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The magic of the tree



"And you know, Sally mouth, your carts, as you make them, are nowhere to be

found: each has its own voice, each sings on its own makam."

(Y. Yovkov, "The Song of the Wheels")

In the lands of today's Bulgaria, the processing of wood dates back to the time of the Thracians, who made chariots and agricultural implements. Woodworking is also an old Slavic tradition, which was transferred here from their ancestral homeland. The wood was used for housing, all kinds of furniture, livestock, transport and more. facilities. The tree was an important element in the culture of the people, one - because of the abundance of forests in the past in these lands, and because of the proximity of this people to nature. People not only used wood as a material, they knew the types of wood, their biological and technological features.

The oldest tool of labor related to the processing of wood is the ax, also called an ax (Sofia, Samokov, Transko), manar (Northwestern Bulgaria) and the Baltic (in the region of Srednogorie and west of Plovdiv). Carpenters also use other tools: a saw, a tesla, a drill, a drill, a scythe, a picker, a rukan, a scoop for peeling the bark of trees and smoothing the surface. Initially, these tools were made by rural blacksmiths, but were later manufactured in the factory. The inventory of a carpentry workshop also includes the so-called donkey, rabbit, bitch or chair with a raven (a wooden device for pressing the object to be processed).

Craftsmen straightened wood by heating it or immersing it in boiling water, then clamping it with heavy stones or placing it in molds. The following crafts are connected with the processing of wood: cycling, joinery, turning, cooperage, basketry, saddlery, savagery and others.

The making of the wooden car is an old tradition among both the Thracians and the Slavs, and probably also among the Proto-Bulgarians. This is evidenced by the remains of the Thracian chariots, the Slavic names for the most important parts of the car, the derivation of the name of the sleigh from the proto-Bulgarian language. When making a car, three separate processes must be distinguished, sometimes performed by different craftsmen - carpenters, blacksmiths and artists. But most often all three processes are carried out by the same person.


When making the wooden parts of the car, the craftsmen took into account the suitability of the material for the respective parts. Thus, for the hub of the wheel the most suitable are the elm or the walnut, for the making of the chest - the pine, for the connecting wedges or for the gills - the dogwood, etc. , other iron parts are not added here. This wooden car is called a karaispitlia. Later, instead of wooden axles, they began to put iron ones, and the wheels were dressed in iron rails, soles.

The writing of cars and the making of "singing carts" are also described by Yordan Yovkov in his story "The Song of the Wheels": "The secret of the singing carts made by Sally Yashar was that inside, between the wheel and the base of the axle, he was throwing a steel disc at a time, and as the wheel remained a little loose, this disc hit it now and then and made sounds that, intertwined with the sounds of the other wheels, gave a whole melody. ”

The making of singing carts is a relatively new phenomenon in the life of the Bulgarians, which penetrated from Russia, Bessarabia and Romania in the first half of the XIX century. The chests of cars were painted with geometric, zoomorphic and plant ornaments. The "singing" of the carts, as described by the great Bulgarian writer, was due to the steel plates attached to the axles, which rubbed against the cigar of the hub.

Joinery is a carpentry craft closely related to masonry. Master carpenters produced doors, windows, cabinets for furniture, cupboards (built into the wall), various chairs, wooden stairs, barns, etc. Typical of the XVIII and XIX centuries are chests assembled from carved beech boards, called shingles, shingles , and adjusted so that one of their edges is thinned in length and the other has a corresponding groove so that any two adjacent boards can be fastened. The introduction of mechanical sawmills and factory nails put an end to chestnut production. It is replaced by modern carpentry, with the characteristic tool grater for smoothing and profiling the boards. Tischlerism came in the 19th century, first from Italy and later from Germany and Austria. (Vakarelski, 1975, 416).

Some carpentry required the use of a lathe. The processing of wood with the help of lathes is later and a relatively rare phenomenon among Bulgarians. Wooden lathes existed in the Gabrovo and Elena regions in the second half of the 19th century, and some of them were driven by water jets. Manual wood lathe was known in Southeastern Bulgaria (Harmanli and Ivaylovgrad regions) for making spindles and qi station.


The mountain turners from the Gabrovo region made harbors, lids, cups, bowls, sofras, paralyzes, flasks, steps (for crushing red pepper or salt), candlesticks and others. These vessels were preferred and widespread among the Bulgarians, they were even exported to Asia Minor, Egypt and others. Whistling is another craft related to the processing of wood into lathes (kavals and other types of whistles).

Katsarstvo and barrachstvo are crafts in which vessels of various sizes and shapes of liquids are made: from half-liter brandy spiders, to badons and figures with a capacity of up to 30,000 liters, various barrels with a capacity of 100 to 1000 liters, lumps, pistons, butchers, grapes for picking grapes, ships, pastes, sharpani for transporting the grapes from the vineyard to the house, water buckets, butter cubes, milk fermentation, various winter containers, for chips, etc.

Basketball has been known in the Bulgarian lands since ancient times. The master basket makers used hazel and willow rods and wild vines. In the mountainous and foothill regions of the country, in connection with the transport of goods with the help of pack animals (horses, donkeys, mules and mules), saddlery is developing. There are also carrion saddle (coal saddle), Kiradzhiyski saddle, also called Balkan or Karakachan, binek saddle (Kardzhali saddle, half saddle), riding saddle, yoke binek saddle (half binek saddle), saddle saddle made of wooden harness, means , etc.

The processing of the wood also includes the savagery related to the making of saplings for threshing. Dikanarstvo is a hereditary craft practiced by the population in the Kardzhali region. The Dikanars traveled around Eastern Bulgaria and worked in the homes of the farmers.

In artistic terms, woodworking has led to two forms: pastoral and artisanal woodcarving. In the first case, equipment and tools for domestic work (sticks, cups, spoons, hurkas, etc.) are made and decorated, and the tools are reduced to an ordinary knife. In artisan carving, the main tool is the chisel, which is in great variety - depending on the preparation of complex compositions for architectural decoration. The variety of chisels (shupitili) consists in the profile of the incisors and in the curvature of their handles.

Carved suns shine from the ceilings of Revival houses, iconostasis and pulpits of three schools can be seen in churches and monasteries across the country

You can feel dizzy just by looking at the carved suns on the ceilings of the Revival houses in Old Plovdiv, Tryavna, Koprivshtitsa, Elena and many other places in Bulgaria. But in fact they are only the quintessence of this art. The artistic processing of wood - woodcarving, is the cutting of various decorative images and elements with a certain symbolism and artistic value. The art of woodcarving among the Bulgarians was performed in the past only by men. Today, there are many women who work in this field.

Woodcarving in the Bulgarian lands has appeared since ancient times. It is also known to the Slavs, undergoing development over the centuries under the influence of Byzantine, Roman, Muslim and Russian carving art. It marked a real boom during the rise in the development of crafts in Bulgaria in the XVIII and XIX centuries. Woodcarving finds a place in everyday life - for the manufacture of locks, furniture, ceilings, chests, wooden utensils, canes, hurricanes, rockers, and in elements of religious significance - iconostasis, pulpits, carved church doors, crosses with miniature images of biblical scenes, biographies of saints, accompanied by decorations of plants, birds and mythical creatures. One of the richest collections of such crosses is located in the Rila Monastery.

There are two types of woodcarving - small braid and flat carving and large, deep sculptural carving. The first is also called pastoral carving, and the second - artisan (marangoza) carving. The shepherd's carving is distinguished by wedge-shaped triangular dimples, rib cuts and deeper grooves, with two sloping walls converging at the bottom. There are round holes and simple notches. The objects decorated with shepherd's carvings are often called by the people written (written hurka, painted kaval, colorful bagpipe written). Which comes once from the decoration with wood carvings, and from its coloring, which is made with gunpowder or charcoal. Pastoral woodcarving is transferred during the Bulgarian Revival and in architecture.

While the flat carving has mostly strict geometry, the sculptural woodcarving has mostly a desire for a realistic image. Typical are figural compositions, braids and arabesques, plant motifs - rosette, oak leaf, vine, "tree of life", as well as animal images of griffin, peacock, nightingale, lion's head, snake or dragon, or eagle. The creators here are again mostly shepherds. A remarkable amount of woodcarving can be seen in the Revival houses in Zheravna, Kotel, Tryavna, Teteven and others.

Regardless of the pastoral carving in the culture the Bulgarians also developed the deep sculpted woodcarving. This kind of art is always associated with architecture in wealthy families. It is found in boyar homes in Bulgaria in the IX century, and highly artistic monuments of it are preserved in Bulgarian churches from the XII and subsequent centuries. In many cases, this woodcarving is combined with inlays of bone and pearl mass. Influence in this art probably comes from Byzantium.

In the XVIII - XIX century the deep sculpted carving received a new development in woodcarving iconostasis art under the influence of the western style - renaissance and baroque. In the 19th century there were three major schools - Aton, Debar and Tryavna, whose masterpieces are found in churches and monasteries throughout the country. The wood carvings of the Tryavna school had a greater abundance of plant motifs than those of the other two schools. Examples of the carving art of the Debar school are, for example, the iconostasis in the church “St. Bogoroditsa ”in Pazardzhik,“ St. Nikola ”in Sofia and others. A work of Tryavna residents is the carving in the church "St. Georgi ”in Tryavna, the churches in Sevlievo, Pleven, Veliko Tarnovo and in many towns and villages in Northern and Southern Bulgaria. And the carving in the old church in the town of Bansko, in the Rila Monastery, as well as in many other places, was made by representatives of the Samokov, or also called - Bansko school.

Pure folk art, rooted in the local tradition, is carving on bone and horn, a work exclusively belonging to shepherds and hunters. This thread is shallow, linear and geometric. These are made, for example, on gunpowder horns, shepherd's bag horns, horn and bone whistles, kavals and bagpipes. This includes decorations on the horn and bone handles of large and small knives, prepared in the past in the regions of Kostenets, Gabrovo, Shipka and elsewhere. Metal inlay with ornaments with hot iron was also used in the decoration with horn.

Author: Stefan Bonev

Sources: Hr. Vakarelski, "Ethnography of Bulgaria"

D. Drumev and A. Vassilev "Woodcarving in Bulgaria"


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