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In suggesting an origin for Dracula‘s vampirism, Bram Stoker drew upon an old folklore tradition of Transylvania, as passed to him in the writings of Emily Gerard, of the scholomance, or school of solomonari.
Traditional Romanian society recognized the existence of solomonari, or wise ones, considered successors of the biblical King Solomon and bearers of his wisdom. Some folklorists have considered them a continuing structure from the old Pagan priests of pre-Christian Romania. The solomonari were basically wizards whose primary ability was affecting the weather, which they accomplish through their power over the balauri, or dragons. By riding the dragon in the sky they bring rain or drought. The solomonari were thus the Romanian equivalent of the shaman.
According to Romanian tradition, the future solomonari was recognized by certain signs. He must first of all have been born with a caitza (or caul), have a membrane cap, and have a tail. As he grows to manhood, the future solomonari will be a large person with red eyes and red hair and a wrinkled forehead. He will wear white clothes and will arrive in a village as a wandering beggar. Around his neck will be the “bag of the solomonari” in which he keeps his magical instruments, including an iron ax (to break up the sky ice thus producing hailstones), a bridle shaped from birch used to capture the dragon, his magical “book” from which he “reads” the charms used to master the dragons.
The solomonari reportedly are trained at the scholomance, hidden at an unknown location variously said to be located in the mountains, the underground, or the other world. As a teenager, the future solomonari is kidnaped by an older wizard and taken to the school. There he will remain for a number of years (varying from seven to twenty) and undergo a series of initiations (the only character in Romanian folklore described as involved in initiations). At any given time there are no more than ten students in the school, or scoala balaurilor. The teacher is a dragon or the devil. The curriculum consists of a series of difficult physical tests and the mastery of nature. The magician must learn the language of the animals and the ability to transform into different animal forms. Students receive their own “book” at the end of their training, described as a stone talisman with nine mysterious letters in it. In any given situation, the solomonari concentrates on the book, and from it discerns what he should do.
Note: For this entry, I am also grateful for material passed to me by Romanian folklorist Silvia Chitamia.