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Mask Tradition in Bulgaria


In Bulgarian folklore, the mask is believed to protect its wearer against powers of impure nature. This is the most probable explanation why the masks look like fearful creatures with huge jaws and awesome teeth, with horns and tails, with snapping beaks and grisly bodies. The sound of the bells hanging from the belts of the participants enhances their effect. Sometimes the mask is not that complicated. Participants from some regions use charcoal to paint their faces black and sheep’s wool to make moustaches and beards.

The group consists of various different characters. Traditionally all parts are played by men dressed in carnival costumes. More often than not, they carry symbolic objects with which they perform their rituals.

Bulgarian ceremonial masks are a valuable source of information for the various folklore regions in the country. It is typical for the masks worn in the region of Pernik that they are made of sheep and goat furs, wings and feathers, horns, corn leaves and hemp. Masks from other regions are usually made of cloth, wool, and parched plants. They are often decorated with beads and paper flowers.

All masks are made by the persons who wear them or with the help of craftsmen known throughout the village for their skill. It is a long and complicated process. Shrouded in mystery, it is almost a ritual in its own right.

Pernik is the only place where you can see masks from every ethnographic region of Bulgaria. Visitors to the carnival say they feel invigorated after committing their senses to the ancient tradition.



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