During the period of July to December 2023, in Câmpulung, at the ethnography section of the Municipal Museum, you can explore and admire the exhibition “The Symbolism of the Grapevine Motif in Romanian Folk Art.”
In ancient traditions, the grapevine has been associated with the Tree of Life. In Sumerian culture, the symbol for “life” was a grapevine leaf. In the ancient Hebrew tradition, the vine symbolized beauty, power, and utility. Yahweh was considered the “creator of life,” and Israel was seen as his vine. The grapevine signifies immortality, a concept reflected in the ornamentation and iconography of various cultures.
Romanians attribute a sacred origin to the grapevine, intertwining it in legends with the blood shed from the wounds of the Savior: “In His side they pierced, / Blood and water flowed. / From blood and water / The grapevine — A grape; / From grape – wine, / The blood of the Lord for Christians” (T. Pamfile, Autumn Festivals, 16). The cultivation of the grapevine is considered a highly sacred activity. In Moldova, it’s believed that one must work in the vineyard for 7 years, refraining from anger or curses, even if injured. This sacrifice is believed to bring forgiveness for sins and secure entry into heaven.
The Romanian folk calendar includes several festivals dedicated to the grapevine: St. Trifon Armindenul, Sânzienele, and Cristovul of the vineyards (September 14, the beginning of the harvest). These celebrations are accompanied by rituals of protection and encouragement of growth and fruitfulness, including blessings performed by priests.
The symbolism of the grapevine is also tied to wine, a drink that is simultaneously sacred and demonic. Wine has been associated with blood and integrated into sacred ceremonies and rituals. The Old Testament provides ample evidence of the importance of viticulture among the Jews. Wine was collected in leather bags or clay vessels buried in the ground, served during major communal celebrations and rites of passage. It symbolized the blood of the Savior in the Christian Communion. Considered to originate from the celestial realm, wine was linked to cosmic fire and absolute knowledge. Representing a masculine essence, wine was attributed with the power of fertility and transformation. Wine occupies a central position as a symbol of immortality and eternal youth in the cult of Dionysos (or Bacchus). In Egyptian culture, Osiris taught people how to cultivate both wheat and the grapevine.
In our culture, the origins of wine and the grapevine are intertwined with the blood shed from the wounds of the Savior.
Wine, as a source of mystical ecstasy, symbolizes the transformation of the vegetal into a spiritual force. It remains a source of stimulation and even a symbol of poetic inspiration, joy, love, and truth (“in vino veritas”). Like any cultural symbol, wine has a darker side. In the Old Testament, it is associated with “unrestrained speech,” “loss of reason,” “misjudgments,” and more. The Dionysian orgy is essentially “the realm where the Devil meets God, where hell glimpses heaven, where earth connects with the sky, where the dead interact with the living, where evil intertwines with good, where the ugly merges with the beautiful, where error intertwines with truth…”.