Orthodox Christians in a southern Romanian village lit fires and candles at the gravesites of friends and relatives, part of a centuries-old Easter ritual.

The fires burning Thursday before dawn in the village of Copaciu are believed to guide the souls of the dead during the night — or keep snakes, symbolizing evil — away from the graves.

The mostly elderly ladies taking part in the rituals, repeated across southern Romania, also burned incense and exchanged small bags of food.

A woman lights a candle by a relative's grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman lights a candle by a relative’s grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The 78-year-old Elisabeta Marinescu recounted the tradition of walking behind funeral processions while sprinkling sand along the trails of the cemetery.

Marinescu said that, according to local customs, werewolves would be distracted gathering the grains of sand and wouldn’t have time to follow and take away the dead person’s relatives.

Women light fires by their relative's graves at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
Women light fires by their relative’s graves at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
An elderly woman walks to a relative's grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
An elderly woman walks to a relative’s grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
Women light fires by their relative's graves at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
Women light fires by their relative’s graves at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A woman spreads incense next to a relative's grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A woman spreads incense next to a relative’s grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A woman lights a candle by a relative's grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman lights a candle by a relative’s grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman kisses the cross of a relative's grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman kisses the cross of a relative’s grave at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Old wooden crosses intertwine in a cemetery at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Old wooden crosses intertwine in a cemetery at dawn in Copaciu, southern Romania, Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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