Lady’s bedstraw


Lady’s bedstraw (Sânziene) bloom in the heart of the summer calendar, at the climax of light when the sun spends the longest time in the sky, filling everything with its energy. It is said that during this solstice, all plants acquire miraculous powers. For a moment, time stands still, the sun halts in the sky, and all plants pause for a second in their growth. It’s the time when Sânziene-fairies emerge, fairies dance, Drăgaica is celebrated, and witches gather healing herbs. After this, summer slowly yields to winter, and day turns into night.

Galium verum – lady’s bedstraw is a herbaceous, perennial plant with tiny yellow-gold flowers, growing in meadows, on the edge of forests, in plain and mountain areas bathed in sunlight. People call it various names: yellow lady’s bedstraw, daisy, yellow bedstraw, field lady’s bedstraw, or simply lady’s bedstraw. It is also known as “sânzuiană” in Transylvania, “sâmziană” in Banat, “drăgaică” or “sânjuoane” in Wallachia. Additionally, during the summer solstice, another plant, white-bedstraw (Gallium mollugo), is collected and used in various customs, sometimes replacing the yellow lady’s bedstraw. In some places, lady’s bedstraw are also referred to as “drăgaică” or “flower of drăgaică.” Other plants, such as sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), crosswort (Galium cruciatum), and woodland bedstraw (Galium schultesii), are also associated with lady’s bedstraw during this time. (Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română)

Flowers and Fairies

Sânziene, also known as fairies, are said to roam the earth or float through the air on the days close to the summer solstice, singing and dancing across fields and forests. They can be either good or mischievous, with the power to afflict those who don’t honor them on this day. Both the flowers and the fairies are celebrated on the same day, making it impossible to separate one from the other. In many places, June 24th is also called Drăgaica Day, and there, the lady’s bedstraw flowers are called drăgaică or drăgaică flowers.

It is said that lady’s bedstraw flowers bloom on the night of Sânziene, between June 23rd and 24th, along with other magical plants like beast’s grass and fern. The flowers collected on this night possess much greater healing power than at any other time of the year. That’s why women go out to gather lady’s bedstraw, garlic, chicory, thyme, white clover, and tansy. The fairies – Sânziene, Drăgaica, Ielele, Vântoasele, or Rusaliile – guide those who have honored and recognized their powers, pointing out the beneficial healing plants. (Antoaneta Olteanu, Calendarele poporului român)

In summers when lady’s bedstraw bloom later, it is said that vegetables and crops are not as advanced.

Drăgana’s Lady’s Bedstraw

Drăgaica/Sânzienele is a feminine celebration, intended to attract positive energies for girls and women. On this day, a ritual dance, similar to the Căluș dance, is performed, where the masculine leader is a cross-dressed girl called Drăgan, the partner of Drăgana. Embraces and kisses between the two are obligatory gestures in this ritual. In the Drăgaică groups, the girl portraying Drăgana is dressed as a bride, wearing a wreath made of lady’s bedstraw flowers on her head. “During the wedding ceremony, the goddess inserts grains of wheat and the scent of healing plants, healing the illnesses and sufferings of people, especially children’s illnesses, protecting the crops from storms, hail, and blessing the girls for marriage.” (Antoaneta Olteanu, Calendarele poporului român)

Wreath of Lady’s bedstraw

Lady’s bedstraw flowers also had a prophetic function, and people turned to it every year on the day of Sânziene or the night before. Those who wished to learn their fate would weave a wreath of lady’s bedstraw, using it in various contexts. This custom was widespread across the country and practiced by all members of a community—young girls, elderly women, men, and children alike. Young girls, however, were the ones who most frequently sought guidance from the lady’s bedstraw wreath, as they needed to know quickly if and when they would marry or if their destined partner would be handsome or not. In the worst case, they could learn that they would die soon or remain unmarried and alone. (Antoaneta Olteanu, Calendarele poporului român)

The wreath was thrown above the house—either jumping high, going down, or getting caught on the roof; it could catch on a hook; be placed by wells; put near cattle or horses; the flowers could stay fresh or wither; strands of hair could be caught in them or not. A wreath that jumps high foretells good things, marriage, or a long life, while one that falls predicts death.

Girls wake up on the day of Sânziene/Drăgaică and go to the meadows to collect lady’s bedstraw before sunrise. They bring them home and weave several wreaths, which they then throw onto the roof of the house. The girl whose wreath jumps high will marry, the one whose wreath remains caught on the roof will have a long life, and the girl whose wreath falls to the ground will die soon.

“Sânziană, chosen flower,
Make me a bride soon, this hour.
Show me my fortune’s decree,
What’s from God, reveal to me,
As it is, so I may see.

Let me find in the morning light,
On this little wreath in sight,
Hair of that creature kind,
With whom good luck I’ll find.
May I find a man’s long hair,
Married or not, with fate to wear,
For from the front of his hair,
His face and fortune I’ll declare.”
(Bucovina, Simion Florea Marian)

Girls gather lady’s bedstraw, securing them at their waist or in their hair, and during the night, they dream about their future husband. Others place lady’s bedstraw wreaths under their pillows to dream about their destined one.

Girls place a wreath on the house, along with a pretzel and a few pieces of sugar. The next day, the sugar and pretzel are gone, but in the wreath, strands of human hair are caught. It is believed that the Fates (Ursitoarele) bring the hair and place it in the wreath after, during the night, they have pulled a few strands from the hair of the fated man. The girl who finds no strands of hair in the wreath knows that she won’t marry in the coming year.

Sometimes, the wreath is left on a fence, near the path where the cattle return home. If a young cow approaches the wreath and sniffs it, it is said that the man will be young and handsome; if an old cow sniffs it, it is believed that the girl is destined for an old man or a widower. If no cow approaches, it means the girl won’t marry anytime soon.

The boys from Polovragi (Gorj) would go on the night of Sânziene (from the 23rd to the 24th of June) and leave small lady’s bedstraw crowns in the gates of the girls they admired. “The girl would watch which lad placed the crown, and if she liked him, she would wear it the next day at the dance, constituting a first sign of acceptance for a future marriage.” (Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română)

On the evening before Sânziene, children or young girls gather lady’s bedstraw for each member of the household. Wreaths made from the flowers are thrown on the roofs by each family member: if they stay there, it is a sign for the one who threw it that they will live long. For those whose wreath doesn’t stop on the roof, they are destined to die, as the wreath has fallen, and the same fate awaits those whose wreath withers faster.

At times, the wreath is left on the roof overnight or stuck in the fence post: the next day, depending on the number of animal hairs found in the wreath, it can be predicted if it will be a good year for cattle, horses, or the animal whose hair was found.

Lady’s bedstraw Against Evils and Moths

In Banat, lady’s bedstraw are worn as protection against evil spirits, while in Bucovina, women encircle wells with a wreath of lady’s bedstraw in hand, leaving it there on the edge until it naturally falls into the well. This ritual is believed to keep the water pure and safeguard it from any impurities. In Transylvania, villagers place lady’s bedstraw wreaths at the doors of houses, on crosses, between borders, in gardens, and fields. Women take the lady’s bedstraw wreaths to the church, and both women and men wear them at their waist or on their hats, aiming to keep all evils at bay.

On the night of Sânziene, women wash their entire bodies, then go naked into the fields to gather lady’s bedstraw and other herbs to protect and heal them from illnesses throughout the year. It was believed that, for the health of the body, it was good to roll naked through these aromatic herbs or wash with their dew. From the plants collected on this night, young women prepared aromatic infusions “to be affectionate.” Additionally, women gathered lady’s bedstraw and other flowers, drying them “to smoke and drink those that cannot conceive children.” (Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română)

Lady’s bedstraw are used as remedies for many ailments: against headaches, lower back pain, chest pain, sweet boils, and more. Lady’s bedstraw are macerated in brandy for bruises or wounds. The infusion of white lady’s bedstraw “is drunk on an empty stomach”, and the flowers and roots are placed directly on the chest when someone has internal pain. (Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română) For headaches, enchantresses place lady’s bedstraw in the patient’s bath.

On Drăgaica day, a general cleaning is done. Women take out all woolen clothes and fabrics from closets and chests, airing them in the sun. In the evening, they place them back in their places, inserting bunches of lady’s bedstraw among them to keep moths at bay. Lady’s bedstraw is placed among clothes, among woolen fabrics, handmade carpets, and covers—anything precious that could be damaged by moths. See more about this ritual in (LINK cu Drăgaica sulfina naftalina)


1. Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română Vol I-III, Ediție critică, introducere, repere biobibliografice, indice Botanica, indice capitole publicate antum/postum, text stabilit, indice informatori și bibliografie de Aura Brădățan, Editura Academiei Române, Suceava, 2010
2. Antoaneta Olteanu, Calendarele poporului român, Paideia, București, 2009

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