Rural life was structured and determined by time, through the cycle of seasons, which were in close association with practices and rituals aimed at restoring and maintaining balance, by evading evil and attracting the forces of good.
Magical and religious practices have provided over time, answers to the problems of life, support in understanding the universe, and aimed to establish favorable relations between man and supernatural forces, and to ensure the periodical regeneration of the universe. Performed periodically, they meant the meaning of regenerating nature through crops, assuring the continuity of life, manifestations stemming from the ambivalence of man in front of the nature, the unceasing fear of resource exhaustion and the desire to reach the Divinity.
The peasant’s life was marked by the specifics of rural labor which followed along with the seasons, with the habits during the year (fixed and mobile dated holidays) and the major events which took place (birth, marriage, death).
The real time of the seasons, predestined and immutable, interfered permanently with the magical-religious one, through various magical and therapeutic actions, thus providing a proper balance to the community and the individual.
Understanding the time, as per the peasant mentality, is equivalent with making the distinction between the sacred and the profane, the celebration signifying the exodus from the everyday time and the positioning with respect to the Divinity in a sacred time.
The calendar of popular celebrations represented a means of communication with a specific language. Along with their occasion, a series of customs and prohibitions were obeyed in order to fulfill the destiny and to avoid the adverse consequences.
In popular consciousness, the celebrations expanded during the seasons, included a system of own beliefs that outlined a world-specific view of the traditional village. As per the peasant consciousness, time, like human being, is born, matures, ages and dies.
The popular calendar had a beginning day for each season and was based on certain signs of nature that gave it cyclical and mysterious understanding of the course of time. In the seasons calendar, the months were independent, and the establishment of the beginning and the end were related to signs of nature – the maturation of the crops, the departure of the migratory birds, the phenomena of nature.
Spring began with Dragobete on February 24, summer with the Holy Emperors Constantine and Helen on May 21, autumn with the Day of the Cross on September 14, winter with Saint Andrew on the 30th of November. Seating the seasons, according to popular thought, was determined by the experience gained in observing the signs of the weather and the biorhythm of plants and animals.
The 4 seasons are represented, in the exhibition framework, by specific events taking place during these time periods and revealing aspects of peasant life, referring to beliefs and habits related to them.
Catching the traditional man’s relationship with the time, by approaching the seasons, of the succession of working and rest periods, good and bad days, obedience of some habits, prohibitions, represent ways of highlighting the relation of traditional man with the community and the Divinity.
Thus, spring is represented by a significant habit for the rural life, dominated in this period – the Mărțișor. Spring holidays and celebrations gravitated around ritual practices related to the beginning of a new agricultural year.
It is a period of restoration of the young age, of the nature renaissance, seen as a victory of the struggle between summer and winter, rich in fertility practices and stimulation of vegetation and abundance, but also of purification and spiritual cleansing through preparation for the Paschal Celebration.
Mărțișor is an ancient custom that has the role of counteracting negative forces and bringing luck. Worn up to the first signs of spring victory, the string of the Mărțișor, expresses the inseparable intertwining of the two principles – positive and negative, suggesting the duality of life.
The significance of mărţişor is related to the legend of Baba Dochia, considered the goddess of fertility, representing a time-renewal scenario on the verge of spring. Mărţişor metaphorically suggests the thread of the days of the year, spinned by Baba Dochia while climbing with the sheep on the mountain, similar to the thread of man’s life, twisted at birth by the mockers.
According to ancient beliefs, seasons were chromatically symbolized, spring through red, winter through white. Another interpretation of the significance of colors: red representing fire, blood or sun, were attributed to the woman’s vitality, and white as cold and pure snow signified the man’s wisdom.
Summer, represented for the village community the season with the most activities and work. In order to have a harvest, the crop must be protected from the action of the negative forces, the summer being dominated by practices, rituals and actions aimed at harvesting and driving the negative forces away.
Summer time is exemplified in the exhibition framework, through the Paparuda Play, which represents the ritual of invoking the rain.
Paparuda, the most widespread name of the magical rite of inducing the rain, was practiced on the third Thursday after Pentecost, but also on some days following long periods of drought.
The archaic custom has undergone changes over time according to the beliefs and evolution of the popular mentality.
Paparuda invokes onomatopoeically the rain through dance, palms and legs beatings, but especially through the rhythm and content of the magic text. The ritual was practiced by girls dressed in leaves and bark garlands (burdock, beech, oak, hazelnut). During or after the game, it happened also the watering of a young girl chosen from the group, called Paparuda. For the whole dance, the protagonists were rewarded with ritual gifts that meant abundance and abundance: eggs, cornflour, wheat, braids, fruits, money, etc., sometimes also old clothes, a practice linking the custom with the cult of the dead.
The autumn season closes the pastoral year which began at St. George, in antithesis with St. Dumitru, a celebration which was respected within the village life.
One of St. Dumitru’s customs was the Selection of Sheep, a manifestation that has been preserved within the area, and which avails the sheep cots opening, bringing down the sheep from the mountains, and termination of contracts between shepherds and sheep owners.
Sheep breeding, a traditional occupation since ancient times, has been an important means of subsistence, occupations being the source and way of life of the Romanian peasant. Animal husbandry, especially the shepherd, was a major occupation, and crop cultivation was also geared to the surplus being used for animal feed and the textile industry.
The products obtained (cheese, wool and leather) were used in the household. The practice of the shepherd has thus contributed to the emergence and development of secondary occupations in the area, especially the manufacturing of sheepskin coats, peasant craftsmanship.
The shepherd was mainly influenced by the natural, economic conditions and some traditions in the area, which favored the spreading of the agricultural shepherd having his sheep cot in the mountains.
The exhibition presents the type of sheep cot from Călimani and Gurghiu, with bowls used in the preparation of dairy products: milking buckets, water buckets, buckwheat, butter buckwheat, cheese keeve, green-schese bowl, shepherd’s truncheon and decorative motifs.
The winter time is manifested by beliefs and customs, culminating with the Celebration of Christmas and New Year, embedded in customs and rituals of pre-Christian and Christian character.
The customs around winter celebrations were: decorating the Christmas tree (initially the Christmas horn) preparing the ritual food (and the Christmas meal) and the custom of caroling.
The caroling, commonly spread all over the country, starts from the evening of Eve, with groups of carol singers who wished the hosts happiness, health and abundance.
Carol-singing is a scenario of death and rebirth of divinity and time, composed of ceremonial texts, magic formulas, gestures and ritual dances performed at people’s homes or in the streets.
Carol-songs, at their pre-Christian origins, have been gradually adapted to the Christian community, giving birth, unlike profane carols, summed up to health wishes, rich fruit and fulfillment of wishes. These referred to the pre-Christian gods, whose sacrifice periodically guaranteed the life and existence of the universe, their sacrificial acts representing behavioral patterns over a long historical period.
The mission of carol-singers was very important as per the popular doxy, bypassing a household or not receiving the carol-songs attracted misfortunes in popular doxy. The un-caroling was a magical practice that targeted those who did not accept the carol singers or offer them appropriate rewards and relied on the magical force of the word.
The Christmas Table was composed of food from the Ignat slaughtered pig, prepared from wheat (cakes, pretzels, braids) and the red wine, the symbol of the divinity sacrifice.
An archaic custom, with a special meaning, was the goat-play, or the tip cat caroling. The goat, in popular mythology, represented the productivity and fertility of the earth. During the celebration, the game is a ritual meant to bring fruit to the next year and the success of the harvests, symbolized by the grains that were thrown by the host over the goat’s cortex.
The origins of this custom are related to the compassionate feelings of the traditional archaic community. At the end of the year, the traditional rural community, took stock of not only harvesting achievements but also of the community in general. At this time, people were taking interest of those who needed support, elders, widows, orphans, families with many children, people in difficulty, the role of the community being to look after others.
Sharing the gifts was made in a festive setting, the wealthy people went home to the ones in need and offered them: food, clothes, but also hides of hunted animals (bears, wolves, foxes) or even living animals, offering them especially goats.
The specific New Year carols were wishes to invoke good spirits in the house and people’s household. The most common were plugusor and sorcova. Plugusor, the custom related to fertility hope, presented in the lyrics the main agricultural work, along with wishes for fertile crops.
In some villages, on the New Year’s Eve, Vergel, a ceremony comprising divination acts, held during a night-time renewal through which the unmarried girls were finding out about their future husband, and the households were finding out about how the next year will be like.