Nestinarstvo, messages from the past: the Panagyr of Saints Constantine and Helena in the village of Bulgari
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Nestinarstvo, messages from the past: the Panagyr of Saints Constantine and Helena in the village of Bulgari
The Nestinarstvo fire-dancing rite is the climax of the annual Panagyr ritual on the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helena (3 and 4 June) in the village of Bulgari, in the Mount Strandzha region of south-east Bulgaria. The ritual is held to ensure the well-being and fertility of the village. In the morning, consecrated and ceremonial rituals are solemnized and a procession with the sacred icons representing the two Saints travels outside the village to a spring with holy water, accompanied by drum and bagpipes. At the spring, holy water and candles are handed out to everyone present for good health. The festival culminates in a fire-dance in the evening as the highest form of veneration of the Saints. People silently form a circle around the burning embers led by the sacred drum, and the Nestinari, who are spiritual and physical leaders through whom the saints express their will, begin entering the circle and treading the embers. Formerly celebrated in some thirty nearby Bulgarian and Greek villages, Nestinarstvo remains today in Bulgari, a village of only a hundred persons. During the Panagyr, however, thousands crowd the village, including in recent years many Greeks who join the ritual.
Decision 4.COM 13.05
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Nestinarstvo and Panagyr are a vital expression of the identity of the people of the Mount Strandzha region in south-east Bulgaria, encompassing ritual, music, dance, foodways and clothing;
- R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to ensuring visibility and respect for intangible cultural heritage, particularly in drawing attention to this ritual’s important role in reuniting Bulgarians and Greeks of Strandzha origin;
- R.3: The local community’s efforts to ensure viability of the element have been supported by national and local governmental bodies, especially through documentation and awareness-raising;
- R.4: The local community in the village of Bulgari has given its free, prior and informed consent to the nomination;
- R.5: Nestinarstvo is included in the Bulgarian National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage and was inscribed in 2008 on the Bulgarian National Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website