The ages of time

Social life is not possible without the existence of an instrument to measure time, which is due to put into agreement the variety of the human activity with the terrestrial and cosmic events. To this fundamental need of life, the world’s people found very different calendar solutions. According to climatic conditions, latitude and longitude, with the wealth and spiritual development of the society, people invented lunar, solar and solar-lunar calendars. They marked the beginning and the end of the year and, also, the most important seasonal celebrations. […]

The cosmic and terrestrial rhythms are grouped in easily observable oppositions. Mid-night – which means darkness, cold, winter, death, opposed to Mid-day – the direction which means light, warmth, summer and the power of life. The Sun-rise is imagined as the moment of the Sun’s awakening after it’s night slumber and is in opposition to the Sun-set, which marks the end of the day and the start of the Sun’s rest. In the middle of the distance between sunrise and sunset, between the points that marked the entrance and the exit of the sun from the day’s microcosmos, rests the power of Day and Night.

On the course of a 365 days cycle there are 4 unique days: the spring and autumn equinox and the summer and winter solstice. Their unique sunsets and sunrises are considered critical moments for the apparent journey of the star around the Earth [n.r. the archaic people believed the sun rotates around the earth]. The points where the Sun appeared and disappeared at equinoxes and solstices were important. not only for measuring day time but also to calculate the annual and seasonal time. This is the reason for which people celebrated these day everywhere. […] People dressed other days of the year in celebrations and these acted as pillars of the folkloric calendar.

This calendar formed a whole, a fabric whose every component was in perfect interdependence. It is impossible to dissociate one from the other to analyse them independently.

The calendar’s customs and practices cannot be separated from the practical knowledge and experience. Time, the frame of all things, was, in the folk’s thinking, unimaginable outside the things that were happening inside it. Days and points in the day, weeks, months and seasons, all differed by what was to be done. On Măcinici (9th of March) – also known as the Departure of the plowmen [Pornire plugarilor] – the beginning of the plough was due. On the Great Friday [Vinerea Mare] (14th of October) – knowns as The sheep’s wedding – the reproduction cycle of the sheep started. On the Falling of the vineyard [Cârstovul viilor] – 14th of September – people started the gathering of walnuts and grapes.

Through this simple system of equivalence, in which time indicates the work and work indicates time, the folkloric calendar was fundamentally different from any other calendar that arised after: the orthodox and secular calendar.

This is a remarkable creations to memorise time and economic activities that were due in certain seasons, months, weeks, days or time of the day. It functioned until the beginning of the 20th century. On the way, some customs vanished, some lost their meaning and initial symbolism.

Ghinoiu, Ion – Vârstele timpului, ed. Meridiane, 1988

Folkloric calendar endured religious syncretism, invasions, Christianity, empires of different religions and customs. It was partially destroyed in the 20th century by communism, but it still survived to define this land’s people. It is a defining part of the Romanian story, though, difficult to narrate each part independently.

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