The Sânziene night
Sânziene - the word designates an annual festival held in honor of the fairies. Etymologically, the name comes from the Latin Sancta, Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and moon, also celebrated in Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). Diana was known to be the virgin goddess and looked after virgins and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Diana, Minerva and Vesta, who swore to never marry.
The folk practices of Sânziene imply that the most beautiful maidens in the village dress in white and spend all day searching for and picking flowers, of which one MUST be Galium verum (Lady's bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw), which in Romanian is also named "Sânziànă". Using the flowers they pick during the day, the girls braid floral crowns which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There, they meet with their beloved and dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown over the houses, and whenever the crown falls it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof of the house, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners. As with other bonfire celebrations, jumping over the embers after the bonfire is not raging anymore is done to purify the person and also to bring good health.
Another folk belief is that during the Sânziene Eve night, the heavens open up, making it the strongest night for magic spells, especially for love spells. Also, it is said that plants harvested during this night will have tremendous magical powers.
It is not a good thing though to be a male and walk at night during Sânziene Eve, as that is the time when the fairies dance in the air, blessing the crops and bestowing health on people - they do not like to be seen by males and whomever sees them will either be maimed or the fairies will take their hearing/speech or make them mad.
Mircea Eliade's novel, Noaptea de Sânziene (translated as The Forbidden Forest), includes references to the folk belief about skies opening at night, as well as to paranormal events happening in the Băneasa Forest.
images: personal archive