About the female mythical entities regionally called Ielele, Frumoasele, Măiestrele, Rusaliile, etc. the traditional society believed that they are beautiful, invisible, mostly evil girls who fly through the air at night, before the roosters’ crow, beginning with the third week after Easter and until Pentecost.
According to popular belief, they can roam “in one night over nine countries and seas”, returning “once a year to all the places they have walked in”. Ielele sing and dance “incredibly beautifully” and mention in their songs the plants they are afraid of, such as beauty-of-the-night, lovage, sea kale, etc. Should anyone dare to learn their song and sing it, they take him up and hackle him (deform and disfigure him), because they have power over any being and thing on earth, over which they pass.
In order to prevent Iele’s attack, people avoided sleeping under the open sky during this period, remained still when they heard them, wore wormwood around their waists or green garlic on their shirts. According to belief, in their flight, Ielele carried various objects (such as candles, hammers, tongs, scissors, beads, sickles, etc.) and thery were accompanied by the most skilled musicians. From time to time, Ielele stopped flying and danced on the ground, from place to place, especially at crossroads, blackening the grass there in the shape of a circle. In such places, they would leave left an object on the ground that was believed to be good for the healing of those “taken by the iele”. Initiated old women would creep in and pour water over these objects, and those disfigured by iele snakes would wash themselves with this healing water.
The artifact with inventory no. 441, recorded in the museum documents under the name “Iele’s sickle” is a carob branch with fruit, dried and blackened by the weather, having an unusual natural shape, which inspired its assimilation with a sickle. The piece was collected by Romulus Vuia in 1923, in the village of Cârnești, Hunedoara county, Hațeg Country.
Bibliography: Ioan Toșa-Simona Munteanu: Calendarul țăranului român de la sfârșitul secolului al XIX-lea. Cluj-Napoca, 2003.
Text: Tötszegi Tekla - MET expert
Photo: George Ciupag – MET photo-video museographer