Z is for Zana


Storytelling was a huge part of growing up in Romania. For hours we sat transfixed, listening to grandmothers frighten or amuse us with folk tales and stories with favorite characters. 

Zana, a fairy who resides in the woods, was one such character and a big part of the Romanian folklore. The word comes from the Roman goddess Diana, the one with all the beauty, who gives it all away. 

The most successful collector of such stories was novelist Ion Creanga, who in picturesque language wrote Harap Alb (The White Prince) or Fata babei şi fata moşului (The old woman’s girl and the old man’s girl).

Also, poet Vasile Alecsandri, who published the ballad Miorita (The Little Ewe). And Petre Ispirescu who in the 19th century published a number of short novels from popular mythology — stories centered around characters like Făt-Frumos (the Romanian Prince Charming), the princess Ileana Cosânzeana, the monster Zmeu, the dragon Balaur or fantastic superbeings like the good  Zana.

Another name from Romanian mythology is Sanziana, attached not only to a fairy but a festival in the fairy’s honor. Many Romanians celebrate the Sanziene holiday on June 24. This is similar to other European Midsummer holidays and believed to be a pagan celebration of the summer solstice.

During the Sanziene festival, the maidens in the village dress in white and spend all day picking Galium verum (yellow-flowered perennial bedstraw). They dance in a circle and sing local songs. They create wreaths as crowns which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall.


Sanziene festival

People are prevented from speaking to the girls during this ceremony, as it’s said the Sanziene spirits might otherwise be angered or distracted. In some regions, the girls keep the wreaths until the following year’s ceremony. This ensures fertility for their family’s land.

In addition, if they place the wreaths under their pillow at night, as the story goes, they’d have a premonition of the man they’re to marry (ursitul, the fated one).

Yes, Romanian folklore is rich with tales and rituals, most retaining only a symbolic attachment to the people, many turned into written stories.

As a child, it was easy to close my eyes and see the image of Zana, and the beautiful Sanziene dancing and singing to the folk music of long ago.  


Well, dear friends, we’ve reached The End. Congratulations on completing a marathon of a challenge. It wasn’t easy, but here we are. Woo-hoo!

I had some trepidations about a month-long posting on  Romania, a country not always easy to describe, especially when there’s emotional attachment to every word. But you — all of you — have made this journey an absolute pleasure through your comments and the exquisite posts that charmed, educated, and entertained me every time I visited your blogs. Thank You!

If you plan on participating in the Reflection Post, I’ll see you there. One last note: It’s been a crazy month, so if I haven’t followed you yet, I will do exactly that as soon as I can catch my breath. As we say in Romania: Noroc (Good luck) and Multumesc, prieteni (Thank you, friends). See you soon! 


Image courtesy: Fairy Princess Ileana, Firytales by Mirela Roznoveanu; http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com; saptestele.wordpress.com


62 responses to “Z is for Zana

  1. Congratulations on completing the challenge :)

  2. I’ve really enjoyed your challenge, congrats on finishing! :)

  3. Ah folk lore! Always charming and a link to times gone by. Lovely post Silvia – thank you for the richness of all of them. Multumesc and Noroc to you! Especially, congratulations!
    Garden of Eden Blog

  4. It’s so important to preserve the folklore and culture of one’s country whether through festivals, grandma’s frightening tales, or a blog.
    Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday.
    Wendy at Jollett Etc.

  5. Well done for getting through the challenge! Great post :)

  6. Sanziene festival looks so beautiful !….and a great post !….I am glad I could meet you through A- Z challenge ..happy blogging for the rest of year !

  7. Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing Romania with us. I have a huge appreciation of the country as a result, and this last post, especially with the description of folklore and the Sanziene custom is really wonderful.

  8. So interesting, Sylvia, to hear you recount Romanian Folklore and mythology. You are an excellent writer and I hope to see your many published works ahead. Maria, http://www.delightdirectedliving.blogspot.com/

  9. Congrats on finishing the challenge, Silvia! And thanks for your posts on Romania. I really enjoyed reading them, and am happy to have learned so much about your homeland!

  10. Silvia, you did an excellent job of completing the challenge. Learning about the enchanting Romanian folklore was a delight. However, attempting to pronounce your Romanian words was a challenge for me! ;-) It is so interesting how various cultures use folklore. Sadly, here in the U.S. those stories and beliefs are missing. Your stories have been a delight! I look forward to reading more. I’ll see you around. Have a wonderful week! Gwynn (http://gwynnsgritandgrin.com)

  11. What an awesome ending post, Silvia!! I loved learning so much about Romania. I can’t wait to look up more on Zana. Thanks also for being a great inspiration. MDC

  12. I love a good story! And woohoo, indeed! We made it – congratulations.

  13. Ah! I love it. What a fun festival and a sweet tradition. I would totally have loved a day to just play in the fields when I was a teen.

    True Heroes from A to Z

  14. I’m going to tell my middle daughter to put a wreath under her pillow. Or better yet, I’ll do it next time I’m there. Think she’ll notice?
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

  15. great meeting you this month and congrats on completing the challenge and showing me something I would not normally see. Which is the point of course of such a challenge.

    When we return from holiday I will look you up as I’d love to stay in touch. Have a good rest!

  16. Delightful ending post. I want to be part of this lovely ritual. See you very soon :-)

  17. We Made It!! I’d love to have a grandmother telling me stories while growing up!! Sounds enthralling…

  18. I love mythology and fairies, so this post was a treat. i like the name Zana, too.

    Congratulations on making it to Z! :)

  19. Great ending to the post. So wonderful to hear all the traditions and folk lore

  20. internetreviewofbooks

    Congratulations on finishing the Challenge, and thank you for the enjoyable posts on Romania. It sounds like a beautiful country.

  21. Yay for finishing the A-Z!! I grew up with traditional fairy tales…Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella…those types. Folklore is so much richer in Romania and other countries.

  22. Congratulations on reaching the end…and thank you for sharing! It’s interesting how we each have our own traditions. Reading other area’s traditions and customs is fascinating. I look forward to reading your post-AtoZ posts!


  23. So, there’s enough time to plan the midsummer festivities…

    Congrats on making it to the end.

  24. What a great ending to the challenge. Congratulations on making it through! I look forward to many more post. :)

  25. What a great end to the challenge. Now maybe I will have time to go back and catch up on some posts that I missed.

  26. What a wonderful end to your A to Z, Silvia! Congratulations, you’ve given us a fantastic Romanian month (I still have to go back and check that I didn’t miss any of your posts).
    In Sweden the midsummer celebration is one of the major festivities of the year. And indeed, we also put flowers under the pillow (only girls do it): you should go out and pick seven different wild flowers, you have to be silent while you do it, then put them under your pillow and you will dream about your future man.
    Again, congratulations, and thank you for your “Romanian alphabet”!

  27. greyzoned/angelsbark

    Hi Silvia, I finally found your blog, albeit at the end of the challenge, but now I can take my time and read all of your posts. Still so many new people to meet and so many new blogs to discover! What a fun challenge this has been. I hope it has been as rewarding for you as it has been for me. I look forward to reading about Romania! Congrats on finishing the journey…

  28. It has been a lovely journey through Romania, and I thank you for sharing its traditions, people, places, food, and fairy tales.
    Did you make a straw wreath?!

    • No, I didn’t make a wreath, Susan. I lived in Bucharest, and most of the tradition is in the country. Sadly. Thanks so much for your friendship and all the wonderful comments. Congrats on completing.

  29. I love reading about mythology and yours definitely had me intrigued. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  30. All those story tellings surely had an influence on your beautiful writing style. I love the idea of maidens in the village dressing in white, dancing and singing. We don’t take time anymore for such rituals that help cement a community.

  31. I managed to read your posts but due to our internet problems I’ve rarely managed to comment…must take a bit of speed or something. I’d just like to say I’ve really enjoyed your posts learning more about Romania and want to visit even more, so thank you very much. I’ll be sure to let you know about my trip.
    I’d also like to say a big thanks for your frequent visits and kind comments on my blog, I know how time consuming blog hopping can be so I appreciate it a lot, cheers :)
    Great ‘Z’… and finish to the A2Z,
    Well done to us. :)
    I visit again soon. :)

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