Nestinarstvo

Nestinarstvo is ancient Bulgarian and Greek movement including dancing on smoldering embers with bare feet performed by people called nestinari. The ritual is originally performed in several Greek and Bulgarian villages in the Strandzha mountain near the Black sea coast. On other places it is performed as a tourist attraction.

Usually it is performed in front of the whole population on the square of the village on the day of Sts. Constantine and Helen or the day of the village’s patron saint. The ritual is mix of Eastern Orthodox beliefs and older pagan traditions from the Strandzha Mountain.

Now in Bulgaria this ritual can be originally seen only in the village of Bulgary. Early in the morning in the day of the saints three young boys carry out the icons to a sacred source near the village. The whole population of the village takes part in the procession. At the source the icons are sanctified and the people perform round dance. After the sanctification the procession walks around the whole village and gathers into a chapel where the people spent the time until the evening listening to the sound of a drum with special rhythm that makes them fall in trance and begin to dance. At the same time on the square the oldest nestinar prepares a fire that is supported at the whole day, and in the evening prepares the embers. The oldest nestinari step on the coals first by making a cross on the embers. After that the other nestinari step in with a strong scream and dance on the coals holding the icons of Sts. Constantine and Helen. The dancers have no injuries on the feet after the dance.

Nestinarstvo ritual is performed only by nestinar families, but in some cases other people fall in trance too. There is information for such rituals including dancing on fire in other countries like Italy, China, Japan and on some Pacific islands.

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