Friday, July 9, 2010


Because my ancestors were both Romans and Dacians, I have superstition DNA running through my blood. I did not realize the degree of infection until I had my first child. Every day I changed Mimi's crib sheets I would find a large butcher knife under her mattress. I would take it and put it back in the kitchen. The next day, the knife would re-appear. It was so odd, it did not occur to me to ask mom why the knife was there every day. Then one day, without explanation, the knife disappeared. When I finally did ask mom, she explained that knives protected babies from evil spirits until they were baptized. Sure enough, Mimi had been baptized the day before. This reminded me of the fairy tale in which the king invited the fairies to cast good spells on his newborn but forgot to invite the thin-skinned one. The uninvited fairy gifted the little girl with a life of misery, locked in a castle until Prince Charming would appear to rescue her from a seemingly impossible to climb tower.

I knew about the proverbial black cat crossing the road. I always returned home when that happened, no matter where I was going, including school. I knew a bad grade or occurrence were sure to follow. But Romanians took it a bit further, they spit nine times and said an incantation before avoiding the black cat.

Mom and grandma Elena thought that wearing a shirt inside out meant that one is cheating on his/her spouse. My response was always, mom, I don't have a spouse, and what is a spouse? Was this somehow related to the English phrase, "turncoat?" Probably not.

The salt over the left shoulder was definitely Roman - it cast away evil spirits lurking around the dinner table. Walking under a ladder was also a bad idea. A broken mirror brought 7 years of bad luck.

Sneezing was a dangerous time since it was believed that, for a brief moment, the soul left the body and evil spirits could crawl in. People nearby would wish "noroc," "good luck," to keep the evil spirits from inhabiting your body while the soul was floating somewhere in the air.

Families in mourning had to wear black for six months or the deceased could not rest in peace. Close family members could not shave, wash their hair, comb their hair, look in a mirror or the deceased would become a ghost.

If it rained the day of the funeral or during the funeral, it was a sign that the deceased was sorry to go and had regrets that she/he had not expressed before their final breath.

Babies that had not been baptized and passed away could not be buried in the regular cemetery, they had plots outside the fence, as their bodies might be corrupted by evil spirits lurking in a holy place.

Newborns wore red ribbons tied or sewn into their little hats to protect them from the evil eye. Romans and Romanians truly believed that, if you had blue or green eyes, you had the power to bewitch a person and change their state of health and well-being. To escape a terrible fate from the evil eye, an incantation was said over a glass of fresh water from a spring into which a burning match was extinguished. The recipient of the evil eye had to drink the water in order to destroy the potential effect of any evil spell.

Brides had to step into their home with their right foot first. To do so with the left foot was sinister and invited terrible misfortune in the marriage. To prevent brides from tripping, a sign of bad luck, the groom would carry them over the threshold.

During the church wedding ceremony, two very large white candles, the height of a person and about five inches in diameter, decorated with a fresh flower bouquet, were lit and held by a bridesmaid and the groom's best man. The first candle to flicker out represented the death of that person.

Upon eyeing someone with a particular condition or witnessing a scary situation, the viewer would spit sideways three times and cross themselves three times to avoid a similar fate. This included seeing a black cat in the vicinity. Knocking on wood three times as in the Holy Trinity was a way to ward off evil spirits who might lurk nearby, or avoid the possibility of similar injury, i.e., knock on wood, I hope I never get divorced.

Children were not supposed to talk or sing at the dinner table or else risk marrying a gypsy. Since nobody wanted to live in a tent and travel in a covered wagon, kids were pretty quiet at suppertime. I may have told mom at least a couple of times that I did not care since gypsies made good roasted sunflowers and I wanted to be a sunflower vendor when I grew up.

Whenever I had a headache, mom was convinced that I was a victim of the evil eye. She would make me sit still, moved around me three times while she mumbled incantations, and then my headache was supposed to disappear. Too bad the nerve endings on my scalp were not getting the memo. This pseudo-method was never demonstrated that it worked, but mom and many others like her tried it anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment