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After taking belly-dancing for  a whole semester, it would be a shame not to tell you about a unique Bulgarian dancing ritual, nestinarstvo.

Nestinarstvo is dancing on living coals with bare feet.

This old ritual dates back to pagan times. It is part of the celebration of the day of Saints Konstantin and Elena (the Roman emperor who proclaimed Christianity to be one of the Empire’s official religions and his mother), June 3rd.

In old times, in the morning of that day, the whole village walks in a procession to the nearby river, where the nestinar dancers with consecrate Konstantin and Elena’s icon. The village sets up a huge fire on the main plaza and celebrates during the whole day. By nightfall, only the living coals remain. Then, the nestinary fall into trance. With the icon in hands, they start dancing barefoot on the hot coals under the rhythm of drums. Sometimes, the nestinari (male) and nestinarki (female) speak like prophets. On the next morning, their feet have no signs of burns.

In Bulgaria, the nestinari ritual is typical only for the region of Strandja mountain. Today, the ceremony is still kept only in one village, Bulgari. In other places it is only a tourist attraction.

Surprisingly, other cultures that are very distant from ours have similar practices: some shamans in North Africa and the Far East also dance on fire.


Read about other Bulgarian traditions in my blog.

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June 2010

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