Bear masks - folk mithology

Bear masks - folk mithology

Bear Day was celebrated by several European peoples around the month of February*. The bear had a calendar role among the Nordic populations who assimilated it with the Moon*. The change of seasons indicated by the bear by disappearing in winter and suddenly appearing in spring probably represented the reason why it is among the oracle-animals, of foresight and orientation in time.

At the geographical latitude of Romania, the bear is an animal specific to the Carpathian areas, with extensive forests less traveled by humans. It needs rocks and fallen trees to build its den, thickets for shelter during the day and a nearby water source. The bear does not hibernate, as is believed; in the winter it retreats to the den, as its movement over thick snow becomes difficult.

On its birthday, it is said that the bear comes out of the den and looks at its shadow. If it's sunny and nice, the bear goes back into the shelter. If it's cold and the sky is cloudy, it starts walking in the forest.

The bear is invoked as a guardian power during the customs of birth, when the unborn child had to be given "a spoonful of bear fat so that it can resist the influence of the fate, which watches over his head and weaves his future"*.

An ancient Dacian deity was thought to be "hidden" in the skin of a bear, and it was worshiped by Romanians until the beginning of the 20th century. The deity belonged to the underworld, because the bear withdraws into caves during the winter and returns together with the resurrection of nature.

* Candrea I. Aurel, Iarba fiarelor. Studii de folclor

* Durand Gilbert, Les Structures anthropologiques de l'imaginaire

* Francu Teofil, Românii din Munţii Apuseni


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