Stories from readers: Romanian-born author’s special poem for the night of Saint Andrew
One of Romania's most important religious celebrations is coming up at the end of November - the feast of Saint Andrew (Sfantul Andrei), the patron saint of Romania. To mark this important day, Patricia Furstenberg, a Romanian-born author living in South Africa and a reader of Romania-insider.com, has shared a special poem with us, dedicated to the magical night of Saint Andrew.
The Feast of Saint Andrew is celebrated on November 30 and, like most local religious holidays, is surrounded by superstitions and traditions. Most are related to the night before St. Andrew's Day (November 29 to 30), as it is said that this is when spirits go out into the world, the wolves can speak, and people use garlic to protect themselves against evil and spells.
In other words, as Patricia Furstenberg explains: "In Romania, it is believed that on the night of Saint Andrew, the gates between this world and the world of the dead are open. The troubled spirits, called strigoii, moroii, or vampires, can haunt the villages, tease the living, and do other harm. Similar sounding words are found in other Romance languages: in Italian strega means witch, stregone is sorcerer, in French stryge is a bird-woman, in Greek we have Strix, in Polish strzyga, and in Albanian shtriga."
Here's Patricia's special poem dedicated to the night of Saint Andrew:
On the Night of Saint Andrew,
Hear the wind hissing like a crazed whip,
hear it roaring like a mad thing,
the sky darkened, sun long dead,
moon a yellow thumbnail about to swell
among grey clouds, rising now and then:
a boat lost to life, hauling souls of the undead.
Hear the sad moaning growing over fields,
rising over graveyards, lifting those long gone;
hear the lost cries, sneaking over fences,
shapes and shadows lurking, nightmares of the senses -
no escape for living. Too late for weak souls!
It's the end of year, that one blasted night
when the cold mists open, slashing sleeping plains
when the air is frozen that no scent should ebb,
it's the touch of rot, of mouldy tinge to dust
penetrating windows, seeping under doors,
tinging, stirring, pulling, even breathing in-
to unknowing, poor sleeping souls of living beings.
In the remote darkness where the evil stems,
on this one night, at November's end,
only wolves call hither, edging from the woods,
their red eyes dancing to the fence and through,
while owl hoots raspy, the call of undead:
tonight they return to take what's theirs.
ghosts afloat, no footprints left on frozen ground,
dark forms crawling, lingering on rocks
the earth trembles, ground spits them out
not even the dirt likes their crippled touch
while near the headstone of the corner grave
a shape, darkest one, sends a jolt to all;
most evil of evils, most undead of all,
most feared and cursed, last to come, but first
to have waited, drooled, clawed at his locked box
shiver, twist and struggle till the clock had struck
midnight on Saint Andrew's, one night in the year,
one night only - when evil creeps out, freed of fear.
the church's tower faltered, the bell, a new crack,
the old fir tree fell
while on dark sky above
wicked branches curve
like claws closing in:
"it" is crowned in darkness, in moonlight's yellow glow
all the ghosts now gather around their mastermind,
and spin tales of horror, all the evil done.
Wolves cease yelping, owls hide in wing,
bats dig deeper - none can stand such tales.
None can hear, can last, through the evil done,
none but them imagines such deeds to construct!
Ghosts of night, strigoii, of one night alone,
night of Saint Andrew, last November dusk,
when the gates stand open, gates between the worlds
when in the dark hour, then one hour more,
and another, nightmares, till that tinge of light,
fill the air, the ground, swim in all still lakes.
One more chance, last crossing, for moroii to try
grab the weak in spirit, steal the weak at heart,
this night's for the strega, the stregone, la stryge,
for the Strix, strzyga, shtriga, the vampire, all!
Theirs it is, in blackness,
theirs to stride. And grab.
So hold your babe closest, leave your candle alight
stir the fire high, pile on it more logs
bring the garlic near, and the silver stick,
keep your wits about you and, mostly, a clean heart-
till the first glow tinges the church's lone mast,
till that first echo of its unsung bell,
till the blessed sun's ray
first, pierces the dark.
and this one night, darkest,
of Andrew's Saint, when gates stand open
and darkness spills out
is over… till its time comes back.
About the author:
Patricia Furstenberg grew up in Bucharest but moved to South Africa in 2000. There, she went on to pursue her love of writing while also running a blog where she advocates her love for Romania. She writes contemporary novels, children's books, short stories, and poetry.
One of her most interesting works is Transylvania's History A to Z: 100 Word Stories - a fascinating collection of 26 short fiction stories of exactly 100 words each. Recently, she released a second book of the series: Dreamland, Banat, Crisana, Maramures, Transylvania, 100-Word Stories, Folklore and History. And Patricia told Romania-insider.com that this book would also be translated into Romanian.
Readers can find Patricia Furstenberg on her website and blog or on social media, especially Twitter, but also on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Read more about Patricia Furstenberg:
Transylvania's history in 100-word stories: An interview with the Romanian-born author
Romanians abroad - Patricia Furstenberg (South Africa): I miss the people speaking Romanian like a song
Irina Marica, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo source: Mizar219842013/Dreamstime.com)