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THE FLAG detail

THE FLAG Calusari Gallery, February 2011 Text by Alex Mitrutz

Objects are what matter. Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries something really happened among human beings. Claude Lévi-Strauss


RITUAL OBJECTS: THE FLAG, THE MASK, THE BEAK, THE STAVES Căluş is a protection, healing, and fertility ritual performed society of males, called Căluşari [Eliade], [Kligman].

by a hierarchical and closed

The ritual is carried out at the Rusalii (Orthodox Pentecost), and lasted from seven to nine days. Until eighteen century the ritual was performed in villages on the territory of present-day Romania and Moldova. Today, the ritual in its original form is performed in villages in the Southern part of Romania [Giurchescu]. The ritual is comprised of: actions - ( i.e. dancing, falling in trance, leaping over a person, breaking a pot, killing a fowl) texts - (i.e. verbal utterances, text of the oath) ritual prohibitions - (i. e. not to touch or be tucked by women, not to separate from the group, not to divulge the ‘secret’ of Căluş) ritual objects - (i.e. flag, totem, mask, staves, wooden phallus) [Gremais], [Giurchescu]. The Căluş ritual starts by rising the flag and ends by the burial of the flag. Top hierarchical member of Căluşari is Mutul (The mute) who always wears a wooden mask and holds Ciocul Căluşului, an object made of wood, resembling the beak and neck of a bird in the form of a hook / sickle. Ciocul is the Romanian word for beak. Each căluşar is holding a staff. Paraphrasing Claude Lévi-Strauss, the beak, the flag, the mask and the staves are what matter today. Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries that something really happened among căluşari . Căluşari flag is: an object of worship - i.e. the oath is taken on the flag, the ritual starts by rising the flag and ends by the burial of the flag and, sacred -i.e. it must never touch the ground or be touched by a woman, or its ritual power will be lost [Giurchescu], [Herseni]. In the present example, the flag design embodies all key elements of the ritual: mutul (the mute), vătaful (chief), arătătorul flag bearer (flag bearer), the căluşari , the staves, and the beak (ciocul căluşului).

IELE (THEY) Three anthropomorphic representations Fig.1, Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 on the flag obviously forms a group because of similar features and colors: each has four antennae on left and four on right suggesting floating in the air. Groups of three hooks are placed on the antennae. The lack of green color and the antennae are suggesting their aerial rather than earthly nature. Therefore, the hook and the antenna are the emblems of the group. One representation Fig. 1, is placed in the lower third of the flag while other two Fig. 2, Fig. 3 are placed in the upper third. The representations in the upper third have two legs and rhomboidal head, while the figure in the lower third has two antennae, each with four chevrons (V-shaped symbol) pointing inward. This group of anthropomorphic figures is the representation of the iele. The name iele is the Romanian popular word for they (feminine). Iele relationship with Căluşari is characterized by polarities [Elefterescu], [Giurchescu]: 1. Male versus Female Calusari are a group of males while iele are a group o females. 2. Diurnal verus Nocturnal Calusari are active during the day while iele are active during the night. 3. Fertile versus Sterile Calusari are associated with the village and the surrounded cultivated areas and bring fertility while the iele are associated with non-cultivated areas such as rivers and forests, and bring sterility. 4. Life versus Death Căluşari bring healing while iele bring illness.


Fig. 2

Fig. 3

CĂLUSARI and STAVES There are seven Fig. 6, Fig. 7, Fig. 8, Fig. 9, Fig. 10, Fig. 11 human figures wearing feminine clothes and represented in full-length, while two Fig. 4, Fig. 5 are represented half-length (bust) with arms upraised and above two vegetative staves. All figures are represented with eyes and mouth, excepting one half-length figure with no mouth, and triangular head Fig. 5. Another half-length human figure wears a phrygian/dacian cap Fig. 6. The upraised hands and the cap are obviously signs of leadership giving to the whole group a hierarchical structure, namely the half-length figures are the leaders of the group. Furthermore, the triangular head points to a red line. The red line connects the border of the flag (represented with stars ) with the main field of the flag and is unique, no other connection between border and main field exists. The red line is suggesting that halflength figure with triangular head is placed on top hierarchical position, because he is the one who makes the connection of the whole group with the stars from border. Therefore, the figure with triangular head without mouth is the leader, he is Mutul (the Mute), and his head is covered by a triangular mask. The figure wearing phrygian / dacian cap is Vătaful (the Chieff). There is a third human figure with individualized features: he is depicted with an arm raised indicating a direction to be followed Fig. 6. The Romanian word for the one with an arm raised is Arătătorul. Actually, this is the name of the clan member who holds the flag: Arătătorul or Stegarul (Flag Bearer). In the upper third of the flag there is a couple with holding hands Fig. 7. This representation is connected with the third and final part of the ritual, burial of the flag. The flag is taken to the same location where the oath was taken. At the very last moment when the pole of flag touches the ground the căluşari scatter in all directions and return immediately. They shake hands and greet each other as if they had not seen each other for a long time [Giurchescu]. Therefore, Fig. 7 symbolize burial of the flag and end of the ritual. To sum up, the flag represent all members of the team: the Mute (Mutul), the Chieff (Vătaful), the Flag-bearer (Stegarul ), and six Căluşari .

Fig. 8

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 9

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Two staves Fig. 12, Fig. 13 are conected with the Mute and the Chieff, three staves are placed next to three căluĹ&#x;ari Fig. 17, Fig. 18, Fig. 19, and three are are not connected Fig. 14, Fig. 15, Fig. 16. The staves have vegetal elements (i.e. rami, leaves, flowers) and geometric elements (i.e. chevrons, dots). Seven staves are represented vertical and one tilted Fig. 14.

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

Fig. 17

Fig. 16

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

THE BIRDS AND THE TOTEM The flag bearer is pointing to the right and there are also 21 birds heading to the right and 2 heading to the left. The birds are not scattered randomly in the main field of the flag but perform a movement into three steps (outside wares---on the ramus---inside the wares). The birds stands outside the goblets of bottom row, on the branches in the middle row and inside the goblets of the top row. All birds are represented with open wings, excepting one Fig. 14, which is represented with no legs and no wings, suggesting hatching and placed above a tilted staff. The tilted representation symbolize its top hierarchical position among the group of eight staves therefore over the group of căluşari. On the top the tilted staff there is a row of three small goblets and a bird above goblets represented without legs and wings which suggest the bird is hatching Fig. 14, Fig. 21. The three small goblets represent her eggs, therefore the hatching bird symbolize birth and regeneration. Bellow the tilted staff there is an ornithomorphic figure, with two open wings in the shape of a triangle pointed downwards, and a tail Fig. 14, Fig. 20, Fig. 22 . The rhomboid head and color palette of this representation suggest its connection with the group of the iele, rather to the căluşari. The tilted staff is connected with the vertical axis of the flag by seven collinear dots Fig. 20. The collinear dots are the representation of collective unity, and the imaginary line they generate intersect the ornithomorphic figure between his head and his open wings. To sum up, the representation from Fig. 22 : i) has animal features (the open wings and tail like a bird) ii) is endowed with birth and regeneration features ( the hatching bird and her eggs) iii) is placed on top hierarchical position (the tilted staff) iv) keep a collective unity over group (the seven collinear points) therefore it is representation of the totem, it is Ciocul Căluşului.

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

Fig. 22

GOBLETS and TREES OF LIFE The flag also contain two big trees. Each tree is depicted with stylized root, rami, gemma, flowers and fruits. The bottom tree has three fruits while the top tree has four fruits. Each tree has a big stylized flower. The main field is divided by three rows each containing three vegetative triangular goblets. Each goblet from the bottom or middle row contains vertical branches and a pair of combs oval shaped representing male genitals Fig. 23, Fig. 24. The triangular shaped goblets pointed downward represent female genitals Fig. 23, Fig. 24. Furthermore, there are groups of four seeds or three seeds stacked vertically on rami of the goblets from the bottom row. The seeds are found inside the goblets on the middle row, as would have been poured into them. Thus the goblets and vegetal branches are suggesting fecundity. In the top row we find birds inside goblets.

Fig. 23

Fig. 24

THE 8-POINTED STARS and THE EIGHT SEEDS The vertical border is composed of 27 stars and the horizontal is composed of 18 stars, giving the proportion 3/2. No green color is found in the border. The stars are obviously suggesting the sky. The stars are represented 8-pointed with four corners on each side. The 8-pointed star is a symbol found in all cultures from antiquity until present, but this representation with four corners on each side is unique. The group of eight seeds is probably connected with the border.

Fig. 23

Fig. 24

MATHEMATIC ANALYSIS The composition of the flag is mainly made by combining the occurrence of number 3 with the occurrence of number 4. I would describe mathematically the flag asymmetrically composition as a mesmerizing combination of 3 with 4, and their multiples. Occurence of three The border is composed of 27=3x3x3 stars on the vertical border and 18=2x3x3 on the horizontal one. The main field is divided by 3 rows each containing 3 vegetative goblets. The number of iele is 3, while the căluşari numer is 9=3x3. The mute mask in triangular. There is a group of 3 staves each connected with 3 căluşari , and a group of another 3 staves not connected. There are 21=7x3 birds flying to the right where points the flag bearer. It is obvious that three is the number of global symmetry of the composition, but also appear few times locally (i.e. the number hooks on a deity wing is 3, there are 6=3x2 seeds inside each goblet from the middle row, we find groups of 3 seeds stacked on ramus in bottom row ). There is an evolution in 3 steps of the birds: they stands outside the goblets of bottom row, on the branches in the middle row and inside the goblets of the top row. There is also an evolution in 3 steps (one row, one step) of the vegetal goblets, which suggests the process of growth and regeneration. The bottom tree of life has three fruits each represented with three layers. The Căluş ritual itself is made of 3 parts, and the dance is made of 3 kind of movements. The oath may be taken for 9=3x3 years, and the ritual may take 9=3x3 days. Occurence of four Each deity has 4 left and 4 right antenae. The stars from the border have 4 right and 4 left points. We have 8=4x 2 staves. In the bottom and the middle row the goblets have 4 branches. Groups of four chevrons (V-shaped symbol) pointing to the goblets are placed on branches, etc... The top tree of life has four fruits, and some are represented with four layers. From this examples, we conclude that four is mainly manifested local and static while three is mainly manifested global and dynamic.

ETHNOGRAPHY CONVERGENCE The above interpretation of flag is in agreement of narratives from ethnographic fieldworks and other works which describe the ritual, namely: [Cantemir, D. 1716], [Sulzer, F.J. 1781], [Golescu, I. 1832], [Gerando, A. 1845], [Elefterescu, E. 1922], [Wolfram R. 1934], [Gallop, R. 1934], [Pop, M. 1938], [Vulcanescu, R. 1970], [Bloch, M. 1974], [Herseni, T. 1977], [Kernbach, 1982], [Giurchescu, A. 1984, 1995], the list being open.


1. The Iele representation Earliest sources describe the iele as being three feminine deities [Cantemir, 1716]. This arrangement of deities into triplets appeared very early, at the primitive level and is considered an archetype in the history of religion [Jung]. Three feminine deities worship is considered to be of pre-Indo-European origin [West] and specific to Neolithic Cultures from Eastern Europe [Gimbutas].

LEFT: Gumelniţa Culture , Anthropomorphic feminine idol, circa 4,250 B.C., Teleorman Museum, Alexandria, România MIDDLE: Gumelniţa Culture , Anthropomorphic feminine idol, circa 4,500 B.C., Teleorman Museum, Alexandria, România RIGHT: LEFT: Gumelniţa Culture , Anthropomorphic feminine idol, 4,250 B.C., Teleorman Museum, Alexandria, România

2. The totem representation The totem explain the origin of the apical ancestor of the group while holding enormous power over the solidarity of the clan [Durkheim].

LEFT: Gumelniţa Culture , Bird Goddess, circa 4,500 B.C., Dunărea de Jos Museum, Olteniţa, România RIGHT: LEFT: Gumelniţa Culture , Bird Goddess circa 3,500 B.C., Muzeul Civilizaţiei Gumelniţa, Olteniţa, România

3. The staves representation LEFT: Gumelniţa Culture, Bone with anthropomorphic prismatic figure, Teohari Antonescu Museum Giurgiu, România RIGHT: Gumelniţa Culture, Bone with anthropomorphic prismatic figure Teohari Antonescu Museum, Giurgiu, România

3. The Mask and the hatching bird TOP: Gumelniţa Culture, Rhombic head, triangular face, circa 4,500 B.C., National History Museum, Bucureşti, România BOTTOM: Gumelniţa Culture, Hatching Bird, circa 3,500 B.C. Muzeul Dunării de Jos, Călăraşi, România


Kilims of Bessarabian/Moldavian type : 1. A kilim dated 1814 in the collection of Muzeul de Istorie al Judetului Prahova, inv. no. 3585. The trees from the kilim have similar roots and flowers with those of the flag. This example proves that already in 1814 only few elements from the flag design survived and they were used for decorative pieces. 2. A kilim dated 1814 in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, inv. no. S.61. The goblets are oversimplified, they no longer suggest fecundation as in the flag. The goblet from the Calusari flag is the archetype for all Bessarabian kilims having rows of flower vase. This example is also a decorative piece. 3. A kilim dated 1836 in the collection of Muzeul Judeţean de Istorie şi Arheologie Prahova, inv. no. 6.4-4983. This example proves that in 1836 the design was almost lost, this kilim has only the root and flower motif similar with that of the Căluş flag. This example is also a decorative piece. 4. A kilim dated 1850 in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, inv. no. 2025. Few design elements in common with the flag. Few design elements similar with those of the flag. This example is also a decorative piece. 5. A kilim dated 1866 and signed Maria in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, inv. no. 1900. The kilim has three tree of life reminiscently from the flag design. This example is also a decorative piece. 6. A kilim dated late 19th century in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, inv. no. S.974. The comb motif from the flag have in this case a pure decorative purpose. This example is also a decorative piece.

Kilims of Oltenia type: 1. A kilim dated 18th century in the collection of Muzeul de Istorie al Judetului Prahova, inv. no. 3001. The iele representation were already an oversimplified decorative element. Birds are used as decorative elements and scattered randomly in the border and main field of the kilim. The kilim shows a !circus representation, and mix reminiscently geometric motifs from the flag with sinuous branches. This example is also an decorative piece. 2. A kilim dated 1800-1850 in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, inv. no. S.109. The iele representation are an oversimplified decorative element. The border has oversimplified staves reminiscently from the flag design. Industrial dyes were already used instead of natural dyes. This example is also an decorative piece. Copies A kilim dated 1850-1900 in the collection of Muzeul Naţional al Satului Dimitrie Gusti, Bucharest, inv. no. 36818. The flag design is doubled. This example is a decorative piece. A similar doubled design is in the collection of Muzeul de Istorie al Judetului Prahova. A 19th century copy is purportedly known to be in the collection of Muzeul Olteniei Craiova Museum.

IMPORTANCE OF THE FLAG The present Căluş ritual flag is the archetype design for both Bessarabia and Oltenia type of decorative kilims. Furthermore, the flag explain the origin of the ritual: the Căluş ritual evolved from an agriculture fertility ritual of Gumelniţa Culture.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bloch, Maurice 1974, Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation, în Archives européennes de sociologie, tome 15, no. 1-2, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Cantemir, Dimitrie 1716, Descriptio antiqui et hodierni status Moldaviae. Durkheim, Émile 2008, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, (The Elementary Forms of Religious Life), Oxford University Press, Oxford. Elefterescu, Emil 1922. Ielele, Şezătoarea, XXXth year, no. 5, Ed. Gutemberg J. Bendit, Folticeni. Elefterescu, Emil 1922. Originea şi istoricul jocului căluşarilor, Şezătoarea, XXXth year, no. 12, Ed. Gutemberg J. Bendit, Folticeni. Eliade, Mircea 1967. Observation on European Witchcraft, în Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions. Essays in Comparative Religions, Chicago University Press, Chicago. Eliade, Mircea 1973. Notes on the Calusari The Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University, vol.5 [pp. 115-122]. Gallop, Rodney 1934. Origins of the Morris Dance, Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, no. I, London. Gerando, Auguste, 1845. La Transylvanie et ses habitants, Paris. Giurchescu, Anca 1984. Danse et Transe: Les căluşari, Interpretation d’un rituel valaque, Dialogue 12-13, Montpellier. Giurchescu, Anca and Bloland, Sunni 1995. Romanian Traditional Dance. A Contextual and Structural Approach, Wild Flower Press, Mill Valley, CA. Golescu, Iordache 1832. Condica limbii rumâneşti Greimas, Algirdas-Julien 1971. Réflexions sur les objets ethno-sémiotiques, Manifestations poétique, musical et gestuelle, Premier Congres International d’Ethnologie, Paris. Herseni, Teodor 1977. Forme străvechi de cultură poporană românească, Studii de paleoetnografie a cetelor de feciori din ara Oltului, Ed. Dacia, Cluj. Jung, Carl Gustav. A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the TrinityColl. Works, Vol. 11, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. Kligman, Gail 1981. Căluş. Symbolic Transformation in Romanian Ritual. The University of Chicago Press, Chigago, London [pp. 45-65 and 66-83]. Kernbach, Victor 1982. Dicţionar de mitologie generală, Editura Albatros, Bucureşti. Pop, Mihai 1938. Căluşarii români la Londra şi realitatea folklorică a Bucureştilor, Sociologie Românească, III, no. 10-12. Sulzer, Franz Joseph 1781. Geschichte des transalpinischen Daciens das ist: der Walachen, Moldau und Bessarabiens: in Zusammenhange mit der Geschichte des ubrigen Daciens als ein Versuch einer allgemeinen dacischen Geschichte mit kritischer Freiheit entworfen, Wien. Vuia, Romulus 1935. The Romanian Hobby-Horse: The Căluşari, în Journal of the English Folk, Dance and Song Society, vol. II, London. Vulcănescu, Romulus 1970. Măştile populare, Ed. Ştiinifică, Bucureşti. West, Martin Litchfield 2007. Indo-European Poetry and Myth, Oxford University Press. Wolfram, R., 1934. Sword Dances and Secret Societies, Journal of English Folk dance and Song Society.

THE FLAG detail


THE FLAG Calusari Gallery, February 2011 Text by Alex Mitrutz

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