While the Wolf has no less than 35 days during the year in which it is celebrated, the Bear has only two: the 2nd of February and the 1st of August. These two days divide the year in two perfect halves – when the great change in the wheel takes place.
Bearing the same duality as all the other symbols in the Dacian mythology, the bear has a chtonic characteristic and an uranian one. It also has a female side, as well as a male one. He is the bringer of spring/light/warmth and the one who brings fall/dark/cold.
The Bear-Goddess was celebrated and worshiped all over Europe, by our knowledge, since the neolithic. Many settlements in Central Europe have taken their name from the Bear-Goddess, to go no farther, the capital of Switzerland, Berna, took it’s name from Bar=bear. Many relics have been found by archeologists, depicting the Bear Mother Goddess. The female bear gives birth to it’s cubs at the end of January – beginning of February. She has nothing to eat, and is asleep when the cubs are born, and relies only on her own reserves of fat to nourish them – such does Mother Nature, preserve the seeds in it’s bossom, and while asleep in times of winter, she nourishes them to life.
The male side of the bear is the warrior – he protects against evil, and makes children grow strong and healthy. In parts of Transylvania (the “hearth” of the ancient Dacian empire) newborns are given a teaspoon of bear fat, to grow strong as bears. Children who have been scared are smudged with bear hair. Bear teeth are worn as talismans of protection and givers of strength and courage.
The most important to observe on the day of the bear is the divinatory characteristic. In Romanian, bear is “urs”. The fates are named “ursitoare” – another analogy to the Great Mother, the one who keeps in her hands our lives. As in the US there is the “groundhog day” to predict the weather, in Europe is the Bear who predicts it. It is said that if the bear comes out of it’s den and sees it’s shadow, he goes back, for that means that the winter will last, with cold and snows, for another 6 weeks. If the bear doesn’t see it’s shadow, he stays out and starts foraging, for the winter is at the time to pass. There is also another duality – the Winter Bear and the Summer Bear, each wrestling to change or not change the season.
~ Videos: Celebration of the Bear Day in Romania, present time. The gathering on the streets, and the big celebration in the town's plaza ~