Nestinarstvo, also known as "the Bulgarian fire-walking ritual", is an interesting tradition, observed mostly in villages across the Southeastern parts of the country, near Stranja mountain. The ritual is always held on the 3rd of June, which according to Orthodox Christian tradition is the day of saints Constantine and Helen.
Hello everyone and welcome back to Bulgarian Steps! In today’s blog, we’ll tell you about an extraordinary and unique ritual, practised only in the rural parts of Bulgaria. Bonfires, mysterious legends, health and wellness rituals, fortune-telling and, of course, a ton of dancing surrounds the Nestinari – Bulgaria’s legendary fire walkers. Nestinarstvo, also known as “the Bulgarian fire-walking ritual”, is an interesting tradition, observed mostly in villages across the Southeastern parts of the country, near Stranja mountain. The ritual is always held on the 3rd of June, which according to Orthodox Christian tradition is the day of saints Constantine and Helen. The modern variations of the practice are centred around (trained) people walking barefoot on burning embers. Depending on where and how it is practised, the ritual can take anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day. In the past, the nestinari would spend the whole day performing intricate rituals until a few hours after sunset, when everyone would gather at the village centre and observe the mystical dance. This was usually accompanied by drinking, feasts for the public. The ritual itself was believed to bring health, good fortune, fertility and wellbeing. In the practice’s earlier iterations, the nestinari were also expected to make predictions about what the future holds. As per the Christian tradition, deeply intertwined with the ritual’s current version, modern-day nestinari also carry the icons of Orthodox Christian saints – Constantine and Helen. How does this work
While the ability to dance on fight might indeed seem magical and mysterious to the uninitiated, it is an entirely earthly practice, well within the realms of possibility. For one, the feet of all fire dancers are entirely covered in ash before the ritual. This serves to dramatically decrease airflow and protect them from burning.On the spiritual side, the nestinari as supposedly achieving this feat thanks to the help and protection of the saints Constantine and Helen. Prior to the beginning of a ritual, the nestinari spend a significant amount of time in a specially designated secluded building, where they enter a trance-like state and mentally prepare of the spiritual weight of the task ahead.