Traditional masquerade games

The specific requirements been observed such as that being a mummer is allowed only to men and bachelors at that (not married). Across Bulgarian lands the first written evidence of similar customs of men masked in animal skins are present in 303 by Dasios (a christian martyr, who is Thracian). He describes them in the area around Silistra. During 10 century Presbyter Kozma anathematized his compatriots who have fallen to superstitions, amusements and the sacrileges of the games instead of devoting to the church and knowledge. the mummeric rituals are changed and developed throughout the centuries. They have their ups and downs, but they survived until nowadays as an original form of national and folk theater. Despite it's unified pagan bases and the common outlook, mummers, as well as survakars have different regional peculiarities. The masks and costumes are different, and sometimes the characters and the settings, as well as the ritual acts. Even the names of the groups involved differ: "mummers", "mumms", "jamals", "oldmen", "starchinars", "dervishes", "camelmen", "araps", "baburks", "babugers", "pesyatzi", "maskpeople" and others, but they're most popular under the term mummers. Usually mummers' games are played between the first and second Sundays before Lent (until the end of February or the beginning of March). Nowadays in the group can go not only bachelors, but married men also and even bridegrooms. The groups go about every house, building and yard and drive away the evil forces with the sound of bells and the fearsome masks.
"Mummer's dance"
In the area of Kazanluk the old men tie red or white stripes around their arms and martenitsas and groves to their leggings. Around Pazardjik and in some villages around Plovdiv the playing of "jamala" or "rogacha" is bound to visiting the homes. The motley and noisy group brings thunder and rumble to the village while walking about the houses. The "bride" bows and kisses hand of the householders, the "gypsies" are begging for the "child" and receive gifts, given in a sieve so the whole year would be abundant. The guide of "jamala" is difficult to get a hold on by the "wardens". He's tied with a heavy chain and driven with a stick or a saber. In every home the "rogach" jigs and twists madly until he lies down on the floor exhausted. The householder throws water over him and sometimes sprinkles him with grain and corn. The jamala then stands up again. That's a ritual of fertility. The masked mummers "shave" the householder with a wooden saber so he would be strong and healthy. They hit gently every family member or jump over the young brides with babies. According to believes this brings good health. Before the sending off the householders treat the group with a hot round loaf and wine. The variety and specifics of masks and costumes is stunning. Each year the mummer handcrafts a new costume for the walkabout. This gives will to the imagination and the artistic senses. The mummers' outfits and masks are in the wide-spread zoomorphic and anthropomorphic style and are made of goats' or sheep's skins. The mask resembles an animal with horns and sinister or sarcastic human features. The mummers are "armed" with wooden sabers or sticks and in some areas they carry a hoop - symbol of a horse's yoke (the wishful fertility). An attribute that is always present to the costume are the bells. If they're big and heavy there are just a few. If they're small and light - there are many of them all over the costume. During the development of the mummers' games not only the rituals themselves have changed, but the outfit has as well. The masks are the most interesting part of the outfit and they carry a symbolic and ideological weight. For more than a century there has been a systematic research of the mummer's ritual games. Many ethnographers like Michael Arnaudov, Petar Petrov, Georg Kraev, Stefan Genchev, T. Koleva, D. Marinov and others have dedicated multiple works to these rituals. If You'd like to view part of the internet content on this subject, please visit the web-page about ethnography in "Map and links".
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