Artwork by Radu Năstase @ Magic Mushroom Studios, made for chaosmatriarch.wordpress.com
Sorry for the delay, both Radu and I are extremely busy. However, he did a wonderful job, as always, and I literally owe him an arm and a leg.
Muma Pădurii (lit. mother of the woods) is, perhaps, the most famous creature in Romanian mythology. You can find her in a plethora of folk and fairy tales, playing the role of a forest guardian.
In some areas of Romania, she appears as a crone, with wrinkled skin that is peculiarly similar to tree bark. In other areas, her natural appearance is that of a very beautiful woman. However, she is a shape shifter in both cases, assuming any form she desires.
She lives in the darkest depths of forests, making tree hollows her home. In Țara Hațegului it is believed that in each forest there is a thick twig with many smaller, tangled branches. That particular twig, and the bush it grows in belong to Muma Pădurii. If one takes it home and burns it, his house will burn down and he will have quarrels in his family ( I would be kind of pissed off too, if my house burned down, so I guess the quarreling part is kinda logical here).
She has very quiet children, which sleep all the time, because she steals the sleep from human children and gives it to her own. Otherwise, they would be very detestable.
She takes care of trees, breastfeeding them as a mother breastfeeds her children. She governs their destinies, she is the one who decides which tree will live and which will be cut down.
Muma Pădurii seeks to scare people to death, but the latter can defend themselves by making the sign of the cross ( the always present demonized pagan beliefs). She often lures passers by by crying. If one asks her about the reasons for her tears, she will say she’s hungry. If one gives her something to eat, she will leave you alone. It is said that feeding her stops world hunger.
She steals human children, replacing them with her own. However, this myth is not to be found only in Romanian folklore ( see changeling). To stop this, women from Transylvania leave a broom and scissors to guard their children.
Seems that Muma Pădurii sometimes abandons her tree nurturing activities for more gruesome stuff. She has a specific role on the otherside: she makes the women who gave birth out of wedlock , and then killed their babies, eat their own children. Over and over again.
You can find spirits similar to Muma Pădurii in other mythologies as well. The Serbians believe in a spirit manifesting itself as a beautiful girl who charms young men and then turns them into beasts. She is said to be the daughter of Muma Pădurii. The German minority from Romania call her Buschmutter. The Polish have the Dzivozony and Mamuny boginki, spirits similar to Dryads. Anyone who has played The Witcher knows what I’m talking about.
Source: Tudor Pamfile, Mitologie Românească, Ed. Grai, Bucharest 2000
Coming soon: Zburătorul