Wonder or strong belief
Is it a wonder or a strong belief? Do the nestinari (fire dancers) have special skills or energy? Where does this ritual come from? Why is it on UNESCO’s World Heritage List? These and may be different questions tease people’s imagination. Not only that of tourists’ but of Bulgarians as well. Nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours might have some of the answers: Do you want to try?!
There are many stories for where nestinarstvo originates from. The biggest group of supporters, though, believe that the fire dancing on live coals ritual comes from the Thracians. Why Thracians? The Thracian tribes worshipped their God Sun. Which is, when scattered in a circle the live coals symbolise exactly the Sun.
Like other rituals in Bulgaria (Kukeri for example), nestinarstvo has both Christian and pagan elements. The most precious about this ritual is the enigma that stays behind it. There are constant arguments about the ritual’s origin, the mysticism that veils it, the different stories about it.
Chrisitianity and paganism, nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours
When Constantine, the Emperor of the Roman Empire, and his mother Helena start to enforce Christianity on the Bulgarian lands, the fire dancers had to accept the Christian symbols in order to stay alive. Therefore, it was very natural that Constantine and Helen became the new idols for nestinari. Before these were the pagan idols. With the spreading of Christianity, the new idols are the Emperor and his mother.
In the past people practiced nestinarstvo in Aegean Thrace. Actually, the villages where nestinari performed the ritual were five. They are in Strandzha Mountain (the Black Sea region). Today it is practiced in its authenticity in one village only. More specifically, in the village of Bulgari (nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours).
Of course, nestinarstvo is practiced in other places around Bulgaria. Not for daily sofia tour people but for longer stay in the capital, for example, you can enjoy fire dancing.
What is the ritual like!? Every source that tells about nestinarstvo adds new things or at least a little bit different to the ritual. They more or less explain the same thing. Let us be part of nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours and get into the world of this enigmatic ritual.
According to tradition, the right to perform the dancing on fire ritual is hereditary. There is a head nestinar whose place only their son or daughter can take. However, this only happens if the head nestinar is too old to perfom the fire dancing or is ill. The head nestinar’s house is known to be sacred. This is so because it has the ‘stolnina’ in it. This is a small chapel where there are icons of several saints and the sacred drum is also there. People use the sacred drum specifically for the ritual and they believe that it cures the drummer if he is ill.
The special condition of the spirit
So, the day of the Sts Constantine and Helen (3 of June) starts early in the morning. It starts with making the icons ready (or making them ‘dressed’). This means to put bright red fabrics edged with silver coins over the icons and decorate them with flowers. The head nestinar and the priest take the villagers to ‘stolnina’ where the priest thurifies the icons. He also symbolically transfers spiritual power to the nestinari and inspires them. Actually, it’s interesting to learn that the fire dancing is a condition of the spirit. It can have many names. Some call it trance while others say it’s like ‘being pulled’ (i.e. ‘pulled’ by St Constantine, which means to be in St Constantine’s good grace and don’t feel the hot embers while dancing barefoot). For third, this is concentration.
Then, with the icons people go to a holy spring, where they do ritual washing. Meanwhile, in the centre of the village the oldest nestinar or the crowd build a big fire around which they dance and then at night they let the fire die and only embers stay.
Follows the climax of the ritual – dancing barefoot on live coals. The sacred drum and a bagpipe accompany the barefoot fire dance of nestinari. Actually, there are three characteristic melodies that have connection with nestinarstvo. The first one is played while going from the chapel to the ember. The second one – during the very dancing on fire. And the third one is for when people play horo.
In the year 2009 nestinarstvo becomes part of UNESCO Intangible Heritage List and the National Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage “Living Human Treasures – Bulgaria” on the application of the Regional historical museum Burgas.
I hope I didn’t spoil the pleasure of your spontaneous desire to contact Us , pack your luggage and become part of nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours.
Come and see, and feel for yourself the mysterious ritual!
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