Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Below are some fragments from a wonderful essay by Marin Sorescu, on the great folklorist and writer Anton Pann .
Anton Pann sprouted on the heap of Balkan stones ready to speak.
And at the same time as Anton Pann it was not only the stones that began to speak, the rivers, the trees, the villages with their bees, fairs, everyday's life events, deaths, weddings, graves and craddles - all were seized with an unheard of loquacity.
He wore his hair long like Eminescu. A kamelavkion like Ion Creanga. He had a moustache (this is where Ion Barbu's moustache came from). He could speak Greek, Slavonian, Bulgarian, Turkish, he had studied with scholars and, being modest, he considered that his knowledge was but ankle-high as man studies all his life and dies ignorant. He behaved childishly and was as old as time. As old as the hills.
He buried all the authors of anecdotes, all the sages, the writers of "doinas", and riddles, all the ballad-composing shepherds, he supped full of proverbs and wept on the shoulder of folk literature, shedding burning tears on Aesop's Fables, Florilegia of Virtues, The History of Alexander, The story of Arghir.
With Anton Pann a second golden grove opened in Romanian literature. A golden grove where thoughts can really graze, like sheep.

A white field,
And black ewes
If you look at them
You don't believe them
If you graze them
You understand them

Here too there is a drama of existence as in the ballad Miorita, but at the level of the shadows in the cave, at the level of words. Anton Pann was a structuralist before structuralism. He was fond of words as if they were women and loved them as a woman dangler loves women. Some are beautiful because they wear queer necklaces round their necks, others because they have damnedly fine eyes, others because they are brazen hussies and stir him up, and others because they play the prudes... And all together... a long tale of words...The arabian Nights is not more gorgeous. When the oriental spirit advanced towards the West it lost, at the mouths of the Danube, its most beautiful gems.
He considered himself a rhymester (even when creating "Down the Arges" the popular author did not consider himself anything else). Nastratin Hogea's Extraordinary Pranks are "collected and versified". He "composes" at most, and for the Hospital of Love he wrote the music too, mentioned the "modes of the songs", the notes. He dreamed to be really sung.
... he would knock at the gates and plant the "tale" into your arms.

"There you are!"

He would have been quite capable of saying about his tale: "I've taken it to bits, but now it's mended". He forgot that what he did take to bits would be mended for ever. His knapsack strapped on his back, he, a townsman, would put up for the night at inns, go hungry, living as one might say on his writing. He says it himself:

A man who in his books
Called himself Anton Pann,
He shifted to this mournful abode
In the last year of his life.
Now his hand has stopped its toil
It used to write unceasingly
For nights on end; and now it's idle
And brings out books no more.
By fulfilling his duty
And without burying away his talent
He came to his journey's end
Leaving others to have their turn in the world


We think that the proverbs, gathered in small thematic groups, have a dialectic structure, very much like the hegelian one, thesis, antithesis, synthesis. We shall illustrate this with the chapter the author called "Again on Boorishness". Boorishness (in a contemporary term we might call it lack of urbanity) was a literary subject in the past just as it is today, and especially a problem of life.
How can you recognize a bird ? By the way it sings
How can you recognize a boor ? By the way he speaks;
He is as civil as a hedge and will skin your face
A boor
Never knows his place
How can a sheperd tell a good thing from a bad one?
An uncouth man is like wood unplaned,
You suddenly find
He raps out something at you like a whack
Don't think of what I was, better look at what I am.
Don't look at the coat, see what's under it,
And don't scurb every pig you see or you won't long be clean yourself
Beware of a gipsy turned a Turk or of a boor turned a Greek
Beware of God's wrath, of a king's ire and a boor's squeal.

The many people with which "The Story of the Word" is teeming like in a vast epic, live in an ethical stage. They are inclined to seek for the truth and to discover it by sylogizing. Interminable arguments are carried on with Socratic patience. Like in dialogues, everything proceeds by degrees, is acted on a stage. And the truth is revealed by confrontations.
Two wayfarers put up for the night at a peasant's house and ask for some food. Left one after another, alone with their host, they start miscalling one another: "He only has a human face and body, but you could feed him on straw like an ox", one of the men says of his companion. "He is such a donkey that if you give him bran he's sure to eat it", whispers the other one. The host laid on the table straw and bran and the men understood the lesson they were given.
One might write a philosophical treatise on Anton Pann's proverbs. With their help the poet - as times were troubled - defended himself against fools saying: "Don't hasten on Easter", for "All the dogs that barked at me went mad".

source: The Little Vlach Corner


(de Belimace)

O lai murgu, frate bun,
Pana tora fum deadun;
De-aua s-ninte nu va s-him,
C-amandoil'i ausim.

Auseaticlu, e greu
O lai murgu, frate-a meu;
Tute oasile mi dor
Si-aduchescu ca va-s mor.

Aide, murgu, aide, frate,
Aide s-voi, lilice toate,
Ai s-nirdzem tu eta-alanta,

Si n-aflam na bana alta.

2. The Pirpiruna/Paparuda custom

If after the day of St. Thomas, April 21, it does not rain for three weeks it is very serious for the crops and meadows, because the early summer rains are most important for their proper development. Then a girl, usually a poor girl or a gipsy, is taken and stripped and then dressed in leaves and flowers and mede to walk in procession through the village. The girls with her sing suitable songs and she herself dances. As she passes the houses people throw water over her and wet her thoroughly. The song usually sung is the following or some variant of it:

Pirpiruna, Saranduna, give rain, give, give,
that the fields may grow
the fields and the vineyards,
the grass and the meadows

3. "Noi him a Pindului Gioni Ficiori"
(Cantec armatolesc de Zica )

Noi him a Pindului Gioni Ficiori
Ca vulturli ce asboaira tu niori
Noi him ficiori di tu Vlahuhori.
Na boace di tu mundza avdzai
Boacea, boacea Pindului
Scula,t, scula,t voi gioni ficiori
Azbuira,t pri pianili a vimtului
Tra oara nu am^ana,t
Ca vulturii azbuira,t
Vini,ti tu mundzli a nostri
Di pagani tra s'va aparati.


Our grandfather Dumitru Caragiu ("Papu") (1904-1987) used to sing this song. Born in Hrupistea (Greece), he was a shepherd in Pindus for about 20 years. He was an excellent storyteller (used to listen to him for hours when he recited the Odyssey in minute detail) as well as a very good Sirtaki dancer and was fluent in both Greek and Turkish (he impressed the late Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras with his way of reciting, in Greek, the Nicene Creed.

Nu ti arade feata n'ika
nu yinu la noi.
La noi are vale mare.
Nu vai pots s u tretsa.
Pashte mare vai mi faku,
zh valea vai n'u treku
sh eu la voi vai yinu.
Nu ti arade feata n'ika
nu yinu la noi.
La noi are mundz analtsa.
Nu vai pots s u tretsa.
Pitrunikl'e vai mi faku,
sh munzl'i vai n'l'i treku,
sh eu la voi vai yinu.
Nu ti arade feata n'ika
nu yinu la noi.
La noi are soakra araua
Nu vai pots z banedza
Soakra araua, oara buna,
doaule vai tritsem,
zh doaule vai banam.

English translation

Make no mistake little girl,
do not come to us.
By us there is a great river.
You will not be able to cross it.
I will make myself a big fish,
and I will cross the river,
and I will come to you.

Make no mistake little girl,
do not come to us.
By us there are lofty mountains.
You will not be able to cross them.
I will make myself a portridge,
and I will cross the mountains,
and I will come to you.

Make no mistake little girl,
do not come to us.
By us there is a cruel mother-in-law
You will not be able to live.
Cruel mother-in-law, good daughter-in-law,
we will get on the two together,
and two together we will live.


Naparti di lai amare sh alavdata sh na mushata Kum si n'fak lailu s u vedu? Ngallika ts kallu dzhuneali zh du ti, da ts oan di mushata. Buna dzua lea mushata. G'ini vinish lai dzhuneali. Iu n'ts mata lea mushata? Mum mea dusi la na numta, la na numta vasilkeaska di si fatsi prota nuna.

Verria is one hour south from Thessaloniki , the cultural capital of Europe in 1997.

6. The following is a "guide to the afterlife" - an old romanian folk song giving instructions to the departed souls...

Scoala, Ioane, scoala
Cu ochii priveste,
Cu mana primeste
Ca noi am venit,
Ca am auzit
Ca esti calator,
Cu roua'n picioare,
Cu ceata'n spinare,
Pe cea cale lunga,
Lunga, fara umbra.
Si noi ne rugam
Cu rugare mare,
Cu strigare mare,
Seama tu sa-ti iei,

Seama drumului,
Si sa nu-mi apuci
Catre mana stanga
Ca-i calea natanga
Cu bivoli arata,
Cu spini semanata,
Si-s tot mese stranse
Si cu faclii stinse,
Dar tu sa-mi apuci
Catre mana dreapta,
Ca-i calea curata,
Cu boi albi arata,
Cu grau semanata,
Si-s tot mese'ntinse
Si faclii aprinse.

Nainte sa mergi
Sa nu te sfiesti
Daca mi-ei vedea
Nu este rachita,

Ci e Maica Sfanta.
Nainte sa mergi,
Sa nu te sfiesti.
Daca mi-ei vedea
Un pom inflorit,
Nu-i pom inflorit,
Ci e Domnul Sfant.
Nainte sa mergi,
Sa nu te sfiesti
Daca-i auzi
Cocosii cantand,
Nu-s cocosi cantand,
Ci-s ingeri strigand.
Seara va'nsera
Gazda n'ai avea
Si-ti va mai iesi
Vidra inainte,
Ca sa te spaimante.
sa nu te spaimanti,
De sora s-o prinzi,
Ca vidra mai stie
Seama apelor
Si-a vadurilor
Si ea mi te-a trece
Ca sa nu te'nece.
Si mi te-a purta
La izvoare reci,
Sa te racoresti
Pe maini pana'n coate
De fiori de moarte,
Si-ti va mai iesi
Lupul inainte,
ca sa te spaimante.
Sa nu te spaimanti,
Frate bun sa-l prinzi,
Ca lupul mai stie
Seama codrilor
Si-a potecilor.
Si el te va scoate
La drumul de ploi,
la un fecior de crai
Sa te duca'n rai.
C'acolo-i de trai;
In dealul cu jocul,
C'acolo ti-e locul
'N campul cu bujorul
C'acolo ti-e dorul.
La gura de vale
Este-o cearta mare.
Cine se certa?
Soarele cu moartea.
Soarele zicea
Ca el e mai mare,
ca el cand rasare,
El imi incalzeste
Cate campuri lungi,
Cate vai adanci.
Moartea ca-mi zicea:
Ca ea e mai mare
Ca ea mi se duce
Pe la balciuri mari
Si ea isi alege
pe clipici.
pe panglici;
Voinici tinerei
De care-i plac ei;
Fete tinerele
Sa planga cu jele.

Roga-mi-te, roaga,
De sapte zidari,
Sapte mesteri mari
Zidul sa-ti zideasca
Si tie sa-ti lase
Sapte ferastrui,
Sapte zabrelui:
Pe una sa-ti vina
Colac si lumina;
Pe una sa-ti vina
Izvorel de apa,
Dorul de la tata;
pe una sa-ti vina
Miroase de flori
De pe la surori;
Pe una sa-ti vina
Spicul graului
Cu tot rodul lui;
Pe una sa-ti vina
Buciumel de vie
Cu tot rodul lui;
Pe una sa-ti vie
raza soarelui,
Cu caldura lui;
Pe una sa-ti vina
Vantul cu racoarea,
Sa te racoresti
Sa nu putrezesti.

[from the Romanian Folklore Archives]

source: The Little Vlach Corner


A glimpse on the wonderful world of Vlach winter festivals is offered in Wace and Thompson's The Nomads of the Balkans ...

During the twelve days that elapse between Christmas and Epiphany the Vlachs believe that the mysterious beings called Karkandzal'i or Karkalanza wander about the earth fron dark till cockcrow. They especially haunt the springs and defile the water, and is very dangerous to meet them. They are finally driven away by the blessing of the waters at Epiphany. Between the day of St. Basil, New Year's Day, and Epiphany a curious mumming performance takes place which is well known throughout Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace. The object of this mumming is to drive away Karkandzal'i. Who these mysterious beings are no one can tell, they appear in Greek folklore wherever there are Greeks, Turks believe in them and so do the Vlachs, but we have no information whether they appear in Bulgarian folklore. The name varies between Kallikandzaros and Karkandzalu and every place which believes in them has some different form. Their origin and the meaning of the name are equally obscure and the recent ingenious attempt to trace their ancestry to the Centaurs does not seem satisfactory. The Samariniats call the mummers Ligutshari and the young men delight to make up such bands. In other times they would make up the band on New Year's day and after performing in their own village spend the days before Epiphany in wandering around other villages in the neighborhood always returning home for the Epiphany. It sometimes happened that two bands met on the road and then there was a struggle to see which was the better. Neither would wish to yield except to force, for the weaker band had to salute the leader of the stronger. Thus it has been known to end in bloodshed, so they say, and near Verria they will point out places in the hills called "La Lingutshari" where a struggle between two bands ended in someone being killed. A band may consist of any number up to twenty, but there are really only seven essential characters, the bride, the bridegroom, the old woman who nurses a puppet in her arms pretending it is her child, the old man or Arab, the doctor and two men dressed in skins to represent bears or sheep or wolves or devils. The latter characters always have masks of skin and wear on their heads a piece of board in which is inserted a kind of plume made of the tail of a fox, wolf or goat. They are always heavily loaded with rows and rows of mule and sheep bells to make more impresssion when they dance. The Arab too usually wears a similar costume. If more than seven people compose a band, the extra persons will duplicate other characters such as the bride and bridegroom, of whom there can be ny number up to six, and the devils or bears, or they may introduce fresh characters such as the doctor's wife or a priest. The brides are invariably young men dressed in girls' clothes, and no women ever take part in such mumming; it would be improper. The plot of the play which the mummers performed was very simple. The Arab or old man would annoy the bride with his intentions. The bridegroom would naturally intervene and a lively quarrel would ensue, which ended eventually in the death of one of them. He was duly mourned either by the bride or by the old woman and the doctor was called in. Through the doctor's skill the dead was restored to life and the play ended with a general dance of all the characters and the sending round of the hat. In other days the play seems to have included something in the nature of an obscene pantomime, of which traces still survive. Nowadays the play varies much from place to place, for instance at times the Arab will attempt to steal the old woman's puppet baby and this provokes the bridegroom's interference [...] Wherever there are Vlachs the custom is known. It still flourishes in the glens of Pindus at Luria and Baieasa and at Briaza where they call the mummers "Arugutshari". They are known by this name at Klisura, at Neveska as "Ishk'inari" and at Krushevo as "Arak'i". In the Meglen at L'umnitsa and Oshini they appear as "Dzhamalari".

source - The Little Vlach Corner


If a line is drawn running through Albania, Macedonia and Thrace on to Constantinople, the structure of the indigenous Balkan population splits as follows: south of this line there are mainly Greeks, while north of it one finds the Illyrians, Thracians and Dacians. Traditionally scholars have seen the Dacians as the ancestors of the modern Romanians and Vlachs and the Illyrians as the proto-Albanians (some linguists, however, have brought serious arguments supporting a Dacian-Moesian origin of the Albanians). As an result of numerous invasions (the most significant one being that of the Slavs) many of these indigeneous were killed, others fled to walled cities, to the islands, or withdrew to the mountains or other remote places, reappearing later as Vlachs or Albanians who begin to turn up in written sources in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The relation between Vlachs and Slavs exposes a kind of law of history: conquerors occupy easily exploitable resources, rebels withdraw to to seemingly less hospitable lands where they can still preserve their freedom. These roles were played by the romanized Dacians (plainsmen) and the un-romanized Carps (mountaineers), while after the Slavic invasions, the Romanized plainsmen were forced into the mountains and the Slavs occupied the plains. Centuries after, following the Ottoman conquest, many Slav peasants abandoned the plains to join the Vlach folk of the mountains, and the plains came into the possession of the Turks.

Evidence on the Latin-speakers North of the Danube is provided by the anonymous chancellor of King Bela, to the effect that the Hungarian settlers on the plains of the Tisza and Danube rivers (by the end of the 9-th century) found there "Slavi, Bulgarii, et Blachi ac pastores Romanorum " .

Archaeologial research on cemeteries of early medieval rural settlements in Transylvania (the best known example is that of Bratei, near Medias) points to the development of a new people, Latinic, but with customs and traditions inherited in equal measure from the Dacians and the Romans.

The Eastern Romance continued to evolve until, at the Slavic Invasion (about 600 AD) the Daco-Roman dialect began to separate from the three dialects spoken south of the Danube, Macedo-Romanian, Istro-Romanian and Megleno-Romanian. It is believed that the four dialects became fully distinct during the 9-th and 10-th centuries.

One of Greece's first and best prime ministers was John Kolettis, a Vlach who dressed like a Turk and had been court physician to Ali Pasha.

In 1797, the first primer of Vlach was published, in Greek characters, by Constantin Oukontas, a priest originating from Moschopolis. In 1813, M.J. Bojadischi published a Vlach grammar, 22 years before the first Bulgarian grammar. The book contains dialogues taking place between a visiting Pole and a Viennese Vlach - as if Vlach had become a Central European lingua franca ... Actually, the beginning of the nineteenth century witnessed a significant emergence of the Vlach consciousness: it was mostly related to Moschopolis , a city which hosted many rich Vlach merchants, very likely to be educated men.

An significant moment is related to the activity of Apostol Margarit, a Vlach teacher who tried to teach his pupils in their own language. In 1864 the first Romanian school started near Monastir. Margarit set up schools in Avdhella (1867) and Grevena (1869).

Today, the 'official' Greek (nationalist) position on the Aromanian minority is that the Vlachs are generally Greeks who happen to speak a Latin dialect. There is not enough evidence favoring this claim. For more details on Aromanians and their historians one may see the book of Tom Winnifrith , "The Vlachs: The History of a Balkan People" (New York, St.Martin's Press, 1987).

source - The Little Vlach Corner


The Vlachs (or, as they call themselves, Aromanians, Macedo-romanians or Tzantzarii ) are romance-speaking people scattered all over the Balkan peninsula. Not too many people heard about them, partly because many Vlachs live as wandering shepherds in remote and mountainous areas, partly beacause of their readiness to merge with other nationalities (the Vlachs are often difficult to distinguish from the medieval Bulgarians or, in modern times, from Greeks or from Serbs). However many of them managed to preserve rather well their language and a sense of cultural identity in spite of receiving so little support, both at home and abroad, as a minority group. The history of the Vlachs evolved at the crossroads of the complex realities and paradigms of the Balkan life so that, in a sense, their culture represents a synthesis of the Balkan model of humanity. The Vlach language falls within the eastern romance group of languages. The other eastern romance dialects are Daco-romanian (spoken today in Romania and Moldova ), Megleno-romanian and Istro-romanian . All of them are the by-products of a long process of romanization , taking place over areas extending both north and south of the Danube.

During the Middle Ages the Southeast-European world witnessed the emergence of a network of Valachiae or countries of romanized populations: the Dinaric Valachiae (the countries of the Maurovlachs or Nigri Latini, covering regions east of the Adriatic coast), the Southern Valachiae (Upper Valachia in Epirus, Valachia Major in Thessaly, Valachia Minor in Aetolia and Acarnania and a Valachia in southern Macedonia), the Eastern Valachiae (including the Balkan and Rhodope Valachiae and a group of Valachiae extending from the Dobrudja to Anchialos on the Black Sea) and finally the group of Northern Valachiae (Muntenia or the White Valachia on the left-bank lower Danube, Moldavia or the Black Valachia from the Carpathians to the Prut river, Oltenia or the Valachia Minor to the west of Muntenia, a group of Valachiae projecting from the Carpathians into Transylvania and a Mala Vlaska in Western Slavonia). The Vlachs played an important role in the transport services and in supplying goods of pastoral production like wool, skins, cheese and meat. One of the most beautiful books ever written about Vlachs is A.J.B. Wace and M.S. Thompson's "The nomads of the Balkans, an account of life and customs among the Vlachs of Northern Pindus" (London, Methuen & co., 1914).

source - The Little Vlach Corner