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Nestinarstvo: Bulgaria’s Ritual of Firewalking, Village Bulgari

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About Course

Bulgari village, Bulgaria. The day of Nestinari is always on June 3, the date of the saints Constantine and Helen.

History and teachings

Nestinari is the Bulgarian word for the people who walk barefoot on burning embers. The ritual itself is called Nestinarstvo. A few nestinari perform a day-long ritual culminating after sunset when the center of the village of Bulgari is covered in burning embers on which the nestinari dance. They hold an icon of the Orthodox Christian saints Constantine and Helen in their hands, which is believed to keep them safe from harm. The steps and the melody of the nestinari dance are unique. It is protected by UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage

Cross-cultural dimensions

Tracian history and rituals; effects of Christianity on the local rituals and traiditons; effects of Communism on the ritual: It is difficult to trace the roots of the tradition, but researchers believe it all started as an ancient Thracian ritual dedicated to the Sun, where the embers symbolize the warmth and light of the sun. It was only the Thracian king (who was also the highest priest) who could perform the ritual. When Christianity arrived and overwhelmed the Thracian territories, the ritual was transformed a little to suit the new religion, and that’s how the icon with the saints was included. The ritual was banned during the Communist era in Bulgaria, but the locals kept on doing it, on a smaller scale.

Useful information:

recommended for all; unique; some prior knowledge recommendable; accessible;

Location- central
– Accessibility (for disabled) – yes, however there is no staff, it is up to the individual
– Infrastructure, staff, safety measures, languages- not applicable

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What Will You Learn?

  • vieweing an ancient ritual and becoming a part of the experience; knowledge of one of UNESCO's cultural heritage; knowledge of local traditions

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