Author Archives: Nick

Politics of representation, identity and minorities as portrayed through local dance in the Banat Region

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This paper will examine the politics of representation and identity as portrayed through dance by the co-located ethnicities in the Banat region of Romania using three main parameters, the ‘representation’ that the dancing is portraying, the context in which the dancing takes place and the adaption of the dancing to the context. Theoretically it drawn on Barth’s work on ethnic identities, Hall’s “counter politics of the local and Harrison’s expressive differentiation through “symbolic practices. Through ethnographic examples from the authors’ fieldwork among the co-located ethnicities it reveals that in social contexts local dances predominate, whereas as in presentational contexts the material presented ranges from presentations of local dances of their ethnicity, to drawing on their national ‘image’.

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (2019 (TBC)) Politics of representation, identity and minorities as portrayed through local dance in the Banat Region. Sandor Varga (editor), 30th Symposium ICTM study group on ethnochoreology. Szeged, Hungary.

Crazy week, the disorganised and the organised: Fǎrșang and “inverted” weddings in the Banat mountains

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During crazy week (the week in which lent commences) carnivalesque events, in various manifestations, take place in many villages in Banat. The commonalities between these events are that they focus around local music, dance and customs and only local people are involved. Although each event may be nominally organised by a particular ethnicity the participants include people from all the co-located ethnicities. This paper is based on fieldwork undertaken at carnivalesque events between 2016 and 2019 supplemented by informal conversations with locals, local media reports, published articles and videos of events. Drawing on anthropological theory, the authors propose that these events are liminal times within the annual calendar, marking the transition between the end of the winter and the beginning (re-birth) of spring that both draw from, and contribute, to the realities of the contemporary societies in which they take place.

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (2020 (TBC)) Crazy week, the disorganised and the organised: Fǎrșang and “inverted” weddings in the Banat mountains. Tvrtko Zebec (editor), ICTM study group on music and dance in south east Europe. Sinj, Croatia.

Saints’ days celebrations (ruga) in Banat – community participation, dance, music and good times

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The celebration of the day of patron saint of the local church is a custom that is widespread among Christians in various parts of the world. In the plain and mountain areas of Romanian Banat this day is referred to as ruga (plural ruge), literally meaning to pray. These customary events are local community participatory festivals in the sense that they include both active and passive participants, the former join in the dancing, the latter sit and watch whilst socialising with relatives and friends. Although these events are primarily held on calendrical days fixed according to the patron saint of a specific church they are in most cases attended by representatives of the many ethnicities and confessions that live together in the Banat region.

This paper examines saint’s day celebrations in Banat as one of the prime community events where music and dancing takes place. It draws on the authors’ fieldwork undertaken at saint’s day celebrations in Romanian Banat where they observed the similarities and differences in these events. Their research is supplemented by drawing on reports from local media on ruge, historical accounts, and conversations with locals. They draw the conclusion that over the time the concept of the celebration of ruge has been maintained although the precise details of the events have changed over time as these celebrations have adapted to meet the needs of present day communities while retaining their function as participatory community celebrations.

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (2020 (TBC)) Saints’ days celebrations (ruga) in Banat – community participation, dance, music and good times Acta Ethnografica Hungarica.

Dancing for the dead – Joc/Hora de pomană

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At Easter in 2013 we took part in a ‘fieldwork experience’ with the ‘ICTM Ethnochoreology sub study group for field research’ in the village of Svinița[1] on the Danube Gorge in southern Banat. This trip was organised by our Serbian colleague, Selena Rakočević, from the Institute of Musicology in Belgrade, with our assistance, and we were very honoured that our friend, the doyenne of Romanian ethnochoreology, Anca Giurchescu was able to join us.

As part of this trip we observed, and took part in, the custom of joc/hora de pomană during the ‘bal’ held on the second day of Easter. This experience led to our wider interest in similar customs that involve dedicating a dance for a deceased person. Our subsequent research revealed that this custom is still common in the area of the southern Banat mountains, the counties of Mehedinți and south western Dolj, in north eastern Serbia and northern Bulgaria along the Danube.

Joc de pomana Svinița

Beyond our fieldwork, our ethnographic research draws from informal interviews and personal communications, written sources, local on-line news articles, and an extensive (and ongoing) review of YouTube videos of local community events in Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. This village by village YouTube search of events such as weddings, christenings and saints day celebrations has enabled the contextualisation of the elements of the ‘dancing for the dead’ customs within the local social dance repertoire. Following our observation that this can take place within many local bals, over time we have discovered that the inclusion of this custom is often not mentioned in the video titles but can be seen as part of the event.

The custom

Anca Giurchescu recording the custom in Svinița

The custom of dedicating a dance for a person who has passed away usually takes place within, or at the start of, an existing social occasion that includes local music, song and dance. This custom often takes place during the celebration of the village saint (known as ruga in Banat), with the most common days being the second day of Easter or at Rusali (fifty days after Easter), or at local ‘bals’ held on other (non-ruga) occasions (as was the case in Svinita in 2013), but also can be included during life cycle events such as weddings or baptisms as a symbolic way of including a family member who can no longer be present.

This custom is referred to by a variety of terms, depending on the location. These terms include joc / hora (or ora) de pomană, sârba de pomană, hora morților (in Romanian language), Хорото на мъртвите (in Bulgarian) or namenivanie, namenjuvanje, Igra za Bog da prost, kolo za mrtvе delenje ora, Kolo za Pomanu, or Kolo za secanje (in Serbian).

Props

Certain objects are integral to all rituals involving giving alms (pomana) to the dead such as candles to light the way to the other world and food and drink for the journey. For dedicating a dance to the deceased these props include candles and scarves, bottles of plum brandy and ritual bread (colaci) (sometimes with twigs or tree branches inserted in them), and sweet cakes with nut paste (coliva) or plates of homemade cakes.

The props are brought to the dance location in baskets by the female relatives who hand each participant a candle, and towels or scarves that the dancers hold between their joined hands while they dance.

In Svinița in 2013 three bottles of plum brandy (țuica), three plates of homemade cakes, and three bundles of candles wrapped in scarves were held by the key relatives, one of whom led the line of dances, the second at the tail end and a third in the middle of the line.

In certain locations in the Oltenian region of southern Romania and south of the Danube in north eastern Serbia this custom is more elaborate, in particularly on occasions where the deceased was a young unmarried person. Portraits of the deceased are carried by the mourners, and towels decorated with items that would be useful to the deceased in their afterlife, including food, sweets, small mirrors, ribbons, and various trinkets that are hung on poles making a vertical icon.

Hora de pomana for Anca Giurchescu (1930-2015)

The dance or dances used for the custom of dedicating a dance to the dead are usually the first dance in the local community dance cycle from that particular region which is usually the slowest dance. In the Banat mountains this is often brâul, elsewhere is hora. After this dance is played the dancers stand still holding their lit candles and the musicians play a doina (known as doina de pomană) in memory of the deceased family member. Then as the song ends and the next tune starts the dancing recommences following the usual sequence of dances for the specific zone.

Geographic and ethnographic

Our fieldwork and ethnographic research has identified locations where this custom takes place.

It is interesting for us that the custom appears to be both in the mountain areas of southern Banat, across the Danube in north east Serbia, and Mehedinti county, plus the Danubian plains in Timoc, southern Oltenia and northern Bulgaria. Regions that are most often considered as ethnographical separated as “Banat” “Oltenia” and “Vlach”. It is certain that there have been population movements over history, but there also appears to be an underlying unity, not only in this custom, but it is also in the form of the basic social dance.

Our publications

Mellish, Liz (2014) An outsider’s view of an interethnic community in Banat: culture and identity in the village of Svinița. European Review of Applied Sociology, 7. Page 16–25.

Mellish, Liz (2015) Joc de pomană : dance for commemorating the dead in Svinița and beyond. Rakočević, Selena & Mellish, Liz (editors) Dance, field research and intercultural perspectives: the Easter customs in the village of Svinița, pages 61–90. Pančevo, Serbia: Selena Rakočević, Kulturi centar Pančevo.

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (2015) Writing ethnography from local to regional and backward (revisiting) : Practices commemorating the dead through dancing in Romanian Banat villages. Dunin, Elsie Ivancich (editor) Dance, narratives, heritage: 28th symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethochoreology, 7–17 July 2014, Korčula, Croatia 2014, pages 9–14. Zagreb, Croatia: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research; ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology

Carnival (fărșang/fășanc) in Banat

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Carnivalesque events known as fășanc, fărșang or fășang, nunta cornilor take place in Banat during the week preceding the start of the pre-Easter fasting, postul mare, (the precise week depending on catholic or orthodox calendars). These events mark the transition between the end of the winter and the beginning (re-birth) of spring and include formal organized and informal (somewhat disorganised) events, involving bawdy behaviour, masked characters visiting houses, “inverted” weddings, and mock funerals. The participants generally include many of the co-located ethnicities, although the organisers may be from one specific identity.

Fărșang in Goruia

On the Banat plain fărșang events are mainly organised by the catholics – German, Hungarians and Bulgarians. These events are mostly formal indoor events and include an organised performance with satirical playlets, and a children’s mask or fancy dress competition, generally followed by a communal meal and social dancing.

Each location has a bundle of customary elements

In southern Banat, in the ethnographic zones of the Caraș valley and the Danube Gorge, carnival events also known as fărșang are organised by both catholic and orthodox observers. These events include various masked characters visiting houses in the village and processions with mock weddings and funerals. In the upper-Timiș region masked characters also go from house to house. In these villages they are known as Babele (old ladies) or Berbecii (rams). In villages in the Almăj valley the pre-Lenten events include inverted weddings (nunta cornilor), masked processions and burial of the fărșang. All these daytime events are usually followed in the evening by an indoor masked ball , which may include a competition for the ‘best’ mask, and dancing by the masked revellers.


Green are known as fărșang, yellow are cornilor events, red and brown are the other traditions.

Our research

Nunta cornilor in Bănia

Our research into carnival events in Banat started in 2016 with colleagues from the ‘ICTM Ethnochoreology sub study group for field research’ when we visited the village of Bǎnia in the Almăj valley of the Banat mountains and Grebenac (Grebenaț) on Caraș valley in Serbian Banat (the latter in parallel to our research into cǎlușeri in Banat). During the following years we have attended a selection of local events during carnaval period (in Bǎnia, Moldova Noua, Goriua, Grebenaț, Eftimu Murgu etc.) We have supplemented our fieldwork with information from informal conversations with locals, local media reports, published literature and videos of events.

Our publications

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (TBC). Crazy week, the disorganised and the organised: Fǎrșang and “inverted” weddings in the Banat mountains. Tvrtko Zebec, Liz Mellish (editors), ICTM study group on music and dance in south east Europe. Sinj, Croatia: ICTM.

Saint’s day celebrations (Ruga and Nedeia) in Banat

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The annual celebration of the patron saint’s day for the local church is widespread. Within southeast Europe these celebrations mostly follow similar formats. These celebrations are known as ruga (plural ruge) in Banat, or in the Banat mountains also as nedeia (spelt in various ways). Ruge in Banat usually take place in the period between Easter and the beginning of November. The most popular dates are Rusali (50 days after Easter), and Sf. Maria Mare (15th August). Other popular dates include Sf. Maria Mic (8th September), Sf. Ilie (21 July) and Sf. Petru si Pavel (30th June).

Ruga sârbească Foeni

Our research

Ruga Topolovățu Mic

Our first ruga was in May 2007 when we were invited to the village of Ghiroda by our friends Laita and Dusa. In the following years we went to a number of other ruga and village days in the area close to Timișoara, and since 2016 during summer weekends we tour the events throughout Banat, so far amassing over 100 experiences of ruge, village days (zilele) and similar events. For comparison we have been to a number of village events in the regions adjacent to Banat, and further afield in the northern Bulgaria counties of Vidin, Montana, Vratsa and Veliko Turnovo.

In the local context, these events are advertised via Facebook, reported in the local press, and shared on social media and YouTube, and these sources provide both information about when events will take place and what happens during the events. The historical context for our research is provided by published monographs and local histories, local archives especially http://www.memoriabanatului.ro/, local press, old photographs, and formal and informal interviews.

Ruga Cutea

Our Ruge research focuses on the community event (rather than the details of the religious aspects), and the “participation”, especially the dancing and dancing people, placing this in the context of the event as an occasion for reunions and meetings with eating and drinking, some organized performances by local groups, and food and trinket stalls and fairground rides.

Our publications

Mellish, Liz & Green, Nick (2020 (TBC)) Saints’ days celebrations (ruga) in Banat – community participation, dance, music and good times Acta Ethnografica Hungarica.

A sciency look at dancing the Romanian way: physics of the movement of the centre-of-mass

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2018 science approaches Graz

This analysis is based on a comparison of my particular experience of two dance cultures-western classical dance training and participation in Romanian traditional dance. I discuss aspects of movement of the centre-of-mass based on a consideration of vertical and lateral movement in the context of very fast stepped dances that are typical of the traditional dances of southeastern Europe (often known as “Balkan dancing”). These are community dances where the group of dancers are physically connected by various forms of hand holds so that there is little freedom for an individual interpretation of macro-movements. These chain dances can be walking dances, such as the Romanian Hora, where the basic step is just walking at a slow 80 to 120 steps per minute, and “running” dances where the steps are far more rapid.

Green, Nick (2019). “A Sciency Look at Dancing the Romanian Way: Physics of the Movement of the Centre-of-Mass “. Kendra Stepputat and Christopher S Dick (editors), Symposium on Scientific Approaches in Sound and Movement Research 2018 – Extended Abstracts:33–40. Düren, Austria: Shaker Verlag.

Three marriages of Major Simpson (born 1794)

1817 Major Simpson marries Mary Davy

Major Simpson married Mary Davy in Otley 18-Feb-1817. I am related to the Davy family descended from Francis Davy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Major Simpson
b 1744
Weston
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mary Davy
b 1796
Major Simpson
b 1794
d 1871
 
 
 
 
 
 
Henry Davy
b 1808
d 1813
Francis Davy
b 1812
d 1878
Sarah Simpson
b 1817
 
 
 
 

1823 Major Simpson marries Diana Weggen

Marriage record for 27-April-1823 in Shoreditch, London. They live in Otley and had four children with Diana, all born in Otley.

 
 
 
 
Diana Weggen
b 1804
Major Simpson
b 1794
 
 
 
 
 
 
Henry Simpson
b 1825
Samuel Simpson
b 1828
Margaret Simpson
b 1829
Jane Jemina Simpson
b 1831
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mary Jane Simpson
b 1866
 
 
 
 

Between 1831 and 1834 his life seems to have difficult times. Jane is born in April and in August his grocers business partnership in Otley “Simpson and Jackson” partnership is dissolved, his wife Diana dies in February 1834 and he seems to have delayed christening Jane Jemina until October 1935 when she is aged 4, when he is re-married and the next child is christened.

Diana dies aged 30 and buried 27-Feb-1834 in Otley, so she was born around 1804. The only near birth record for Diana is Diana Waggon, born 1802 in Barking Essex, but this is 2 years difference in birth year and the wrong area of London.

1834 Major Simpson marries Jane Bollans

Major Simpson marries Jane Bollans of York 19-Oct-1834 in Otley parish church. Major’s profession is given as a “grocer”. Jane was born 1807 in York, christened 18-Jan 1807 in York to parents Francis and Elizabeth.

Living first in Halifax they have five children.

 
 
 
 
Jane Bollans
b 1807
Major Simpson
b 1794
 
 
 
 
Frank Simpson
b 1835
Elisa Simpson
b 1839
Major Simpson
b 1837
d 1866
William Simpson
b 1840
Mathew Simpson
b 1841
 
 

Then in Horton (Bradford) another three children.

 
 
 
 
Jane Bollans
b 1807
Major Simpson
b 1794
 
 
 
 
 
 
Charles Simpson
b 1841
Mary Simpson
b 1845
John Simpson
b 1847
 
 
 
 

The 1841 census gives address as Victoria Street, Horton, Bradford. All children from last two marriages are present apart from Henry born 1825 (would be aged 16). The 1851 census gives address as 4 Queen Street, Bradford, Major Simpson’s occupation “assistant grocer”. Children of working age are “spiner (worsted)”. Jane dies in Feb-1866 aged 59. This entry gives Major as grocer in Upper Thomas Street, Horton. Major Simpson dies 1871 in Bradford.

Following their parents deaths the family is headed by daughter Margaret Simpson, all living at Franklin Street, Horton, Bradford. John Simpson is married to Sarah Ann born 1849 in Horton with their children Charles M Simpson born 1870, Clara born 1873, Margaret born 1876, Mary born 1879. If this is “Frank Street, Horton” the houses are only two room back-to-back houses!

Francis Davy born 1812

Possibly the second illegitimate son of a teenage mother, who a few years later marries just before a daughter is born.

My grandfather documented the family information that he was a “Woolcomber”, location Normanton and his name is on the wedding certificate for his son Christopher Davy and Rosetta Beech. Census data gives that he was born 1812, in Haverah Park, Yorkshire. He marries Martha Smith in 1837, and died 1878 in Wharfedale.

This page covers a possible parentage based on the only historical information that seems to fit the known facts. I would be interested if anyone else is researching the Davy and Simpson families from Oltey.

 
 
 
 
Mary Davy
b 1796
Major Simpson
b 1794
 
 
 
 
 
 
Henry Davy
b 1808
d 1813
Francis Davy
b 1812
d 1878
Sarah Simpson
b 1817
 
 
 
 

1812 Francis Davy christening

Haverah Park was a 12th century medieval park lying within the Forest of Knaresborough with a royal hunting lodge known as John of Gaunt’s Castle. From the late 18th century enclosure and by the 19th century it was an area of farming tenants on one of the few areas continuing the royal status and exempt from local taxes. There is no village or church in the park area.

The only documented christening of a Francis Davy is at is at Leathley, which is the closest village church to Haverah Park. Francis Davy – born 07-April-1812, christening 26-April-1812, mother’s name Mary and “illegitimate”. Possibly Mary was aged around 17 years if the later marriage is correct.

This also gives a possible younger brother christened at Leathley as Henry Davy, born 17-Feb-1808, christened 28-Feb-1808, mother’s name Mary and illegitimate, and does not give any profession for Mary, potentially Mary was aged 13 years.

Henry probably died 21-May-1813, aged 5 years. This is recorded in Otley suggesting Mary had possibly left her parents’ home at aged 17 and was now located in Otley, in the same town as her future husband.

1817 Major Simpson marries Mary Davy

There is no further record of “Mary Davy” in census or death data, so it looks most probably that she married Major Simpson in Otley 18-Feb-1817 aged 21.

This gives her birth year as 1796, and Major Simpson as 1796, both residents of Otley. I cannot find a birth record for Mary Davy as the name is too common in the wider area without further information and there are no other Otley area possibilities. Birth records give Major’s christening date as 3-Aug-1794 making him 23 year at time of marriage, and his father was also called Major Simpson. Her marriage could explain how Francis found a good position in life as a “woolcomber” rather than ending up in poverty with a single mother.

Major Simpson and Mary have another child, Sarah Simpson born 17-Apr 1817 and christened 3-Aug-1817 so Mary was 7 month pregnant when they married. His profession is given as “Husband man”. One wonders if the previous sons were his, so was Major Simpson the father of Francis Davy?

Major Simpson marries again in 1823, marrying a Diana Weggen, a Londoner in Shoreditch which seems unusually far from Otley.

The question is what happened to Mary? There is no death record in the Otley parish. The options are:

  1. Born 1795, died 1823 at Northallerton, which is in north Yorkshire.
  2. 1826 accidental death in Chadderton Lancashire, but reported in Leeds paper.
  3. 1831 arrest for vagrancy in Leeds.

Whichever option is correct it seems that she had separated from Major Simpson by 1823. If she had died in Otley while still with Major Simpson this would have been recorded in the home town of Otley.

Family trees

If anyone researching their family thinks there could be a link please e-mail us info (at) eliznik.org.uk