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Nestinari - Fire dancing

Nestinari (female gender - Nestinarki) is a group of zealous christians (usually women) belonging to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, who dance in ecstasy on top of blazing charcoal while holding an icon above their heads. They are also usually dressed in traditional Bulgarian clothing. Some even claim to obtain some sort of powers by performing this ritual. This is probably a left-over peagan ritual that has been integrated as an orthodox church ritual in the mountain regions in Bulgaria.

Nestinari are also called Fire Dancers. Nestinarstvo (the noun) is a wonderful phenomena part of the Bulgarian folklore. This ritual is most often performed at the territory of Strandja Mountain in South-Eastern Bulgaria. Nestinari (pagan participants) dance with their bare feet on firing and searing embers to symbolize the arrival of summer on May 21 - the day of St. Constantin and Elena. The ritual is believed to stem from ancient Thracian's who were involved in Dionysian rites. For Nestinari dancing on embers is not performed in order to entertain people; it's a personal spiritual ritual that purifies and brings insight into past, present and future.

Today's ritual evaluated into an event which is to be performed for the tourists in some tourist resorts. The nestinari are a group which blends Christianity with pre-Christian ecstatic practices. The ritual involves entering into a trance with the aide of music and prayer, and then dancing barefoot on hot coals. The nestinari see the fire-walk as a miracle which they relate to the power of St. Constantine. The ritual is believed to have the power to heal a wide variety of illnesses.

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