The Thread of Life

Human life, both from urban or rural environment, followed the natural course of birth-marriage-death. Considered as major events of the existence, these moments were marked by rituals and ceremonies which revealed the importance to the family but also to the relationship with the Divinity.
All ancient beliefs and rites, according to the three moments, were meant to attract positive forces, to ensure protection and fertility for the couple and the family, and to provide support and help during the important passage to the other world.
The exhibition presents the thread of life by pointing the three moments – birth, marriage and funeral, casting a look at the traditional man’s belief system, expectations and anxieties in front of some limelight, of utmost importance, interwoven in customs and practices.

In the rural community, the basic social group was the family represented by the extended family – parents, children, relatives by consanguinity, affinity and godparents’ relatives.
The preoccupation of the family to have descendants began with the formation of the couple through fertility rites performed at the wedding and during pregnancy, the entrance into the community being officiated through the institutions of the state – church and mayor’s office, but also through the traditional institutions the christening and the godparenting.
The pregnancy period was loaded by interdictions which the family and the pregnant woman had to obey, centered around the fear of losing the pregnancy. These rules were largely represented by hygiene rules, religious rules and various superstitions.
The moment of birth was expected through special rites, which had to ensure the avoidance of dangers and an easy birth. Women delivered the baby at home, assisted by a midwife, an older woman, and who was performing activities related to the coming to the world and the integration of the newborn.
Birth took place within the family until the mid of XX century, usually in front of the fireplace, on the ground, and later on the bed. The midwife cut the child’s umbilical cord, and she buried the placenta according to different rules from one area to another.
Particular attention was paid to the first bathing of the newborn, a purifying ritual, consisting of ancient beliefs of magic through contact, was made with unspoiled spring water, sprinkled with sanctified water, in which various objects with augur load were inserted (coins, plants …).
The child’s destiny was decided in the first three days after birth by the fairy godmothers, who were called upon to favorably influence the fate of the child. They were voicing words of magical charge by which they kept evil away from the child and invoked the positive forces in his life.
The baptism, an important moment, took place a few months after birth, began with the selection of the godparents who, according to tradition, were the wedding godparents and served as spiritual guides of the child.
Through the sacrament of baptism the child enters the religious community. The ceremony consisted of the formalization in the church of the Christian ritual, and for this purpose a candle, cloth for holy unction and new clothes were used.
At the age of 6 – 7 years, it was prepared the baptismal tree, a ceremony attended by the priest, the godfathers and the parents. Under the baptismal tree there were laid objects with significant meaning – if she was a girl, a rung ladder, a plate, spoons and a headdress – if he was a boy – a towel and a candle.

The wedding was one of the most important ceremonial moments, the second important threshold in life, which in the popular faith, had to be passed by each one in order to properly integrate in the community.
The wedding was an occasion for joy for everyone, determined not only by the importance and significance of this moment, but also by the festive general framework. By the moments and sequences which took place, the wedding was a show that brought together songs, dances, beliefs, magic practices – different customs from one area to another.
The major moment of the existential marriage cycle marks the entry into a new stage of life, the acquisition of a new status, the fulfillment of destiny. The preoccupations for founding a family were performed long before the wedding, the seating and the round dances in the village were opportunities for manifesting the interest in marriage.
Transition ceremonies and marriage rituals were of great importance in the traditional community.
The transition from the status of girl / boy to the married community and founding of a new family, was followed by a succession of the unification rituals of the two families.
The asking in marriage preceding the wedding was designed to facilitate the meeting and getting known with future families, and mutual understanding regarding the dowry.
The wedding began with the preparations for both the bridegroom and the bride, one week before the wedding. To the bride’s home there were prepared the braids and the there were prepared the (the callers) whom went within the village to invite people to the wedding.
An important stage regarding wedding preparations was the “bride preparedness”, an archaic custom which involved a lot of work and was assisted by several women. Hair styling and grooming, were important moments during which the mother and mother-in-law were involved, transition ritual through which the young woman becomes a wife, symbolizing the transfer of authority between the two, the transition from mother tutelage to mother-in-law tutelage.
The exhibition presents the wedding ceremony.
It consisted of bride and groom, godfathers, parents, parents-in-law, wedding attendees, the bride’s carriage with her dowry, and persons with ceremonial roles (mocking, old-fashioned, cornet, women and men callers, horsemen).
The main moments of the wedding ceremony were: the invitation to the wedding, the bride’s preparation, the church service, the request for forgiveness from parents, the dowry load, the dance within the bride’s home, the flag game, the party, the bride’s dance, stealing the bride. A lot of attention was given to the bride’s dance, during which the bride was invited to dance by the wedding guests.
The rituals held during the wedding were complex, both in terms of their symbolic value and in terms of props. The wedding flag played an important role in the whole ceremony, it was carried by the character of the cornet, being a substitute for the groom, and depending on how it was worn and played, prefigured the qualities of the future husband.

Since ancient times, fear of the unknown and of death has generated attitudes and behaviors designed to ease the suffering of separation.
The belief in an existence which begins before the human being appears on earth and continues after the disappearance from the living, is one of the constants of traditional culture.
This belief is at the same time the cause and consequence of a permanent connection between the world here and the one beyond, in which death is seen as a passage, the concern to ensure a light passage and a proper living in the other world, accompanied by rituals, practices and beliefs.
In traditional society, death was seen as a natural thing, a passage accompanied by practices and actions meant to ease and help overcome this moment. Running in different time sequences, the registry of rituals includes 3 types, rites designed to ease the separation from life, transition specific rites, and post-liminal rites for integration into the other world.
Death marks the end of the relationship between the individual and the seen world, announcing another type of existence, preceded by the premonitory signs.
Incurable disease, some dreams, oniric images, like various superstitions, are oracular signs that were interpreted according to beliefs, and were associated with death.
The dying customs during this period were aimed at “unleashing” and oriented the behavior towards the demand for forgiveness, reconciliation, and acceptance. Now the testament is prepared with the language of death, what was inhered to each person, it was decided who will remain in the house, recommendations which had to be obeyed.
The death of a member of the community was followed by rituals, beginning with the deceased’s announcement in the church, the preparation of the dead (the scalding, the dressing, the placement of the body in the coffin) the death watch, the funeral convoy, the burial, and the common meal.
A separation ritual, the remembrance of the dead was traditionally made by memorial service once at six months and once after one year, and then every six months up to seven years.
Based on fear of the unknown, the cult of the dead expresses the respect for the deceased person, the desire to perpetuate the ancestry, or the family, and the hope of a reunion with the loved ones.