You may think that this is some sort of horror movie, or some crazy ass computer game promotion, but actually no. It`s a festival that takes place in my country for couple of times throughtout the year. It`s called KUKERSTVO or MUMMER`S dance.
On New Year’s Eve and Zagovezni in Bulgaria special rituals called Mummer’s games take place. The Mummer’s games are performed by men only. They put on special masks hand-made by each of the participants.
Most of the masks are constructed by wood. Different colored threads are glued on it as well as pieces of multicolored fabrics, mirrors and other shiny elements. The masks representing a ram, a goat or a bull are considered the strongest. Their necessary part of the Mummer’s games proves the thesis that the origin of the mummer’s games is connected to the ancient Dionysius’ games. The impact that the masked mummers make gets even bigger by the sound of the copper and bronze bells that hang on them.
Some of the masks have two faces. Those masks symbolize the good and the bad which coexist in the world and are inevitable. A very important thing for the symbolic of the masks is the color of the decoration. The red is the most used one – a symbol of the fertility of the reviving nature, of the sun and the fire; the black color embodies the earth and her goddess mother and the white is a symbol of water and light.
The mummer’s games aim to scary and sweep away forever the evil spirits and the weird
The main thing in the ritual is the ancient idea of reincarnation and that is why the mask is very important as a main characterizing component.
There are men called “dividzhii” dressed in coats with fur. They have leather belts around their waists with bells on it. They put a mask on their heads. The mask is made of frieze decorated with colorful threads, ribbons and laces. They have a wooden sword in one of their hands and a mace in the other
After the Christmas singers go out in the yard the “dividzhii” start playing. They talk a little and do different rituals. The people that participate in the rituals should not be recognized by the other people in the village so that the year is fertile and the games are successful. The masks gives them the opportunity to do things that otherwise might seem inappropriate. The masked men jump, jingle with the bells, roll on the ground, sharpen their swords with the frieze and make jokes. They rock and fall on the ground to represent the weight of the ears of corn. They roll on the ground to gain power from it so that they are healthy. The jingle of the bells chases away all the bad things. The bells are always used in different rituals in all cultures as protection from magic.. In the night before St. Vassil`s day ( which actually is my “name” day – which i`m going to explain what is exacly in another post) the troop goes from house to house making jokes with the hosts. They receive money and bread. During the visits whenever they meat people on the streets, strangers or people gathered for the show the mummers make comic and even cynical jokes and play different games. The spectacles joke and tease them all well. The parade is noisy and funny. The games are full of joy, conflicts, different costumes and persons, comical plays and improvisations. It is a real national celebration full of freshness, humor, satire, a theatre in the open in which both the spectacles and the people making the games are performers. Laughter has special magical powers so people laugh to influence the flora and fauna. Quite often the function of magic is full of theatric elements. That is why a lot of researchers think that the mask games are in the beginning of theatre itself.
The ritual ends with a big horo (our national dance) in the centre of the village. They make a feast with the food and the money they have gathered during the carnival.