Welcome to the Vade Mecum, a sort of guide book to the fanciful and curious worlds of D. Lieber. In this blog series, D. talks about all the little bits and bobs of research information she stumbled upon while writing her books. From folklore to mythology to science and history, it all finds a place here.
This time on the Vade Mecum, I'm going to talk about the hultan (pronounced whOOl-tahn), powerful sorcerers from Romanian folklore. I don't know if it's correct, but I use hultan as both singular and plural. I doubt it's correct actually.
I had a difficult time finding primary sources, even in translation, for these guys. I was not pleased, but *shrugs* what can you do?
According to my—*sigh* secondary—research, hultan are more commonly known as solomonari (solomonar for singular) in present day. But before they went and got Christianized, they were known as hultan or zgrimties (pronounced zgreem-tee-es).
When a human child is born with a certain sign on him (like a caul over his face), he may be chosen to learn magic from the hultan. He is taken to Crugul Pământului (pronounced KrOO-gool Pa-mUHN-too-loo-ee) to a special magic school until he is around twenty.
Hultan are said to be tall men in white with red hair. They are healers and can control the weather; they are particularly fond of hailstorms. Hultan can also summon and ride the balaur (prnounced bah-lAH-oor), a type of Romanian dragon, different from the zmeu. It is said that the hultan is invisible to human eyes while he's riding on this dragon.
Hultan take an oath of chastity, which if broken can cause them to lose their magic. Sometimes, they dress as beggars to test the hearts of men. This is fairly common across mythologies (Odin the wanderer, Zeus and Hermes as beggars). If they're given charity, that charity is rewarded. If spurned, they deliver punishment.
It is also said that they can speak all the languages of the world, and in some sources they can speak to animals. The people would often ask the hultan to help them with their great and powerful magics, equally feared and revered. That is, until Christianity swept across the region. Then, the hultan were demonized, their powers said to come from the devil.
Once again, Romanian folklore provided me with a wealth of information to include in my story. One of my male leads in my time travel fantasy romance Once in a Black Moon is a hultan. And I kept much of what I learned in my research.
His name is Mitica, and he is in fact the product of a fae and hultan coupling. That's right! His papa gave up his magic to be with Mitica's fae mother. Aww <3
Mitica has powers from both his parents. Stay tuned for my post on iele to find out about Mitica's fae magic. He is a healer, and it's a good thing too or my protagonist wouldn't have survived! In my story, Mitica performs magic mostly by chanting. He can control the weather, and he is very good at languages. Instaed of a balaur, Mitica's mixed parentage allows him to hold a zmeu in thrall. He is tall and has crimson hair.
If you took the time to click on the link to my book, you would have seen that Once in a Black Moon takes place in Canada. So what the heck is a Romanian fae/wizard doing there? Well, I'm glad you asked. Later, I'll be writing a post on western expansion in Canada. But right now, let's just stick with the basics: there were Romanians in western Canada at the time.
Now, let's get into the world building. In my world, magic is tied to wild nature. Because of all this "civilization" going around, magic is dying. Some Romanian immigrants discovered that this weakened magic was hurting the fae in Canada. So they sent word back to Romania asking for the hultan's help. In my story, I use the term zgrimties to refer to a sort of wizard council that rules the hultan. The zgrimties sent Mitica to Canada to try to help.
Mitica did attend the hultan school in Crugul Pământului, though it was a rough time for him, accepted by neither the hultan nor the fae. Still, they couldn't deny his magic, and they eventually each want to use him for their own means.
Well, that's about all I can tell you about Once in a Black Moon without spoiling the story. Powerful man who helps people (including our female protagonist)? Depressing backstory where his parents loved him, but he was still an outcast? Longing for someone to understand him? All-in-all we have a sad Superman archetype with a Romanian twist.
If you want to find out more about Mitica and my other Romanian characters, check out Once in a Black Moon.