Category Archives: Thracian Empire

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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Prokopi Pchelar (pro-copy pchee-lar) (Procopius the Beekeeper)

Aristaeus, Ancient Beekeeper
The first Thracian beekeeper was Aristaeus. He was indirectly responsible for the death of Eurydice, wife of Orpheus, the renowned lyre-player. Aristaeus became enamored with Eurydice and chased her. As she fled, she stepped on a snake, which bit her and she died. Thereafter, her companions, the nymphs, caused the bees of Aristaeus to die as his punishment. With the help of his mother, the water-nymph Cyrene, Aristaeus was able to bind the prophet Proteus, who then told him what to do to regain his bees.
“You have to appease their [the nymphs] anger, and thus it must be done: Select four bulls, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty, build four altars to the nymphs, and sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice you shall pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, you will examine the bodies of the cattle slain and see what will befall.”
Upon returning to the location, Aristaeus discovered a swarm of bees in the carcass of one of the slaughtered cattle. This led the ancient people to believe that bees were born from decaying flesh.

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To learn more about this ritual and other Bulgarian and Thracian Rituals get a copy of our book: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore
https://www.amazon.com/Light-Love-Rituals-Bulg…/…/1507653700

‪#‎mythology‬ ‪#‎BulgarianFolklore‬ ‪#‎samodivi‬ ‪#‎bee‬ ‪#‎Beekeeper‬

Light Love Rituals Receives Readers’ Favorite Award

Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore by Ronesa Aveela is a wonderful book that gives readers a peek into the rich culture, customs, traditions, myths, legends and folklore of Bulgaria. The book speaks about the traditions that are part of the soul’s journey and the topics discussed reflect the relationship of nature to mankind. The rituals described are a collection of ceremonies practiced throughout the country and the author also intersperses these with fun facts and legends, making it an informational and engaging read. The book is educational, fun and entertaining, and it reveals the fascinating history and culture of the Bulgarian people in an enjoyable way.
Readers' Favorite Five Star Award
The recipes shared at the end are mouth-watering and readers will be tempted to try them out. The illustrations are bright and colorful and complement the author’s thoughts and ideas beautifully. The author takes readers through the sections methodically and every ritual has a story which makes it easier for readers to understand. The ‘Did You Know’ bits shared with readers in every chapter throw light on the beliefs and superstitions that exist in this country.

I learned a lot about Bulgaria, its culture, customs, rituals and traditions through the book. It’s obvious that the author has done a lot of research on the topic. The seasonal rituals with the questions at the end of each chapter does help readers connect better with the Bulgarian rituals, practices, and traditions that existed. I loved the book. The author does a great job in telling readers about the culture, customs, and traditions of Bulgaria.

Love Light Rituals

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite

Light Love Rituals Review

Mermaids, Silver Butterflies, and Miracles

“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Mankind’s fascination with the sea has sparked imagination since the first person beheld its mighty waters. Curiosity led people to invent the means to travel across the great oceans and eventually explore beneath them, trying to discover their secrets. Throughout the centuries, millennia in fact, people have created myths and legends about creatures living within the sea’s depths. One of the most alluring and formidable beings to inspire writers, artists, children, and adults is the mermaid, who entices men to a watery death. Mermaids have been forever immortalized in stories such as Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” but there is more to them than that story tells.

John William Waterhouse: A Mermaid – 1901

John William Waterhouse: A Mermaid – 1901

These sea nymphs exist in Slavic folklore as well and are called Rusalki. Believed to be the souls of young women who have drowned, they often appear as white or silver butterflies, which in many cultures symbolize the soul.

Although their sisters of the forests, the Samodivi, may be more popular in Bulgaria, it’s the Rusalki who have an entire week dedicated to them: Rusalijska Nedelya, or Mermaid Week, starts on Pentecost.

On Rusalska Sunday, Rusalki leave the deep waters to walk in meadows, spreading dew upon the soil to fertilize the land. People don’t work in fields or vineyards during this week as a way to honor the nymphs for the life-giving waters they bring. Whenever anyone dares to venture out during the week, he tucks wormwood, garlic, and walnut leaves inside his shirt, or attaches them to a belt, to protect himself from the Rusalki, as well as other creatures or spirits that may be wandering about the forests, mountains, or water bodies. Sensitive to strong smells, Rusalki avoid those carrying such herbs and flowers.

Just as important, people refrain from bathing or washing clothes on this day to prevent Rusalki from dragging them into the depths of the water and drowning them.

Burning Bush (dictamnus albus)

Burning Bush (dictamnus albus)

On Wednesday and Friday of Mermaid Week, Rusalki gather in groves where their favorite flower, the Burning Bush (dictamnus albus) grows. Its Bulgarian name is rosen, which means dew. These places are holy and sacred to the Rusalki. They pluck the tips from the flowers to place in their hair. The flower’s fragrance is intoxicating like a drug. Thus adorned, the nymphs worship nature with their magical songs and dance.

While wearing rosen, Rusalki become kindhearted and often heal those who sleep in the meadow. One famous place is the village of Resen, which gets its name from the flower. Sleeping in the meadow is not enough to ensure a cure, however. People perform a special ritual called “walking on the dewy rosen grass.” The sick go to the meadow in the evening, being careful not to let anyone see them. They each find an isolated place amidst the flowers and eat their evening meal. Then, before sunset, each one spreads a white handkerchief next to them. They cover their heads and remain silent, drifting off to sleep.

During the night, the Rusalki arrive, bearing their queen on a chariot of human bones. Those who may still be awake claim they hear laughter and songs. If a person who has lost a limb is among those gathered, the Rusalki may say, “Restore (person’s name) leg.”

At sunrise, the sick check their handkerchiefs. If empty, it means the Rusalki chose not to cure the person. For those the nymphs decide to grant the person a miracle cure, they leave various objects. The person mixes it with water and drinks it slowly. Dirt left on the handkerchief is a sign the person will die from their disease.

Regardless of what the nymphs leave or don’t leave, everyone places pitka (ritual bread) on the handkerchief for the Rusalki when they return. Pitka holds a special place in all Bulgarian rituals and holidays. It is broken, not cut, because it’s believed the bread itself has a soul.

The Rusalki are not the only ones to perform healing during Mermaid Week. At one time, on Sunday, rusalii, men who got their name from Rusalki, went from village to village healing the sick with their ritual dance. In particular they healed those whom the Rusalki had cursed, often those who chose to work during their sacred week. It was taboo for the men to talk, make the sign of the cross, or step in water because they were in a semi-trance, linking them to both the human and spiritual worlds. Armed with a white flag decorated with herbs, a special colorful stick, caps with herbs entwined, bells attached to their ankles, and a pot of vinegar and garlic, they were prepared to cure the Rusalki-induced illness. (You can see a re-enactment of this ritual in Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey.)

Image of Rusalii

Image of Rusalii

To learn more Bulgarian traditions, beliefs, and rituals, check out Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore, available on Amazon or http://www.mysticalemona.com.

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.

It is all about Ancient Thracian culture this month in Paris

Ancient Thracian culture reveals splendor at Louvre (France).

Here is one interesting article from Hurriyetdailynews.com:

Exquisitely crafted gold, silver and bronze objects are on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, giving visitors a rare glimpse of the ancient Thracian culture that produced them.
LIFESTYLE-BULGARIA-FRANCE-CULTURE-ARCHAEOLOGYMany stories still remain untold about this refined civilization whose citizens included Orpheus, the mythical son of a Thracian king, and the legendary gladiator Spartacus, who led an uprising against Rome.

“Ancient Thrace is most famous for its unique goldsmithing works,” Bulgarian exhibition commissioner Milena Tonkova told AFP ahead of the opening last week.

One of the exhibition highlights is the Panagyurishte ritual beverage set, the most prized possession of these ancient people who lived from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the 3rd century A.D in the Balkan Peninsula.

To read the entire article visit: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ancient-thracian-culture-reveals-splendor-at-louvre.aspx?pageID=238&nid=81471

Photo Credit: www.hurriyetdailynews.com

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

 

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