Căluș as intangible cultural treasure of the humanity

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A RITUAL

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Căluș as intangible cultural treasure of the humanity

  1. 1. Căluș – between ritual and national symbol. In 2005 the Romanian căluș received the prestigious UNESCO title of IntangibleCultural Treasure of Humanity. What is căluș? There are many and divergent theoriesregarding the origins of this complex ritual, most of them stemming from studies of”cultural archaeology” and comparative mythology. Some theories seek to find the rootsof căluș in the highly cultivated Latin and Greek mythologies which also have some Near-Eastern implications. Their counterpart is Slavicin origin with reference to themythological beings Rusalii/Rusaki. The temptation to locate căluș in an autochthonous tradition traces it back to thereligious practices of the Thacians-Dacians. Inquiry in the Romanian ritual systemsupports the theory that căluș was an integral part of ritual practices (during spring)stemming from the cult of an autochthon horse – god (căluș). Though these theories areall hypothetical, each of them them may lluminate at least one of many features thatmake up the cmplex structure of căluș. 1
  2. 2. In the current existence, căluș establishes a ritual communication between thereal woeld represented by a given community and the mythical world represented byfemale demons (iele). The mediators are a clearly structured group of mensupposedly endowed withsupernatural power to protect the community against the iele’s malefic deeds, cure sickpersons, and bring fertility. The carry out seasonal ritual at the Orthodox Pentecost,marking the passage from spring to summer, from this world to the ”world beyond”, andfrom the living to the dead ancestors. Căluș is made up of several expressive means whichwhich are interrelatedandwhich, according to subjective or objectives circumstances, change their hierarchy ofimportance. It is comprised of: ritual objects (i.e. flag magical plants, bells) plus actions(i.e. leaping over a person, passing under the sword, falling in trance, breaking apot)+texts (verbal utterances, text of the oath)+ritual rules and interdictions (not to touchor to be touch by women, not to separate from the group, not to divulge the secret ofcăluș); of dance+music+costume+ornaments/masks and of dramatic sketches.Thesemeans interlock in different constellations and at different levels of meaning (ritual,artistic,or entertainement), giving căluș its polysemic character. Thus. One and the samecăluș event may be interpreted by both performers and spectators as sacred ritual,ceremonial respect for tradition, identity symbol, art performance, entertainment, orsimply as a means of economic gain. 2
  3. 3. Why is dance so important in căluș? Dance movements create an ecstatic statethat symbolically raises the dancer from reality to an other level, where communicationwith the spirits becomes possible. The structured movements of căluș carry symbolicconnotations. Virtuosity – for exemple – is supposed to symbolise sepernatural power.The circular path describes a sacred space, where the prophylactic and fertility promotionpower of the Călușari becomes effective. Leaping over a dancer, over a child or a sickperson is meant to protect, to convey strength, or to heal. Concluding remarks: Căluș has several levels of significance and exists in multipleforms, each being justified by one of the many cultural, socio-political and economicalcircumstances that exists in the community. Perhaps its tradition will be carried on over along time, not primarily for its ritual content, but rather for the role of căluș as alocal/national symbol, for the prestige status it confers on a community by raising it to aglobal dimension, for its entertainement qualities, and for economic gain. 3

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