About Simion Florea Marian's "Insects..."

A valuable folklore study published over a hundred years ago: Simion Florea Marian, Insects in the Romanian language, faith and customs (see Chapters Zoological Portraits and A Folk Bestiary) In 1903 a unique book was published, written by Simion Florea Marian (1847-1907), member of the Romanian Academy, a teacher at the Eastern Orthodox Secondary School in Suceava (the present "Stefan cel Mare" High School); the book was published by the Academy and printed in Bucharest by the "Carol Gobl" Institute for Graphic Arts in Doamnei St., with the sponsorship of Mr. Ion St. Rasidescu. Simion Florea Marian was originally from Bukovina, born in the village of Ilişeşti (county of Suceava); as a folklorist and ethnographer, his heritage consists of full-length works of synthesis that cover the entire spectrum of folklore culture for the first time in the Romanian dedicated literature. To mention just a few titles: Romanian Ornithology (1883), Romanian Wedding Customs (1890) Spells, Charms and Charm Breaking (1893) and People's Botany, the manuscript of the latter still waiting to be published. Let us mention that Insects in the Romanian language, faith and customs is not just a study of entomology but, as the title declares, it also includes folklore poetry, proverbs, legends, traditional songs and hollers, spells and other examples of people's wisdom related to insects. The idea behind Insects in the Romanian language, faith and customs was born out of necessity, since Simion Florea Marian, working as a teacher of religion and zoology at the Secondary School in Suceava, was confronted with a lack of Romanian names for insects. All the insect names were in Latin or German. That is when, with the help of father T. Bălăşel from Vâlcea county, primary school teachers Th. A. Bogdan and E. Pop from Transylvania, S. Teodorescu-Chirilean from Tutova county, and Mr. P. Papahagi from Bucharest, he started collecting insect names, whilst also resorting to external bibliographical sources, such as N. Leon, Romanian Medical Zoology, published in Iaşi in 1897. With the effort of all those mentioned above, over 900 Romanian names were collected for 180 species of insects. Several names were used regionally for the same species, which accounts for the difference between the number of names and that of species. A lot of things have changed since then in Romanian ecosystems. Intensive agriculture and the overuse of pesticides, massive logging as well as other instances of man interfering with nature led to the restriction of natural ecosystems and, as a consequence, to the diminishing of the number of certain insects, some of which are actually threatened with extinction. Of course, this is not about the dangerous pests for agriculture and silviculture, but species that can be found on top of mountains, in wild forests, clearings, natural pastures, wetlands, etc. These species should have been put on a red list a long time ago. Red lists are those that include species threatened with extinction. We have such lists for mammals and birds, but so far nobody in Romania thought of insects; for some species, this is their last chance at survival. The Rosalia longicorn beetle (Rosalia alpine) is probably one of the best examples. Simion Florea Marian's work is ground-breaking, while we are still waiting for the Red List of insects. Insects in the Romanian language, faith and customs makes for an extremely topical reading, especially if we think of children nowadays who can tell the difference between dozens of types of automobiles, but do not know the name of ten insects or ten species of birds. Translated by Daniela Oancea 

by Klaus Fabritius