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Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing)

nestinariOne of the most mystic and impressive traditional rituals is fire dancing. It is an ancient Bulgarian and Greek custom consisting of people dancing barefoot over burning charcoal. The custom is preserved in its authentic form in the village of Balgari situated in the Strandzha Mountain, but it can be also found in other Bulgarian villages.

The fire dancers perform in the evening of St. St. Constantine and Helen’s Day. On that day, three adolescents take the icons to the sacred sping near the village along with a procession led by the fire dancers. All inhabitants participate in the procession. The icons are sanctified and a horo dance is performed, accompanied by drums and bagpipes.nestinari2

The procession walks through the entire village and the fire dancers go to a chapel. They remain there until the evening, listening to the constant beating of a drum in a specific rhythm that makes them enter a trance stage after which they start dancing. A fire is lit on the square and is maintained all day. At dusk, the fire is spread out to uncover the burning charcoals first, circling around them three times beforehand, and then passing through them crosswise. After that, the real dance begins, the fire dancers step into the ring of fire with a shrill cry. While dancing, they are holding the icon of St. St. Constantine and Helen, which is decorated with flowers. What is remarkable is that after the ritual, the fire dancers have no wounds or burns on their feet. This represents the greatest magic of fire dancing.
When: 21st of May
Where: Balgari