The ceremonies connected with death and burial
seem to be the best -preserved of Romanian folk customs. In the north of Moldavia and of
Transilvania, death is announced to the village by the sound of alphorns. Two - seldom one
- sometimes four and even six alphorn players accompany the funeral procession and blow
signals called: About the dead, Following the dead, For the dead, The accompanying of the
dead or "The Hora of the dead", especially for young people and sometimes
for shepherds only.
The alphorn is blown in the dead man's yard, at early dawn, at noon, in the evening and sometimes at night during the wake; likewise on the way to the churchyard, over the grave, after the coffin has been covered with earth. The calls played for the dead are different from the pastoral ones: "as for the dead, "more doleful."
An extensive zone in the west of the country, comprising the north of Oltenia, the Banat and the neighbouring Hunedoara knows a series of ceremonial funeral songs, which are sung by experienced women appointed to the task, who must not be close relations of the dead person. The songs are sung at certain moments of the burial, with a strict observance of the unwritten laws of tradition. Foremost among these songs in the " Song of the Dawn" which announces the death to the village at early dawn. Their faces turned eastwards, sometimes with lighted candles in their hands, the group of women implore the dawn to delay its coming until" the sweet wanderer" will get everything and needs ready for the long journey he undertakes:
From the land of yearning
To that without yearning
From the land of pity
To that without pity!
Another important ceremonial funeral song is "Cântecul bradului, Al cetinii sau Al sulitii" ("The Song of the Pine", "Of the pine needles" or "Of the spear"). This is sung for those that died young and unmarried, for the fir-tree brought from the wood and decorated represents the wedding fir-tree. The poetical text contains the lament of the fir-tree who complains that if was made to believe it would be used in the building of a house, when in fact it will be left to wither at the head of the grave.
It is also knows other songs such as "La
fereastra" (At the window), "Al drumului" (Of the way), "De
petrecut" (For the accompanying), "Al gropii" (Of the grave) and others.
They comprise instructions for the dead person, for the way he must take; he is advised
to make friends with the otter who knows about the waters and the
fords, and with the wolf who knows the secret pathways of the forests. In these songs
" Samodiva" is mentioned who notes down with red ink the living and with black
ink the dead. They tell about the quarrel of the cuckoo with Death, and so on. The poems
of these ancient "songs of the dead" are often of rare beauty.
But the most important burial songs are the bocete (dirges), known all over the country. Sung by female relations and close friends of dead, they are a melodic overflow of sorrow at the dead persons bedside, in the yard, on the road, in the church-yard during the burial and subsequently on certain dates destined for the commemoration of the dead. The texts of the dirges, besides expressing the sorrow of those left behind, often contain elements with a powerful social content, which are echoes character of folklore is obvious at every step, both in the dirges for the orphan children and regret at separation from the love of the world are but a few of the topics of these moving songs.
Cătălina Burgă, Oana Săcălus, Otilia Stanciu
Duiliu Zamfirescu School, Focsani
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