Category Archives for "Bulgarian Folklore"

Oct 19

Bulgarian Folk Music (part 2)

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

This is the second part of our article about Bulgarian Folk Music, written by the professional Bulgarian music therapist Darina Titkova. To see the the first part click here.

Many Bulgarian classical composers imbed the spirit of the traditional Bulgarian music into their vocal and instrumental pieces using folk melodies and rhythms from our traditional heritage. From the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule until today, numerous opera and symphonic compositions have been created in Bulgaria as well as a multitude of solo instrumental and vocal pieces. One of the most emblematic and beloved classical work is “Vardar Rhapsody”, named after the Bulgarian river with the same name – Vardar (Вардар)- and composed by the famous Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov

Traditional Bulgarian music is loved all over the world. It is often present in movie scores and in the video game industry. For example, the Bulgarian song “Malka moma” (Малка мома) is included in the British hit movie Hummingbird (2013).

The song is written and performed by the Bulgarian singer of traditional songs Neli Andreeva, in collaboration with the composer Georgi Genov. It got over 1 million views on youtube in the first year and became so popular it soon drew the attention of the Japanese national TV. The television crew made a 2-hour documentary about Neli Andreeva, Georgi Genov and the song. According to them, “Malka moma” had become a very popular song in Japan.

This is not the first time Japan demonstrates interest in traditional Bulgarian music. In fact, Bulgarian choirs are often welcomed in Japan performing traditional folk repertoire. Several documentaries have been shot about the Bulgarian traditional music through the years. One of the most famous Bulgarian traditional choirs, the Cosmic voices of Bulgaria, has even performed in the Japanese composer Yoko Kanno’s debut studio album Song to Fly (1998). The song is called “Atomic bird”, author of the lyrics is Gabriela Robin. This piece is really interesting because it contains no original Bulgarian melody or even a single word in Bulgarian. The lyrics are made of random syllables with no meaning. Still it resonates with the spirit of Bulgarian traditions and captures the feeling of traditional Bulgarian music.

It seems that the Japanese are really fond of Bulgarian music which actually sounds similar to their own vocal traditions. Another Japanese composer, Kenji Kawai, who scored the famous science fiction anime Ghost in the Shell in 1995, made a beautiful mixture of an ancient Japanese wedding song and a Bulgarian harmony in his opening theme “Making of a Cyborg”. Although Japanese folk singers perform this stunning piece, their voices carry the Bulgarian traditions.

There’s some news for the video game fans too. Another famous Bulgarian choir ensemble, “The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices” has recorded pieces for the soundtrack of the survival horror video game Alone in the dark in 2008.

Actually, iTunes offers the whole album of 22 tracks featuring the Bulgarian female choir.

A Bulgarian song is also included in the album of the Norwegian composer Thomas J. Bergersen. The name of the song is “Rada” and the album is called “Illusions”, released in 2011.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little concert of Bulgarian music (and its influence around the world). I will be happy to see your comments below. And last, just for fun, here’s a humorous song about young Bulgarian girl who doesn’t have an appropriate formal clothes to wear on the festive horo-dance.

Feb 05

Bulgarian Horo Dancing

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

The Bulgarian horo dance is a line dance with asymmetrical rhythm and complex repetitive step patterns. It is an integral part of the Bulgarian culture. We have danced horo for hundreds of years, it has been a part of our feasts, celebrations and even our mundane everyday moments. But in recent years, for the majority of people, the horo has become an older dance, reserved for weddings and national holidays.
Continue reading

Aug 12

Bulgarian Folklore: Talasuhm

By Darina Rossier | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

talasuhmIn Bulgarian folklore Talasuhm is an evil spirit which haunts and protects buildings, bridges and fountains. It can take the appearance of a dog or a cat or even other domestic animals.

There are two ways a talasuhm can come into existence. One is when a person or a person’s shadow are built into a bridge, fountain or a building.


The ancient Bulgarians believed that a big building needs a sacrefice in order to be completed. The builders used to either add soemthing living in the foundations or built someone’s shadow. The animal or person’s shadow was then measured, its measurement put in a box which was then build in the foundations of the building. It was believed that the man, woman or animal who’s shadow was built will die in 40 days and the shadow will be turned into a talasuhm – protecting the building forever.

There are many old stories about people who died after their shadow was build which indicates how strong this belief was. The following story is worthy of our Bulgarian Horrible Histories series apart from the lack of historic evidence.

Kadin Bridge

Kadin Bridge

Legend tells us that the building process of Kadin bridge (Kadin Most, Koprivshtitsa | Кадин мост, Копривщица) was very difficult because whatever the builders did during the day was carried away by the violent waters of Struma river. The builders decided that in order to finish their project a sacrifice has to be made – one of their wives. They agreed that the first of their wives who comes at morning to bring them food will be sacrificed. Struma, the wife of the master builder Manol came first that day. She was build in the foundation of the bridge. Thus the name of the bridge – Kadin comes from the old Turkish word for “wife”.

The other way a talasuhm is created is by burying a treasure. The spirit comes to life when a sacrifice is made over the place where the treasure is buried. On certain holidays (Christmas, Gergiovden, Eniovden) blue flame burns over the buried treasure showing its location. The loot can be taken then if flour or cinder are sprinkled over the place. At morning, according to the kind of footprints in the flour it will be known what kind of sacrifice is needed for the talasuhm to release the treasure – animal or human. If no sacrifice is given the treasure hunter must fight the talasuhm until dawn, when the spirit looses its power.

If you are interested in Bulgarian folklore, feel free to also check the article about the alluring Samodiva.

Jun 24

Bulgarian Holidays: Eniovden

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture


Eniovden (Еньовден) is an old Bulgarian holiday, celebrated annually on June 24. It is believed that its roots lie in the Thracian tradition. However, the traditions and rituals of the Christian holiday St. John’s Day, which is on the same date, often mingle with Eniovden.

Since the the holiday is on midsummer a lot of the traditions and rituals are related to the cult of the sun, typical for the Thracians. But Eniovden is also a Bulgarian name day. Everyone bearing a name such as Enio, Jana, Janka, Janko, Janitsa, Janik, Janislav, John, Joan, Diane, Dylian, etc., as well as the ones named after herbs, celebrate their name on this day.

According to Bulgarian folklore, the beginning of winter starts on Eniovden. It was believed that when the sun rises that day it trembles and dances and whoever sees it is going to be healthy during the coming year. At sunrise, people turn facing the sun, watching their shadows over their shoulders. If the shadow is whole, the person will be healthy, if it is halved – he will be sick that year.

It is not allowed to work on the fields or wash clothes on the day of the holiday. The people believed that St. Enio will kill with lightnings the person who disregards his holiday. And if someone washes clothes on this day a family member will become ill.

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

It was also believed that before the sun starts the long way towards winter, it stops to rest. It rises very early to say “goodbye” to the world it will not see for so long and bathes in the waters on Earth, making them healing. When it drains itself, the water that falls off becomes dew. This dew has a special magical power and therefore, for good health, everyone baths at Eniovden’s morning and then rubs in the dew.

It is considered that the herbs have the most healing power on Eniovden, especially if gathered at sunrise. The herbs stored for winter have to be  exactly “77 and a half”, for each disease and for the nameless illness.

During the day of the holiday the maidens from the village gather together and prepare the Eniova Bulia (Enio’s Bride). They take a 5 year old girl and dress her with white gown and red jacket, a red veil and a crown of eniovche (galium plant) with a silver coin. Then they take the girl and parade it trough the village, fields and water springs, while singing holiday songs. This ritual’s purpose is to ask St. Enio for health for the people and fertility for the land.

At sunset people gather “silent water” for healing and divination. In complete silence, so they don’t destroy its magic power, they take the water from a clear, sweet spring. The water is then used to foretell about health, marriage and fertility.

Jun 10

Bulgarian Folklore: Samodiva

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

Girl in fairy forestIn Bulgarian folklore Samodiva (самодива, plural: самодиви) is an ethereal female wood nymph. She is unearthly beautiful and eternally young. Her hair is blond and long, her waist is thin and petite, her eyes can bewitch and dazzle or even kill. Any man who lays eyes on her instantly falls in love. A woman who sees a samodiva can go as far as killing herself because she cannot take so much beauty.

Samodivas’ attire consists of long white gowns and shirts and a rainbow-coloured or green belt. They have a white mantel, also called a shadow, in which their power lies. They like to ride deer, using twisted snakes for reins and often carry with them bows and arrows. If a huntsman accidentally kills a samodiva’s deer, she will make him blind or give him a disease which will inevitably lead to his death.

The wood nymphs live in dark forests, in big old trees, caves or forgotten huts which are near water sources, wells or rivers. Samodivas can be spotted from spring to autumn. In winter they live in the mythical village Zmeykovo, which is located at the edge of the world and is a home to many mythical creatures. When they are on earth they are active at night and disappear immediately when the sun comes out, because they fear it.

SamodiviAt twilight, the samodivas go to fresh water sources, strip naked, wash themselves and their clothes which they lay out to dry in the moonlight. They keep a watchful eye on their drying clothes, because if a man steals their mantle, where their power lies, they turn into normal women and have to obey the man. If this happens, they can marry and bear children, but they can never be good mothers or housewives and will always crave their freedom.

After washing themselves and their clothes, the samodivas gather around and start singing and dancing. It is known that the samodiva’s songs are the most beautiful and their dances are the most graceful. If a late traveller sees the samodivas’ dance, he is enticed to join them and dances with them from midnight to dawn. When the sun’s rays appear, the nymphs disappear in haste and leave the traveller to die from exhaustion. The samodivas love music and often kidnap shepherds, so that they can play kaval (кавал, shepherd’s pipe) for them while they dance.

Some say that samodivas are children of lamia (dragon-like creature). Others say they are wicked women who died and are stuck in between heaven and hell or that they are maidens who died before they knew a man. Even though they are heathen creatures, they observe the Christian holidays, especially Easter. They punish everyone who does not keep the holidays with blindness or death.

Samodivas are not always harmful. Sometimes they appear like normal working women and help with the harvest. They would especially help women with children. If a man does something good for a samodiva, she becomes his patron or a sworn sister. Sometimes, a samodiva can fall in love with a human and bear him children, who grow up to be great heroes.

Samodivas are forest creatures and therefore knowledgeable about herbs and cures. However, they never share their secrets willingly. The only way to obtain their knowledge is to eavesdrop on one of their gatherings.

The earliest records of the belief that samodivas exist are from the 13th century. It is considered that the belief is based on Thracian legend. Until this day there are a lot of Bulgarian folklore tales and poems devoted to these elusive beauties.