Dacian mythology

The dacian mythology definition and concept underlying the brand owned by Transylvania World

Dacian mythology, Romanian folklore’s source of inspiration

Rich and diverse, the Dacian mythology was unfairly overshadowed by the Greek or Roman mythologies. It stands out particularly for its wolf cult, for its fantastic characters such as the werewolf or the vampire and for the unabandoned elements which gave birth to the Romanian folklore.

Dacian mythology | definition

The Dacian mythology, predecessor of the Romanian mythology, is freestanding, complex and it is made up of myths, legends, heroes, fantastic creatures, rituals, stories and traditions, being closely related to the main European mythologies, the Greek and the Roman ones. The Dacian mythology was formed on Transylvania’s current territory, being firmly rooted in Cucuteni Culture – the oldest European civilization, dating from 5600 BC – 3500 BC, preceding by a few hundred years the human settlements from Sumer and Ancient Egypt.[1] [2] [3] [4]

The Dacian mythology, mainly focused on the theme of immortality, encloses a small but well defined number of gods, and stands out especially through its wolf cult subsequently expressed through the mythic character "the werewolf". After the Dacians were conquered by the Roman Empire and the Romanian population was formed, Romanian mythology generated by taking different elements from the Thracian, Greek and Roman mythologies, but mainly from the Dacian mythology, resulting in a series of wonderful tales, full of magic and mystery, but still unknown on international level.

Alongside the werewolf and the vampire, the Romanian mythology unveils a series of unique tale-like characters, most of which still unknown on global level. Among them we can count legendary heroes, fairies, witches, elves, and a whole spectrum of other fantastic creatures. These creatures are the source through which complex universal themes are approached, such as existentialism, immortality, atemporality, nature’s primordiality, or the cosmic themes of relativity, cyclicality and universal balance.

The Dacian mythology | concept

Being characterized by aniconism (including the interdiction of writing and religious representations), the Dacian (ancestors of today’s Romanians) religion and indirectly their mythology, although rich and complex, did not enjoy the same exposure as the Greek and Roman mythology with whom it was closely related. Myths and legends were transmitted orally through storytelling and customs, but little written evidence remains.

As the Cucuteni Culture (one of the oldest European civilizations) once flourished on Transylvania’s current territory, and since it was assimilated by the civilizations which spawned the Thracian and Dacian peoples, this shows with certainty that some elements of the Dacian mythology were borrowed from this culture. This way we can regard the Dacian mythology with its original elements as being at least as old and important as the Greek and Roman mythologies.

Ever since the pre-Dacian period, 4000 BC, we can find elements which refer to the wolf cult in Cucuteni Culture, such as painted ceramic objects which represent warriors with wolf heads. However, throughout the existence of the Dacian people (168 BC – 106 AC), their unique focal point was the cult of the wolf, which alongside some well-defined deities outlines a complex mythology.

The Dacians venerated a small pantheon of gods, their supreme deity being Zamolxe (Zamolxis). Sometimes Zamolxe was mistaken for Gebeleizis, the god of thunder, lightning and rain. Zamolxe was considered a god of the dead and the living, representing the underworld and life after death. Sometimes Zamolxe was perceived as a prophet, represented as handsome man, a priest in charge of the forces of nature, who also had a distinct power over wild animals (this is the starting point for the legend of the Great White Wolf). Besides Zamolxe the Dacians also venerated Bendis, the goddess of the moon, forests and charms, love and maternity, Derzis (Derzelas) the god of human spirit’s vitality and Kotys (Cottyo), the mother-goddess. The essence of the Dacians’ religion is the soul’s immortality. According to their beliefs, the soul travels to Zamolxe’s realm after physical death. The Dacians would organize rituals in the citadel-sanctuary Sarmizegetusa Regia (not to be mistaken for Ulpia Traiana), the capital of Dacia. The sanctuary is still preserved, it can be visited in Transylvania and it is also very similar to the mysterious monument of Stonehenge, England, or to the famous Mayan solar calendar.

Most of the Dacian deities find continuity in legends spread all over Transylvania’s current territory. The most important is the legend of the Great White Wolf, where we can find the first mentioning of man’s metamorphosis into a wolf, in other words the werewolf concept. In this legend, Zamolxe turned a priest into a white wolf in order to protect Dacia from invaders.[5] The wolf was a focal point for Dacian rituals but also in times of war, when the warriors excelled on the battlefield, attacking and behaving as wolfs. Even the Dacian battle flag, named `Draco`, had the shape of a wolf’s head. When air would enter its opened mouth, it would generate a strong hissing sound, resembling the howl of a wolf.

Plenty of customs and habits related to the cult of the wolf have remained intact to this day in Romania, on Transylvania’s territory. This animal left plenty of marks upon Romanian culture, materialized in mountains, cities, mountain passes, valleys, caves, forests, hills and people which bear the name of this magic and imposing animal. Popular art also used the wolf motif in ceramics and sculpture, including in decorative ecclesiastic sculpture.

The Dacian mythology further generated a series of distinct tales and fantastic characters in Romanian mythology, most of them unique on international level. In Romanian tales we can find legendary heroes, fairies, witches, pucks and plenty other fantastic creatures. These creatures represent the source through which complex universal themes are approached, such as existentialism, immortality, atemporality, nature’s primordiality, or the cosmic themes of relativity, cyclicality and universal balance.[6] [7] [8] [9] `Immortality and eternal youth` is just one example of a Romanian tale, whose origins are lost in the mists of time, with its name alone proof for the philosophical themes approached in its pages.

Although the following comparison is a stretch, its purpose is to describe the potential of tale-like characters with origins in the Dacian mythology and to offer this image to the reader who is not familiar with Romanian folklore. As an exercise of imagination we can identify, starting from the premise that Fat-Frumos is the stereotypical positive hero, we can make numerous analogies with famous characters from successful series. Făt-Frumos has all the characteristics of a knight-hero (being the equivalent of „Prince Charming„), being brave, pure-hearted, honest and powerful, being led by his love for justice and Ileana Cosânzeana.[10] [11] [12]

We can compare Făt-Frumos to Boromir from the highly successful series Lord of the Rings. Both share the same characteristics, such as loyalty for the kingdom, friends and duty, and they have the same physical characteristics (tall, handsome and powerful). Although Făt-Frumos rarely dies and Boromir’s death is an extremely important moment in the LOTR trilogy, we have to mention the fact that even after death Boromir is seen as a hero who sacrificed himself in order to help others.[13]

At the same time, the popular character Jon Snow from Game of Thrones can be seen as the series’ Făt-Frumos. In a world full of questionable moral standards, Jon Snow, just like Făt-Frumos, stands out for his righteous spirit, his noble standards and his courage, never changing his honest morals even though they bring nothing but danger in the GOT world.

Ileana Cosânzeana represents another stereotype, being the feminine equivalent of Făt-Frumos and having a series of noble qualities such as bravery, an independent spirit, modesty and righteousness.[14] Ileana symbolizes the concept of ideal feminine beauty, youthfulness and pure heart but she also has magical healing powers.

An equivalent for Ileana could very well be Galadriel from Lord of the Rings (even though in LOTR her lineage is from the elven tribes) who shares the same characteristics, such as physical beauty, long golden hair, kindness, righteousness and a general good-hearted nature.[15]

Ileana’s equivalent from Game of Thrones is surely Sansa Stark. Sansa is a young, feminine and beautiful lady, passionate about music and poetry, living her life trying to find a prince to fall in love with, while the malefic `Zmeu` is similar to the dark lord Sauron from `Lord of the Rings`.[16]

Of course these are just some exercises of the imagination, but the Romanian tales have sufficient characters people can identify with other characters from successful series, such as `The Hobbit`, `Lord of the Rings` or `Harry Potter`. Hobbits, elves, gnomes, orcs, wizards, fairies, heroes with powers over nature, animated objects, and magical animals – all of these are fairly akin to characters from Romanian tales. There are plenty of characters and tales with huge potential, full of mysticism, magic and a philosophical background, still unknown on international level. Transylvania World intends to promote them and include them in the Transylvania brand.

Note: The Transylvania World concepts are an essential part of the association brand and their usage has to quote the source and reference this website. Discover the Dacian mithology on our website www.TransylvaniaOfficial.com


Research sources:

1. Wikipedia, Cucuteni Culture (source)
2. National Museum of Eastern Carpathians, Cucuteni Culture (source)
3. Wikipedia, Ancient Egypt (source)
4. Wikipedia, Sumer (source)
5. The Legend of the Great White Wolf (source)
6. Vulcănescu R., Mitologie Română, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1987
7. Daicoviciu H., Dacii, Hyperion Publishing House, Chișinău, 1991
8. Pârvan V., Getica- O protoistorie a Daciei, Meridiane Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982
9. Conf. Univ. Dr. Claudia Costin, Etnografie și folclor, „Ștefan cel Mare” University, Suceava
10. Wikipedia, Ileana Cosânzeana (source)
11. Enciclopedia Wikipedia, Făt Frumos (source)
12. Paliga S. Etymologica et Anthropologica Maiora, Evenimentul Foundation, Bucharest, 2007
13. Wikia, LOTR, Boromir (source)
14. Wikipedia, Jon Snow (source)
15. Wikia, LOTR, Galadriel (source)
16. Wikia, Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark (source)

Other concepts

    Overview

  • Overview of the definitions and concepts developed by Transylvania World Association and the key points of our research.
  • Official concepts

  • Transylvania (Definition, etymology, geography, history and its present state)
  • Transylvania classification into three geographical areas: Central, Political and Transylvania World with its influences
  • Carpathian Mountains (Definition, setting, the connections between legends and reality)
  • Cucuteni Civilization (Definition, geography, facts about the oldest civilization of Europe)
  • Ancient Dacians (About the ancient Dacian people, predecessors of the Romanians)
  • Vlad the Impaler (Also known as "Vlad Draculea" or "Vlad Dracula", one of the most important European leaders who stopped the islamic takeover of Europe in the Middle Ages)
  • The traditional Transylvanian village (definition and overview)
  • Household in Transylvania (About the traditional transylvanian households)
  • Mithological concepts

  • Werewolf (Incorrectly promoted as a negative character, the concept has generated from the Dacian mithology)
  • Vampire (Definition and concept; global promotion because of the Transylvanian traditions)
  • Dracula (The fantastic character also known as "Count Dracula" or "The vampire Dracula", inspired by the transylvanian traditions and the real historical character Vlad the Impaler)

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