Firtat & Nefirtat

Romanian cosmogony

In the majority of versions, before the earth existed, a boundless ocean called Apa Sâmbetei was the abode of God (Fîrtat) and the Devil,  goes by the name “Nefîrtatul”

Stories suggest God made the earth with the help of animals, while Satan was trying to thwart his plans.[1] In the majority of versions, before the earth existed, a boundless ocean called Apa Sâmbetei was the abode of God (Fîrtat) and the Devil, seen as master and servant rather than equals. In these stories the Devil goes by the name “Nefîrtatul” and is the somewhat foolish brother of God in folk versions of stories. These stories appear not only in Romanian folklore, but also in those of Aromanian, Slavic Macedonian and Bulgarian folklore. Upon deciding to create the Earth, God sent the Devil to bring a handful of clay from the ground of the World Ocean in his holy name. The Devil set forth and tried to bring it to the surface in his name instead, but could not succeed until he brought it up in the name of God. As this piece of clay grew into the earth, God laid himself down to sleep.[2]The Devil tried to push him over the side, but the ever-expanding earth would hinder that. After trying to throw God off the Earth in every one of the four cardinal directions, he shied away from the cross he drew in the ground himself.

How was the Earth formed?

Even after Christian imagery and symbolism became part of Romanian culture, Mother Earth is identified as the consort of God, the heavenly Father.[3]

The origin of mountains is explained in a number of ways by the cultures of the different regions of Romania. One account is that mountains formed as a response to God demanding the Earth to nurture all life, to which the earth shuddered and brought forth mountains. Another version suggests the Earth was too large to fit under the firmament, and so God attempted to shrink it, thus raising mountains. Often, these accounts are accompanied by the imagery of one or several World Pillars, which sustain the earth from below and are usually placed beneath mountains. Earthquakes are frequently attributed to the earth slipping due to the Devil’s constant gnawing at these pillars, which are rebuilt by God and his angels in times of fasting.[4]


Romanian Myth of Creation for The Legend of the Great Birth


The myth of creation in the Romanian folklore contains two essential motifs:the motif of the primordial waters, in which Fîrtat sends Nefârtat to bring out the ‘seed of the earth’, and the motif for the creation of the world by two opposing fraternal beings, called Fîrtat and Nefârtat.

In the beginning there was nothing but water; that nothing was made of foam, from thatgrew a flower in whichwere a butterfly and a worm – in other versions they appear directly from the foam of the sea; then the butterfly became a beautiful young man who brightened everything around him, and this was God- Fîrtat, and the worm was the Nefârtat- the Devil, a creature in human form but without light.

In the traditional Romanian culture, the Earth emerges from the struggle between the good and the bad of the two brothers, Fîrtat and Nefârtat. While both were floating above the water, Fîrtat called for his brother to gather sand from the seafront in his name so that they could both rest on a piece of land. From the little sand he gathers, he makes a piece of earth that the two of them stretch out, but the Nefârtat, the symbol of evil, tries to take possession of the earth, throwing his brother into the water. But the earth is always growing to protect Fîrtat, and so the planet is born today.[5]

The essence of the myth, that is, the struggle between good and evil, is preserved in another legend in which the place of the Fîrtat and Nefârtat is taken by God and the Devil, and here the myth of creation continues with the making of mountains and valleys. It is said that after the Devil tried to drive God out of the bigger piece of land, the waters were no longer in the world. And God sent the bee to the hedgehog to ask her for advice, but she did not receive it, so by eavesdropping, the bee found out that mountains, hills and valleys had to be created so that earth and water could take place in the world. It was said and done, but the bee did not escape the hedgehog’s wrath that cursed her so that men would eat from her dung. But God blesses the dung by turning it into honey.[6]

The names of Firtat and Nefartat preserved as metaphoric manifestations of light/water in the character of Firtat, and land/darkness in that of Nefertat. They are similar and probably related to the Iranian Airdate ‘lord of the waters’, and Amir dada, ‘lord of the trees’, relatives of the Indians Haurvatat and Ameretat, (Darmesteter 1875) and in the same class with the pair Mitra/Varuna, and Ohrmazd/Ahriman.Theyrepresent the water and the other plants, one is light, the other dark, the terrible one, the other gentle, the one expressing the totality, the other the immortality, are unquestionably found in the two Romanian mythical characters: Fîrtat, flying over waters, divine creator, bright, Celestial, and Nefârtat, dark, quick and deceiving, ultimately associated with Satan. The Romanian twin pair is an inseparable unitary relationship. Conflict arises when one of this unity opposes, trying to get out of it, when Nefârtat attempts to preserve land for him. But only when he renounces himself and lives in harmony with Fîrtat the act of creation can take place. Fîrtat cannot create anything alone, and Nefârtat loses the sand through his fingers because he is notlife, being non-living, he represents only the action. In the Romanian understanding only by uniting the two in harmony one can create the earth, one of the terms of duality having to yield to enter into harmony, in the act of creation.This myth is very old, responding to some philosophical syntheses of Romanian culture, the myth of creation from ancient times is alongside many other Romanian aesthetic and cultural expressions, including the well-known and beloved Mioriţa ballad.

[1]Cosma, Aurel. Cosmogoniapoporuluiromân (The Cosmogony of the Romanian People) (1942). Bucharest: TipografiaZiarului “Universul”.[2]Leeming, David Adams. Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 Sept. 2012.
[5] PERSONAJE FANTASTICE ÎN ESHATOLOGIA POPULARĂ ROMÂNEASCĂ(Fantastic characters in the Romanian mythology),Andrei Prohin;
[6]Mitolgie românească, Marcel Olinescu;