Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Snow and autochthony in Romania

Yesterday we awoke to snow in Romania.

The picture below shows a a Romanian girl in peasant costume blowing a bucium, a horn of Dacian origin made of linden that was traditionally used by mountaineers (I use the word in its original sense of mountain dwellers) to signal their location in battle. A bucium sounds like this.

The word comes from the Latin bucinum, from which we get the English word "bugle". The Hutsuls of Ukraine have the same horn which they call the trembita.

Writing this, I suddenly feel as if I am Patrick Campbell or Frank Muir on the very long-running British TV show, 'Call My Bluff', where people gave true and false definitions of highly unusual words.

It all brings to mind something important that Mircea Eliade said:

“Until recently there persisted among Europeans the obscure awareness of a mystic solidarity with the land of one’s birth. It was not a commonplace love of country or province; it was not admiration of ancestors buried, generation after generation, around the village church. It was something entirely different: the mystic experience of autochthony, of being indigenous, the profound sense of having emerged from the local ground, the sense that the earth had given birth to us, much as it had given birth, in its inexhaustible fertility, to rocks and stream and flowers…"

This applies much more to Romania, where most people are a couple of generations from the plough, than to English townies. In the New World it applies only to the Indians. It applies in Europe much less than a hundred years ago because of the huge movement of people in most of Europe from the country to the towns. It will apply very much less in a century's time, because of the huge migration of peoples from Africa and Asia into Europe.


  1. That's a lovely quote... and being two generations away from the plough... I think is intensified by the fact that most kids were raised by their grandparents, because the parents were at work. It seems that loving the earth equals loving your grandparents, equals fond childhood memories...

  2. Thank you for that very profound thought, Paul, I vaguely remember an article - in the house journal of the Folklore Institute at St John's, Newfoundland, I think - which found that some of the supernatural creatures that haunt the European landscape (and disturb and even assault people wandering alone in the woods) had made it across the Atlantic to Newfie.

    That's another aspect of what you're talking about - the way that the landscape is imagined and populated in songs, stories and lore.
    And the congruence of the local folk speech with the landscape, cultivated or wild, in its idioms, metaphors, proverbs, etc.

  3. The love of one's country can be just that - a numinous sense of connection to the soil, to the trees, to the streams and the hills.

  4. It's interesting that people think they come from earth when in fact we come from water.The Bible got it wrong on this.