Folklore

Bulgarian folk narratives are distinguished by their stark, primal qualities, their spare poetic beauty and powerful archetypal characters. The characters are larger than life - epic heroes, warrior women and beguiling beings who inhabit a magical landscape that has its own reality, laws and logic. They are many-layered and reveal some very ancient roots, perhaps going back to Thracian times and beyond.

Modern day Bulgaria lies at the crossroads between East and West, and has ancestral roots among three quite different groups of peoples: the ancient Thracians, the Slavs and the Proto-Bulgarians. These peoples were originally separate and ethnically distinct, with widely differing cultures and religions, and it is this mix that has contributed to modern Bulgaria’s rich heritage and still vibrant folklore and traditional culture.

The ancient Thracians were an Indo-European tribal people who settled at least 5,000 years ago in that area of the Balkans whose heartland is now the modern state of Bulgaria. They were expert horse breeders, produced fine vines and wines, and were artful metalworkers, creating an exquisite treasury of adornments, ritual objects and vessels. They had a rich culture to rival that of the ancient Greeks but they had no written language of their own. So much of what we know about them comes from their rich archaeological remains, and from the Greek writers who were their contemporaries.

The Thracians revered the forces of nature, worshipped the sun and believed in the immortality of the soul. Thracian mythology encompassed the mysterious Thracian Horseman, the wine-loving Dionysus and Bendis, the great mother goddess, sometimes depicted riding a doe, bow in hand with a quiver of arrows slung across her back. Thracian myth and culture is dramatic, veering from light to dark. It is located in a wild mountainous landscape where the great goddess hunts, the horse is sacred and the mysterious Thracian Horseman dispenses both life and death. And Orpheus, the great singer, musician, healer and sorcerer, descends to the Underworld in search of his dead consort Eurydice, offering the promise of immortality and rebirth.

After the 6th century AD the Thracians were absorbed into the Slavic and Bulgarian peoples who settled in the area, but the subsequent Bulgarian kingdom inherited their legacy.
Bulgaria is rich in Thracian archaeological remains, and traces of Thracian myth and religion have survived in current Bulgarian folklore and customs, such as those given below.



Krali Marko

The epic hero Krali Marko on his horse Sharkoliya Krali Marko was a real historical person who lived ...
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Ancient style of singing

Bulgaria’s ancient style of singing, famed throughout the world for its haunting vocals and exquisite harmonies, surely ...
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Traditional folk costumes

Traditional folk costumesThe soukman dress was the most widely spread women's dress, most often a sleeveless ...
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Bulgarian Folk Instrumens

Bulgarian Folk Instrumentsby Hector BezanisThe Gaida (bagpipe) is one of the most characteristic folk instruments of Bulgaria. ...
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Samodivi

Samodivi (also samovili and yudi) There are many tales about these wild female nymphs of the waters, ...
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Music General

Music GENERALThe legend of the Thracian singer Orpheus, who charmed gods with his music, tells that ...
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