The Pastoral Paradise

The Pastoral Paradise


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:101:]]THE PASTORAL PARADISE
by Octavian Bohociu



This is an introduction to a series of Romanian folkloric themes, which will be published in the future issues of our magazine.

Dear America, let me introduce myself.  I am the Romanian People.  You have heard about me in many circumstances.  Sometimes you liked me, sometimes you did not.  But I feel that you do not really know me.  I want your friendship and your understanding.  So, I come to you openheartedly to tell you all about me.  After I have told my story, you may be the judge.

I am very old.  In fact, I am so old I have even forgotten who my first ancestors have been.  All my neighbors come from somewhere and settled on the piece of land they now occupy, but I was always here.  I am an European native, I grew up with the Carpathians, flew through centuries with the Danube, and lived and died, lived and died, along with the seasons. Winter was my grave and Spring, my resurrection.

History witnessed me only at a later date; by then I was already old and wise.  It was Herodotus, the father of History, who first took notice of the Gets.  In those times, I did not have my present shape. Then, I was a proud member of the Thracian families of people; my name was that of Dacian people, and my country was called Dacia.  My family was very powerful; it owned and controlled extensive areas in South Eastern Europe. We constituted what you would call an empire. But alas, old and wise as we Thracians were, we did not seem to know the most important rule of political survival, that is, to stick together. Perhaps we were too proud and too independent minded. And, so, in the middle of the Second Century, B.C., Burebista, the Emperor of the Dacians, from the middle of the Danube, fought against the Celtes, who were forced to move further away towards the Occident, forming today's France.  Many were the foes who took advantage of our pride.  Greeding our well being, tribe after tribe, people after people, came either in arms to conquer us or in friendship to live with us.  Those who came for war, we fought; those who came in friendship, we accepted.  From every one of them, we learned something.

I am young.  Now, let me tell you the story of my last birth, for I was reborn many times.

Undoubtedly, you know about the Roman's powerful empire.  You know they were warriors as well as unsurpassed organizers.  There was a time when they dominated the whole world, at least the "whole world" known in their time.  The Roman Empire extended from Britain to Asia, from Gaule to the Atlas mountains and to the land of the Nile.  They called the Mediterranean "Mare Nostrum" (Our Sea) and truly it was so because all the countries which surrounded it were theirs. In all those subjected countries which were theirs, reigned Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, the Roman Rule.  Nobody dared to challenge it... Nobody, but one, troublesome, freedom-loving people: I, the Dacian people. I lived at the Danubian border of the Roman Empire and, from the majestic stronghold of the Carpathian Mesa, organized incursions, assaults and small scale aggressions on the southern side of the Danube.  Why, you might ask.  Simply, because I resented the Roman intrusion.  It was a matter of life or death.  I was the last free representative of the old European Empire of the Thracians. What else was there for me to do, but fight? Alone and forsaken, I fought the Roman power for more than a century.

Tall and strong as the fir-trees of my Carpathian forests, generation after generation, my sons defended the ancestral honor.  By sheer military power, finally the Romans overpowered me in the last, memorable battle, at Sarmisegetuza, in the year 106 of the Christian Era.  That day seemed to be the end of me, but it was not; it only marked the starting point of a new birth.

The Romans occupied the Dacian Territories. First marched in the impressive Roman Legions; later on - from all over the Roman Empire, craftsmen, merchants, laborers, artists and restless adventurers started pouring in.  They were meant to "colonize" Dacia.  Very soon, however, they began to feel a love with my forests, valleys, and rivers, with my serene skies and my golden sun. Soldiers and colonists alike, they settled down in my land by marrying my daughters and giving their daughters in marriage to my sons.  Thus, by a slow process which lasted centuries, blood and language mixed and became one.  I, the Romanian people, was born anew.  Although the duration of the Roman colonization was a very short one (one and a half centuries, 106-270 B.C.) this Roman province (Romania) is the only one which remained as a proper name of a nation, because the other two Romanian provinces, Romania Galica and Romania Iberica, were extinct as such. 

I am faithful.  I must confess I did not know much about religions. Herodot wrote that Zalmoxis, a pythagorean, has brought up a religion and metaphysics of the immortality of the soul. All I know is my heart was always open for God to enter.

While I was given birth, when the language was constituted, the far off colonists came spreading the Christian religion.  From the very moment I was born, Jesus was already in my soul.  Believing in Christ was almost a natural process with me, because of the religious background that I had.  From times immemorial, I already knew I had an immortal soul.  I knew God is Spirit.  I knew that life on Earth is only a transitory test intended to lead man to eternity.  I knew it for a long time due to the divine wisdom of a saintly man, prophet of prophets, whose name was Zalmoxis. His teachings had deeply affected my beliefs and my way of life. Within the polytheistic old world, my creed was unique and my neighbours stood in wonder about me.  My ancestors, the Gets were called "Immortals".  My old faith had prepared the way for Christ.

Humbly, before God, I attest that I was born Christian, not subsequently converted to Christianity.

This is the reason why I never professed the burning zeal of the new convert. In my land, men and women of many beliefs came in search of a new home or a better life, and I always respected their beliefs, no matter how strange. Up to this very day, fervent Christian that I am, I give due consideration to all religions.

This must be the reason for my never forgetting or despising the light which led my hopes before I was a Christian.  In all my being, the old beliefs were blended with the new.

I am tenacious. My tenacity went through generations and centuries. I had it in my blood; it is a deep and structural tenacity, learned from adversity and suffering.

At one turn of History, arose a very strong military power in these parts of the world; it was the Ottoman Empire, which has succeeded to submit many people and to make a Turkish Province in the Fifteenth Century, even of Hungary.  But Stefan, whom Romanians called "The Great", because of his extraordinary power of historical vision, had obtained a sort of autonomy, a simple relation of vassality. First, the Turks conquered Byzantium and, then, successively, they ruthlessly invaded country after country, spreading despair and desolation wherever they passed. Their final goal was the conquest of Europe. For a while, the Romanians fought them fiercely. For his gallantry, the Great Prince Stefan won the title "The Athlet of Christ" (from the Pope). However, the Ottoman forces were enormous and I realized that, all by myself, I could not oppose it. I came to deal with the Turks and, I managed to maintain my faith, my ancestral culture and my integrity.

Anthropologists may describe me as a migrant shepherd. I do not know about the migrant part, but a shepherd  I most certainly am, and always was. If by migrant they mean that each spring I move my herds up in the mountains, then they are right. That is what I did for thousands of years. In my seeking for good, green pastures, I would walk my sheep for hundreds of miles, trading milk, cheeses, and wool. In my wanderings I have heard and seen many new, marvelous things, and met many peoples; but, I always returned to my green Carpathian Mountains, for they are my HOME.

This country of mine, could not form itself without an important historical event which set the seal on the entire area from the Baltic to the Black Sea: the great Mongolian invasion from the thirteenth century; consequently, the state of Moldavia formed, as well as Poland and Prussia.

Nowadays with frontiers and political delimitations, I am closed in, I feel restrained, but there was a time when my people's products were famous in markets from Venice to Siberia and from Poland to Dalmatia. The Turks used to say that a Moldavian horse and a young Persian man together are worthy of a kingdom. Trade was not my main goal though. The main reason of my wanderings is that feeling of want in my soul... some irresistible urge driving me. I must go and then come back again, to and from an eternal cycle. This is my tenacity.

Although I roamed very much in my transhumant rounds, deep at heart I am earthbound. I love working my wheat fields and like to plow and reap, and I adore going hunting, since I am a born hunter. I know how to read the tracks of the game, the deer's drinking places and the wolf's path...

 There are so many other things I could tell you about me, but I am afraid that you will think that I am boasting, so I would rather have you read my story by yourself, if you are interested. You could also listen to my story as told by the old songs, the legends, archaic rituals and myths, or ancient customs.  

(To be continued...)
contribution - Gheorghe BOGDAN