The Santoaderi

The Santoaderi

 [[wysiwyg_imageupload:105:]] The Santoaderi

de Octavian Buhociu

There are many indications that a very long time ago the people in the Carpathian Mountains had a lunar cycle, which used to begin by the end of February. What the religious spring festivals were in their times, we do not know. The Carpathian folklore, however, preserved for us a number of popular customs, legends, songs and dances whose mystical meaning is suggestive and significant. Those spring festivals must have been related to some archaic cult of the horse, as zoomorphic symbol of a solar divinity.

In the Romanian folklore the year still begins in early spring, simultaneously with the waking up of the whole nature. During the last week of February, villages from around the Carpathians celebrate from eight to twelve days the Descent of the Santoaderi (spring) from the top of the mountains, which coincides  with the ascention  of Dokia (winter)  to the same mountains.

The Santoaderi are supernatural beings, half horse and half man. The phenomenon resembles the Centaurus (Kentauroi) and his myths, a creation of Greek mythology. The whole ritual of these pagan semi-gods has only its Christian name.

Their name comes from Saint Theodore, an early Christian saint, a warrior saint, whose heroic actions in defence of the Christian faith deeply touched the popular imagination. Santoaderi is the plural of Santoaderi or Saint Theodore, which is changed from a name to a noun.

The customs and the superstitions related to the Santoaderi form an almost ritualistic ceremonial observed and abided in most of the areas inhabited by Romanians.

The peasants "hear" them stampeding down the hillside on a Tuesday, just at noontime, and according to the noise made, they know the mood the horses (Santoaderi) are in . Santoaderi are fearsome creatures endowed with forceful witchcraft. Once among men, they have the power of taking human form, so that poor mortals never recognize them. In one single detail they remain horses: that is the tail. During the periode of time the Santoaderi are believed to live on earth, women watched carefully any young man they met, to see if from under the loose peasant shirt, the tip of the horse's tail would be showing. Women have a special reason to fear the cruelty of the Santoaderi, for they are antagonistic to females, cause them love sickness or even insanity, and have a queer predilection of feeding on women's hair.

In the Romanian villages many  legends have spread about the hateful tricks the Santoaderi play on mortals. Consequently, they are very much feared, and people try to ingratiate them by religiously following their instructions or better avoiding any direct contact with them During these days, people avoid touching wool. Women do not spin, not even arrange the loom, and incantations are frequently performed.

It is believed that the Santoaderi arrive in groups of nine, led by their chief, the Great Horse, the fiercest of them all.

As heralds  of spring, they come and fight the dark forces of winter away. The "horses" oppose the temptation which Dokia offers to the sun, in advising him to quit his own course in the sky; if the sun would listen to Dokia, that  would mark the catastrophic end of the world.

This conflict of Santoaderi and Dokia remains one of the myths of the Great Winter. In this myth, the defeat of the powers of the sun would cause the end of the world. This, supposedly, would make  the Lord become extremely angry with the devil. He would cause a three day snow with explosive matter and then, a bloody rain would fall. From the first blood drop touching the earth, the whole world would be set in flames! But the Santoaderi, sons of the sun, are vigilant; their intervention will be decisive in keeping the sun to follow its usual route and the light will again win over the powers of darkness.

By the end of the week or a few days later, the group of Santoaderi leaves the earth after accomplishing their mission. 

Pagină realizată de Gheorghe Bogdan