Bulgarian Firewalking

This is indeed a very strange co-incidence: I'm currently finishing up The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and I've just gotten to the chapter where a Bulgarian peasant woman celebrates a saint's day (Sveti Petko) by firewalking at her village's local church.

Later today, while going through my National Geographic feed, I come across this photo of a Bulgarian fire-dancing ritual ... something performed on the day of the village's patron saint.


A Nestinari dancer performs barefoot over red-hot embers during an ancient fire-dancing ritual in central Bulgaria.

During the ceremonyâ..often held on the day of the village's patron saintâ..a large fire is lit in the afternoon. After sunset, once the fire dies and the embers are smoldering, dancing begins to the accompaniment of a drum and bagpipe.

Traditionally, Nestinari dancers pray for health, prosperity, and a rich harvest.

OK, so there may be many saints' days in Bulgaria, so presumably the firewalking picture could have been around any day/week/year, but this was very surprising. I just started reading the caption below the image, and it was all so familiar -- still fresh in my head, and described almost exactly the same way in the book.

By the way, The Historian is a great novel. It's essentially a lengthy travel log, told through letters, books, and first-person accounts, on the quest to find the "resting place" of Vlad The Impaler. The historical accounts and cultural/geographical descriptions are surprisingly accurate (for those non-fiction aspects of the book), and the rest makes for a kind of scary, if somewhat plodding, vampire story.

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