Category Archives: Events

Dragons in Bulgarian Folklore and Mythology

Poppies_1Bulgarian folklore is filled with tales about dragons (zmei, male and lamia, female) who lived in forest and mountains in caves, holes, or cracks in rocks. Serpents or carp would turn into dragons if they were not seen by humans for forty years. Therefore, dragons often had characteristics of various other creatures: snakes, fish, birds, and even humans. Flashes of lightning, shooting stars, large clouds, and rainbows were ways dragons manifested themselves.
The lamia is what we typically consider a dragon to be: dangerous and malicious. She does not appear as a human like the zmei. Some tales describe her as a “huge lizard with a dog’s head. Her mouth is so big that it can swallow a whole man and her body is covered with yellow scales. The Lamia also has wings, four legs, sharp claws, and a long tail.”  Some had three, seven, or nine heads.
The zmei, however, who often was depicted as a man with wings under his arms. was more kind. He often fought against the lamia when she appeared as a storm or hail to destroy crops. The zmei didn’t abduct a maiden to harm her. Instead, it is because of his great love for her. He often tries to entice her to marry him, telling her of the riches she will have. If persuasion fails, the zmei restorts to abducting the maiden while she performs the horo dance in the village. However, the dragon’s marriage to a human always meets with misfortune. The bride suffers depression and is ostracized from the community.
One tale tells of a girl who married a dragon she met at his well. After a few years, she wanted to visit her family. Unfortunately, she had grown a dragon’s tail. Wanting to appear normal to them, she kept trying to bite it off. When she heard the songs of friends she had once known, she became frantic and died when her heart burst with the effort of removing the tail. The girls buried her by the well. Every year thereafter they performed a buenetz dance, not the traditional circle horo dance. In the buenetz, they dance in a snakelike fashion in honor of the dragon maiden.

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Kukeri

The kukeri celebration is one of the oldest surviving traditions that can be traced back to Dionysian rites, symbolizing life, death, and rebirth. Men initiated rituals when spirits threatened the Sun’s rebirth. The kukeri continued the practices into the spring, before the sowing of the harvest, when the earth was awakening after a long winter. Thracian warriors believed if they dressed in animal skins, they could battle against these spirits and either scare them away or capture their powers. With them, the kukeri performed rituals to renew nature’s strength. Only men, who carried the seed of life in their bodies, had the ability to rouse and nurture the female Mother Earth.

KukeriKukeri and Witch’s Magic

An unmarried ruler named Dobrodor, the maker of good, spurned the love of Zliyana, the daughter of a king of the northern lands. Because a kind, beautiful woman had captured his heart, he returned tokens of love Zliyana had sent to him.

Living up to her name, Zliyana sought to bring evil on Dobrodor and his people. She cast a spell to make all unmarried men die if they tilled the fields. Since it was springtime, some disregarded the warning and ploughed the earth, consequently dying.

To prevent any more deaths, Dobrodor told all the unmarried men to disguise themselves. Some donned women’s clothing, while others wore masks from the skins of animals and tied bells around their waists. The men dressed as women harnessed the ones clothed as animals and drove the ploughs through the fields. The witch’s magic was fooled, seeing not men, but only women and animals in the field.

Did you know…?

Kukeri have scared away more than spirits. Turkish soldiers surrounded a rebel leader his followers. To terrify the soldiers, they put on masks, bells around their waists, and made torches of hemp soaked in tar. At dusk they crept out to where the soldiers camped. The soldiers scattered upon seeing devils carrying long forks and breathing fire.

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Tikvenik: A Little Taste of Bulgaria

If you ever travel to Bulgaria, be sure to try a banitsa, one of the country’s most popular dishes. In our book “Mystical Emona,” this is one of Maria’s specialties. One reason for the dish’s popularity is that it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Another is that it’s simple to make. Traditional banitsa is made with filo dough, feta cheese, eggs, and yogurt. However, since autumn has arrived, we’d like to introduce you to a special variety called Tikvenik (teek-vah-neek), pumpkin banitsa.

Tikvenik (pumpkin-pie)

Tikvenik (pumpkin-pie)

The recipe for this scrumptious meal follows, but first we’d like to tell you about an interesting tradition involving banitsa. To celebrate New Year’s Eve, Bulgarians make a banitsa with fortunes. The mother of the household makes lucky charms or fortunes (small sheets of paper on which wishes are written then rolled up and wrapped in foil). She places them inside the banitsa before it’s baked.

At the evening meal, each member of the family takes a piece that contains a fortune. An additional piece is reserved for God, to keep the house safe from bad luck. Each charm tells the person his fortune for the coming year: perhaps a new job, a new house, health, a wedding, and so forth. Bulgarians have many customs that focus on health and fortune, and protection from evil. Similar to this tradition is the more common one performed at Christmas. A coin (and sometimes fortunes) are baked into a bread (pitka). The person who get the coin will have good luck throughout the year. If the coin is found in the piece set aside for the house or God, then the entire family will be healthy and have good luck. The ritual is included in our book “The Christmas Thief”

Banitsa is made with homemade or commercially made filo dough pastry sheets, sugar, nuts (optional), cinnamon, and butter. You can also sprinkle powdered sugar on top to make it a little sweeter. And, of course, don’t forget the pumpkin.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs pumpkin

1 cup sugar (or brown sugar)

2 ounces chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 lb butter, melted

1 (1 lb) package filo pastry

2 – 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Directions:

  • Cut the pumpkin into large pieces grate it. The seeds and guts should have already been removed. You want to use only the meat of the pumpkin.
  • Add the sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon; mix with the pumpkin.
  • If you decide to use the butter, melt it and pour over the pumpkin mixture.
  • Open the package of filo dough and spread it out.
  • On the top layer, sprinkle vegetable oil (not more than a teaspoon), and spread it out so it coats the filo.
  • Spread 2 – 3 Tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture evenly over the filo (so it slightly covers the surface), then sprinkle some of the leftover sugar on top of that.
  • Take up 3 of the filo sheets and roll them together to form a log.
  • Place this on the outer edge of a greased baking dish, with the open end down.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining filo and pumpkin mixture, placing the log rolls in a circular fashion on the dish until it is filled.
  • Sprinkle vegetable oil over the top, coating all the filo so it doesn’t become dry.
  • Bake for about 15 – 17 mins at 350 F or until crispy and golden on top.
  • Remove from the pan immediately after baking and let it cool.

It’s best to place the pieces of banitsa flat while they cool, rather than stacked. If you stack them, the ones on the bottom won’t be crispy. It’s fine to pile them up on top of each other once they have cooled.

Banitsa is delicious as a dessert or for breakfast with your morning coffee or tea. We hope you enjoy it.

Here is a video showing a variation of the above recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfrRdCxFECE

We have more authentic Bulgarian recipes in our book Light Love Rituals- Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore.

Universal URL:  http://getbook.at/Light-Love-Rituals

Reveal the cover of our forthcoming non-fiction book “Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Rituals and Customs”

We are happy to reveal the cover of our forthcoming non-fiction book “Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Rituals and Customs”.

Bulgarian culture is rich in folklore and traditions surviving since the days of the ancient Thracians. As pagan and Christian religions collided, the celebrations merged into one. “Light Love Rituals” will take you on a journey to discover these unique festivals.

  • A woman in white long rob holding an icon dancing in trance on burning amber coals under the mystical music of shepherd pipe Illuminated of the light of the full moon.
  • Colorful circle of people dancing and going under a wreath made of healing herbs.
  • Girls with wild spring flowers in their hair going from house to house caroling and singing for health and prosperity and holding their baskets full with fresh Easter eggs.
  • Man in wild animal mask and “cow bells” around their wrist jumping and yelling to scare the evil spirit way.love_rituals_add

Transmitted from generation to generation culture and traditions are part of our cultural heritage. They promote respect for cultural diversity and human creativity and to empower us to connect to the future.

With “Love, Light and Rituals” we want to introduce you to these ancient customs, rituals, and traditions that have survived through the centuries.

“Light Love Rituals,” not only describes the rituals, but also makes them interesting and understandable to people of all ages. The book is divided into four seasons, beginning with winter. It includes activities where you can learn how to make martenitsi, survachka, and Easter eggs dyed with natural colors. A short quiz after each season lets you test your knowledge of what you’ve read. To help you engage in the traditions in the book, you’ll meet Maria and her family. They’ll open the doors of their home so you can participate in these celebrations along with them. For an added taste of Bulgaria, try some of the traditional recipes at the end.

On Amazon JUNE 1st.

The Louvre Displays Ancient Treasures of the Thracian Empire- Who are the Thracians?

“The Saga of the Thracian Kings,” an exhibition now on view at the Louvre in Paris.

Who are the Thracians and where is the Thracian Empire?

We knew little about the Thracians when we started to work on “Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey.” When people mention Thrace, the only heroes who readily come to mind are Hercules, Orpheus, and Spartacus – if even those. But Thrace has a vast history beyond its mythology or the conflict with Rome. We enthusiastically rolled up our sleeves and researched their culture, religion, and customs.thrace1Our efforts were reward with a delightful review: “I love that there is a little bit of historical elements in this book, namely the stuff set in ancient Thrace. A history buff myself, it isn’t often I get the chance to read things about Thrace that don’t involve Spartacus. Major props to the writer for creating this wonderful tale.”

Quite often now when we mention the book, people ask, “Where is Thrace?” or “Who were the Thracians? Is that a country?”

So, let’s start with the easy question: “Where is Thrace?” The Thracians lived in southeastern Europe along the Black Sea, in the region that is now modern-day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

 

 

 

“Who were the Thracians” poses a more difficult question. What we can tell you is that they have been around for a long time. Since the people themselves did not have a written language, everything that is known about them comes from other sources. The first historical reference to them was in Homer’s “Iliad,” where it was mentioned that they were allies to the Trojans. But evidence of them as a distinct people exists as far back as 1500 BC.

They were a warlike tribal nation, living in mountains and valleys. But they were also great artisans, finely crafting delicate golden objects and painting beautiful murals.

 1024px-Sofia_-_Panagyurishte_Thracian_Gold_Treasure

A polytheistic people, they worshiped the Sun and Moon, both. Bendis, called the Great Goddess, was one of their primary dieties. Better known, however, is Dionysus, the god of wine, whom the Greeks incorporated into their religion. It is through the story of Orpheus (you remember him; he went to Hades to retrieve his wife Eurydice) that the tale of this drunken god is probably best known. The story did not end well for Orpheus. The Maenads, followers of Dionysus, tore his apart. Yup, gruesome.

 Even today, Bulgaria is known for its wine. Many myths and legends mention Thracian wine. Homer says the most popular wine, one with the best aroma and body, came from the Thracian city of Maroneia. Odysseus also used Thracian wine to put the Cyclops Polyphemus to sleep before he struck the beast in the eye with his spear.

When Christianity crept into the region, the Dionysian cult faded away. But even today the feast of Saint Trifon is celebrated, and the festivities trace back to the cult of Dionysus (for example, pouring wine and electing a king). But, that could be the topic of another entire blog.

April 2015 to July 2015: Bulgaria To Exhibit Thracian Treasures In Paris’ Louvre – The exhibition “Antique Thrace – The Odrysian Kingdom” will feature the Panagyurishte golden treasure and 325 exhibits – mostly golden and silver items from various treasures. – The items in the exhibition were evaluated by insurers at EUR 165 M

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ancient-thracian-culture-reveals-splendor-at-louvre.aspx?pageID=238&nid=81471

“Mystical Emona” was highlighted on October 9 at Boston University during an event called “Bulgarian Voices: Love, Light and Rituals.” It is also available on Amazon US and UK. In addition, we are working on a non-fiction book that will describe many of these Bulgarian customs and others in more detail, as well as their Thracian origins. Look for it in December.

Book available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mystical-Emona-Souls-Journey-Volume/dp/1500616974

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MysticalEmona

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBQ7FJtb9vY

Pinterest—Rebecca: http://www.pinterest.com/tacrafts/

Pinterest—Anelia: http://www.pinterest.com/aneliasamovila/

Twitter: @RebeccaCarter_E and @AneliaSamovila

Bulgarka Magazine

Visit “Bulgraka”, a virtual place where Bulgarians around the world connect, laugh, engage, collaborate and buy unique goods. Their mission is to re-imagine The Bulgarian reality in a ways that build more fulfilling and lasting community.
http://www.bulgarkamagazine.com/
bulgarka11

 

 

 

 

 

 
In Bulgarian:
Българка е списанието на българите по ​​света. Тук се свързваме, смеем и сътрудничим.
Наша мисия е да си представяме, напомняме и възстановяваме българската реалност по начин, който изгражда едно по-пълноценно и здраво общество.

Light Love Rituals

LIGHT:
One of the main characters in rituals and folklore is the sun. The symbol of life, the sun wakes nature in the spring to begin a new cycle.

LOVE:
Love is an important aspect of human life. It’s the feeling that makes us different from animals. Love enchants us and makes us good.

RITUALS:
Everyone incorporates some sort of rituals into their life and lifestyle. Rituals are an occasion for families to gather around the table and share a good meal, their memories, love, and traditions from generation to generation. Rituals connect the past with the present and help us embrace and understand our future.

rituals

There is no finer tradition than the making of Bulgarian cuisine, which is as rich as the soul of the Bulgarian people. Bulgarian meals, like the colors woven into the nation’s rugs, represent the hospitality and rich spirituality of its people. From the mystical Rhodope Mountains, the birth place of Orpheus, to the Thracian Valley, known for its roses, whether the dishes are light or hearty, they will always be savory.
“Light Love Rituals” describes many Bulgarian rituals that have survived through the centuries. The ones included within its pages follow the cycle of nature and of human lives. It is not meant to be a scholarly nor an exhaustive work. It is meant to provide readers with a glimpse into Bulgarian culture.

To enjoy an even greater taste of Bulgaria, try some of the recipes in the section called “Maria’s Kitchen,” where you can prepare popular Bulgarian dishes. Some of the recipes have a modern twist to make them easy and interesting to make.

Take the journey and experience the Magic of Bulgaria. On Amazon in February 2015.

 

Join us in 2015 for another incredible journey of magic and discovery

2015 is here and this will provide new opportunities and challenges for all of us. Since we are like you, our readers, we need to make our own New Year’s Resolutions.

This year our resolution will be to make sure we build a community of people who are interested in learning more about our books and what we are writing, and help them discover the world of Emona.

I know, the online space is overflowing with information and new books are coming every second. Why should you care about reading our book? We are not writing another Harry Potter or Twilight. We have a unique story to tell you. We would like to share our knowledge with you and our passion about the topic we are writing about. It’s not just about promoting the book. We also want to introduce you to Bulgaria and its traditions and folklore. We want to help you discover the world of Sultana, Stefan, Maria, and others. We want you to meet the enchanting Samodivi.

We are dreamers and we believe in our story. It is unique and mystical. Join us in 2015 for another incredible journey of magic and discovery.

Anelia and Rebecca (aka Ronesa)

Kukeri – Masked Men

If you are in Bulgaria on New Year’s or on Sirni Zagovezni, the first Sunday before Lent, you will be in for a fascinating parade and series of skits as the kukeri make their appearance. kukerThese are men who dress in furry costumes that cover most of their bodies, and they wear colorful wooden masks with scary faces of rams, goats, or bulls. The hand-carved masks display snapping jaws, twisted horns, and frightening eyes. Some masks even portray two faces—one evil and one good—to symbolize the duality of nature.

The men often attach to the masks shiny objects, such as mirrors, ivy (sacred to Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, and rebirth), basil (for love), and multi-colored threads and fabrics. Red symbolizes the sun’s fire. Black is the embodiment of the earth itself. And white signifies water and light. All three elements were essential for restoring the fertility of the land after a long winter. (photo credit: kafene.bg)

Like many of the Bulgarian traditions, this one also has Thracian origins. During the time of the winter solstice, ancient people believed that the heavens and earth were at their closest points and became one, allowing evil spirits to enter the realm of mankind. These spirits sought to bring chaos to the world by preventing the return of light, that is, the rebirth of the Sun God. Without the Sun’s return, the earth could not be fertilized. Therefore, Thracian warriors would don animal skins, which allowed them to contact the spirit world, enabling them to battle against the evil spirits. The celebrations that began with the Sun’s rebirth continued into ancient Dionysian rites symbolizing life, death, and rebirth, performed in the spring before the sowing of the harvest.

Stopping at houses along the route, the men perform various skits pantomiming plowing and sowing of seeds, rocking back and forth indicating heavy ears of corn weighing them down, jumping into the air to portray tall crops, rolling on the ground to draw on its strength, fighting evil spirits, as well as the conception and birth of infants. In return, they are given food (bread and wine, symbolic of the flesh and blood of pagan sacrifices) and money, which will later be sold and the money given to charities or to help offset the cost of the celebration.

While the kukeri dance and jump along the streets, large copper or bronze bells surrounding their waists clang loudly. (A single bell can be as large as a foot in diameter and weighing twenty pounds.) The noise from the bells, the frightful masks, and the mirrors on the masks are meant to chase away evil spirits. It is also done to ensure a plentiful harvest, good health, and happiness.

“Mystical Emona” was highlighted on October 9 at Boston University during an event called “Bulgarian Voices: Love, Light and Rituals.” It is also available on Amazon US and UK. In addition, we are working on a non-fiction book that will describe many of these Bulgarian customs and others in more detail, as well as their Thracian origins. Look for it in December.

Link to an interview by the talented Rositsa Petkova of Bulgarian National Radio about the book, what was the inspiration and  there’s also a link to our book trailer:

http://bnr.bg/en/post/100485397/mystical-emona-where-ancient-legends-are-still-alive-to-this-day

Book available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mystical-Emona-Souls-Journey-Volume/dp/1500616974

Website: http://mysticalemona.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MysticalEmona

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBQ7FJtb9vY

Pinterest—Rebecca: http://www.pinterest.com/tacrafts/

Pinterest—Anelia: http://www.pinterest.com/aneliasamovila/

Twitter: @RebeccaCarter_E and @AneliaSamovila

 

Cultural Diversity

Today, we’d like to explore more about one reason why we wrote “Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey.” It’s more than a tale about eternal love. As mentioned in the introductory blog, it’s also a story about the modern Bulgarian people and their culture.

This isn’t a discussion about religion. It’s about the activities people perform that are unique to their culture. Granted, the activities may take place during religious holidays, but they don’t necessarily have a religious significance, although often they do.

Why is understanding culture important? One reason is it defines who people are. The common experiences that people share influences their perception of the world and consequently how they behave with each other and those outside their community. bulgarian_voices1People who believe in evil spirits may be more cautious around others. In “Mystical Emona,” Maria is constantly giving Stefan charms to ward off the evil she believes intends to harm him. As an outsider, Stefan reacts differently to her actions than those who have lived with her in the village.

Is either of them right or wrong? No. Different cultures shaped their view of what evil spirits are, or if they even exist. Will living in a place that is vastly different from your own change your perception? Quite possibly, yes.

Then the question arises: Should people who move to another country forget about their heritage and immerse themselves in their new culture? Or should they retain the purity of their traditions, ignoring all else? Or perhaps a bit of both – creating new traditions from each culture?

There is no set answer. Everyone is different, so what works for one person or family may not be appropriate for another. Some beliefs may be so strongly ingrained into people’s personalities that no amount of time can erase them. While other beliefs may pass by the wayside, with people openly embracing new beliefs, or incorporating them into what they believe and creating new traditions.

Consider these thoughts about what culture does.

  • Provide comfort and security: Customs, traditions, and beliefs give people hope for a better life for themselves and their children.
  • Pass on cultural and religious heritage: Traditions are a great way to teach children about the family’s cultural and religious history, giving them personal identity.
  • Connect generations: Spending time with older generations is a great way to build memories and enables people to learn about beliefs, traditions, and heritage.

We’ll leave you with a quote from “Mystical Emona” where Peter is telling Stefan about Sultana, a znahar, a woman who heals with herbs. Many people considered her a witch. “When people don’t understand things, they call them bad. Miracles still happen, but you need to believe deep in your heart before you can experience them.” So, culture is about believing.

“Mystical Emona” was highlighted on October 9 at Boston University during an event called “Bulgarian Voices: Love, Light and Rituals.” It is also available on Amazon US and UK. In addition, we are working on a non-fiction book that will describe many of these Bulgarian customs and others in more detail, as well as their Thracian origins. Look for it in December.

Book available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mystical-Emona-Souls-Journey-Volume/dp/1500616974

Website: http://mysticalemona.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MysticalEmona

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBQ7FJtb9vY

Write, Research, Edit, Rewrite, Edit. Then what? MARKETING?

Write, Research, Edit, Rewrite, Edit. Then what? MARKETING?
May 18, 2014

bookmarks

As soon as I started thinking about what goes into publishing a book, I discovered I had a lot of homework to do.

On top of time spent at your day job, you have to write, edit and rewrite your novel. When you think it’s ready for the world to read, you then have to MARKET it. Well, you should consider marketing it even BEFORE you finish writing.

I think about marketing in terms of Six Sigma. For those of you who may not be familiar with this term, in general it’s a simple, practical way to solve problems. I recently finished a training course on this process. The first rule of Six Sigma is to define your problem. Then you gather information, perform analyses, and finally propose a solution.

So, how does this relate to marketing? Simple. You have a problem, and you want to come up with a solution. Start with a statement defining your problem.

Problem Statement: I have an idea for a book. I’ve written it, or I’m in the process of writing it, or I’ve even finished writing it. The problem is that I want to publish and sell as many copies of this wonderful book as possible. How do I go about marketing it so people will want to buy it?

A simple formula could be written as follows, with the question marks indicating the missing piece of the solution. The arrows designate that one event follows the other.

Write Book (Input) > ??? > Sell Books (Output) > Sell More Books

The initial input is your book, regardless of its state of completion. The end result or output is to sell the book. How do you fill in the missing information in the middle, to get from writing the book to selling the book? You need to build a BRIDGE.

To build the bridge, you need TOOLS. Now all you have to do is find those tools. The good news is, many of these tools and resources are FREE.

Once I started looking into possible marketing tools, my list grew long in a short time. I was amazed at the marketing possibilities and resources available.

Social Media: Start building social profiles on major networks. Interact with readers and writers alike. Allocate at least one hour a day to be socially active online. Build your visibility and brand. I will write more about building your online brand in a later post.

Your Family: YES, your family. Let them know you’re writing a book. They can help you and support you. Believe me, you’ll need a lot of support … and coffee. J

Your Friends: People are friends because they’re here for us when we need help. Let them know you’re writing a book. Ask them to share ideas with their friends. Ask for comments, feedback, and maybe even a beta-read. If they’re truly your friends, they’ll be there for you.

Online Resources: It’s 2014. An unbelievable amount of content is available online. Search for what other authors, especially successful authors, already do, like book trailers and blogs, Ask them questions, especially those authors writing in the same genre as you do. You’ll be amazed how much further you can go if you just ASK questions. People are willing to help.

I know it sounds like a lot of work on top of writing, researching, editing, and working full time. But think of the possibilities. Use the tools of a good time-management system to automate your online posting. Then, please SHARE how you market your book and how you’ve reached out to your target audience. We all have the same goal: SELL OUR BOOKS.

Yours fellow authors : Rebecca & Anelia