Nestinarstvo is a centuries-old custom that can be traced back to the Tracian. It’s called Fire Dancing is a mysterious ritual in which people dance on smouldering embers.
It’s believed to be one of the oldest pagan rituals in the Balkans and has defied persecution by both the Christian Church and communism and is still practiced in some Bulgarian and Greek speaking villages of the Strandzha Mountains. One of this remote settlements is the legendary Bulgarian village called Bulgari village, where people still dance on hot coals, just like their ancestors have done for thousands of years.
Nestinarstvo is a unique, almost unknown phenomenon, an enigma representing a tiny fragment of the Bulgarian cultural heritage.
First you have to always trace a cross. After that you can walk at random. The nestinar way of walking on embers is particularly strange. People call it „treading“ („pleshtene“/“tipane“- Old Bulgarian), because the steps are short, even, moderately fast, and on the whole length of the foot. When the ceremony reaches a fever pitch, the nestinars grab the icons, get onto the embers, make their prophecies, or take a handful from the embers and strew them over their heads. The dance on embers is usually followed by a traditional Bulgarian dance „horo“, led by the „vikilin“. They play it in the hope of having health and happiness in the future.
In Strandzha Mountain, the celebration ritual begins in the Sunday before St. Constantine and Helena’s Day. On the Thursday before the 3rd and 4th of June, the nestinars celebrate the so-called „Little Constantine“.
Help from mum and grams
St. Constantine and Helena’s Day, my and my grams name day, is nowadays on 21 May. So it’s celebrated according to the old calendar.
I had to ask because I wasn’t really sure about it.
Many scientists are absolutely positive that at temperatures above 70°C human proteins denaturalize. The temperature of the embers is minimum 400°C. Specialists also consider that the nestinars’ peculiar psychic state can explain the insensitivity to pain, but not the lack of burn damages. It is accepted without any surprise or bewilderment by nestinars and their fellow villagers. Miracles are something phenomenal to them, but at the same time natural from the point of view of folklore mentality and an inevitable manifestation of charisma. Nestinars treat their skill as a gift, and are deeply convinced that their power comes from their unhesitant faith and trust in the saint patrons.