sâmbătă, 16 martie 2013

Dacians and Orthodoxy

You may wonder what Dacians and Orthodoxy have in common. Nothing according to any historian who is worth anything, and everything according to the Orthodox Church.

First, some history:
Dacians (the Thracians that lived in the territory that today is Romania) were a polytheistic people, having Zamolxis as a main deity to whom they sacrificed people (who had to win a tournament for this privilege) hoping they will be granted whatever they may have needed. Some sources say that Thracians settled in this part of Europe around 1000 BC.
The ethnogenesis of the Romanian people has its roots in between 100BC and 100AD when the Dacians had the first significant contacts with the Roman Empire (another polytheistic bunch). Between the Roman conquest of Dacia (106 AD) and Emperor Aurelian’s withdrawal (271 AD), the natives gathered many cultural elements from the Romans including the Latin language, becoming a Romanized people. After the withdrawal, the Dacian territory has been subject to many invasions (Slavs, Goths, Visigoths etc) thus the freshly Romanized Dacians having their culture and language influenced even further.  The first mentions of Vlachs (romanic people) appeared in the 6th century in Emperor Maurice’s Strategikon, this being the point in which Dacians had completely morphed into a new people.
It is needless to say that with all the people that traveled (peacefully or with weapons drawn) through Dacia, religion had become so diverse to the point in which every man had his own religion (Think just of the Roman auxilia that was gathered from all corners of the Roman Empire, and was then stationed in Dacia). Moreover, up until the 12th century (and beyond) the Christian community in the area north of the Danube has been influenced by Slavic nations. Since the 9th century, the Bulgarians who constantly raided the area north of the Danube started imposing Slavic language (their own) instead of Latin for Christian rites. It had been that way all the way to the 13th century in which dates the first proof of an Orthodox Hierarchy on Romanian territory. This may seem as the beginning of the Romanian Orthodoxy, but there is another interesting thing people should know regarding this issue. As this new official religion was imported from the Byzantine Empire, the official rite languages were supposed to be Latin and Greek, but due to the constant arguments with the western church, and (more important) the Bulgarian influence, the Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic language had been imposed in the two Vallachian countries yet again, the official languages becoming Slavic and Greek (in some places). Romanians in the middle ages (including the priests) spoke as much Slavic or Greek as any person does today (none), so up until the 17th century when the first Bible in Romanian was published, Romanians were more or less clueless to the meaning of Christianity or Orthodoxy (not that they are more informed today).

(Map of Dacia in the 3rd century AD)

Now for the sad part:
From the information given above (which can be found with a few google searches) it should be clear that Orthodoxy in Romania is about 8 centuries old, but due to the huge amount of beliefs and religions mashed up together in a rather small territory, Romanians are more superstitious rather than religious. Romania having always been a predominantly rural country with a most colorful and diverse folklore, is after so many years still a country in which everyone has his own “religion”.  I often encounter people who tell me it is bad omen to do things like whistling or opening an umbrella indoors and washing clothes or combing your hair on Sunday but when asked to explain why, I only get the classic answers: “Because that’s how it is.”, “Because it’s bad” or the worst and most annoying one “Because God will punish you”. The amount of silly superstitions (both Christian and Pagan) Romanians believe in is stunning, and they are so deeply built into our minds that most of us do not even notice them.
The problem is that despite the fact that we have the Bible in our own language, along with the massive amount of information that the internet (to which most of us have access to) provides, few really care to read anything on the subject, the rest opting for complacence rather than knowledge. Even worse, the Orthodox Church encourages and adopts superstition. Romanian Orthodoxy has more to do with folklore (The Holy Tradition) rather than Christianity.

(Picture of the "feathered ox". This event takes place in the day of the Pentecost, and is supposed to bring a gentler winter. People march with the ox through the town, and stop in front of the church. After the church service is over, the ox is released, and girls who manage to catch it and grab it by the horns are said to get married soon.)

Now what?
By now you should have a rough image of how things work in Romania in what regards religion and belief. But what can one do in order to stop this?

Whenever a debate occurs, there is a great chance of encountering one of the following as a participant: 
-the “Historian” (tries confusing you with erroneous Historical data)
-the Theologian (does the same thing as the “Historian”, but with a diploma given by the Church to prove he is “right”)
-the religious fanatic (rants randomly about a great variety of things, and quotes them from the bible to convince you)
-the new age hippie (combats and explains everything with incoherent babble about spirituality, energies, aliens and alternative medicine)
-the Dacomaniac (tries to convince you that Dacians were Christian before Christ was born, and if he fails tries to make you feel guilty for disappointing your ancestors).

These categories can be found in the natural state given above, or combined. One of the things they have in common is the belief that Romania has been Orthodox for 2000 years. There are numerous misquotes (or quotes that are out of context) of Romanian writers (some of them atheists) allover Romanian sites, blogs and facebook pages supporting the Romanian Orthodoxy which is 2000 years old according to their owners (oh, did you know Jesus was a Dacian?).

(Picture taken during the protests against the electronic ID cards. Banner says "The Orthodox Church - Mother of the Romanian folk (Mihai Eminescu)")

Mihai Eminescu – rather famous 19th century poet and journalist- (who sent letters which still exist to his mistress saying he had no god but her) was quoted saying that “The Western Orthodox Church has been the supporter of the Latin element in the Danubian area for eighteen centuries. It stabilized and unified our language in such an admirable way that we are the only nation that has no dialects. It has saved us from being assimilated by the Polish, Hungarians, Tatars and Turks, and is today the only defense and support of the millions of Romanians that live outside our borders. Whoever combats the Church and its rites may be a cosmopolitan, socialist, universal republican or whatever it may come to mind, but he is not a Romanian”.

Whenever someone tries to point out the obvious mistakes in these quotes (or any religious argument for that matter), the response of is often rather “unsophisticated” (not to say downright idiotic). Getting through to these people is next to impossible. It is a continuous struggle for tolerance and reason in a place ruled by bigotry and grotesque ignorance. How do you convince a pagan, superstitious, poorly educated nation that it is not Christian? How do you replace wishful thinking and fear of the unknown with responsibility and knowledge?

(Picture of Romanian children doing the Nazi salute during the recent protests, holding Romanian flags.)

6 comentarii:

  1. Răspunsuri
    1. Dude, esti roman asa ca o sa fiu galant si o sa presupun ca ai cunostinta de lucrurile scrise mai sus, si din cauza asta gasesti articolul oarecum arid (daca nu, foloseste cu incredere butonul "X" de pe tabul din browser, si porneste'ti un episod din Tom & Jerry sau ceva ce nu te plictiseste). Articolul are ca tinta un public neinformat din afara tarii. Tu daca ai primi un articol din Congo care face misto de niste traditii(posibil lipsite de sens sau violente) despre care nu ai auzit niciodata cum ai reactiona? Eu cel putin stiu ca l'as intreba pe Gogul. Dar stai. Ce naiba gasesti pe Google despre traditiile si superstitiile locale din Congo? Ca sa avem umor, trebuie sa avem o baza comuna de discutie, altfel nu intelege nimeni nimic.

  2. De ce ar fi trebuit sa fie amuzant?

    1. Pentru ca aparent, altfel nu merita citit. Nu ne place daca e vorba doar de informatie si opinie. Suntem asa rudimentari si superficiali o seama din noi, incat nu apreciem ceva decat cu stimulenti. E motivul pentru care azi la TV nu mai avem decat ţâţe, fotbal, violenta si mondenitati. "Lowest common denominator".

  3. E un punct de vedere interesant. In urma cu cateva saptamani intrebam pe un blog al unui istoric si ziarist ce apara din rarunchi biserica ortodoxa (nu neaparat religia, ci specific BOR, george damian il cheama) urmatoarele:
    - oare exista vreo legatura intre convingerile religioase ale unui popor si manifestarile sale pe plan social?
    - cum se face ca romanii, bulgarii, sarbii, grecii si rusii, toti avand in comun ortodoxia si comunismul, sunt popoare cu probleme sociale, politice si economice majore?
    - in contraexemplu, cehii si polonezii au cunoscut comunismul, dar cum au scapat de el au progresat vizibil, in timp ce popoarele anterior enuntate se zbat intr-un nationalism religios gaunos, peste care trece tavalugul globalizarii, efectul fiind stagnarea morala, sociala si economica, tampirea accelerata a populatiei si afundarea in misticism.

    Raspunsurile primite de la el au fost retinute, dar de la cititorii sai au fost priceless. Acum cred ca incep sa primesc raspuns la intrebarile mele. Poporul roman e de fapt supertitios si apoi mistic fara sa stie de ce, dar religios nu e. Generatia aflata in prag de expirare, care se presupune ca a fost educata inainte de tavalugul comunist, nu are nici cea mai mica idee despre ortodoxie. Bunica mea, femeie cu 4 clase, nu stie absolut nimic despre personajul barbos si fiul sau, pentru ea diferenta dintre cele doua sarbatori mari de peste an se rezuma la 6 sau 7 saptamani de post. Singurul scop al unei vizite la biserica a fost timp de mai mult de 7 decenii aflarea barfelor din sat, niciodata n-a ascultat vreo predica. In schimb stie toate superstitiile, ce nu e bine sa faci si cand nu e bine, fara explicatie sau motiv logic. Odata, cand aveam vreo 9-10 ani, mi-a povestit o chestie auzita de ea (ca de citit nu cred ca a avut rabdare) care m-a lasat perplex: barbatii au avut ciclu la inceputul lumii, nu femeile. Dar pentru ca trebuia sa calareasca, si era oarecum cam nasol sa stea in sa in timpul ciclului, nu stiu cum au fost pedepsiti de personajul barbos si apoi femeile au primit privilegiul de a avea ciclu lunar.

  4. Mi se pare destul de evidenta si usor de inteles problematica legaturii cauzale dintre influentele externe si situatia actuala. In momentul in care combini culturi si religii de pe 3 continente intr'o tara cat Romania, cam asta e rezultatul. BOR nu se poate apara in niciun fel. Dupa cum ziceam, ei chiar sustin spiritul superstitios al romanilor, si imbina folclorul pagan romanesc cu ritualurile "crestine". Ia chiar exemplul dat in articol - impanarea boului, care decurge cam asa: in dimineata de Rusalii, tineretul satului "impaneaza" boul cu flori. Cand e gata, tot satul se aduna in alai cu boul si popa in frunte (ceea ce mi se pare foarte corect), si marsaluiesc din fata scolii (musai) pana la biserica. Asta se presupune ca va aduce o iarna mai blanda. Popa face slujba, si dupa ce termina, peste bou sunt turnate cateva galeti de apa (nu sunt sigur dar cred ca e un numar fix de galeti, conform traditiei), actiune care o sa aduca satenilor prosperitate. Dupa aia, boul e eliberat, si fetele din sat trebuie sa'l prinda. Fetele care il prind de coarne (ceea ce in engleza suna foarte interpretabil) se spune ca o sa se marite in anul respectiv. Cele care nu'l prind de coarne pot sa mai incerce si la anul.

    Asta e doar una din traditiile bistritene. Imagineaza'ti cate mai sunt in toata tara. Avand in vedere ca lucrurile astea se intampla, BOR nu are nicio aparare. Nu exista nicio metoda de a'si nega ipocrizia atata timp cat traditiile astea pagane exista pe teritoriul patriarhiilor, si mai rau, au parte de slujbe bisericesti. Din pacate nimeni nu pune intrebari despre asta, si popii isi vad linistiti de exploatarea minei de aur care e cultura romaneasca.