It happens for thousands of years in Romania’s forests.
In the dead of full-moon nights, young girls dance naked in frighteningly dark forests around the herb “of life and death”. This is how historian of religions Mircea Eliade named the nightshade (Atropa belladonna). In the folk tradition it is called the „empress”, „ the forest’s grass”, „the wolf’s cherry” or the „grand dame”.
It grows in the dark, deep forests and blossoms in June and July. Before picking up its leaves, girls lie on top of each other, imitating the sexual act. This extremly poisonous plant is credited for its magical virtues: It’s connected to love, fertility, wealth, but has a double power that can be directed towards good or bad deeds.
According to Dumitru Iuga, researcher at the Center for Folk Creation in Maramures, this ancient ritual is still practiced in Maramures today, where the nightshade is picked up for love, depression, marriage, dancing, or alchoolism.
“In field research, the people I investigated were not ready to admit they picked up or used the nightshade. Picking up and using it has a private character due to the belief that exposure leads to the loss of efficiency and even brings bad luck to the persons involved”, says professor Nicolae Bot, from University „Babes Bolyai”. The best time of the year for picking is between Easter and the Ascension Day.
Digging it up is being done according to a ritual in which sexual purity, courtesy, secrecy, loneliness are absolutely required. The plant has to be rewarded with salt, sugar, wine and is picked up in someone’s behalf.