Author: Floarea Cărbune
It seemed to be yesterday, so vivid are my memories. A few years ago, during Pentecost, as in a dream, I heard a happy girlish voice that was crying out: ”Here are the dancers ! They are in the meadow ”. And, for some moments, the girl, still existing in me, was confused, then slowly, I came to myself from my dream and rubbed my eyes and, full of nostalgia, I told myself: ”What a nice vision! ”
That was how things were in my childhood days. Whenever I heard that the group of the calush-dancers was coming, I used to take the wild flowers, picked up a day before, into my arms and ran to the highway with my dishevelled hair, having tears in my eyes and with a sweet joy in my soul.
The Căluș-dancers were handsome, slender boys, with swarthy faces burnt by the sun, with white teeth like pearls, quite merry and very good dancers. When they danced , their soles did not touch the ground, that is how skillful they were. They syncronized their movements in such a way that they seemed to fly, they looked like gliding cranes in flight. How graceful! Their shirts and peasant trousers were white as snow and they were so kept to the untying of the Căluș. Which was the secret of the clothes? They were woven, sewn, and embroidered by virgins and then bleached in the frost.
Over the shirt they girded with a broad waistband, and over the peasant trousers they wore stockings of white wool, then they put on opincas (peasant sandals, the sole strapped to the foot). The small bells they wore strapped above their ankles, inhanced their charm and, during the dance, they thrilled the hearts of the audience. Something magical was happening and it seemed as if their own ancestors had conveyed the milleniums old energy of this land to them. During the dance as such, the folk dancers gave the impression they were flying, as if they were floating into the air, rising skywards, while the cudgel remained the only support connecting them to the ground.
The route of the călușari dancers was established in advance, and in every locality they received brand new costumes, white as a lily. However nobody knew what they were eating, but they had such an energy that for a few days, their feet never rested. And when the time came for them to take a rest at sunset, they would choose a safe place, with no temptations, such as the churches of the localities they passed through. The Căluș – dancers had vowed in a chastity oath that they would stay pure, all through the festivities and they respected it scrupulously
Until they came to form the group, everything was wrapped in mystery. In the year to which I make reference, the căluș dancers had formed a new group. Some of the lads had married, others had left for Bucharest, and the task to form the new group came to the so called Vătaf (Overseer). He sent to each carefully chosen lad, a horse head, carved in hazelnut wood, but also the „order” to come on the fourth Wednesday after Easter, to a secret meadow in the Sinica wood. It was here that the flag and beak of the „căluș” were carved and in its presence they were sworn in by the Vătaf in utmost secrecy.*
The group was made up of 9 dancers plus the Mute, the standard bearer, and two fiddlers. All in all they were 13. Out of the 9, only two dancers were from my village. Purani, one of them being my mother’s cousin, Ion of Căldăruș, who later told me secrets of their innitiation… The rest of the dancers were from the villages of Cotorani and Baciu. The Vătaf (Overseer was a blacksmsith of Cotorani, „the apprentice” of God Hephaistos, son of Hera (The Myths and Legends of ancient Greece).
Three heroes stood definitely out : the Mute, the Colour or Flag Bearer, and the Overseer, the last one coordinating the dancers` movements. The strangest thing of all was the Mute. We were following him closely, flocking to touch him, in order to have good luck. A mysterious hero whose face you could not see at all.
The Mute had a wooden “Phallus”( a symbol of fertility) which he used to menace everybody with, a whip knitted of coloured ribbons and he was dressed up in such a way as to produce laughter with the onlookers. He ran after the women and children who were pulling at his clothes . In a word he produced laughter contributing to the comic side of the performance. He was dressed up in woman clothes, with a bag where he kept remedy herbs, 7 magic plants: mugwort, lovage, garlic, nut-tree leaves, sweetwoodruff, valerian, basil. In his hand he had a mace of wood which he fluttered in all directions frightening not only the children but also the fairies.
The Standard Bearer wore a flag of haze, richly embroidered with blades of fresh garlic, mugwort and corn ears bound with a red ribbon . The other boys in the group had nicely sculptured cudgels as well as 7 magic plants fastened to the belt: wormwood,lovage, garlic, nut leaves, sweet woodruff, valerian and common basil.
In our village Purani of Videle, many people were cured after the Mute touched them with the ”Phallus” or after the dancers jumped over them, performing a magic dance… I myself was among them too. There was a belief that women touched by the Mute, could become pregnant even if, until then, they had no chance to bear children. Many mothers entrusted their children to the călușari-dancers to hold them into their arms, to grow healthy and strong, without being ill their entire life.
The dancers were” initiated” by the Overseer and in his turn he was ”initiated” by a forerunner, while on the death bed. Through initiation, the occult powers in themselves were awakened, powers that had been in a latent stage until then. The sick people did not have any doubts about their healing gift and they resorted to it with much trust.
*The Burial of the Căluș :,On Tuesday after Pentecost celebrated were the Death and Burial of the Căluș, a real death ritual made after Sunset and the burial were celebrated, a real funeral ritual, after the Pentecost – a real funeral ritual observed after Sunset. Then followed the Ritual run – every dancer runs in another direction, then , when he unexpectedly meets others, he does not say anything about the happening (as his oath requests). Life begins its normal way until the next Pentecost, when the circle is working identically . (source : Wikipedia)
The sick person touched during Pentecost was stretched out on a blanket in the middle of the yard, on an E-W direction (the head to the East). Near the sick person they would put a clay vessel filled with well water from which nobody had drunk before, taken out of that well after midnight. At the handle they used to bind basil, mugwort and garlic. In the cure(healing) ritual they used some herbs from the Mute`s bag. The dancers formed a magic circle round the sick man and they used to dance around him , beating symbolically his soles with the cudgels, a gesture signifying the chasing away of the illness. The culminating moment came when the Mute broke the pot of water with the cudgel , and the water poured over the sick man . The pot was sacrified for the sick man to get healthy again. The water took the illness away and carried it over into the ground. After the ritual , the recovered man got up and joined the Hora Călușului (round dance) an attribute of the Solar cult in which all those present took part.
Another ritual , as powerful as the mentioned one, was that when a dancer fell down to the ground as struck be lightening when the overseer touched him with the flag, taking over the illness upon himself.
Some people might say that it was all about a suggestion or an autosuggestion , but the dancers really had occult powers and that is why only some could become dancers..
Sometimes, the group performed a magic ritual , also around the bunches of hazel nuts. Those participating in this magic dance were initiated according to a secret ritual, piously kept within their group. Disclosing the secret by any dancer would have made him unworthy to belong to the group anymore. Oh, My God! What a wondrous time!
When the Căluș-dancers began dancing, a pious silence spread over the audience. The colours, the dance and the magic blended , being deeply pervaded by the symbolic message of the dance. , The ancestors spoke through the dust engendered by the dancers, proud of their followers. It was the moment of two worlds having different dimensions, meeting in the same space- Poiana in Purani of Videle, where the spirituality of the people manifested itself. The dance of the Călușari group is one of the oldest Romanian folk dances with deep roots in ancient times, being related to the Solar cult. In the “ Sufferings of the Descendants”, Ion Lăncrănjan ( a quite well-known Romanian writer) makes minute analyses of this magic dance, laden with occult energies which he finds both intriguing and exaltalting. Having understood the significance of the Căluș-dance, he says: ”This dance is not just a dance, it is both a prayer and a curse, it is a sign we give to the Sun because we are here on our ground”. The Căluș is a symbol of our identity.
We , Romanians, could be proud that this magic dance, ”The Căluș”, was included by UNESCO in the Universal Cultural Patrimony list, together with customs and traditions from all over the world. The magic dance of the Căluș dancers contains many occult elements by means of which the transfer of energies and secrets is being done only orally as in the old initiations of the Druids. The power is not given into the hands of the one who does not know how to use it for the benefit of the community.
The Căluș has roots in ancestral times, protecting people , their homes, cows, crops, against Malefic Spirits.