Spring traditions – choose your “Baba”
March 1, 2010Posted by on
March 1st, the first day of spring according to tradition, brings not only the celebration of “Martisor” (an amulette of white and red tread woven together, which we spoke about here), but also another interesting myth in Romanian traditions: Dochia’s Days or “Babele” – “The Old Women”.
This old lady called Dochia has been the subject of numerous stories and has been depicted in various ways. The one we talk about here depicts her as an old mean woman, called “Baba Dochia” (old Dochia, read “bubba doe-kee-ah”) who wants to get rid of her daughter-in-law by forcing her to do various hard–to-accomplish tasks (nothing unusual here). One day, she sends her to wash the wool until it becomes black. Because she is unable to comply with this requirement, the young woman starts to cry. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of two men, God and St. Peter, who darken the wool after hearing the story. Seeing her task fulfilled, the mother-in-law sends her back to turn the wool white again (duh). While struggling hard to whiten the wool, she sees the two men again who, instead of helping her, send her to pick up strawberries and flowers to be given to her mother-in-law. Seeing the flowers and the strawberries, the old woman forgets about the wool, gathers her sheep and starts walking up the mountain with her son Dragobete (we’ve just talked about him here – these guys are all connected), being convinced that spring has come and she has to take the sheep up to the pastures. She puts on her 9 coats, which she takes off one each day, getting heated up, and believing that by the time she reaches the top spring weather will be warm enough. After the 9th day, a snow storm comes and Baba Dochia freezes along with her sheep. There’s a rock formation in the Carpathians said to be Dochia and her sheep.
Tradition puts it that Baba Dochia fulfills her destiny climbing the mountain with her sheep. Well. anyway, the first 9 days of March are known in the local traditon as “Dochia’s Days” or the “Days of the old women”, when the weather is changing because of the changing character of this old woman named Dochia. The significance of the story of old Dochia, presented under the form of the conflict between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, implicitly refers to the conflict between the old year and the new one, between winter and summer, cold and heat, sterility and fertility, ying and yang, bing and bang, etc., etc.
There is however sort of a habit still going on – choose one “old woman’s day” (“baba”) between March 1st and 9th for her/himself. Legend says that however the weather on this day will be, such will be your year.
March is on. Whether you are superstitious or simply want to have fun, choose your “baba” and wait to see what old woman Dochia has for you this year.