By Nicky Rea
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Additional resources for A Guide to Transylvania
When they arrived in Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, they were divided into two groups, the laiesi (“members of the horde”), who were free to roam, and the uatrasi (“settled ones”), who became slaves. The vatrasi worked a s servants, grooms, cooks, farm hands, and musicians. Various tribes or families of vatrasi became attached to specific boyars or princes, serving them generation after generation and being offered some protection from persecution in return. Their lot was not a happy one, however.
It celebrates the practice of gathering all the sheep of the village into a single large flock prior to taking them into the mountains to their summer pasturage. Amazing amounts of food and drink are consumed at the festival and traditional songs and dances provide the entertainment. The shepherds who will be spending the long months until autumn in the lonely reaches of the mountain are honored and given the choicest delicacies among the feast foods. The Ploughman’s Festival was once practiced throughout the region, but by the end of the nineteenth century it only survives in southern Transylvania.
The only ones among these who comprise a significant portion of the population are the Gypsies and the Jews. Once past an initial distrust, the people are generally warm hearted and concerned for the well being of travelers from afar. They do, however, live with the guidance of ancient knowledge and use charms and folk remedies that Westerners cannot hope to understand without experiencing the reality for themselves. Therefore, they are often cautious around strangers, occasionally seeming stand-offish or even hostile until the visitor has proven to be harmless.