of voice (“taking away the speech”), and paralysis (“taking away the legs”) (Ghinoiu 2002: 326).  Rusalie  were present everywhere, and this world of imagery has no limits and can be recreated in different places and coun-tries visited by carriers of the belief. Nowadays, we can see this among the Gypsies from Romania beg-ging for alms in front of churches in Poland. At the beginning of June 2009, in Cracow, they were evok- ing the rusalie  and nervously looking around and crossing themselves: … today is the time of the rusalie , a dangerous time, they are everywhere. God forbid, they will harm us or take our money.  Rusalie  are not good, in the air, no good. Heav- ens forbid, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 5   It was also believed that one could ward the rusa- lie  off. There were various magical means to create a space impermeable to evil powers. The protection against demons started with one’s own body. Thus, 5 Field research: interview with a Gypsy women from Roma-nia (of the vicinity of Sibiu) begging for alms on the streets of Kraków Cracow, June 2009, age 72, Orthodox religion. people should always have apotropaic plants at hand in order not to allow the evil powers to come closer. Similar measures were undertaken to protect house-holds and farms. Houses were ornamented with gar- lic, lovage, linden, and branches of the Elder tree in belief that they would help in averting the evil spir-its. Another protection against rusalie  was a piece of wood – preferably when it was used for spank- ing (Pamfile 1997: 24). However, if one had already been “taken by rusalie ,” actions taken by a special group of dancers known as the călușari  were the only way to disable their powers. 3 Călușari 3.1 Name and the Oldest Sources Călușari  is one of the most popular rituals in the folk ritual cycle of Romania. It takes place around the Orthodox holiday of Pentecost. An appropriate translation of the word călușari  is extremely difficult, and – in general – authors leave it in its srcinal form (Eliade 1992: 94–96; 1973). Some dictionaries at- tempt to take up the challenge and translate călușari   in singular as “customary folk dance” or simply as “a dancer” (Mirska-Lasota i Porawska 2009: 129). 6  6 As it is a historical ritual, the closest terms in traditional Pol-ish could be “horses” or “horse breeders.” We can also con- sider relations with ancient horses and centaurs as well as with the Polish custom of lajkonik  .  Lajkonik   seems to be closely related to călușari  – the ceremony takes place at the Fig. 2:  Ritual food on the graves for the dead, Saturday of St. Du- mitru, Sacăl, Maramureș, Roma- nia (October 2011). 108_2 -- Artikel Kocójuk1 || page 4/11 || 2013-06-19hd ecker  Anthropos 108.2013 5 The Romanian Ritual of călușari The etymology of the term has not been ex- plained either, although a number of explanations, which point to the source and attributes of the ritual, have been provided. Some scholars claim that călu-șari  comes from the Latin word collusium , colusii , which meant “a group of dancers and a secret asso-ciation” (Popescu 2009). Others derive it from the Latin word carrulus  and the suffix uș , which meant a small piece of wood placed in the mouth of one of the most important characters – the Mute (Rom. mut  ) (Vulcănescu 1985: 377 f.). Still another group of researchers associates the word călușari  with the Romanian word cal , which derives from the Latin cabellus  – a horse. In antiquity, it was an animal fre- quently related to happiness or war. 7  The connection of călușari  with the Gypsy word calo , which means “black, practicing sorcery” or “sorcerer,” has been also considered. It is because some sources indi-cate that the ritual could have been performed by the Gypsies, but no detailed research has corrobo-rated this claim. 8 The călușari  was first mentioned by foreign travelers who visited the territory of Transylvania toward the end of the 17th century (Cristea 2008: 30 f.). At the beginning of the 18th century, Dimit-rie Cantemir, the greatest personality of Moldavian culture at that time, described the ritual and relat-ed beliefs in more detail. According to Cantemir, the ritual lasted ten days and it took place around the holiday of Pentecost. Călușari  gathered once a year, changed into female costumes, covered up their faces, and put crowns woven from flowers and wormwood on their heads. They performed rituals of reversing ailments brought upon people by evil powers, ghosts, and vampires (Rom. strigoaicele ). They were all clutching swords and threatened to use them to pierce anybody who dared to uncover their faces. The dancers acquired this privilege long ago and even if they happened to kill someone, there was no punishment administered upon them. Not without irony, Cantemir mentioned that the super- stitious people believe that călușari  possess pow-ers capable of reversing of chronic illnesses. This was performed in the following way. The sick were placed on the ground, while the dancers were jump- ing and walking over them, moving from the head to the toes of the afflicted, one behind the other. They finished by whispering some unknown words into same time, there are a horse, a weapon, and symbolic ges-tures. See Graves (1982: 186 f.). 7 Vuia (1922: 216–218); Pop (1976: 103); Ghinoiu (2002: 338); Cojocaru (2008: 325). 8 In reference to călușari  and the Gypsies the 1718 account of Anton-Maria del Chiaro from Venice seems important (see Cristea 2008: 33–35) the ear of the sick, ordering the sickness to leave their bodies (Cantemir 1998: 193 f.). It is important to note that the period between 1930s and the 1950s was very significant for the status of călușari . The number of accounts referring to călușari  increased during that time, and Roma-nian intellectuals began to interpret it as part of the national mythology, in particular by searching for a possible historical relationship between Romanian and Latin cultures (Cristea 2008: 33–35). Similarly, Giurchescu (2009) argues that the ceremony of că-lușari  was selected specifically to demonstrate the ancient Roman srcin of Romanians. In particular, Anca Giurchescu (1987: 163–171) points to the rev-olution of 1848 as the historical moment when călu-șari  was first presented as a symbol of Romanian na-tional unity. In 1850, in Braszow, the musician Iacob Mureșan and the professor of physical education, Ștefan Emilian, adapted the music and steps of că-lușari  in an attempt to create a national dance. Two călușari  provided them with the necessary facts re-garding the ritual. In doing so, however, they broke the group’s vow of secrecy. As part of the national mythology, călușari  underwent later many transfor- mations, and finally, at the end of the 20th century, its srcinal meaning was forgotten, though its struc- ture is still preserved in folkloric performances. 3.2 Group Structure As a ritual, Călușari  has several layers of mean- ing, and as such it is abundant in symbolism, which makes any comprehensive description and subse-quent interpretation challenging. The knowledge pertinent to călușari  used to be restricted to group’s members only, and these were sworn to secrecy (Costache 2008: 20–22). There was an aura of mys- tery associated with the healing rituals, symbolism of costumes, gestures, props, and dances. The per-formance itself also resulted in physical and mental exhaustion. On the other hand, the emotions invoked in the audience bordered on religious experience in the face of sacrum; it was misterium fascinans  and misterium tremendum  at the same time. The aura around the călușari  was additionally spiced up by some of the members stepping out of line and re- vealing the secrets, especially to inquisitive and not always fair dealing ethnographers. Nevertheless, there were also cases when călușari  seized ethnog- raphers’ cameras and drove the scholars off, pro- tecting/ preserving/ defending their secret that the re-searchers wanted to appropriate (Giurchescu 2009).The traditional ritual was performed only by men organized into a strict hierarchy. It is difficult to de- 108_2 -- Artikel Kocójuk1 || page 5/11 || 2013-06-19hd ecker
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