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Customs and traditions
Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing)

Nestinarstvo is another Bulgarian custom whose origins can be found in the ancient Thracian times. According to some researchers of the Bulgarian customs and culture, fire dancing is a pagan ritual related to chasing the evil spirits and illnesses away and to the purging and absolution of sins.

According to tradition the fire dances are performed on the day of SS St. Constantine and Helen.

Fire dancing is an ancestral ritual, i.e. it is passed on by ancestry. It is performed both by men and women. In the early hours of the day the head fire dancers carrying icons /usually of St. Constantine and St. Helen/ lead the villagers to the near ayazmo (holy spring). The aim of this ceremony is to sanctify the icons with which the fire dancers will dance later. On their way back the procession goes through the whole village accompanied by music played on a bagpipe and a drum. The final destination is the village chapel, called konak, where the fire dancers retreat until the evening. They use this time to prepare for the coming ritual. There they fall into a trance assisted by the rhythmic beat of the drum. In the meantime a fire which will make the embers is lit in the square. When the evening advances a piper and a drummer start playing fire dancing music which invites the fire dancers.

The first to tread on the embers are the eldest practicing fire dancers, who go around the embers three times and then cross it crosswise. Only then the real dance begins -the female fire dancers enter the fiery circle with a shrill cry. The dancers dance holding the decorated with flowers icon of SS Constantine and Helen. During the trance the dancers often make predictions. Gradually the dance becomes slower, the movements of the fire dancers become calmer and finally the dance ends.

It is remarkable that after it the fire dancers have no injuries or burns on the feet. This is the greatest magic of fire dancing.


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