Friday, October 9, 2009

With Bear and Wolf in Dracula Country


On the main road from the airport to downtown Bucharest is a statue of Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf. This is the foundation story of Romania as well as Rome. Romania was once the Roman province of Dacia. Romanians claim Romulus and Remus were theirs before they were Rome's, since R&R were actually Thracians and the borders of Romania encompass ancient Thrace, renowned for its shamans - not to mention that fact that wolves still range the hill country here. Thracian or Dacian, the Wolf is big around here. Strabo reported that the original name of the Dacians was derived from daos, meaning "wolf". Warrior Dacians vaunted their wolf connection; their standard featured a wolf head on a dragon body.

Nonetheless, we'll be singing my Bear song when we open my first program in Bucharest tonight. This is actually a song I borrowed from the Mohawk Indians and turned into English. Traditionally, it is a lullaby to comfort children and call a protector to watch over them in the night. It is also a shaman song that calls in one of the great medicine animals of North America. I find that it travels well, and facilitates powerful connections will all the animal spirits.
Don't cry little one
Don't cry little one
The Bear is coming to dance for you
The Bear is coming to dance for you
In Romanian, the Bear song looks like this: -

Nu plange micutule
Nu plange micutule
Ursul danseze pentru tine
Ursul danseze pentru tine -

My host tells me there is a tribe of gypsies in Romania called the Ursari, or Bear People. They go from village to village dancing with trained bears at fairs. -

I learned just now that the Bear may also be at the heart of the ancient mystery religion of these parts. Herodotus and other ancient Greek writers mention a mysterious god of the Getae named Zalmoxis. Most likely (the etymology is disputed) this name means "Bear Skin" or "He Who Wears the Bear Skin", deriving from the tradition that the infant Zalmoxis was wrapped in a bear hide (zalmon, in Getic).

On a deeper level, the Bear connection involves the Underworld journey. Zalmoxis is one of the god-men who dies and is reborn. He goes down into the Underworld as the bear goes down into its cave, to hibernate. Zalmoxis reappears after three years to impart the "knowledge of the skies" to humans. Central to his teachings was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the idea that we cannot heal the body without healing the soul. In some versions, he is the teacher of Pythagoras though in others, the relationship is the other way round and Zalmoxis is a slave who was manumitted by the sage Pythagoras and acquired great wealth and wisdom of his own. Mircea Eliade wrote a monograph about Zalmoxis, "the vanishing god", that I read years ago but found the least accessible of that great mythographer's works.
To know Zalmoxis, perhaps, we have to dream him. Romania seems ripe for more adventures in dream archeology, in which we use the techniques of Active Dreaming to open direct channels to ancient knowledge, and then use the best of modern science and scholarship to confirm our leads. -

Road Notes: I have not yet spotted a vampire, though a U.S. girls' sports team at Prague airport were very excited that they were being matched against a team here called the Vampires.I struck up a conversation with the young woman who was my rowmate on the plane when I noticed she was reading Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. It turns out that she is a Romanian novelist, whose second novel was titled Men and who is now seeking a publisher for her third, Dava. I remarked that it seemed auspicious that we were flying in to Bucharest on the day it was announced that a Romanian-born author had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Bear report: We sang the Bear song in Romanian at the start of tonight's program, and it was wildly popular. Prior to this, socializing in the garden before the workshop began, I told everyone I met that I planned to learn Romanian in one day, and would each of them please give me an interesting word in their own language. Words volunteered (in chronological succession) included:
- iubire (love)
- vis (dream)
- daruire (giving yourself)
- suflet (soul)
- dor (longing)
- vasc (mistletoe)
- doina (folk song)
- pescarus (seagull)
- luna (moon, of course)
-frumesete (beauty)
- reveria (reverie, daydream)
- efervescenta (effervescence)

No lack of effervescence in the wonderfully high-energy opening session!


Anonymous said...

Each day I feel as though I'm travelling abroad from my desk chair. Thank you for taking us on this trip with you & sharing their history. I know that your family & friends will be happy when you are home, but that means that I will have to purchase an airline ticket! The bear cave sounds like a possible future portal and your bear song is a powerful one which has assisted me before. In either language, I'm sure it will be appreciated. Also, you probably knew this, but one of the latest hit collection of books (movie too)is the vampire "Twilight" series for young adults.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

As Seashore noted, I feel like such an "accidental tourist" in this vicarious round of travel. Interestingly, before I read this about the bears descending into their caves I was reading a detailed post on "environmental graffiti" about the caves at Lascaux, France which also mentioned the Dreamtime. Animals, caves, and dreaming ... I wonder where this will lead?

Worldbridger said...

Not last night, but the night before, my wife and I watched a mother black bear perched on top of the fence bordering our property, protecting her cub who was thirty feet up in a cedar tree. Something on the other side of the fence was hissing and growling at her. It might have been a racoon, but I'm not sure what it was. Whatever it was, it kept her on the fence longer than we could stand on our deck and watch.

Such beautiful black fur.

Patricia said...

Hello Robert,
I too am travelling with you on this special journey. I am so pleased to hear that Wolf is big over there. Wolf has been big for me for a long time since I first met him in a workshop long ago. He came as an image of what my 'shadow' might look like and it frightened me until I realized that I needed to make friends with him. So I asked him his name and he gave me a word that was totally unfamilar to me. After years of searching it was translated into 'Beloved Dog' and he has been that for me ever since. He comes with me into tricky situations and is a steady, watchful companion. Thank you again for the journey
Patricia from Oz

Diana said...

Thank you for all these wonderful sharings of your travels. Although I was particularly moved by your references to Bear, and greeted a young bear in my backyard recently, I found Wolf demanding attention as I drove in to work after reading your posting this morning. First I experienced a dream recall and then a coincidence regarding Wolf.

As Wolf knocked, I recalled a very recent dream fragment in which I had to make a decision about who - either Bear or Wolf - could best advise/teach me about a specific something (which I don't recall). Within the dream, I remembered a dream I had many years ago of a grey Wolf staring into my eyes as a powerful, wise teacher. Without dismissing Bear, I welcomed Wolf, who seemed the right choice for this specific purpose.

Next as I drove along, shortly after remembering the dream, I spotted a black dog running around on the side of a busy highway. It looked like a wolf. It was dragging a chain that had snapped; no houses were near by. I and another motorist stopped to help her. To make a long story short, I was eventually able to reunite her with her person. Her gift to me was the light-filled expression in her golden brown eyes as she looked into mine.

Robert Moss said...

Diane - I am so glad you were able to reunite that wolflike dog with its person. The juxtaposition of your post with Patricia's one about hearing a wolf named as "Beloved Dog" is very interesting and perhaps confirming. Wolves are highly social anomals and one of their gifts is to be able to read who is who in a group, who is sick and who is well, and so on - and this is a gift they bring to those who connect with them deeply.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Margie, Barbara and Patricia - Grand to have you with me on my current adventures in Eastern Europe! Margie, I must note that - viewed on the inner planes - vampires have nothing much in common with Stephanie Meyer's teen glamorpusses, though no doubt those ones are popping up in contemporary dreams, since personal dreams and cultural icons constantly intermesh and feed each other.

Worldbridger, thanks for the word-picture of Mother Bear ready to defend her cub. As you know, the she-bear is a fierce defender (who needs also to be ready to protect her newborn from male bears in the wild) which is why ancient warriors and contemporary mothers and healers do well to call, specifically, on Mother Bear.

Leanne said...

Hi Robert, I too am enjoying your journey from afar. I was intrigued by the words you were given for your lesson in Romanian (along of the lines of no coincidences) and wondered what story or poem could come from them.


Diana said...

Hi Robert, I was also struck by the juxtaposition with Patricia's note, particularly since we were both writing and posting at about the same time on the same day - hers at 4:59 pm and mine at 5:06 pm. Welcome great Wolf - walking the Earth, traveling the Skies, Beloved Dog of the Heart lending Light to our eyes.

Valerie said...

it sounds like the group had a wonderful time and how nice to be learning yet another new language. I love languages. It is interesting that the gypsies have their bear connection.

Robert Moss said...

Leanne, Diane and Valerie - Thanks for joining this expedition. I was reflecting just now on the word for "dream" in Romanian. It is "visa", which means both dream and vision and to an anglophone looks like the name of a document that allows you to travel between different countries. I've found, in many life passages, that the right dream vision can be exactly that: a travel visa that gives you right of entry to a different culture, even a different world.