Fiction – The May Day Witch of Targu Jiu


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Tags: Romanian traditional life, farming, Shepperd, magic, theft, Targu jiu

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An old Romanian proverb says: Do not speak bad of the Devil because you shall not know beforehand to whom you will belong 

According to popular Romanian mythology, it is not difficult to establish a relationship with the Devil. He can appear quickly, pleased with the availability of the person who wishes to be initiated into the secrets of witchcraft. Some who wanted to contact the Devil used to go to a crossroads where they called his name or they yelled out loud “Hei! Hei! Hei!” and the Devil was said to visit them. In other instances, keeping an unclean home was sufficient in order to establish the relation.

Ancient legends say that there was once a woman who wished to become a witch, so she went to the river and she waited until midnight when the Devil rose out of the water and asked her why she was sitting there. The woman replied that she wished to become a witch, so the Devil set his terms – to agree to dance with him during each full moon. Legend has it that the woman accepted and she was made a witch.

The May Day Witch of Targu Jiu

A life-long Shepherd by the name of Petre Simion became concerned for his herd of Goats when they stopped yielding milk. The Goats all seemed to be healthy, from what Petre could see, but he called upon the local farming master for his opinion. The farmer performed a careful check of the herd but after a while, confirmed the Goats were healthy and he himself couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t produce milk.

Petre met with neighbouring Shepherds to find out if their herds had problems with milking, but none had such problems. It was then another Shepherd suggested for Petre to travel to the nearest monastery and ask the Monks for advice, after all, they too were experienced in keeping Goats.  At a loss, Petre decided to visit to one of the local Orthodox Monasteries, named Tismana and speak with the wisest Monk he could find. He explained to the Monk how his Goats refused to give milk, even though they were healthy, and none of his neighbouring Shepherds had spoken of problems. The Monk thought for a while and then asked Petre if there was an old woman living in any of the nearby houses.  Petre recalled there was and one old woman was rumoured locally to have magic powers. The Monk suggested to Petre to rise early in the morning of Ziua Muncii (May Day) and visit his heard. He was advised to look out for a fox amid the herd and to wait to see if the fox would suckle the milk from Goats. He was advised not kill it, but to injure it.

Petre went back to his farm cottage unsure what to make of what he was advised, why would a fox be sucking milk from a Goat? He never heard of such a thing. In the morning of Ziua Muncii Petre got up early to check on the Goats. Armed with an old gun, he went into the shed and noticed a big fox standing to suck the milk from one of the Goats. Petre raised his gun and took aim, he fired a shot and injured the fox who hobbled off across the fields. Petre rushed off to the monastery to tell the Monk what had happened but he got the impression the Monk was unsurprised by the news. The Monk then advised Petre to return to the house of the old women who was rumoured to exhibit magic and he would find out the truth…

The Shepherd made his way to the house of the old woman, where he found her sitting by an open fire with an injured leg. It was obvious to the Petre that the old woman had changed into a fox to steal the milk from the Goats because she had the same injuries he inflicted on the fox.

Petre called a meeting with the nearby Shepherds and shared the tale of the fox and the old woman. None of them seemed to be surprised. They explained his luck was only because he had not protected the herd from the Witches and advised him how he should protect his home and herd of Goats.  Never take the herd of Goats to pasture before noon in Ziua Muncii, they advised him. Adorn the Goats with May flowers such as Peonies, Daffodil, Lilac and Snowdrops said one Shepherd and go to the local holy well in the early morning of Ziua Muncii, draw up holy water and bless the herd for protection said another. If Petre would heed this advice, he would protect the herd from the old Witches of Targu Jiu.

The End.

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