Magical Plants & Herbs in Romanian Folklore: Corylus avellana, Alun or European Hazel Tree

Illustration_Corylus_avellana0Corylus avellana, or the common European  hazel tree,  is known as alun to most Romanians. Over time, the alun tree has had multiple uses in tool crafting, medicine and magic.

According to Butură, the Căluşari would use hazel wood to craft their banner. In some areas, gypsies, widely associated with witchcraft, would only use hazel wood walking sticks. In Banat (west Romania), women would build hazel wood fires in  for the dead in graveyards.

Marian notes that hazel branches have, according to Romanian folklore, magical powers over snakes and unclean spirits.

The broom that Baba Cloanța, hag with magical powers from Romanian folklore, rides on is also crafted out of hazel wood. Legend has it that when a young woman misses her boyfriend from afar, she has to visit such a hag, bringing her a white rooster and some silver coins. In the witch’s house she will find three hazel branches. After the magical work is done, which involves burning some coals stolen from graves, chanting, and battering a pot with the hazel branches, the girl’s lover will arrive riding a post made out of – you guessed it- hazel wood. It is said that witches cast binding spells using pitchforks crafted out of the same type of wood.

It is not only witches that craft their tools using hazel branches, but also the ones who fight against the Solomonari,legendary sorcerers belonging to the Romanian folklore. Legend has it that the Solomonari, after spending their first seven years underground studying the Art from a book written by the Devil himself, ride their dragons above the clouds, bringing terrible storms and hail.

The men that battle the Solomonari are called Pietrari (piatră – stone). Their main weapon against the feared sorcerers is, of course, the sacred hazel branch.

Oișteanu mentions witches bringing or conjuring rain away with the help of hazel branches by going naked near ponds and casting various spells.

*image stolen from gutenberg.org

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Magical Plants & Herbs in Romanian Folklore: Artemisia absinthium or Pelin

Artemisia absinthium is, according to Borza’s dictionary, known as Iarba Fecioarelor (maidens’ weed), or most commonly, Pelin. 

It belongs to the Compositae family and it can be found growing in arid places, on roadsides or along fences. Due to its active components, its use for therapeutic purposes has been attested ever since Antiquity. In Romanian folklore, Pelin  was commonly associated with the dance of CăluşariThe dancers would wear Pelin plants around their waists.

Marian notes that Pelin is used in spells against  Cel-Perit (lit.the dead one), an archaic name for a disease we now know as Syphilis. The healer must touch the pustule with the plant nine times, while chanting specific words.

In Bucovina, Romanian women use Pelin to protect themselves and their children from vântoase, female mythical creatures similar to the iele. Also in Bucovina, women make brooms using dried Pelin, with which they sweep their homes in order to keep the evil spirits out.

Oișteanu mentions the frequent use of Pelin by the Căluşariwho ingest large quantities of the plant. He quotes some Romanian popular lyrics:

Pelin beau, pelin mănânc,

Seara pe pelin mă culc,

Dimineața când mă scol

Cu pelin pe ochi mă spăl.

 

Pelin I drink, pelin I eat,

At night I sleep on pelin,

When I wake up in the morning

I wash my face with pelin.

 

* image stolen from http://www.plantillustrations.org/

** this is an approximate translation, I have mentioned before that I am not a professional translator, but I tried to do my best, as usual