Photo Story: Wild Men: the Ancient Pagan Ritual that still Thrives in Rural Bulgaria

Kukeri are men who take part in an ancient Bulgarian pagan tradition to scare away the evil spirits of winter. They gather to chant and dance, wearing home-made wooden masks, animal furs, horns and sequins, strapping on heavy belts with bells on that can weigh up to 70kg. The ritual has continued undisturbed through the centuries, even through Communist times when it was tolerated by the state. 

The higher on the social scale a kuker is, the more financial support he gives to the group. The money might go on collecting hundreds of bells (a set of 20 costs €1000) or finding the best goat fur for the long-haired costumes.

As contradictory as it sounds given the anti-Roma sentiment that often prevails in Bulgaria, in one region the ritual is preserved by a Gypsy tribe and its leader, who lends all his kukeri belongings to the younger boys.

We met kukeri from every corner of the country — mayors, solid working-class men, adolescents, boys and even two-years-olds — everyone takes part in this tradition. It’s a ritual so deeply carved in their hearts, it seems to be a core reason to stay in Bulgaria and not leave for Western Europe as so many people do. “Once you hear the sound of the bells, nothing can stop you — no matter how ill, poor or heavy-hearted you are”, said Liudmil, a kuker and third generation craftsman.

Kukeri have one thing in common — once they put the masks on, they seem to live a new life. In protecting their folklore and being proud to be born Bulgarian, kukeri are integrity personified. Prepared by the Calvert Journal. 

1 of 10 | August 1, 2017, Tuesday calvertjournal.com

Kukeri

More photo stories:

Webit.Festival Europe 2018

Webit.Festival Europe is part of the EU Digital and Innovation Week - the digital and tech flagship event of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU under the theme "re:Inventing Europe's Future". ...

July 2, 2018, Monday

BULGARIAN COMMUNISM'S FLYING SAUCER

Vagabond.bg ...

May 22, 2018, Tuesday

HOLIDAY CONCERT OF THE SOFIA WIND ORCHESTRA

April 3, 2018, LARGO - HOLIDAY CONCERT OF THE SOFIA WIND ORCHESTRA, 139 YEARS OF THE SOFIA DECLARATION FOR BULGARIA'S CAPITAL. CONDUCTOR - VASIL DELIEV....

April 4, 2018, Wednesday

Modern Easterners on Instagram in 2017

2017 has certainly been a memorable year, but in spite of a deluge of seismic political events, it hasn’t all been bad. Across the New East, 2017 has also been a time of adventure, of travel across breathtaking landscapes, and of growing success for emerging artists....

March 15, 2018, Thursday

Impressive Final of the PyeongChang Olympic Games

An impressive ceremony officially put an end to the 23 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Nearly 35,000 spectators of the Olympic Stadium, as well as the millions in front of the television screens in more than 200 countries witnessed the amazing program the hosts had prepared to close the Games. ...

February 26, 2018, Monday
more
Bulgaria news Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) is unique with being a real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news. The editorial staff also publishes a daily online newspaper "Sofia Morning News." Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) and Sofia Morning News publish the latest economic, political and cultural news that take place in Bulgaria. Foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and World News in Brief are also part of the web site and the online newspaper. News Bulgaria