A centuries-old custom that can be traced back to the Tracians, Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing) is a mysterious ritual in which people actually dance on smouldering embers without getting any burns.
Believed to be one of the oldest pagan rituals in the Balkans, Nestinarstvo has defied persecution by both the Christian Church and communism and is still practiced in some Bulgarian and Greek speaking villages of the Strandzha Mountains. One of this remote settlements is the legendary Bulgari village, where people still dance on hot coals, just like their ancestors have done for thousands of years.
The enigmatic ritual of Nestinarstvo begins at sunset, when the chief nestinar (fire dancer), wearing a white shirt and red sash wrapped around his waist, arrives in Bulgari’s square and begins spreading the hot embers in a circle. Street lights are turned-off and all the villagers gather around the scorching dancing ring, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes and drums. The nestinari begin dancing around the circle, carrying religious icons, and then suddenly walk through fire, their feet lightly touching the red-hot embers, sometimes pressing down hard in circular motion. The dance continues until the nestinari put out the blaze with their feet.