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Romanian funeral traditions
Product made for the project: Intercultural Dialogue as a Means to Develop Creativity and Innovation This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Body and Soul… The human body mostly consists of a head, neck, torso, two arms and two legs, as well as numerous internal organ groups such as respiratory, circulatory and a central nervous system. The soul, in some religions, spiritual traditions, and philosophies, is the immaterial or eternal part of a living being, commonly held to be separable in existence from the body-the metaphysical part as distinct from the physical part. The soul is often believed to live on after a person’s death, and some religions posit that God creates souls.
Death… Death is the termination of the biological functions that define a living organism. It refers both to a particular event and to the condition that results thereby. The true nature of the latter has, for millennia, been a central concern of the world's religious traditions and of philosophical enquiry. Belief in some kind of afterlife or rebirth is a central aspect of many religious traditions.
On the Last Road… Expression "on the last road" relates to the last road that a man makes after he dies, more exactly the road between the place where he lived and the graveyard. Orthodox Church are taught we that death is separation of soul from the body. Holy Scriptures (Bible) shows that when "the man goes to the slot for ever", the body must "return to earth as it was, and the soul return to God who gave it. Rich or poor, king or slave, wise or illiterate, all leave this life one day and present ourselves before God who will judge us, turn us deserves reward.
The Funeral… A funeral is a ceremony marking a person's death. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from the funeral itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honour. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious affiliations within cultures. In some cultures the dead are venerated; this is commonly called ancestor worship. The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves.
…funeral traditions in MARAMURES: "The Cult of the Dead" or "The Great Passing" is part of the Passing rituals of Maramures and other folkloric areas. In the traditional belief, this "passing" has three phases: the break up with the living ones, the preparations for the transition to the other world and the integration into the world of the dead, the re-establishment of the social balance modified by the leave of the dead one. It is an interesting thing that these customs begin from the very moment the approach of the "hour" is being noticed. Relatives and friends, from whom he asks for forgiveness on the account of all the bad things done in the lifetime, are visiting the ailing; they recall memories and pleasant moments spent together, all these contributing to the diminishing of the separation from the dear ones. Before the fatal
moment, the priest is sent for, so that the dying may confess his sins and receive the Eucharist. The minute ritual is respected in every detail, for the fear of the soul's unrest. For this, the candle will burn on the whole extent of the watch in order to illuminate the soul's way to the heavens (the "soul's candle"), the prayer for the forgiveness of his sins, the objects placed in his hand: the money, the stick, the knot-shaped bread are just a couple of things of the ritual taken as a whole. After the funeral and the charity meal, the teenagers (boys and girls) play and party for the memory of the deceased, with the participation of musicians. On a better look over the ceremony a certain mixture of Pre-Christian (the watch - separation ritual from the living ones) and Christian ones is to be noticed, proving the antiquity of these customs and, of course, the power of the tradition preserved and kept
”The Merry Cemetery” (Romanian: “Cimitirul Vesel”) is a cemetery in the village of Sapanta, Maramures county, Romania that is famous for its colorful tombstones with the native paintings that represent scenes from the life of the buried persons and even poetry in which those persons are described. The unusual feature of this cemetery is that it grows apart from most of the European cultures, that consider death something solemn. Sometimes this is put in connection with the Dacian culture, whose philosophy was based on the immortality of the soul and the belief that somebody's death was a joyful moment, as that person was getting to a better life. The cemetery has its origin in some crosses sculpted by Ioan Patras. In 1935, Patras sculpted the first epitaph and since the 1960s, the whole cemetery was populated with over 800 such crosses, sculpted from oak wood, and it became an open-air museum and a tourist attraction.
“Merry Cemetery” Sapanta
…funeral traditions in TRANSYLVANIA: In addition to the focus on ceremonies, the faith of Romanians encompasses a belief that for each man, there exists a star and a tree. The falling of the star marks the death of a person. The fir, the tree of life, is placed at the head on the grave of a deceased person. The fir is brought from the forest by a group of young men. They are met at the entrance of the village by a group of women. The women sing a song about the link of the man with the tree of life. The song talks about the grief of the fir as it becomes obliged to dry and to rot near its brother, the deceased person.
Another funeral custom is the dawn song, or the Great Song. It is sung by a group of appointed old women at the dawn of the two days between a death and a funeral. This song advises the dead person and describes the journey that he or she will make into the land of the dead ancestors. It is a song of a poetic metaphor of the myth of the great transition. Also expressed is a wish for the sun to rise later in the day, so that the family of the deceased has more time to prepare for the ceremonies. The preparation of the funeral consists of greeting the relatives, making the funeral objects, such as the coffin, the vial that will cover the body, the funeral candle and the carriage with bulls, as well as the preparation of the food to be served to relatives and friends during the meal after the funeral.
The most important burial songs are the "bocete" known all over the country. Sung by female relations and close friends of dead, they are "a melodic overflow of sorrow" at the dead person's 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, 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. A strict ritual function could be identified in focusing on a wheat-dish, in Romanian called "coliva" (crushed wheat-grains, boiled in water, sweetened with sugar or honey and mingled with nuts) offered at funerals and at funeral repasts After the body is buried and mourners return to the deceased's home, it is the bereaved family's duty to provide a feast for all who attended the funeral. Since the service typically lasts four hours, appetites have peaked. No manner of bad weather will discourage the crowd. When a popular community figure dies, rumors sometimes circulate that providing the funeral feast forced the dead person's family into ruin.
Most popular Romanian phrases related to "death" “What it means to die when you can live till the end of the world? and what else is "the end of the world" than an expression, because, who knows at least what is the world itself?” (Anne Rice) “The egoist is watching him as the last purpose of the creation: he would expect that his moment of death to be the end of the world.” (Nicolae Iorga)
This the end… …but we’ll meet again Thank you for proper attention, George Uleru (IX C)