Magic and fairies: Sanziene, the midsummer celebration in Romania

Romania celebrates the Sanziene (also known as Dragaica) on June 24, a pagan tradition which coincides with the Orthodox holiday of the birth of Ioan Botezatorul (St. John the Baptist –  so, happy name day to all named Ion/Ioana!). This day also marks the middle of summer and celebrates nature and fecundity.

Under the popular belief, Sanzienele were considered to be some beautiful women living in the woods or fields unexplored by man. According to the tradition, Sanzienele float in the air or walk on the ground on the night of June 23 to June 24, dancing and singing. The skies open on this magical night and miracles can happen.

Unlike Rusalii (the Pentecost), which are bad fantasy beings, Sanziele are believed to be good fairies. However, they can turn into bad forces if this day is not respected, and they can start storms and bring hail, leaving the field without crops and the flowers without cure.

According to the Romanian tradition, in the morning of Sanziene, people were gathering bouquets of the flowers with the same name, make wreaths, and threw them on the roof. It was believed that the person would have a long life if the wreath remained on the roof.

Also, during the night before Sanziene, women make wreaths with the same flowers, and place them under their pillows, to dream of their future husband.

People were also making wreaths with the flowers picked on this day, or they were linking them in the form of a cross, and were taking them to church where they were sanctified. Then, they were bringing them back home and keep them for various magical practices, including treating illness and scaring the evil.

The Sanziene flower can also be used as a medicine plant, if picked up early in the morning.

Fairs are usually also organized on this day, in several regions of Romania. In the past, this was a good opportunity for young men and women to meet, hoping to get married. Some of the most famous fairs of this kind are usually organized in Buzau, Focsani, Campulung Muscel, Buda, in Vrancea county, Ipatesti, Olt county, Pitesti, Crabunesti, Olt county and Brosteni, Mehedinti county. The most well-known fair is the Girls’ Fair on Gaina Mountain.

Irina Popescu, [email protected]

(photo source: Wikipedia)