Folklore Friday: The Merry Cemetery
This week's Folklore Friday is going to focus more on weird news than folklore per se, but we're still looking back at my time in Transylvania. Another stop on my tour included the famous Merry Cemetery--the epitome of dark humor.
In the Cimitirul Vesel, aka Merry Cemetery, your tombstone features a picture and limerick describing your life and/or death. Some are sweet and some aren't for the faint of heart. You can quickly go from giggling to nervous, uneasy laughter.
They range from funny poems like:
Sub această cruce grea Zace biata soacră-mea Trei zile de mai trăia Zăceam eu și cetea ea. Voi care treceți pă aici Incercați să n-o treziți Că acasă dacă vine Iarăi cu gura pă mine Da așa eu m-oi purta Că-napoi n-a înturna Stai aicea dragă soacră-mea
Under this heavy cross Lies my poor mother in-law Three more days should she have lived I would lie, and she would read (this cross). You, who here are passing by Not to wake her up please try Cause' if she comes back home She'll criticise me more. But I will surely behave So she'll not return from grave. Stay here, my dear mother in-law!
To more serious epitaphs with phrases like, "Ioan Toaderu loved horses. One more thing he loved very much. To sit at a table in a bar. Next to someone else’s wife." This one darkly depicts a a skeleton dragging the man down as he drinks himself to death.
The Merry Cemetery is located in the small town of Săpânţa, Romania and boasts hundreds of these tombstones--all "Săpânţa blue" and featuring poems and paintings.
It all began with Săpânţa local, Stan Ioan Pătraş, when he first started carving his signature tombstones in 1935. After that, he went on to hand-carve, hand-paint, and write the poems for over 800 more in his lifetime. When the time came for him to pass on, in 1977, he made his own personal cross and left his work to his apprentice Dumitru Pop--who has continued his mentor's work and even built a museum for the cemetery out of Pătraș' old home.
So while there's not particularly eerie lore or legends about the cemetery, it still gives you chills just to be there. You never know what you'll end up seeing--a child drowning, a woman getting hit by a car, a man beheaded by a soldier--all neatly painted on colorful, blue crosses, as if pulled from a book of twisted fairytales.