Solomonarul – brief introduction

Finding a translation, or a definition, for that matter,of the word Solomonar would be rather difficult. In fact, this shadowy figure of Romanian folklore is surrounded by so many legends and tales, that it makes it impossible to establish a unilateral profile for the Solomonar, or a clear delimitation of  his attributions. Even the origins of this peculiar character are widely disputed by Romanian folklorists.

It is for this reason that I chose to discuss the Solomonar in more than one post, for it would be a blasphemy to treat this folklorical theme superficially. As documentation, I have chosen both studies written by contemporary ethnologists, such as Andrei Oișteanu or Mihai Coman, as well as folk tales collected by late 19th century folklorists such as Tudor Pamfile and Simon Florea Marian.

I will try to structure my post(s) in a coherent manner to cover as much as I can on this unique folkorical figure. I will begin with discussing   the attributes and attributions of the Solomonar, followed by some ideas on the initiation process the origins of the term and possible connection to King Solomon.

The Solomonar is always a male figure, a human being with “extraordinary powers”, as mentioned by Coman. However, it is clear that his powers are not native, but learned and practiced. The Solomonar must undergo an initiation process after having spent several years studying in an underground school. Pamfile mentions that the Solomonar will always be the youngest brother of seven brother monks.

It is said that they travel alone, dressed in rags, roaming through villages as beggars. If the villagers refuse to offer them food, the Solomonar will bring storms and hail upon that particular village. A Solomonar is able to do that by riding a dragon, mythical creature with which he has a special connection ( to be detailed in a future post) in the sky.

No matter the sources of the legends, the Solomonar is always accompanied by a series of symbols. First and foremost, he always carries a great book with him, It is also said that during his learning time, he is obliged to travel to the East and write down all the world’s knowledge into a tome. It is unknown if the book he carries is the same with the universal knowledge tome, but Coman points out that this may be a christian contamination of the original myth. It is in christian iconography that we find the motif of the “holy book”.

Other common symbols are: the hook, the staff (in some legends, the staff was used to kill a snake), an enchanted bag, an iron axe and a rein crafted out of birch tree bark.

It is said that a Solomonar begs for food and receives various products in small quantities, but never meat. According to Oisteanu, he never eats what he receives, but leaves it on a water stream, perhaps as an offering for the departed.

So, the Solomonar is  a man (and not a god, or even a demi-god), invested with special abilities (some legends claim that his teacher was the Devil himself – but that is only natural, since with the arrival of christianity, pagan figures were assimilated with diabolical forces) following an initiaion ritual. He has a complex connection to dragons, and, when he doesn’t ride them, or when he’s not wandering through villages as a beggar, retreats somewhere underground. He seems to master the weather and he constantly tests the virtues of villagers. In all his magical pursuits, he is aided by a series of enchanted objects.

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

Magical Plants & Herbs in Romanian Folklore: Datura stramonium or Ciumăfaie

Datura stramonium, widely known as Ciumăfaie in Romanian folklore , also goes by the names of  Bolîndăriță ( from boală – disease), Ciuma fetei ( the girl’s plague, lit.),  cornută ( from corn – horn, the horned one, lit.), Iarba dracului ( the devil’s weed) or  Nebunariță ( from nebun – insane). As found in Borza’s dictionary of ethnobotanics, most of the plant’s given names relate to madness or even rabies, due to Datura’s well known psychotropic properties.

In Valer Butură’s Encyclopedia , it is described as having white flowers and black seeds. It grows on roadsides, or along fences. Its leafs were used for healing pustule, as  they would draw the puss. It was also used during plague epidemics, hence the common name  Ciumăfaie ( ciumă – plague).

In Bucovina, women use Ciumăfaie for love spells, bindings and curses. According  to Marian, witches place Datura seeds in the victim’s drink in order to break their will.  Marian has a different view on the connection between Datura and the plague: the disease was personified as an ugly, old lady and so was Ciumăfaie, plant which they linked to the disease, due to the fact that the effects of  the plant when ingested were as horrid and hard  to battle as the symptoms of the plague.

Oișteanu mentions that in some Romanian cosmogonies, plants such as Datura or Atropa belladonna were created by the Devil himself. Also, the use of hallucinogenic ointments containing  Ciumăfaie has been attested in some areas of Romania. The female living strigoi would use ointments containing extracts of hallucinogenic plants in order to magically fly to their places of gathering. Datura was akso used to feed the dead strigoi in order to keep them from harming the living.

*illustration stolen from http://plantgenera.org/

 

 

 

The (in)famous Saint Cyprian of Antioch

Some of you may ask themselves what a saint might be doing on a blog about witchcraft, magic and folklore. Saint Cyprian of Antioch, not to be confused with Saint Cyprian of Carthage, is the very patron saint of occultists, necromancers and the like. It’s very interesting how, instead of deterring people from practicing the Arts, the story of Saint Cyprian did quite the contrary. So, who was this Cyprian and how did he become a saint?

When and where?

Apparently, Saint Cyprian lived during the reign of Decius, so he must have been alive around 249-251 AD. He was born in Carthage, in modern Tunis, Tunisia, to pagan parents who  dedicated him to Apollo. Cyprian traveled extensively during his youth, first to Mount Olympus, then to Argos, serving Juno, Taurapolis, in the service of Diana, Sparta, in order to learn how to conjure up the dead, to Memphis, and finally paid a visit to the Chaldeans.

Alright, I got it.  Cyprian wanted to make it into the Guinness  Book as the most versatile sorcerer. But what does this have to do with the church?

Well, seems that God had special plans for Cyprian, so he made arrangements in order for the saint-to-be to meet the maiden Justina, daughter of  pagans Aedesius and Cledonia. Justina was a follower of the teachings of Christ. Enter Aglaias, a weathy, young man who had an obsession with the fair maiden. Having been refused a couple of times, Aglaias, instead of giving up and going for the easier to get pagan gals, decided to pay a visit to the reputable sorcerer Cyprian. The latter conjured up a powerful entity and ordered it to ignite Justina‘s heart with love for Aglaias, but the maiden defeated the demonic enemy through fervent prayer. This happened again and again, eventually getting the increasingly frustrated sorcerer to curse the whole city with a well deserved emphasis on Justina and her family. But the girl prayed again, even more fervently and the citizens of Antioch, being ridden of the curse bowed to the power of Christ, including Cyprian, who burned his prized collection of occult books and paraphernalia. Eventually this new fad called Christianity got both of them tortured and killed, being turned into martyrs later on by the church.

How the church sees Saint Cyprian

 Cyprian was listed as a saint by the Catholic Church until 1969, when he was removed from the calendar due to lack of evidence that he ever existed.  He was officially removed from the list in 2001, along  with Justina. Before that, he used to be celebrated on the 26th of September.

Orthodox Christians still celebrate him on the 2nd of October, claiming that Cyprian performed miracles in Greece and Russia, The alleged arm of Cyprian is kept at Zlătari Church in Bucharest, Romania, where thousands of Christians come in pilgrimage every year, asking for help against sorcery.

How necromancers and sorcerers see Saint Cyprian

Saint Cyprian is very important for some categories of practitioners, especially those involved in ATR or those dealing with the dead.  There even is a book called The Great Book of Saint Cyprian, written in Portuguese and Spanish. However, it can be qualified as a pseudepigrapha, since it was first published in 1849.

Prolific occult writer ConjureMan Ali also published a work on Saint Cyprian at Hadean Press.

My 2 cents

I think that this type of legend will never die. The Internet is filled with “I used to worship Satan, but I would now die for Christ” stories, videos and so forth. I once saw a Greek documentary about a former Kiss fan that had turned his face to God and now bashed Heavy Metal (and Madonna, lol) as the tool of Satan. What I find amusing about the legend of Cyprian is that he renounced his faith, not because Christ was the right choice, the savior, not because it was the right thing to do, but because, in his eyes, Christ was a more potent godfigure. A lot of people in the Late Antique world must have been converted that way. And this story is, essentially, a tool for religious conversion. Also, after renouncing his heretical ways, Cyprian allegedly described  how he had seen the Devil. My guess is, given the times in which he supposedly lived, that he didn’t even know who or what the Christian Devil was. I’m not trying to bash this particular saint (the Catholics already did it), but take this story with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, if you do try to work with Cyprian, you will most likely stumble upon something. My guess is that it could be a legion spirit, or something acting in the fashion of an egregore, but since I have not tried it, I am not entitled to give a certain opinion. Neither have I the authority to tell people what to believe.

For references, please check my recommended readings page.

 

Spell – Vrajă

Do not try this. Please find more creative ways of attracting the opposite sex. Thank you!

Marcel Olinescu was kind enough to reveal some spells cast by Romanian witches. This one, in particular, is a detailed love spell. Enjoy!

The witch has to bury a bat and keep it there for a few weeks, until it rots. Then, on a New Moon, the witch unearths the bones and choses two  of them: one shaped as a rake, the other as a shovel. She or he (despite that the witch is, in Romania, traditionally female, I can’t see why a man couldn’t use this sort of spell) has to rake the ashes from the hearth with the first bone, while chanting the desired lover’s name. After that, the witch will used the shovel-shaped bat bone to drag the ashes towards her, as if she were attracting the lover. Then, the witch spins a pipkin using a rod chopped off a hazel nut tree, and keeps doing so until the jug starts moving on its own. She is, of course, chanting the desired lover’s name. When the pipkin is spinning the fastest, the witch will turn it upside down. She should hear the target’s name.

Documentation: Marcel Olinescu