luni, 1 martie 2010

1 Mars - The day of Martisor

I wish all our partners and your students a spring in peace, silence and as many achievements both on a personal level and professionally.

The Legend of Martisor

Our international exhibition related aso to martisoare and you can read more here .

Mărţişor (Romanian pronunciation: [mərt͡siˈʃor]) is a traditional celebration of the beginning of Spring, on the 1st of March. It is a tradition in Moldova, Romania, and all territories inhabited by Romanians, or Daco-Romanians, and also Aromanians. Similar customs are found in Bulgaria (Мартеница), Macedonia, Albania[1], Italy[2].

The name Mărţişor is the diminutive of the name for March (Martie, in Romanian), and thus literally means "little" or "dear March". It is also the folk name for this month.

Mărţişor, marţ and mărţiguş are all names for the red and white (or black and white, also blue and white) string, from which usually a small decoration is tied, and which is offered by people on the 1st day of March[3]. Giving this Talisman to other people is an old custom, and it is believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be powerful and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, women wear it pinned to their blouses for the first 12 days of this month, until other certain spring celebrations, or until the bloom of certain fruit-trees. In some regions, a gold or silver coin is hanged from the string, which they wear it around the neck. After wearing it for a certain period of time, they buy red wine and sweet cheese with the coin, according to the belief that their faces would remain beautiful and white as cheese, and rubicund as the red wine, for the entire year .

In modern times, the Mărţişor lost most of its talisman properties and became more of a symbol of friendship and love, appreciation and respect. The black threads were replaced with red, but the delicate wool ropes are still a ‘cottage industry’ among the country people. They still comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. In certain areas the amulets are still made with black and white ropes, for warding off evil!


Mărţişor tradition is very old, and, according to the archaeological research, it is traced more than 8 000 years ago[6]. Some of the ethnologists consider Mărţişor to have a Roman origin, and some other consider it to have a Daco-Thracian origin.

In ancient Rome, New Year's Eve was celebrated on the 1st of March ('Martius'), month which was called in the honour of the god Mars. Mars was not only the god of war but also the god of agriculture, which leads to nature rebirth. So, red and white colours of Mărţişor may be explained as colours of war and peace[7].

The Thracians also used to celebrate the New Year's Eve on the first day of March, month which took the name of the god Marsyas Silen, the inventor of the pipe (fluier, traditional musical instrument), whose cult was related to the land and vegetation. The spring celebrations, of flowers and nature fertility, were consecrated to him. So, the New Year celebrated on the first day of March is the rebirth of nature. In the time of the Dacians, the spring symbols were confectioned during the winter and worn only after 1st of March. At that time, Mărţişoarele were made of small river pebbles, coloured in white and red, stringed on a thread and worn around the neck. According to other sources, the Mărţişors were made of coins hanged on thin wool threads, coloured in black and white. The type of the coin (gold, silver, or bronze) used to indicate the social statute. The Mărţişors were worn to bring good luck and also good weather. Those amulets were considered to bring fertility, beauty and to protect against sunburn. They were worn until the trees started to bloom, ad then they were hanged on their branches[8].

In some territories, Daco-Romanians still celebrate the Agrarian New Year in spring. The days at the beginning of March (Martie, in Romanian) are considered days of a new beginning. So, before the 1st of March, especially women use to chose one day from the first 9; judging by how the weather is on the chosen day, they know how the new year will be for them. In some places, young men find out, in a similar way, how their wives are going to be. The days at the beginning of March are called Baba Dochia's Days, Baba Dochia being an image of the Great Earth Goddess.


The Mărţişor is a talisman (amulet) made of knitted threads (wool, cotton, or silk). Nowadays, the most popular version of it is made of red and white threads, but in some regions it is still made of black and white, or even blue and white.

Black and White

Initially, the Mărţişor string used to be called year's rope (‘’funia anului’’, in Daco-Romanian), made by black and white wool threads, representing the 365 days of the year. ‘'The Year's Rope'’ was the link between the winter and the summer, black and white representing the opposition and also the unity of the contraries: dark & light, cold & warmth, death & life. The ‘’Mărţişor’’ is the thread of the days of the year, spinned up by Baba Dochia, likewise the thread of man's life, which is spinned up at birth by the fates (Ursitoare)[10].

White is the symbol of purity, the sum of all the colours, the light, while Black is the colour of origins, of distinction, of fecundation and fertility, a colour of the fruitful soil. White is the sky, the Allfather, while Black is the mother of all, Mother Earth.

Red and White

According to the ancient Rome tradition, the ides of March was the perfect time to begin the war campaigns. Related to this context, it is considered that the red string of Mărţişor signifies the vitality, while the white one is the symbol of victory .

Red is the colour of fire, blood, and the symbol of life, associated with the woman. Meanwhile, White is the colour of the cold snow, foamy waters, the clouds, and also of man's wisdom[12]. So, the thread of the Mărţişor represents the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, the vital forces which give birth to the eternal cycle of the nature.

Red and white are also the complementary colours present in all the key traditions of the Daco-Romanian folklore.

George Coşbuc stated, in a research over the Mărţişor, that it is a symbol of fire and light, a symbol of the Sun. Not only the colours, but also the traditional silver coin hanged up from the thread is associated to the Sun. White, the colour of the silver, is also a symbol of power, force. This is only one of the reasons why the Mărţişor is a sacred amulet[13]. The round form of the coin is associated with the round form of the Sun, while the material of it, silver, is associated with the Moon. This is, again, the unity of the masculine and feminine principles, and the eternal movement of the matter.

In the Daco-Romanian folklore, the seasons are attributed symbolic colours: spring is red, summer is green or yellow, autumn is black, and winter is white. This is why one can also say that the Mărţişor thread, knitted in white and red, is a symbol of passing, from the white winter, to the lively spring, associated with fire and blood

Daco-Romanian Legends

There are many different legends which explain the tradition of Mărţişor. Here are just two of them.

On the first day of March, the wonderful Spring came out to the verge of the forest. She looked around and saw in the blackthorn a little dainty snowdrop appearing from the snow. The kind Spring wanted to help the snowdrop and started to take away the snow and thorny branches. The Winter saw this and became angry. She brought severe wind and snow to wipe out the little flower. However, the Spring covered the flower by her hands. She wounded her finger and hot blood dropped to the faint flower. Thanks to that, the snowdrop came to life. Thus the wonderful Spring won over the Winter. Since that time, people wear little Mărţişors, which symbolize the red blood on the white snow[15].

And another legend:

There was a time when the Sun used to take the shape of a young man and descend on Earth to dance among the people. A dragon found out about this and followed the Sun on Earth, captured him and confined him in a dungeon in his castle. Suddenly, the birds stopped singing, and the children could not laugh anymore, but no one dared to confront the dragon. One day, a brave young man set out to find the dungeon and free the Sun. Many people joined in and gave him strength and courage to challenge the mighty dragon. The journey lasted three seasons: summer, autumn and winter. At the end of the third season the brave young man could finally reach the castle of the dragon, where the Sun was imprisoned. The fight lasted several days until the dragon was defeated. Weakened by his wounds, the brave young man however managed to set the Sun free, to the joy of those who believed in him. Nature was alive again, people got back their smile, but the brave young man could not make it through spring. His warm blood was draining from his wounds in the snow. With the snow melting, white flowers, called snowdrops, harbingers of spring, sprouted from the thawing soil. When the last drop of the brave young man's blood fell on the pure white snow he died with pride that his life served a noble purpose. Since then people braid two tassels: one white and one red. Every March 1 men offer this amulet called Mărţişor to the women they love. The red colour symbolizes love for all that is beautiful and also the blood of the brave young man, while white represents purity, good health and the snowdrop, the first flower of spring[16].
[edit] Relation to the Bulgarian Мартеница
Bulgarian martenitsa

Many ethnographers consider the clearly related Mărţişor and Мартеница as being of Thracian origin, as attested by archaeological evidence[17]. They argue that the Bulgarian legend concerning the origin of the Мартеница is nothing more than a late 19th century Romantic invention, not rooted in the past. It was meant to emphasize the distinctiveness of the Bulgarian people in relation to the Romanians (slavicised or not) who once constituted an important part of the population of Bulgaria, influencing the modern Bulgarian traditional culture (see also Căluşari, Kukeri, etc.)[18].
[edit] Bulgarian Legends
Main article: Martenitsa

According to one of the several proposed legends attempting to explain the Mărţişor/Martenitsa in Bulgaria, the custom has roots in the late seventh century. This legend, first attested in the 20th century, says that the Bolgar Khan Asparukh wanted to send a message to other Bolgars across the Danube. He tied his letter with a white string to the leg of a white pigeon. The Eastern Romans (i.e. Byzantines) saw the pigeon flying and hurt it with an arrow. It was finally able to deliver the important message but the white string has turned into reddish because of the pigeon's blood. The Bolgars then started to wear this thread.

Another Bulgarian alternative theory completely omits the role of the Bolgars in introducing the Martenitsa into the Balkan folklore, and instead links the custom to the Thracians (but excludes the Romanised Thracians/Romanians altogether).
Gallery .

See also the snowdroup legend .

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