Traditions25 May 2021

Arminden: the beginning of the summer in Romanian traditional culture

Old Romanian traditions, May-Pole, herbs with magical powers, protection and purification rituals



Arminden represent in Romanian traditional calendar a substitute for the vegetation God, the protector of the nature and animals, assimilated in the Christian calendar to the Saint Jeremiah (the messenger of Jesus Christ).  

The celebration of the nature at its peak is on 1st of May, it represent a moment of great joy when time is getting new during May. This custom is representative for all European cultures with different name but identical as celebration: the decoration with green branches of the house pillars as protection against physical evil (illness) and metaphysical evil (spirits from beyond), raising a very tall tree on the yards, in the middle of the village or at the sheepfold, decorated with a crown made of green branches or flowers or wheat at its top, organizing big rural parties in the woods or on the fields.

The May-Pole, Arminden or Maial reveals the beginning of the summer and of the sowing on the agrarian and pastoral communities. It symbolizes the tree of life and the „eternal return” of the regenerating time in a cycling never ending movement. The tree was made of fir tree, oak, beech or maple tree wood, beautiful decorated with rhomboid motifs and with a crown of flowers, green branches of wheat at the top. Arminden tree and the dances around it bring sacred into the profane and the dawn of positive time of the nature in expansion.

In the Romanian traditional culture the day of May 1st was known as the day of the wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium L.), a plant with specific odor used as antidote against all evils. It used to be worn on the hat, at the waist, near the heart, between the tables and between the beds in order to cast out the evil spirits. On the May 1st it used to be celebrated the harvest of the wormwood and it was used to drink wine mixed with wormwood as a body cleanser but also as protection against evil.

Nowadays, this celebration has lost its original significance and it is just a holiday, the international work day but in Romania there are still some isolated traditional communities where Arminden is celebrated.    

Source: Ion Ghinoiu – Romanian Pantheon, Editura Enciclopedică, București, 2001

Alina Mafa




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