Kukeri

January 1, 2017

The kukeri celebration is one of the oldest surviving traditions that can be traced back to Dionysian rites, symbolizing life, death, and rebirth. Men initiated rituals when spirits threatened the Sun’s rebirth. The kukeri continued the practices into the spring, before the sowing of the harvest, when the earth was awakening after a long winter. Thracian warriors believed if they dressed in animal skins, they could battle against these spirits and either scare them away or capture their powers. With them, the kukeri performed rituals to renew nature’s strength. Only men, who carried the seed of life in their bodies, had the ability to rouse and nurture the female Mother Earth.

Kukeri

Kukeri and Witch’s Magic

An unmarried ruler named Dobrodor, the maker of good, spurned the love of Zliyana, the daughter of a king of the northern lands. Because a kind, beautiful woman had captured his heart, he returned tokens of love Zliyana had sent to him.

Living up to her name, Zliyana sought to bring evil on Dobrodor and his people. She cast a spell to make all unmarried men die if they tilled the fields. Since it was springtime, some disregarded the warning and ploughed the earth, consequently dying.

To prevent any more deaths, Dobrodor told all the unmarried men to disguise themselves. Some donned women’s clothing, while others wore masks from the skins of animals and tied bells around their waists. The men dressed as women harnessed the ones clothed as animals and drove the ploughs through the fields. The witch’s magic was fooled, seeing not men, but only women and animals in the field.

Did you know…?

Kukeri have scared away more than spirits. Turkish soldiers surrounded a rebel leader his followers. To terrify the soldiers, they put on masks, bells around their waists, and made torches of hemp soaked in tar. At dusk they crept out to where the soldiers camped. The soldiers scattered upon seeing devils carrying long forks and breathing fire.

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Tikvenik: A Little Taste of Bulgaria

October 1, 2016

If you ever travel to Bulgaria, be sure to try a banitsa, one of the country’s most popular dishes. In our book Mystical Emona, this is one of Maria’s specialties. One reason for the dish’s popularity is that it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Another is that it’s simple to make. Traditional banitsa is made with filo dough, feta cheese, eggs, and yogurt. However, since autumn has arrived, we’d like to introduce you to a special variety called Tikvenik (teek-vah-neek), pumpkin banitsa.

Tikvenik (pumpkin-pie)

Tikvenik (pumpkin-pie)

The recipe for this scrumptious meal follows, but first we’d like to tell you about an interesting tradition involving banitsa. To celebrate New Year’s Eve, Bulgarians make a banitsa with fortunes. The mother of the household makes lucky charms or fortunes (small sheets of paper on which wishes are written then rolled up and wrapped in foil). She places them inside the banitsa before it’s baked.

At the evening meal, each member of the family takes a piece that contains a fortune. An additional piece is reserved for God, to keep the house safe from bad luck. Each charm tells the person his fortune for the coming year: perhaps a new job, a new house, health, a wedding, and so forth. Bulgarians have many customs that focus on health and fortune, and protection from evil. Similar to this tradition is the more common one performed at Christmas. A coin (and sometimes fortunes) are baked into a bread (pitka). The person who get the coin will have good luck throughout the year. If the coin is found in the piece set aside for the house or God, then the entire family will be healthy and have good luck. The ritual is included in our book The Christmas Thief.

Banitsa is made with homemade or commercially made filo dough pastry sheets, sugar, nuts (optional), cinnamon, and butter. You can also sprinkle powdered sugar on top to make it a little sweeter. And, of course, don’t forget the pumpkin.

Ingredients:

1  1/2 lbs pumpkin

1 cup sugar (or brown sugar)

2 ounces chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 lb butter, melted

1 (1 lb) package filo pastry

2 – 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Directions:

  • Cut the pumpkin into large pieces grate it. The seeds and guts should have already been removed. You want to use only the meat of the pumpkin.
  • Add the sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon; mix with the pumpkin.
  • If you decide to use the butter, melt it and pour over the pumpkin mixture.
  • Open the package of filo dough and spread it out.
  • On the top layer, sprinkle vegetable oil (not more than a teaspoon), and spread it out so it coats the filo.
  • Spread 2 – 3 Tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture evenly over the filo (so it slightly covers the surface), then sprinkle some of the leftover sugar on top of that.
  • Take up 3 of the filo sheets and roll them together to form a log.
  • Place this on the outer edge of a greased baking dish, with the open end down.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining filo and pumpkin mixture, placing the log rolls in a circular fashion on the dish until it is filled.
  • Sprinkle vegetable oil over the top, coating all the filo so it doesn’t become dry.
  • Bake for about 15 – 17 mins at 350 F or until crispy and golden on top.
  • Remove from the pan immediately after baking and let it cool.

It’s best to place the pieces of banitsa flat while they cool, rather than stacked. If you stack them, the ones on the bottom won’t be crispy. It’s fine to pile them up on top of each other once they have cooled.

Banitsa is delicious as a dessert or for breakfast with your morning coffee or tea. We hope you enjoy it.

Here is a video showing a variation of the above recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfrRdCxFECE

We have more authentic Bulgarian recipes in our book Light Love Rituals- Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore, and you can learn about the customs as well. Or, if you prefer, you can get just the recipes in Mediterranean and Bulgarian Cuisine: 12 Easy Traditional Favorites.

Bulgarian Magical Healers: Don’t Call Me a Witch!

September 25, 2016

Is healing outside of modern medicine miraculous or perhaps even magical?

Do you know where Bulgaria is? It’s nestled along the western side of the Black Sea, just north of Greece. The country is perhaps best known to the Western world for the city of Varna, the place where Dracula set sail on the Demeter. But the country has so much more to its acclaim—Thracian tombs, rose oil, yogurt, honey, and herbs. Not to mention all the creatures who call it home—vampires, witches, dragons, and nymphs. You’ve most likely heard of Veelas from Harry Potter stories. In Bulgaria these nymphs, or fairies, who can charm men are called Samodivi and inhabit forests. Their sisters the Rusalki thrive in water bodies. You’d probably call them mermaids.

Bulgarians are steeped in superstitions, with numerous ways to ward off illness and curses caused by the “evil eye,” but they are also believers in the divine. Orthodox and pagan practices combine into unique perspectives on every aspect of life from birth to death. Folk medicine is widespread—in cities as well as in tiny, remote villages. Herbs play an important role in these cures. A popular saying is that an herb exists for every ache. Even during the time of the Roman Empire, Thrace (modern Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey) was known for its vast richness of medicinal plants.

No day is more important for healers than Midsummer, or Eniovden, a celebration of the summer solstice. Beginning at dusk on the previous evening, women and healers collect herbs because they’re most potent on this day. Although it may sound strange, they collect seventy-seven and a half herbs. It’s said this is the number of illnesses that exist, with the half herb designated for unknown ailments. (No, I don’t know how they determine a half herb. Perhaps they break one in half. Like so many other rituals, it’s secretive.)

Eniovden Wreath

Eniovden Wreath

Women who gather the herbs use some to create a giant wreath that young girls pass through. This protects them from being captured by a zmey, a male dragon who easily falls in love with a maiden and desires to have her for a bride. (Lest you think this might be quite the adventure, believe me it’s not. Those marriages always end in disaster for the poor girl who gives in to the zmey’s pleas and promises of wealth.)

Mostly, however, healers use herbs to cure illnesses, especially those caused by spirits or through curses. In ancient times in Bulgaria, during the time of the Thracians, the summer solstice was associated with spirits crossing from one realm to the next. And so, it was a day when people, livestock, and fields required protection. Only those versed in magical rites could perform these sacred rituals. They used herbs that had the power to contact invisible beings in order to help them cure the afflicted person.

Who are these healers, and how did they obtain this power?

Both men and women can be healers, although most often the role falls to an elderly woman called a znahar. But, please, don’t call her a witch. To this nation of people who believe in a single, omnipotent God as much as they do in beautiful, enchanting Samodivi, a “witch” is a veshtitsa, a spiteful person who practices the dark arts and wishes to cause death, sickness, discord, and the theft of fertility from the land, rather than healing and well-being. A community fears a veshtitsa, while they respect a znahar.

Baba Vanga

Baba Vanga: Wikipedia Commons

In rare instances, the znahar receives her healing arts by a supernatural means—from a saint, angel, or Samodiva through a dream, or even in a near-death situation, when the boundaries between this life and the next merge. The znahar in this case not only becomes a healer, but also a clairvoyant. The most famous was Baba Vanga (1911 – 1996). As a child she was reportedly caught up in a tornado and dumped into a field. From that point on, her eyesight failed, but her psychic and herbal healing abilities developed, which she claimed came from invisible creatures.

Samodivi are said to be daughters of the Great Goddess Bendis, and are therefore protectors of nature. In this capacity, they have the power to heal creatures and the land itself. Bulgarians believe the nymphs initiate chosen women into the sisterhood, and pass on to them the secrets of healing with herbs. The ceremony takes place in the woods right before sunrise on a Sunday on a night when the moon is full.

A more common initiation, however, is one passed down from one generation to the next, or from grandmother to granddaughter. The females involved are expected to be “ritually pure,” that is pre-menstrual or post-menopausal. These points in a female’s life bring them closest to the states of birth and death, respectively, allowing them to transition between the earthly and otherworldly realms so they can communicate with spirits.

The initiation can take place in various sacred places—by a river (symbolic of birth) or next to a hearth (representing the home or temple of the gods). In the first, the initiate climbs a willow tree by the river. With its branches in the air, and its roots in the earth, getting nourishment from the water, the tree unifies all three elements. The initiate recites the words to the sacred ritual three times, then moves to another branch and repeats the words three more times. Once more, the initiate moves and repeats the words three more times, ensuring the power will “take root” in the individual.

When performed at the hearth, the elder woman places bread in a covered clay dish called a podnitza and sticks it into the fire. Using iron tools, which have purifying power to chase away evil, she buries the dish with ashes, then places the tools on both sides of the hearth. Facing the fire, the initiate kneels on a broom, which symbolizes purification, the sweeping away of all unclean things.

The elder woman places three grains of wheat on the initiate’s right knee and three on the left, then tosses three grains into the fire. In ancient rituals, wheat consecrated the sacrifice offered to the gods. Placing it on the initiate, therefore, purifies her so she can become a vessel divine power can flow through.

Next, the elderly woman stands behind the initiate and recites the incantation, which the initiate repeats. They repeat the words three times. The elderly woman removes a metal or clay ceremonial object from a wicker basket placed to the right of the initiate. The initiate makes the sign of the cross three times, then touches the object to her forehead, then to her heart, and finally to her knees. She makes the sign of the cross again, and places the sacred object on her left side.

The elderly woman stirs a bunch of basil in a bowl of water and recites a blessing. After the blessing, the elderly woman sprinkles the initiate with the water using the basil to endow her with divine power. The initiate drinks the water from three places. This provides her with guidance for her mouth, hands, and heart: to speak, do, and feel those things that bring health and life to others.

A mediator is needed to transfer the healing power to the initiate. This is done with the bread, called dobra dusha, kind soul. The elderly woman breaks three pieces from it. She eats one, the initiate another, and the third the elderly woman places on the inside of the chimney. The two women now share the power. The initiate will gain her full power only after her mentor dies.

In the final rite of the ceremony, the elderly woman ties a red thread to the initiate’s right hand and pins a geranium onto her clothing. These both are symbolic of protection.

A Znahar’s Herbal Remedies

A znahar is said to be able to diagnose the origin of an ailment. If it’s caused by black magic, she not only uses herbs, but also recites an incantation to remove the spell. However, the spell must never be spoken without the use of the herbs, or both will lose their potency. And the spells must be uttered only when she fully understands the magic of each herb. Reciting spells over herbs before this point will harm both the woman and the person she attempts to heal.

The healing ceremony begins with a prayer to beings in the spiritual realm so they’ll bless the sick person. In one ritual, the healer leads the patient to the front door. There, he bows, touching his forehead against the threshold. He rises and proceeds to the hearth, where he again bows. The healer places embers in a bowl of water. Using the designated herb, she sprinkles the ill person’s head with the water. She holds bread and wine over his head and asks the illness to depart.

Magical herbs grow in valleys or high in the mountains. Using them is reported to enable the znahar to contact spirits to help with the magic. A few of these herbs follow:

  • One mysterious herb is bile, used to expel demons causing illnesses.
  • Angelica protects against spells and demonic attacks.
  • Pink iris root provides happiness, success, strength, and energy for those who are depressed.
  • Basil is used for cleansing and healing.
  • Vervain enhances magical powers and prevents attacks against the mind.
  • Lilac brings peace and tranquility.
  • Nettle breaks spells and exorcises demons.
  • Wormwood keeps dragons away.
ENIOVDEN by Albena Markova

ENIOVDEN by Albena Markova

Ronesa Aveela writes fiction and non-fiction dealing with Bulgarian mythology. Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey, her first book, is a romantic fantasy about a Samodiva (Bulgarian woodland nymph) and a Boston artist. Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore takes the reader through the season, identifying popular Bulgarian holidays and the rituals associated with them, as well as information about their origins. It even includes several recipes. She has also written short stories for children called “Baba Treasure Chest stories.” “Born From the Ashes” uses much of the information about and describes this transfer of power from a magical healer to her granddaughter.

References:

Konstantinova, Daniela Prayer (trans.). “Prayer blessing, vow: the secret lore of the Bulgarian healers and sorceresses.” Sept. 27, 2012. http://bnr.bg/en/post/100170254/prayer-blessing-vow-the-secret-lore-of-the-bulgarian-healers-and-sorceresses.

Mag, Selena. “Secrets of magic herbs” (translated from Bulgarian). Mar. 13, 2009. http://www.selenabg.com/index.php/2008-07-29-07-51-40/1616-2009-03-13-06-32-15.html.

Mishev, Georgi. Thracian Magic past and present. Sept. 2013. (BM Avalonia: London).

#RRBC Back-to-School Book & Blog Block Party

August 27, 2016

Blog Party 1

 

 

 

LOCATION: Southern New Hampshire, USA, EDT

# of PRIZES: 4
*2 audio books: The Christmas Thief
WINNERS: JOY NWOSU LO-BAMIJOKO & NATALIE DUCEY
*1 ebook: Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey
WINNER: C. S. BOYACK
*1 ebook: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore
WINNER: HANNAH HOWE

You are nearing the end of the RRBC Book & Blog Party. We hope you’ve had a pleasant time and have met a lot of wonderful, talented authors. If you’ve missed any, here’s a link for you to go back and visit the others:

Rave Reviews Book & Blog Block Party Lineup

While you’re here, please leave a non-spam comment on this page for a chance to win one of the above prizes. Contest ends midnight CDT, August 27, 2016. Winners will be drawn by RRBC and announced shortly after the contest ends.

Want to learn more about Ronesa? Check out her RRBC Spotlight interview.

Welcome to
The Land of Bulgaria

mystical_emona_add_V1MYSTICAL EMONA: SOUL’S JOURNEY

We’d like to start you off with what inspired “Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey.” Henry James once said, “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.”

So, while the main theme of the story is soul mates finding each other after centuries apart, the book unveils much more than a love story. It’s a story about the modern Bulgarian people and their culture. The book introduces readers to ancient Thracian customs and rituals that have survived through the ages. As one reviewer stated so beautifully: “The relationships are handled with loving care as the story weaves a tapestry of ancient myths and traditions, mingled with the world of today.”

MYSTICAL EMONA:
An RRBC Book of the Month Selection

In addition to these traditions, the wild beauty of a real village called Emona was the inspiration behind this book. This secluded, mystical place located on the Black Sea, its people hidden from the eyes of the world, is filled with history and a soul of its own – from being the legendary birthplace of Thracian king Rhesus, who fought in the Trojan War, to being the site of a fortress during the Middle Ages.

Interview with Bulgarian National Radio: http://bnr.bg/en/post/100485397/mystical-emona-where-ancient-legends-are-still-alive-to-this-day

Love Light Rituals

LIGHT LOVE RITUALS: BULGARIAN MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND FOLKLORE

Bulgarians take pride in their heritage and culture, which is rich in colorful folklore and traditions. The nation practices more than ten thousand rites from a person’s birth through his death. Many of these date back to an era when people both feared and worshiped nature. In the process of writing Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey, I found myself asking “Why?” on numerous occasions. Why did people do the things they did? Those “whys” resulted in further research. What were the origins of these customs and rituals? What did they mean?

What I discovered was an overlap of pagan and Christian beliefs. Many customs originated in the days when Thracians inhabited the area that is now modern-day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. So much of the material I read said Bulgarian traditions had Thracian origins, but few articles delved into what those Thracian beliefs actually were. So I continued digging.

This book is a summation of many months spent researching. Al­though I did search for reliable sources to validate the claims articles made, Light Love Rituals is not meant to be a scholarly document. Nor is it an exhaustive study of rituals. Its purpose is to provide readers with a glimpse into Bulgarian culture. It’s information I found interesting and wanted to share, so other people could take the same journey to discover the way others live and believe.

The following, among many other traditions, are part of the cultural heritage thriving in the Balkans today. The book will take you on a journey to discover some of these unique festivals.

  • Illuminated by the light of the full moon, a woman in a long, white robe holds an icon while she dances in a trance over burning coals. The mystical music of a shepherd’s pipe plays in the background.
  • Women dressed in colorful outfits dance in a circle, then pass through an enormous wreath made of magical healing herbs.
  • Wild spring flowers decorate the hair of young girls. Laden with baskets filled with colorful Easter eggs, the youths travel from house to house singing about health and prosperity.
  • Men clothed like wild animals with colorful, scary masks parade around a village. Attached around their waists, giant bells resound, announcing their arrival. The men jump and yell to scare away evil spirits.

These rituals have survived thousands of years and have been practiced by Bulgarians, Greeks, and other European. They have been transmitted from generation to generation. Some of these stories and rituals may seem silly, but the fact that they survive today is a testament to just how strong the forces of nature and love are. We encourage you to follow us on this blog tour to discover more about these people and their wealth of traditions and beliefs.

Praise for LLR: This is a charming and interesting book. I was hooked from the start. Our author takes us on an interesting journey to the heart and soul of Bulgaria. The details in this book made me feel as if I was in this ancient and marvelous country. There are instructions to make crafts and, being a story teller at heart, I loved the anecdotal passages. There is also a charming collection of delicious recipes. I loved the illustrations. I thought they added to the excitement and energy of each of the customs. This book will appeal to a wide audience from children to grandparents whether you are from Bulgaria or not. It’s educational, fun and very entertaining. I recommend it highly.

Interview with Bulgarian National Radio: http://bnr.bg/en/post/100570702/anelia-toncheva-the-magic-of-bulgarian-folklore-changes-bulgaria-s-perception-abroad

BABA TREASURE CHEST series of short stories / coloring books for children and adults

The Christmas ThiefThe Miracle StorkBorn From the Ashes

 

 

 

 

After writing these two books, we turned our pen to lighter fare: children’s books. These, too, have Bulgarian customs woven into the story. Although we say these short stories are for children, they are really for the entire family–in the tradition of Bulgarian storytelling, where grandparents preserve customs and pass on traditions to their grandchildren. And they are more than stories. They are activities and coloring pages to provide further entertainment for the entire family.

Interview with Bulgarian National Radio: http://bnr.bg/en/post/100638950/the-christmas-thief-or-tales-from-babas-treasure-chest-with-anelia-toncheva

Do You Like Mermaids?

Mermaids Around the WorldWe have two additions to our collection that will be available soon

Mermaid’s Gift, short story and coloring book, part of the “Baba Treasure Chest” collection.

Mermaids Around the World, an adult coloring book with 26 lovely designs by the talented Nelinda. Each page has the name of the mermaid, her origin, and a tidbit of information about her.

 

***

Thank you for visiting. We hope you have learned a little a country many people are unaware of. Please be sure to leave a  comment by the end of today, August 27, 2016, for an opportunity to win one of our prizes.

All of our books are available on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, & Smashwords. Discounts are available on the paperback versions of MYSTICAL EMONA, LIGHT LOVE RITUALS, and THE MIRACLE STORK. Contact us for discounts on the others.

 

Connect with Us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RonesaAveela/

https://www.facebook.com/MysticalEmona/

https://www.facebook.com/BabaTreasureChest/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ronesa_Aveela

Where to Find Our Books

Amazon: http://viewAuthor.at/Ronesa-Aveela

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22Ronesa%20Aveela%22

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/ronesa-aveela/id1088547343

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/search?query=Ronesa%20Aveela&fcsearchfield=Author

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/aveela

Prokopi Pchelar (Procopius the Beekeeper)

July 7, 2016

Prokopi Pchelar

A well-known Bulgarian livelihood is beekeeping. It’s no wonder the country has a day, actually two, honoring beekeepers. On July 8, Prokopi Pchelar (pro-copy pchee-lar) or Procopius the Beekeeper, beekeepers perform rituals to entice bees to produce an abundance of honey. They also give away jars of honey and bread coated with the sticky substance as a way to protect family and friends since they believe honey has magical and curative powers.

Aristaeus, Ancient Beekeeper

The first Thracian beekeeper was Aristaeus. He was indirectly responsible for the death of Eurydice, wife of Orpheus, the renowned lyre-player. Aristaeus became enamored with Eurydice and chased her. As she fled, she stepped on a snake, which bit her and she died. Thereafter, her companions, the nymphs, caused the bees of Aristaeus to die as his punishment. With the help of his mother, the water-nymph Cyrene, Aristaeus was able to bind the prophet Proteus, who then told him what to do to regain his bees.

“You have to appease their [the nymphs] anger, and thus it must be done: Select four bulls, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty, build four altars to the nymphs, and sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice you shall pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, you will examine the bodies of the cattle slain and see what will befall.”

Upon returning to the location, Aristaeus discovered a swarm of bees in the carcass of one of the slaughtered cattle. This led the ancient people to believe that bees were born from decaying flesh.

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To learn more about this ritual and other Bulgarian and Thracian Rituals get a copy of our book: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore.

Eniovden (Еньовден)

July 7, 2016

Eniovden (Еньовден) is an old Bulgarian holiday, celebrated annually on June 24. It is believed that its roots lie in the Thracian tradition. There are many legends and beliefs about the mystical power of this day.

A proverb states that an herbal remedy exists for every malady, injury or ailment. In folklore 77 and a half illnesses exist. Herbs are more powerful when picked and gathered at dawn on Midsummer.

It was believed that water acquired healing power after the sun had bathed in it. People wake up early on this day to see how the sun “turns three times” and whoever manages to “bathe” in the dew will be safe from illnesses until next Midsummer Day.

Light Love Rituals book
Light Love Rituals

Eniovden is one of many wonderful rituals and celebrations surviving today.

As humans we grow, learn and discover ourselves by maintaining family traditions and collecting memories to understand the present and connect to the future.

Image by Nelinda: facebook.com/NelindaArt

Eniovden (Midsummer’s Day)

June 16, 2016

Eniovden (Midsummer’s Day) the most magical tradition during the Summer! On Midsummer’s Day, people worshiped the sun!

Eniovden (Еньовден Enio’s Day, or Midsummer’s Day), celebrated on June 24, coincides with the Eastern Orthodox Feast of St. John the Baptist, celebrating his birth. Born six months prior to Jesus, John proclaimed a message of repentance as he paved the way for the Savior.

Poppies

Origins

In terms of its pagan roots, however, Eniovden is a celebration of the summer solstice. In Bulgarian mythology, the Sun (a male deity), along with his twin, the Moon (a female deity), were created when the sky and earth merged. Both light sources played prominent roles in the beliefs of the Thracians, but on the summer solstice, or Midsummer’s Day, people worshiped the sun.

For the Thracians, seasons were divided into winter and summer. On the solstice, the sun had completed its exhaustive journey to summer and was now at its highest point in the sky and shone the longest. It bathed in water sources while it rested, then shook itself, covering the land with dew. At last refreshed, the sun played or danced three times in the sky before it began its return journey toward the next winter season.

On the solstice, Thracian kings performed immortality rites, symbolizing the marriage between the Sun and the Earth (a female deity). The ceremony included a ritual bath, after which, the king passed through a stone arch (the womb of the Great Goddess) as the sun penetrated it. This rite at the gateway to the afterlife brought about the king’s conception and re-birth.

Source: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore