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

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Căluşari

Magical dance from Romania with pagan origins.  The dancers take an oath to secrecy and participate in an initiation. Their dances seem to have an apotropaic function against the charms of the Iele, malevolent female nature spirits. They can also mend the evil done by the Iele and cure other disease, just by dancing around the sick.

 

calusari costume-calusari Nicolae_Ionescu_-_The_Căluşari_from_Vlaşca_at_Moşilor_Fair