The “martisor” is a red and white string offered as a talisman at the beginning of spring. One folk tale says that the string was spun by Baba Dochia, a mythological old woman identified with the return of spring. During the first nine days of March Baba Dochia spins the wool thread next to her sheep, wearing nine sheepskins that she takes off one at a time each day. As she sheds the sheepskins, the weather gradually turns warmer. She uses the red and white wool to make the threads, the former symbolizing winter and the passing year, the latter a sign of spring and renewal.
In the old days the “martisor” was an important custom, the peasants offered close ones lucky charms or twisted wool threads to protect them from disease and bad luck. With time, a coin recalling the sun was added to the thread.
Since then the “martisor” took various forms. I can’t recall how it was during my grandparents’ time, but I like to think it was simpler than today. Whenever the 1st of March is approaching I find myself looking for the traditional “martisor” which carries some meaning. The list below revolves around the “martisor” that has motifs, fabrics, techniques or inspiration of a traditional nature. For me they’re all beautiful, simple, bearing a story.
The list below revolves around the “martisor” that has motifs, fabrics, techniques or inspiration of a traditional nature. For me they’re all beautiful, simple, bearing a story.
Daciana Ungureanu – Everlasting signs
In the past few years Daciana, an artist from Novaci with a passion for the traditional values, has been a savior in my quest for the “martisor” as every year she has a different collection of a traditional vein. You can contact her on the Daciana Ungureanu Ethnographic Collection Facebook page.
Mesteshukar Boutique – Shukar Martisor
Mesteshukar ButiQ (MBQ) is an active supporter of revaluing the traditional crafts of the Roma people. They have recently opened a showroom on Edgar Quinet No 7 in Bucharest, and can also be found at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm with an exhibition called Nomadic Design Practices.
The Paper Mill – Cărţişor
The Paper Mill (workshop on paper making, binding, calligraphy, painting) envisages the “martisor” as a book with covers of handmade paper and pages of recycled paper containing poetry about spring. You can contact them at email@example.com or on their Facebook page. Their work can be found at Sophia Bookshop and the English Bookshop in Bucharest, and it’s also available for shipping.
Ionela Lungu – Figurines
Ionela Lungu is an artist, modeller in clay, photographer and wizard who brings to life figurines based on the characters of Ion Creanga. She charms with photographs of The Ozana River and stories from the Humulesti village. If we are really lucky we can meet her at fairs in Bucharest, Suceava and Iasi and hear her stories live.
Painted Gifts – wooden martisor
I know Andreea from the entrepreneurship courses we have attended together. We
haven’t got on well with the paperwork and financial tools, but our passion remained unscathed. She has always painted and the muse sometimes even visits her at night, with T-shirts, gift boxes, furniture and painted rooms as proof. She recently started painting martisor on ceramic, wood, fabric, some of them turning into fridge magnets. For orders contact her on her Facebook page Painted Gifts – Cadouri Pictate.
Village Signs – traditional martisor
I found their Facebook page with photographs of traditional stitches and crafts, which I recommend for their attention to detail. Orders can be placed via private Facebook messages on their page Semnele Satului.