The Romanian Folk Almanac
Compiled by Ion Ghinoiu
Translated by Doina Carlsson
from the "Comoara Satelor: Calendar Popular"
BtF Publishing, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9758915-3-7


"Apa trece, pietrele raman." [Water flows, boulders remain.] Old Romanian saying

The Romanian Folk Almanac is a unique contribution to our understanding of world culture. What makes this work so vital is a new respect for what is often generalized as 'peasant culture.'

Seen in this light are two profound legacies. One is a visceral and instinctive respect for nature or what in today's language we might call 'environmental harmony.' A second legacy is an evolved moral code born out of millennia of adaptations to natural cycles of birth, life and death. These codes are a foundation to modern-day conduct embodied in religious practices, spiritual beliefs, and civil behavior.

Wherever one looks, one knows that the tales and belief embodied in folk wisdom are at the very roots of European civilization. They give us a direct link to the "Old Ways." It was from Nature's Laws that the first cultivators instinctively created an "Almanac of Traditional Knowledge" to guide them in the annual ritual of their day-to-day of lives. This was founded on a balance between man and animal and plants. Fundamental to it was the ritualized cycle of birth-life-death and rebirth of all nature's creatures.

How fortunate we are that these founding stories are still ours to discover. They have been passed from generation to generation because they connect us with our "mother earth", the most basic of teachers. To overlook this folklore that comes alive in Professor Ghinoiu's Romanian Folk Almanac is to loose a vocabulary that links us to our earliest beginnings as civilized people. Sadly, just as many ancient languages vanish and varied animal and plants go extinct, so is our awareness of the diversity and inner quality of our cultural roots.

Romania, as I have discovered, never lost its connection with nature and especially to its forests, its "forest woman spirits," to its wolf, bear and other inhabitants that populate the pantheon governing early animistic beliefs. Villagers, past and present-still, remain faithful to such symbols knowing that "She" protects and preserves the fertility and creation of all those who inhabit this cosmic space. The magic of life generated by these great forests resonates in the passages shared with us in the "Folk Almanac." As we read them, they become instantly recognizable, and fascinating, as an unending umbilical cord stretching back into Neolithic or even Paleolithic times.

Those origins come alive with vivid clarity as documented and described by Professor Ion Ghinoiu. Millennia of evolved folk traditions, many of which remain actively practiced in Romania, are explained in an engaging 'Almanac' format. His work, confined to Romanian folklore, complements in scope that of Joseph Campbell in its breadth, insight, and perhaps most importantly in the universality and contemporary relevance of these legacies. It builds, too, on the enormous body of knowledge cumulated by Marija Gimbutas on ancient 'goddess cultures' of the lower Danube River basin. And, so too, on the pioneering ethnographic work in Romania by Dimitri Gusti in the 1930s, and ethnomusicologist Constantin Brailoiu as well as pioneering photographic recording styles by the likes of J. Berman.

Through them we better understand how ideas, beliefs, and practices came to be in our own contemporary lives. Sadly, these legacies are fast vanishing under pressure from the ubiquity of 'industrial' and 'post-industrial' social behavior. These forces of change are so pervasive as to have almost erased modern man's understanding of basic earthly rhythms as ritualized in the daily life of peasant communities.

The Folk Almanac may well be the record of an epoch tens of millennia long in which nature forced its will upon man. The transition, irreversible in its scope but uncertain in its ultimate outcome, brings us into the fast-forward industrial era only centuries in duration in which man has come to impose his will upon nature.

Katherine Dimancescu, Concord, Massachusetts

Dr. Ion Ghinoiu

He is presently the Scientific Secretary of the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore (Bucharest) and has been at the Institute since 1967. He is also Associate Professor since 1991 at the University of Bucharest where he lectures in Ethnography-Folklore in the department of Sociology and Social Assistance. His Ph.D. was awarded in Geography at the University of Bucharest in 1978. His main fields of interest are customs and feasts, mythology, the ethnology of habitation, ethnographical cartography, and the taxonomy of popular culture. He is widely published in these fields including one hundred scientific studies, The National Atlas of Geography, Days and Myths: Calendar of the Romanian Peasant 2000, and Ethnographic Atlas of Romania - Five Volumes.

Ethnographic Atlas of Romania