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The bas-relief images on the folk pies tempt the imagination of ethnographers and


When you see such bread, you become somehow uncomfortable to put it in your mouth. It is sacred, carrying overt and covert messages to deities and people. At the same time, it smells wonderful and irritates your appetite irresistibly. It is a work of art, an exquisite bas-relief, but not made of stone, but of dough sculpted by the skilled fingers of an unknown Bulgarian woman. He went through water and fire before he reached you.

You think that the place of this ritual bread with skillful plastic on the crust is in the showroom, not in your stomach. And you are torn between the idea of ​​preserving it for generations, as a valuable painting, a magnificent statue and a historical relic is preserved, or of lifting it high and breaking it above people's heads, which is what its purpose is.

It has long been known that one does not sit at the Bulgarian table without bread. Even in our folklore there are claims that the purpose of various dishes is to help the bread not to squat. In fact, its significance far exceeds the daily needs of the Bulgarian and he has turned it into a striking form of plastic art for centuries. The Bulgarian housewife prepares ritual breads with plastic on all occasions of life and religion, starting from birth and baptism, wedding, to death and burial. Only later did the preparation of such breads acquire a Christian-religious character.

Ritual breads should be seen as a kind of bloodless sacrifice. They have been prepared in the past for atonement, for winning, for predisposing to supernatural forces and deities. And somehow it is quite natural for this folk art and creativity to come from the woman - the mother, the grandmother, the wife, the housewife. She is the one who prepares the food, kneads the dough, shapes the ritual bread and the plastic elements on it.

Мистерията на обредния хляб

No holiday could pass without ritual bread. In its various varieties it is prepared for Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year, Trifon Zarezan, St. George's Day and others. Its preparation is accompanied by magical rites and actions that aim to give the breads supernatural powers. They chase diseases, protect against drought, natural disasters and pests on crops, lead to fertility, predict the future… To achieve this, women do not just knead cakes and loaves, but act as priests. In the different regions of Bulgaria, even in the individual settlements and neighborhoods, you can learn about all sorts of rituals for making ritual breads, such as the use of an odd number of sieves and nights, kneading with silent water and much more.

Ritual breads can be divided into four groups depending on their decoration. The first group - breads with embossed decoration, includes the various glues on the surface of the breads. The hosts put rolls and balls of dough, which symbolize a threshing floor, hives, house or individual animals: sheep, goats, bees, birds. In some cases, they depict a circle symbolizing the sun, a cross symbolizing a cross of sheaves, rosettes, dolls, symbolizing man, etc. On the loaves can be depicted whole compositions (Christmas - Vespers, Bogovitsa, St. George's Day - pens, farmyard, plow with oxen and plowman, on St. Nicholas Day - boat or ship, fishing net with catch, at the wedding - cow ties with birds (with the heads inwards, if they are boys, and with the heads outside if they are girls).

The second group - individual sculptures, includes the so-called dolls - human figures, Easter basket with eggs, barrel of Tryphon Zarezan, bread with birds or others. animals.

The third group includes breads with unmodelled (flat) decoration, such as drawings on the surface with the help of finger, fork, nut, circles made with a cup or barrel, as well as breads with prosfornicki seals.

The last group refers to breads decorated with foreign materials. These are the breads with eggs, with popcorn, strung on a necklace and hung on the wedding breads, breads with fruits or seeds, breads with mashed basil and others.

This rich decoration and symbolism is the fruit of creative inspiration, longing for abundance, happiness and joy in the coming year or the respective holiday. During the years of communism, this art was also used in the socialist holiday-ritual system.

The claim that ritual breads are Christian church attributes and props cannot be accepted without reservation. In the Holy Eucharist, the wafer and the wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ. Bread in folk rites has a slightly more pragmatic function, most often the main goal is to achieve health for livestock and people, fertility, increase family and property, protection from evil forces and diseases. The actions performed with the ritual breads are also aimed at this goal - lifting high so that the grains grow high, separating a piece of bread for the spirit, protecting the home, accumulating the loaves of bread. one on top of the other, in order to accumulate wealth, etc. The ritual breads embody the pursuit of common well-being in the home. This is the main idea in the semantics and plasticity of the ritual bread, which makes it a kind of folk art, created by the skillful hands of the Bulgarian woman.

Мистерията на обредния хляб

Author: Stefan Bonev

Sources: Hr. Vakarelski, "Ethnography of Bulgaria"


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