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Fire Dancing in Bulgaria

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FIRE DANCING

Fire dancing, more famous in Bulgaria as nestinarstvo, can be seen in villages around the area of Bourgas -a city in the south-east of Bulgaria.It is usually performed on the square of the village in front of the whole population on the day of Sts. Constantine and Helen or the day of the village’s patron saint. The ritual is a unique mixture of Eastern Orthodox beliefs and older pagan traditions from the Strandzha Mountains.Traditionally, the right to perform the ritual would be hereditary and the head nestinar may be succeeded only by his or her son or daughter, and only when he or she is too old or ill to continue performing it. The head nestinar’s house is sacred, because it houses the stolnina– a small chapel where icons of several saints are arranged, as well as a sacred drum used specifically for the ritual and believed to cure the drummer if he is ill. After sunset, the crowd would build up a large fire and would dance a horo (a traditional round dance) until the fire dies and only embers remain.The dancers, who are most often women, perform a dance on hot glowing embers whilst in a trance state. The tradition implies that the fire dancer is chosen and guided by the saint of the holiday, whose icon is being held while dancing on the embers. Often during the traditional dance, the fire dancers are said to be able to connect to the saint and through this connection they can interpret omens, give advice, foretell the future, or communicate with the dead.

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