The traditional beliefs and practices of the Rhodopes have long been a subject of interest. One of the pioneers in their study is the prominent Bulgarian ethnographer, folklorist and historian Stoyu N. Shishkov. Its name today bears the Regional Museum of History in Smolyan, whose founder he himself is. About Shishkov, Stayko Kabasanov writes: "He, along with his brothers in the case of Hristo Popkonstantinov and Vasil Dechev, form the Rhodope tri-star folk and is his most prominent representative." S. Shishkov is one of the great researchers of the life and culture of the Pomaks. Hailing from the village of Ustovo, he communicates with a Bulgarian Mohammedan from the neighboring village of Vlahovo. When he later starts researching, he will devote some of his publications to them. He maintains his firm conviction that the Bulgarian-Mohammedans in the Rhodopes "by faith alone, and superficially, barely noticed, differed from us Christian Bulgarians."

"The only distinguishing features between the Pomak and the Bulgarian Christian remain that the former goes to the mosque and the latter to the church; one is called Hassan or Ahmed and the other Petko or Wolf. (…) The language is their native Bulgarian both at home and abroad. The costume is also the same, only the Pomak woman has kept the strange custom of braiding her hair in small braids and leaves curls on her ears, similar to the Bulgarian peasant women in the Thracian field. ()
In many villages you can hear the Pomaks themselves saying that their blood is related, that a certain Pomak family has family ties with a Christian family, that a Bulgarian family has its shares from the ancestors of the fruit trees of some your pomak and others like that. ()
Seats, mutual aids and other such folk customs are even more traditionally observed in Pomaks than in Bulgarians. Hospitality and charity are proverbial in them. In some Pomak corners the folk choir is not abandoned. Folk art is the same: songs, tunes, tales, soothers, children's games, creeds, proverbs, etc. "

Stoyu Shishkov describes his observations, accompanied by notes, on cults to the sun and to the fire among the Rhodopes. Let us pay more attention to them, not only because they are made by such a conscientious researcher and a good expert in their native land, but also because they date from the very beginning of the XX century (1905 and 1912). and cult practices are preserved in a far more authentic form than we see in decades to come.

The sun in the folklore of the Rhodopes was a young lad. Once, before it began to warm the earth, a snake slapped it on one eye, leaving it with one eye. And well, it was because if you looked with both eyes, the whole earth would burn and burn.
The sun had no father, only mother and sister. His sister's name was Maritsa. He lived at the end of the earth, where the human foot did not step. However, if someone came to him for help, he would not return him empty handed.
In the morning the sun was resting and cheerful, so it warmed up mercilessly. did not drink heavily. The more he walked, he grew tired, the more poisonous he became and the more he roasted. In the evening, when tired, the heat diminished. It was back home dusty, dirty, bleeding from road bumps, and therefore even more angry. Only his mother would dare to meet him and speak, if another man confronted him then - he would be torn and eaten.
It happened once a poor widow came to the Sun to ask him if he would marry his soon-to-be three daughters. And well, she didn't cook the angry Sun coming home, because it would destroy her. Instead, the Sun's mother quickly hid the woman, waiting for the Sun to go home, rest, and pass the anger.
Although it was lush and impatient, the Sun was very hard working, so it always managed to complete all its duties on time. She would go home at the same time for dinner, go to bed early and get up early.

At sunrise and sunset the Bulgarians in the Rhodopes crossed themselves and prayed for a beret. Uncleanness should not be thrown against the sun and sprayed with water. They believed that whining against the sun would immediately punish him, sending him sickness.
The Bulgarians in the Rhodope Mountains welcomed the solar eclipse as an extremely bad omen - bloodshed was expected. With its light, the Sun drove away the evil forces, so as long as the warmth was kept outside the laundry, after sunset it was immediately taken inside.

The sun was also present in a lot of oaths of the locals: "Make me a Sloanchiceanu!" More: "The sun shall curse you!", "The sun shall not see you!", Etc. In colloquial language, the sunshine is usually used for the sun. Here are two folk songs from the Rhodope region that recreate the local ideas about the sun. The first is from the village of Kovachevitsa, Gotse Delchev, Western Rhodopes. In it, the local hero Michal manages to overtake the Sun with his "filigree horse unfiltered."

Michal boasts a good hero,
bragged about sitting last night,
bragging to the little girls,
that he has a horse phirogon,
the horse's phirohoghorn unfiltered
that he is deceiving this clear sun
and he cheated with strong winds.
When the turmoil was ruined,
these little girls went,
go to Yvert for water;
there she saw the solar mother,
mother's will and speech:
- So god, sunny mother,
Michal boasts a good hero,
boasted last night in seats,
that he has a horse phirogon,
the horse's phirohoghorn unfiltered
that he is deceiving this clear sun
and deceit he strong winds!
Pa became a solar mother
pa in the sun spoke and said:
- So god, my clear sun,
bragging Michal is a good hero,
bragged about sitting last night,
bragging to the little girls,
that he has a horse phirogon,
the horse's phirohoghorn unfiltered
that it deceives you, clear sun
and deceit he strong winds!
Again it became this clear sun,
so went the court of Michael,
that sauce Michal siege was besieged
in the morning to go together:
if it passes the clear sun,
to land him a horse phirogon,
the horse's phirohogan is unfired;
if Michal is a good hero,
to land his sister Mariitsa.
When is morning dawn,
pa went that clear sun;
the sun has already gone to lunch,
and you have drunk bad wine.
When the sun mother saw it,
Mihal vela says and says:
- When you can't hold a bet,
why are you betting on a bar bet?
The sun was already over for lunch,
and you drink drunk wine in teesec!
Pa, my name is Michal, a good hero,
put your foot in easy zengia,
dur also transferred his left foot,
he went sunrise;
until de Michal is well seated,
he reached that clear sun,
pa in the sun spoke and said:
- So god, this clear sun,
I will eat in your midst,
when you reach me,
shout for us to go together!
The sun came up on the sack,
the sun came and went,
but Michal is not called;
the horse whimpered, Michal wakes up:
- Get up, get up, Michal Good hero,
the sun has already come and gone,
but you are not called.
You became Michal the Good Hero again,
your next horse is a phirogon,
the horse's phirohoghorn unfiltered
again this clear sun came up,
pa in the sun spoke and said:
"Yaze shields in your yards!"
And the sun was setting on him, saying,
- Wait, Michal, let's go together,
let me give you a sister Mariitsa!
I told him to Michal and said:
- Things Sister Maritsa is eating,
hello i go people for praise.

The locals believed that since Michal the hero surpassed the Sun, he was very angry with people and should be kept away from him where they met him. The second song is part of Rakovski's "Pointer" ("A pointer or guide on how to claim and search for the oldest features of our existence, our language, our worship, our old government, our glorious past and so forth."). It tells of the Sun's marriage to the Beautiful Grozdanka.

My sweet birthday doesn't last!
Got a sweet girl,
it was too nice.
Slavka wonders and May
what to call his name.
So she called him Grozdanka -
make his name ugly.
Grozdanka grew,
big girl grew up,
the sun did not see her.
That the Grozdanka came out
in your father's gardens,
in front of their fathers' yards,
there the sun saw her!
Three days, three nights flicker,
trembled, did not go;
his mother cooked everything,
cooked, hoped,
why the sun slows down.
When did you go to them,
his mom sued him,
judged, further asked:
- Sweet sun, Mom,
why does the sun slow down,
you really have dinner,
supper - a herb cow
and nine ovens of sourdough bread?
Sunshine word cheats:
- Yes, you know, Mom, you know
what a girl I saw
to the earth below, to the world!
If this girl doesn't take it,
I'm not going to get clear,
as I was clearly rising…
To go, Mom, to go,
to go, Mom, to God,
to go, to ask him
can we take it,
here to raise her alive -
to marry her?
His mom goes and asks:
"Thank God, thank you!"
The sun is sad and pitiful,
that she is a mirror girl
below me, to the earth below.
Is it and does it fit
alive girl to lift?
The Lord of the Elders said:
- Old lady, sunny mother,
you are good and fit.
Let's drop the golden tubers
at the Grozdankin Courtyards,
on a personal day, on St. George's Day.
It will go a little bigger,
for health to swing;
Grozdanka will follow
he will sit on the swing,
to swing to swing;
we will pull our swings,
we will lift it up. -
As he said, it happened…
On a personal day, on St. George's Day,
gold swings are lowered
at the Grozdankini Courtyards.
Going a little bigger,
for health to swing.
Swinging swings
Grozdanka came after;
I am a mom myself.
By sitting on the swings,
dark fogs descended,
and the swings were rising.
As the swings lifted,
her mother calls her crying:
- Grozdanka sweet, Mom,
you spent nine hours sucking,
nine months to go
father-in-law and mother-in-law,
at first libe wedding.
And Grozdanka heard
nine years to talk.
That Grozdanka was talking
nine years of father-in-law,
father-in-law and mother-in-law,
at the first liberal sun.
Sunny complained,
that she is a Grozny German,
so get ready for another - not to be a German.
A bun will be an idol,
A bun will marry them.
A big wedding.
Grozdanka was there,
it was on fire!
The bun under was thought out:
- Grozdanka, young godfather,
if you're not sick,
that you are blind,
so we got the veil on?
Grozdanka laughed
and bride word, say:
- I wasn't you,
it was kind of blazing,
and I'm not a dick,
neither am I blind-blind!
My mom called me -
nine hours I sucked,
nine hours to fast
father-in-law and mother-in-law!
Now is her ninth year,
I'm going to talk now. -
The sun heard it
and an old sunny mother,
the bride is back,
A bun with the sun wedged.

Another very common practice in the Rhodope Mountains is the cult of fire. Let us draw some historical parallels so that we can explain its emergence and development. First of all, it can be noted that the pagan temples in Pliska, Preslav and Madara from the First Bulgarian Kingdom are very likely to have a common architectural design with, for example, the so-called. "Temples of fire." These temples are known from Hatra, northern Iraq, and from the Humarin City to the Kuban River, the Karachay-Cherkessia Region of the Russian Federation. These are temples related to Zoroastrian practices.
In the center of the temple building was a stone pedestal on which the sacred fire was burning. This fire symbolizes the divine presence, so it should be very strictly guarded. The sacred fire was called Atar. It was created by Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god of goodness, and is an expression of Supreme Justice (Asha Vahishta). Only priests who wore special white face masks to protect him from their bad breath were allowed to approach him. The woods used to keep the fire also underwent pre-cleaning procedures. The fire in the temple was of the highest esteem, but besides it, the Zoroastrians worshiped every single fire, even the one in the hearth, which is why they were called fire worshipers.

In order to protect ourselves from extreme conclusions about the origin of the cult of fire in the Bulgarian lands, and in particular in the Rhodopes, let us remind that such a cult has been spread throughout almost Europe. So perhaps it is a common (Indo-European) reverence that takes many forms in time and space. James Fraser gives a number of examples of this in his book The Golden Twig.

Summer fires were lit in Ireland, through which spotted cattle passed to regain fertility, and a girl who jumped over such a summer fire three times would soon become a bride. In France, it was believed that a girl who dances around nine such summer lights would be married within a year. In the Czech Republic, he thought he could see only nine lights and get married.

In Obermedlingen, Germany, the local light on the 15 June fire, called the "Heavenly Fire". Then they took a wheel from a cart, smeared it with tar and twisted it with straw, then lifted it to a four-meter high and set it on fire. They rose with him at the height of a hill, from which they gradually descended, uttering spellbinding words to the sky. In this custom with Heavenly Fire, we can see quite a few parallels in the Bulgarian Palikosh, where a lit straw basket is kept on a high bar.

It is not uninteresting to get acquainted with Milos Sidorov's version of the origin of this Palikosh custom. According to him, it is a so-called "fire - before - the deity" - a sacred fire that once burned in the Hittite temples. This fire was taken out of the temple, among the people, only once a year - to the "Shirny Zagoveni" by the Bulgarians and to "Neuruz" (New Summer) by the Yazid worshipers. Then a popular procession began at the Yazidis, at which the participants lifted a stick with a straw tied at its top high in the air. However, it is too speculative to seek a ritual relationship only between Gentile Bulgarians and Zoroastrians. We see that this pagan custom was also true in Swabia (Obermedlingen), as described by James Fraser.

Stoyu Shishkov exposes 25 different cases of observing the cult of fire among the Rhodopes. Interesting is the case of people called "jiff ogan" or "dif ogan" (also called Godzelchevsko and "God's fire"). It must be ignited only by the rubbing of two dry trees. During the night, the cattle were spent in it to keep it from various epidemics such as foot and mouth disease and more. According to Shishkov, for the Rhodope shepherds it was the safest means of protecting livestock from diseases. Here we see a similarity to the Irish custom, which also involves passing animals through the fire. The name "Fire of God" was born with the "Heavenly Fire" in Germany. A few words in brief about the other cult practices described by Shishkov.

By the time the newborn baby was one week old, a panic of fire stood by the maternity room day and night, protecting the mother and child from evil spirits.
When a stranger came into the house with a small child, before he greeted the hosts and touched the child, he had to light his fire with his bare hands.
When dressing a toddler in new clothes, they must first stoke the live coals in them.
When they bathe a toddler, they first throw burning charcoal into the pan.
Bitten and cold-hearted people and tearful little children were given water to drink, in which live coal was pre-empted.
Before the owners settled into their new house, they had to first set a fire in the hearth, which would burn overnight, without extinguishing, etc.

In explaining the various but actually classifiable cult practices, let us recall Fraser's conclusions: "Whether used in the form of large stacks lit in certain places, on torches transmitted from place to place, or on charcoal and the ash taken from the smoky heap of fuel is thought to contribute to the growth of crops and the welfare of humans and animals. "

There are two explanations for naturebut of worship practices with fire. 

"On the one hand, they are said to be sun spells or magic ceremonies designed to provide the necessary sunlight for people, animals and plants on the principle of imitative magic - by lighting fires and resembling the earth's great source of light and heat of the sky. (…) "

So fire is understood as a substitute for the sun.

"On the other hand, it is argued that ritual fires are not necessarily related to the sun, but simply intended as a purification designed to burn and destroy any harmful influences, both in personal form - witches, demons and monsters, and in impersonal - as widespread air pollution or deterioration. "

In any case, the cults towards the sun and the fire among the Rhodopes were of great importance in the formation of their value system.

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