-by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe-

Design: Florin Stancu

Diamond Ring of the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse
Photo: Mihail Robescu


For those who know to watch the skies,
a total solar eclipse, when the Moon covers the Sun’s disc,
is the most beautiful celestial event.

Lowering in time to the Middle Age

(thanks to three sources:
-Victor Anestin’s “Comets, Eclipses and Fireballs Seen in Romania
between 1386 and 1853”, Bucharest, 1912;
-V. Mioc and D. Mioc, “Chronicle of Romanian Astronomical Observations”,
Bucharest, 1977;
-Ion Holban, “Sun, Moon, and Evening Star”,
Chisinau, Republic of Moldavia, 1991)

when the actual Romanian territory was divided into
Transylvania (which was a part of the Habsburgic Empire),
Wallachia (or the Romanian Land) and Moldavia
(today divided into “Romanian” Moldavia and Republic of Moldavia),
it seems that the oldest description of a total solar eclipse
belongs to an anonymous historian,
who wrote in the “Chronicle of the Brancoveanu Family”:

“In 1433 the Sun darkened, and it was darkness,
and the stars were visible like at nighttime.
It was Wednesday, July 17th.”

(It is important to add that the brightest representative of the Brancoveanu Family
was Constantin, who lived between 1654 and 1714,
ruled Wallachia between 1688 and 1714,
encouraged a special style in architecture and in visual arts
- including sometimes solar motifs -,
which received his name later,
and became a hero of Christianity after the Ottoman Sultan called him to Istanbul
and tried to force him to change his religion,
but Constantin Brancoveanu preferred to be beheaded together with his 4 sons.)

Solar Motif of Brancovenian Art in a Church from the Romanian Land
Photo: Calin Niculae


Romania also has the privilege that three of the old Moldavian creators
of the Romanian literary language described solar eclipses.

Thus, Miron Costin (1633-1691)
wrote in the “Chronicle of Moldavia” about a partial solar eclipse:

“The sun terribly darkened in June 1656.
It perished a little, not all its light, right at midday.
Many people did not know to shelter from the darkening,
looked too much at the sun,
and lost their sight all their life.”

Ion Neculce (1672-1745)
wrote, also in the “Chronicle of Moldavia”, about a total solar eclipse:

“And then a big eclipse appeared, a darkening of the sun,
that the people could not see each other.
Tuesday, 1499, September 23rd, the world darkened.
Also then a big bear appeared,
and the armies of Moldavia and Wallachia could not kill it.”

In exchange, Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723)
preferred a special description of a total solar eclipse (using scientific details)
through the vision of a bat,
in his fantastic novel “Hieroglyphic History” (1705):

“One day it was an eclipse in the Sun, so all the animals closed their eyes
and went to their couches as for evening time.
Only I walked on the shore of the sea. (…)
But the Sun escaped from the Moon’s shadow
and began to hit the earth with his beams,
shortening my night and lengthening the day of the others.
And my eternal enemies, the swallows, began to attack me…”

Romanian Solar Motif on the Gate of a Moldavian House
Photo: Calin Niculae


But a total solar eclipse is a too rare and festive phenomenon,
so usually the Romanian old beliefs personify the Sun and Moon
and say that they cannot touch each other
because are brother and sister,
and God does not allow their love.

The most beautiful variants of this belief are two folkloric ballades,
entitled just “Sun and Moon”,
one collected in Moldavia by Vasile Alecsandri (1821-1890,
laureate of the Latinity Prize in 1881 in France),
and one collected in Wallachia by Gheorghe Dem Teodorescu (1849-1900,
licentiate in letters at Sorbonne University in Paris, in 1877).


Vasile Alecsandri’s Moldavian variant
(published in “Popular Poems”, 1852-1853) begins like so:

The proud Sun
Went to marry
Nine years on nine horses
Which during nighttime grazed in Heaven.
He tramped the sky and the earth
Like an arrow or like the wind,
But he exhausted his horses
And did not find any other adequate girl
Excepting his sister
Ileana Cosanzeana,
Beautiful like a flower
In a winter without sun.

He asks her to become his fiancée:

“I have bright hair,
You have golden hair,
I have an ardent face,
You have a caressing face.”

But Ileana Cosanzeana replies:

“Oh, my luminous brother,
With a body without sins,
There are not brother and sister
To be married.
So go to your sky,
And I shall go to my earth,
Because this is God’s will.”

Then the Sun darkened and climbed towards God, asking Him to allow their wedding.
But God showed him the ways of Hell and Heaven, and

When God spoke,
The worlds woke up
And listened to Him with pleasure,
The sky brightened,
The clouds perished.

The Creator asks the Sun to decide between Heaven and Hell,
However, the Sun cannot live without his sister
and prepares a great wedding party.
But before that, in the church chosen for their religious wedding,
a supernatural hand takes Ileana Cosanzeana
and throws her into the sea, where she becomes a golden round fish.
Desperate, the Sun rises to the heights and lowers to the west, into the sea,
to look for her.
But God takes Ileana from the waves and throws her into the sky,
transforming her into the full moon.
The conclusion belongs to God too:

“You Ileana Cosanzeana,
A faultless soul,
And you luminous Sun,
A body without sins.
You can see each other,
But have always to be separate.
Years of continual fire,
Eternal rejection,
You have to tramp the skies
And to lighten the worlds.”


Gheorghe Dem Teodorescu published the Wallachian variant
over 20 years later:

From a sea pebble
Here is the strong Sun
Which rises.

He wants to marry, and for this

He trod
The whole world,
And the Romanian Land,
And the Moldavian Land

riding nine horses.
He did not find anything, but now, also in a sea pebble, he meets

Ileana Simziana,
Lady of the flowers
And of the pinks,
Sister of the Sun…

He asks her to be his fiancée, but she rejects him,
because nowhere in the world a brother can marry his sister.
However, after his insistences, she accepts to be his wife if he builds
an iron bridge over the Black Sea, and at its edge a monastery with a staircase
able to touch the skies.
Glad for her acceptance, the Sun builds all she wants, and climbs the staircase
to Father Adam and Mother Eve, where explains the delicate situation.
But Adam and Eve have only two variants:
Heaven, if he does not marry Ileana,
and Hell, if he does it.
In order to be more convincing, Adam and Eve show him:
Heaven (with saints and good people, plenty of food, fine nature and joyous birds),
and Hell (with sinners burning in fire).
But the Sun cannot defeat his own feelings, and asks Ileana again to be his wife.
She postpones him, this time by asking a copper bridge.
He builds it, but going on it, Ileana jumps into the sea, where God transforms her
into a round fish, and the saints take her and throw her into the sky.
Face to face with Father Adam and Mother Eve,
she receives a new name, the Moon.
Finally, God decides the punishment:

“As long as the world exists,
The Sun and the Moon will never meet each other,
Nor at nighttime, neither at daytime;
When the Sun will be
To the east,
The Moon will be seen
To the west;
When the Moon will shine
To the east,
The Sun will be
To the west.”

And the conclusion:

This is the reason for which
The world is so,
Because they follow each other,
But their appointment is impossible:
When the Moon shines,
The Sun just sets;
When the Sun rises,
The Moon enters the sea.


However, there is a Romanian surprising and opposite myth,
collected and published
(in “Tradition and Beliefs of the Romanian People”, Cernauti, 1903)
by Elena Niculita Voronca.

In 1997 I published, in SARM’s magazine “Noi si Cerul / Us and the Sky”,
a material about this myth as an “Astromythological Dialogue”
with the great British mythologist,
Alastair McBeath - Vice-President of the International Meteor Organization -,
which is adapted bellow.

Here is that myth:

“The Sun is a woman and the Moon is a man;
they were sister and brother and have become wife and husband;
their children are the stars.”

Here is Alastair McBeath’s comment on it:

“Although the Sun and Moon are frequently described as brother and sister
in various mythologies, they never marry as far as I have seen,
and as far as their having children, this is most unusual.
However, in some of the earlier myths, the first beings created (often only two)
seem to have been created by the same material,
so in a sense are brother and sister;
this could also be applied to Adam and Eve,
since Eve is created from part of Adam.”

Photo: Dan Mitrut


Inspired by the myth-ballads collected by
Vasile Alecsandri and Gheorghe Dem Teodorescu,
Dan Mitrut launched,
during a SARM astropoetry gala at the
“Amiral Vasile Urseanu” Bucharest Municipal Observatory in January 2002,
an astrofolk song, also named “Sun and Moon”, in which he describes
the tragic love of the Sun and his suffering,
as a victim of a conspiracy of bad cosmic forces (including dragon-men),
which touched even the “Hora”, the Romanian ring dance as a solar symbol.

Before singing that song, Dan Mitrut said:

“We cannot push things to a so acerbic abstract, beyond our humanity.
Thus, I shall sing about a famous myth of the Sun and Moon,
an extraordinary, celestial love
which comes from what we use to think as people.
The sky always gives us lessons of life and soul.
Those who are careful and catch them, become owners of an immense treasure
that must be shared with the others.
The mystery near us.”

After that, Dan Mitrut began to sing,
the English version of his lyrics being as follows:

The night is sleeping around me.
A deaf song is the hard longing
For you, fairy running out of my way
And hiding after the Earth.

My face is uselessly luminous,
My cheeks are uselessly living gold,
If any step towards you is empty.

Good Moon, my flower,
They deceived me that you are my sister,
They deceived even God
And abducted you from a “Hora”, the ring dance…

The earthly dragon-man is a sinner!

I would stop with my rays
The Moon’s way at dawn,
But she hides after the clouds.

I throw rains of stars on my road,
In the sky it is autumn,
Tears of light and iron.

Moon, why did you forget?
You were a living star blossoming the forests,
But now your gift is empty
And your face is a desert.

From now on, you are an earthly being,
With dreams of smoke,

Dan Mitrut during the January 2002 astrofolk music recital,
“Admiral Vasile Urseanu” Bucharest Municipal Observatory
Photo: Calin Niculae


© 2009 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)