MARTOR no. 28 / year 2023

The Magical Power of Căluș Against Ieleʼs Possession in Dolj County

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Mihaela (Marin) Călinescu
Romanian Book and Exile Museum in Craiova, Romania

Mihaela Călinescu is Research Assistant at the Romanian Book and Exile Museum in Craiova. She obtained her PhD in 2019 and published her thesis (Căluș from Dolj County, Ethno-anthropological Approach) in 2022. She conducted fieldwork on the Căluș stick dance in Dolj County, Sântoader rituals, and food heritage in Oltenia area and in Bulgarian Timok, in the “FOODie” project. Mihaela produced the documentary film Călușul from Dolj County. She worked as a researcher at the West University of Timișoara in the “FOODie” research grant. Her areas of interest include ethnology, folklore, anthropology, memoir writings, culinary heritage in the Oltenia area, cultural studies, diaspora identities, and exile correspondence.

PAGES: 147-163

KEYWORDS: Iele’s possession; Căluș ritual; healing magic; Rusalii; “taken by the Căluș”; luatul din Căluș; sick person.


Analyzing the female mythological beings Iele [They], we follow the theoretical body of work opened by Mircea Eliade, Anca Giurchescu, and Bogdan Neagota. It is important to observe the period when Iele are very active, that is the transitional period between Strodul Rusaliilor (celebrated in spring) and Rusalii [Pentecost] that is seven weeks after the Orthodox Christian Easter. The paper investigates the relationship between Căluș dance, Iele, and people who fall ill under their spell. The article explores the Căluș ritual, especially the practice of healing the person luat din Căluș [“taken by Iele”], which is a neurological disorder. In Dolj County, healing relates with trance when the illness of the sick person is transferred to a călușar who is “knocked down.” The enactment of “death and resurrection,” the rhythm of the dance, the bells, the use of prophylactic plants, and the sticks are specific elements of the ritual. I analyse the particularities of the “death and resurrection” (recuperarea din transă) episode and the magical rite it is part of in different groups of călușari in Dolj County.


Călinescu (Marin), Mihaela. 2023. “The Magical Power of Căluș Against Iele’s Possession in Dolj County.” Martor 28: 147-163. [DOI: 10.57225/martor.2023.28.10]

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Back to summary of Martor no. 28 / Year 2023