Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2018

Hannah Howe

Earlier this year, in partnership with authors Ronesa Aveela and Denise McCabe, I created Mom’s Favorite Reads, one of the highlights of my publishing year.

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What is Mom’s Favorite Reads?

*It’s a community of book lovers

* A monthly magazine featuring some of the biggest names in the entertainment world alongside the best in modern publishing

*A book catalogue containing over 400 books, including many bestsellers and award-winners

*A website with dedicated author pages

*A reading group where readers can discover new authors

*A partner to major businessness including The Fussy Librarian and chess.com

* A fun way to promote books with items like our Advent Calendar and nominations to the Apple News Channel

* A community to support literacy amongst adults and children

This weekend, we published our December magazine. The magazine is available from all major retail platforms, including Amazon. You can also read the magazine, for free…

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Santa’s Name Day

December 14, 2018

Did you know St. Nick (more formerly known as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nikolas) had a name day? This is not the Santa Claus version you are familiar with, but the saint from long ago.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “name day,” it’s a festivity like a birthday, but is more popular than a birthday. Each day of the year has several related names assigned to it.

The name day in his honor, Nikulden (Никулден, St. Nicholas’ Day), is celebrated on December 6. What many people know him for is his reputation for giving gifts. The most famous story about this was that he secretly threw three purses of gold coins through the window of the house of a poor man who had three unmarried daughters. In those days, women needed a dowry to marry. Without one and with not much hope of obtaining employment sufficient to live on, most poor women ended up as prostitutes. Thus, from this generous act, Santa Claus came into existence.

Less known is the fact that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Since the eastern side of Bulgaria borders the Black Sea, this is an important holiday for Bulgarians. As a sign of respect to the saint, men don’t go out on the sea.

A fish — in particular the carp — is an important part of celebrations in his honor. It is called the servant of St. Nicholas and is considered sacred because a bone inside its head is shaped like a cross. The bone is often used as an amulet, sewn inside the hat of a newborn, to protect the infant.

Bread is the center of the Christmas feast. It has a coin or fortunes hidden inside. Whoever finds the coin inside his bread is certain to have luck throughout the year.

The_Christmas_Thief_CoverThis tradition is incorporated into my children’s short story and coloring/activity book, The Christmas Thief, where a seven-year-old boy named Christopher is determined he’s going to catch the Winter Monster who steals food from his family’s porch every Christmas. What he discovers instead is the meaning of sharing.

Go to The Christmas Thief page to find more information about the book.

Samodivi – wind, water, and fire, all those elements that awaken human freedom

October 7, 2018

Dear friends, readers and fans, I would like to present to you an interesting project, the film “Samodiva.” I had the pleasure of meeting the talented Olga Docheva and Nikol Kostova, who are behind this project, and I wanted to share with you more information about it.
(Bulgarian version below)

How was the idea for the script and the movie “Samodiva” born?
The original idea of ​​a “samodivi” film was born in 2016 when I was taking a script-writing course at the New York Film Academy led by Golan Ramras. Of course, the initial idea had nothing to do with the current version; the only thing that is the same is the “samodivi”. From the first version of this idea, we attempted with my colleague Nicol Kostova around five or six different variations until we reached the final story we are working on now. When we met Nicole, she liked the idea very much, and we began to develop a new story together, keeping some of the characters enriched, but some of them drastically changed.

How did you select the team?
The vast majority of the ship’s crew, “Samodiva,” as I like to call it, has come naturally. There were people who were enthusiastic at first and then dropped out, and those who had joined at the last moment took off like jet engines and became part of the group.

Samodiva Movie

Samodiva Movie

The selection was a cosmic feeling, as we say; it attracted the right people at the right time, and this is an indisputable fact that our experience showed us. We are far from believing that we did it on our own; with a clear purpose and being proactive, we moved toward our objective. Enough on that subject. There are enough literature and videos available for anyone auditioning who wonders how to be selected. For those who don’t believe this, I can only say that if they want a break, they have to reach out and grab what they want in life.

Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
The Samodivi were chosen first by their appearance, because we had predetermined what they should look like. For the main female roles (as well as males), we had auditions and we knew in advance which Bulgarian actors would fit them best. What’s intriguing is that long before we knew we could get in touch with some actors, they appeared after our initial wish. One of them is Stefania Kocheva, whom it is an exceptional privilege and joy to work with. She is a true incarnation of a Samodiva.

Samodivi

Samodivi

We also work with Ralitsa Stoyanova; her character is Magda, the most powerful and terrible Samodiva, both beautiful and magnetic, but she veers away from your typical exotic beauty. Of course, the skills of the professionals were taken into account for each of the cast; they are actors, not mannequins. We all had the pleasure of working on the Meisner technique during rehearsals.

Why exactly did you choose “Samodivi” for the main characters in your movie?
Because we want to bring out folk mythical beings and started with the samodivi; because they are beautiful, fabulous and unseen on the big screen. The Samodivi themselves wished and allowed themselves to be shown. It’s time for them.

How did you come up with the idea for the script and the film Samodiva?
In the early autumn of 2017, Olga and Nicole met; perhaps this meeting was fateful and predestined. We created a magical and fabulous story based on the idea of ​​preserving nature and how each person can believe in his abilities.We have been pondering, prodding, and digging into myths, legends, and tales to build our insights into the samodivi and how they rescue nature from pollution and external influences.

In fact, she was joking about the whole story – Olga often traveled to London, and from there she discovered more and more interesting stories.

Samodivi

Along with Olga, we decided that this is history and this is a movie that can touch both children and adults as an unforgettable adventure. Of course, its very creation is a much bigger adventure in which we both believe we will succeed. And here we gathered a team of friends of professionals and actors with whom we rehearsed and conceived a proof of concept in a few shooting days, and the magic happened.

Who is the designer of the costumes?
The costume designer is our wonderful designer Velina Kokalova, who has been a stage designer for 10 years and who graduated from the National Academy of Arts and then photography. She participated in many performances in our theaters, in our well-known Bulgarian feature films from the big screen as well as abroad, constructed and created costumes and decorations as well as a poster design.

For a very short period of time, Velina made ten suits, entirely inspired by fairy tales and folklore, to ride the vision of the samodiva. Our other designer is Nikolay Gerata – he designed a concept for the boys’ vision. Nikolay Geranliev – Gerata, is engaged in hip-hop music and clothing.

 

Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
Each of the actors did not happen accidentally in our project. We held an audition for the boys; we watched we discussed and we decided that Todor Berov is best suited for the character of Damien, typical and curious.

Kiril Nedkov was Jay’s best friend Daimian from the university, an explorer who is hungry for adventure. They themselves do not know what awaits them when they go to Jai’s father among the splendid peaks and forests; mystical creatures expect both of them.

Where did you shoot the scenes?
We took pictures first at Pancharevo with only three samodivi, then we had a photo shoot at Krushuna Waterfalls with Stefania Kocheva as Dana and Ioana Dralchev in the role of Sevda.

 

The proof of concept itself was shot in several locations – Prohodna Cave, more commonly known as God’s eyes, Topolnitsa Dam.

Samodiva Movie

Samodiva Movie

After visiting many lakes and dams, we found Topolnitsa, a magical place surrounded by fabulous flora and fauna and ecosystem. We also shot near the dam the scenes that are in the woods.

 


What connects you to Samodivi?
The intriguing thing that connects us to Samodivi is freedom and nature. Everyone knows or has heard of the samodivi that kill men, but we do not kill men. The Samodivi are the closest fairy-tale creatures embodying forest beauties in Bulgarian folk tales. Samodivi are the guardians of the forest; both in animal and in human form they communicate with plants, trees, wind, water and fire, all those elements that awaken human freedom.

Thank you, Nikol and Olga. We all wish you good luck with this awesome project, sending powerful message to the world.

Photos are selections from the movie.

The painting is mine. It’s called “Samodivi.” I painted it when I wrote “Mystical Emona,” inspired by the legends of the Samodivi and their dangerous charm. As you know, all my books are inspired by Bulgarian legends and myths. They help us understand the world around us.

Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6

Please share and support this unique project with friends and other admirers.
Support Samodiva Movie:https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage

Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)
Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20


Самодивите  – дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека


Скъпи приятели, читатели и почитатели с удоволствие искам да ви представя един интерес проект, филмът “Самодива”.
Имах удоволствието да се запозная с талантливите Олга Дочева и Никол Костова който стоят зад този проект и да споделя с вас повече информация.

Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът “Самодива”?
Първоначалната идея за филм за самодиви се роди през 2016, когато бях на курс за сценарийно писане при преподавателя от Ню Йорк Филм Академи – Голан Рамраз. Разбира се, тогава историята нямаше нищо общо със сегашната й версия, единственото което е същото са самодивите. От първата версия на тази идея преминахме заедно с колежката ми Никол Костова през пет-шест различни варианта, докато достигнахме до финалната история по която работим. Когато се срещнахме с Никол темата за ‚Самодива‘ сякаш си дойде сама. Тя много хареса идеята и започнахме да развиваме заедно една нова история, като запазихме някои от персонажите, обогатени рабира се, а някои от тях коренно променени.

Как подбрахте екипа ?
По-голямата част от екипажа на кораба ‚Самодива‘, както аз харесвам да го наричам, си дойде някак естествено. Имаше хора които много искаха в началото и после отпаднаха, и такива които се включиха в последния момент като реактивни двигатели и станаха част от цялото.
Избора беше на космическо усещане, както ние казваме, има реално привличане на точните хора на точното време и това е неоспорим факт, за който опита ни говори. Далеч сме от идеята, че става от само-себе си единствено, става с ясно намерение и проактивни действия в посока на намерението. Толкоз по темата. Има достатъчно литература и видео материали в пространството на варианти за всички онези, които четат тези редове и се чудят ‚как?‘,  а за онези които не вярват – мога само да кажа, че това им е основната и вероятно единствената спирачка да не осъщесвят това което желаят.

Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Самодивите ги избрахме първоначално по визуални характеристики, тъй като образите, които пресъздават са предопределени от преди нас. За главните женски роли (също както и мъжки) си имахме кастинги и предварително знаехме кои от българските актьори биха се вписали по най-добрия начин. Интресното е, че много преди да знаем, че ще успеем да се свържем с дадени актьори, те присъстваха в първите ни желания. Една от тях е Стефания Кочева, с което е изключителна привилегия и радост да се работи. Тя е едно истинско превъплъщение на самодива. Работим и с Ралица Стоянова, която на първо четене не е типичната ‚самодива‘ във визуално описание, но персонажа й – Магда – най-властната и страшна самодива, същевременно красива и магнетична, предполагаше да излезем от типизирания образ и да изберем по-скоро екзотична хубост. Разбира се акьорските умения бяха взети под внимание за всеки един от каста, все пак това са актьори, а не манекени. С всички имахме удовослвието да работим по техниката Майзнер, по време на репетиции.

Защо точно самодиви избрахте за герои във филма?
Защото искаме да изкараме на яве фолклорни митични същества и започнахме от самодивите; защото са красиви, приказни и невидяни на големия екран. Самите самодиви пожелаха и позволиха да бъдат показани. Време им е.

Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът Самодива?
През  ранната есен на 2017 Олга и Никол работиха и се срещнаха в един и същи магичен проект, може би тази среща е била съдбовна и предопределена – започнахме да излизаме редовно и да си говорим за проекти, обикаляхме различни горски места и Олга сподели че има започнат сценарий за самодиви. При което аз реагирах уау самодиви и така започнахме неспирно и с цялото си вдъхновение създадохме една магична и приказна история крепяща се на идея за опазване на природата и как всеки човек може да повярва в способностите си.  Дълго размишлявахме, копаехме и се ровехме в митове, легенди и приказки за да надградим представите ни за самодивите и как те спасяват природата от замърсяванията и външните влияния.  Всъщност малко тръгна на майтап цялата история- Олга пътуваше често до Лондон и от там докарваше все по-интересни истории.
С Олга решихме че това е историята и това е филма който може да докосне и деца и възрастни като едно незабравимо приключение. Разбира се самото му създаване е много по-голямо приключение в което и двете вярваме, че успяваме. И ето ни събрахме екип от приятели професионалисти  и актьори с който репетирахме и съсздадохме Proof of concept в няколко снимачни дни, и  се случи магията.

Кой е дизайнер на костюмите?
Дизайнер на костюмите е нашата прекрасна сценографка Велина Кокалова  сценограф от 10 години завършва Националната художествена академия и след това фотография.Участва в много представления в театрите ни, в наши познати български пълнометражни филми от големия екран както и в чужбина, конструирала и създавала костюми и декори както и дизайн на плакати. Велина за много кратък период от време изготви  десет костюма, изцяло вдъхновени от приказките и фолклора за да съсзде визията на самодивите.

Другият ни дизайнер е Николай Герата – той ни изготви концепция за визията на момчетата. Николай Геранлиев – Герата, се занимава с хип-хоп музика и облекло.

Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Всеки от актьорите не е попаднал случайно в нашия проект, направихме кастинг за момчетата, гледахме обсъждахме и решихме че Тодор Беров най-добре се вписва в персонажа на Деймиян, типичен и любопитен. Кирил Недков в ролята на Джай най-добрият приятел на Деймиян от университета, авантюрист който жаднее за приключения. Те самите незнаят какво ги очаква когато отиват при бащата на Джай сред прекрасните върхове и гори, мистичните същества ги очакват и двамата.

Къде направихте снимките?
Снимките направихме като за начален старт бяхя на Панчарево, само с три самодиви, след това направихме фотосесия на Крушунските водопади заедно със Стефания Кочева в ролята на Дана и Йоана Дралчев в ролята на Севда.
Самият Proof of Concept заснехме на няколко локации – Пещера Проходна или по-позната като Божиите очи, язовир Тополница, след многото огледи на езера и язовири попаднахме на Тополница, едно магично място обградено от приказна флора и фауна и екосистема. Снимахме и близо до язовира сцените които са в гората.

Какво ви свързва със самодивите?
Интересното което ни свързва със самодивите е свободата и природата, всеки знае или е чувал за самодивите, че убиват мъже е ние не убиваме мъже. Самодивите са най-близките приказни същества олицетворяващи горските красавици в българските народни приказки. Самодивите са пазителките на гората, както в животинска така и в човешка форма те общуват с растениятя, дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека.

Снимките са фрагменти от филма.

Картината е моя, казва се “Самодиви”, рисувах я когато писах “Mystical Emona” история вдъхновена от легендите за самодивите и тяхният опасен чар. Както знаете всичките ми книги са вдъхновени от Българските легенди и митове. Една неостаряваща тема, която е неизчерпаем извор на идей.
Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6

Моля споделете и подкрепете този уникален проект с приятели и други почитатели.

Support Samodiva Movie: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage

Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)

Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20

Summer Reading for the Whole Family to take you on a Magical Trip to Bulgaria

May 28, 2018

I strongly believe that learning about your heritage and preserving your traditions in our own family is a great way to teach our children about the family’s cultural and religious history and adding to their personal identity. Observing, preserving and creating new traditions are ways of honoring our ancestors and also welcoming new members in.

This is the reason a few years ago I started writing books inspired by Bulgarian mythology and folklore, and tales learned from my grandparents in Bulgaria. What better way for the whole family to read, do activities and learn more about their heritage, or learn about another culture?

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village by Ronesa AveelaMy latest book, The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village, is not an exception.  It’s inspired by the mythological village called Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) where all mystical creatures live. It’s a perfect summer read. As soon as it was published, it became an Amazon #1 New release in Children’s Multicultural Literature.

Amazon Review: “It is a magical adventure story that is steeped in Bulgarian and Slavic myths. This is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls as it is filled with adventure and magic. Many positive messages can also be taken away from this story such as; together you’re stronger and that love is a more powerful force than hate.”

Mystical Emona: Soul's Journey bookI didn’t forget about summer reading for parents. My novel Mystical Emona, set in Bulgaria, is an inspiring story about love. It takes place in Emona, a small village on the coast of the Black Sea. It’s a place where wild horses have roamed the land since of the time of King Rez and the Thracians. In the novel, Stefan is a widowed artist from Boston, Mass, with a young daughter. He hopes moving to a secluded village on the Black Sea coast will ease his pain, and the wild, untamed beauty of this surrounding will inspire him to take up his art once again. He meets a mysterious woman and his life changes. He is drawn to her by some unknown bond, but cannot give his heart to her fully because his memories refuse to release their hold on him. Then the dreams begin. Some delightful. Others terrifying.

At the beach or at your favorite reading place, take the journey to Mystical Emona and find out if the lovers reunite. The book is sure to enchant you with its perfect blend of history, legends, rituals, and romance.

Light Love Rituals book

If you like nonfiction, I think Light Love Rituals is the book you’ll want to read. It’s recommended for children and adults from 8 to 108 who would like to take a journey and discover Bulgarian folk tales, legends, and mythology. Whether you want to learn a little about their ancient Thracian origins, or you want to experience rituals practiced throughout the year with a fictitious Bulgarian family, or even if you’re only interested in traditional Bulgarian cuisine, this book has something for everyone.

Bulgarian culture is rich in folklore and traditions surviving since the days of the ancient Thracians. As pagan and Christian religions collided, many celebrations merged into one. Light Love Rituals will take you on a journey to discover these unique festivals.

Light Love Rituals not only describes the rituals, but also makes them interesting and understandable to people of all ages. The book is divided into four seasons, beginning with winter. It includes activities where you can learn how to make martenitsi, survachka, and Easter eggs dyed with natural colors.

A short quiz after each season lets you test your knowledge of what you’ve read. To help you engage in the traditions in the book, you’ll meet Maria and her family. They’ll open the doors of their home so you can participate in these celebrations along with them. For an added taste of Bulgaria, try some of the traditional recipes at the end.

 

5 Entertaining Activities for the Whole Family to Learn about Different Cultures

May 28, 2018

It’s summer vacation and children have more time for games and fun activities.

Learn about other cultures

Learn about other cultures

Families can use this opportunity to shut off the tech toys and engage in favorite summer activities such as books, picnics, pool parties, barbecues, and more. Since we live in a world without borders, maybe you can go outside your comfort zones by learning about different cultures!
I write about Bulgarian mythology, folklore and cuisine, so I can offer a few ideas for the summer.

Dine at an ethnic restaurant

I’m sure your first idea is to dine at an ethnic restaurant and this is perfectly fine, we all love food. This is your chance to expand your palate! See if there are any ethnic restaurants nearby that you’ve never been to. If you can’t find a Bulgarian restaurant, you can prepare your own ethnic Bulgarian meal.

My favorite is called banitsa, but since it’s summer, I think you need to try my other favorite for the summer: Zucchini with yogurt-dill sauce

Also yogurt is a known Bulgarian specialty, healthy and tasty.

Visit Maria’s Kitchen to explore more recipes and learn about different Bulgarian and Mediterranean dishes; try the taste of Bulgaria and the Balkans. To discover more recipes, you can get a copy of my book: Mediterranean and Bulgarian Cuisine: 12 Easy Traditional Favorites.

Experience ethnic music and dance

There are plenty of ways to learn more about music in other countries. Here are some suggestions:

  • Sign up for a dance class to learn flamenco (Spain), polka (Scandinavia), or the jig (Scotland or Ireland)
  • Attend a concert or music festival that showcases music from different parts of the world
  • Check out CDs of ethnic music at the library

Bulgarian Music and dance

Bulgarian folk music and dance are quite different from what Americans are used to. Dances are performed by men and women in lines or circles (horo).

Bulgarian Horo

“Na Megdana” by Nelly Tonchev-Nelinda (Nelinda.com)

I’m sure you’ve heard about some in the movie 300 (Message for the Queen) and other Hollywood movies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-Uxqt1Hai4&index=3&list=RD6PP-c_-lxus

“Go down, go down, bright sunshine
Go down, hide your light
Mourn for your leafs, you forest”

To learn more check my article on Bulgarian Music and Dance.

In my book Light Love Rituals, you can learn more about the Horo and also when the dance is performed.

Learn about your heritage

Doing a little genealogical research with your family allows you to spend time together and reach out to distant family members. Creating a family record is a pursuit you can work on for a long time, and you never know what you might discover!

Even if your heritage is not Bulgarian, maybe you have a friend who is and you want to learn more. Visit my blog or my author page where you can find different books inspired by the rich Bulgarian traditions and mythology.

You can see all my books and the various retails to purchase them from here: Ronesa’s Books.

My latest book, The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village, is a good summer read to travel to the mystical world in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) and also learn about different mythological creatures.

Learn about Mythology and Folklore of other cultures while making crafts

Bulgarians celebrate name days, birthdays and they observe and practice many more rituals and traditions. In my Baba Treasure Chest series, I’ve described some of them.

My favorite tradition is making a Martenitsa, the white and red amulet of friendship. In the short story The Miracle Stork, I have activities and also steps on how to make your own.

If you’re traveling, some of my book are available on Audible, a perfect way to entertain the entire family until you get to your final destination. You can have an awesome trip while learning about another culture.

Coloring Books for the entire family

Coloring can reduce stress and be fun for the whole family! When you’re coloring, you’re not checking your smart phone, flipping channels or tweeting. In addition, my coloring books (Mermaids Around the World and More Mermaids Around the World) can help you learn more than 50 different mermaid legends.

Do you know any other ways to learn about different cultures?

Mermaids Around the World coloring book   More Mermaids Around the World coloring book

Dragon Village (Zmeykovo) – Dragons in Bulgarian Folklore and Mythology

December 7, 2017

The day fire and ice erupted from the sky everything changed – forever.

Vote for the New book Dragon Village on Amazon Kindle Scout. If the book gets chosen, you get a free copy!

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village Cover

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village Cover

To review and vote for the book you can use this link.  If Amazon selects to publish the book through Kindle Press, anyone who nominated the book will receive a free, advance copy. This is your chance to read and review it and tell the world what you think.

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village is the first book in a series that will expound upon Bulgarian mythology and customs. When twelve-year-old Theo’s sister is captured by a dragon on Midsummer’s Day, he’s determined to rescue her. His journey takes him to the mystical land of Dragon Village, a place he thought existed only in legends. As he searches for the way to defeat the three-headed dragon Lamia, he encounters inhabitants of the land—some friendly and others treacherous.

Fascinating legends about Lamia and Zmey, dragons from Bulgarian folklore, inspired this middle-grade series. The books will include many other Bulgarian mythological creatures, in particular Samodivi (woodland nymphs or fairies) and Baba Yaga (a witch).

Bulgarian folklore is filled with tales about dragons (zmey, male, and lamia, female) who lived in forest and mountains in caves, holes, or cracks in rocks. Serpents or carp would turn into dragons if they were not seen by humans for forty years. Therefore, dragons often had characteristics of various other creatures: snakes, fish, birds, and even humans. Flashes of lightning, shooting stars, large clouds, and rainbows were ways dragons manifested themselves.

Dragon Village

Map of Dragon Village

The lamia is what we typically consider a dragon to be: dangerous and malicious. She does not appear as a human like the zmey. Some tales describe her as a “huge lizard with a dog’s head. Her mouth is so big that it can swallow a whole man and her body is covered with yellow scales. The lamia also has wings, four legs, sharp claws, and a long tail.”  Some had three, seven, or nine heads.

The zmey, however, who often was depicted as a man with wings under his arms, was more kind. He often fought against the lamia when she appeared as a storm or hail to destroy crops. The zmey didn’t abduct a maiden to harm her. Instead, it is because of his great love for her. He often tries to entice her to marry him, telling her of the riches she will have. If persuasion fails, the zmey restorts to abducting the maiden while she performs the horo dance in the village. However, the dragon’s marriage to a human always meets with misfortune. The bride suffers depression and is ostracized from the community.

Zmey and Bride

Zmey and Bride

One tale tells of a girl who married a dragon she met at his well. After a few years, she wanted to visit her family. Unfortunately, she had grown a dragon’s tail. Wanting to appear normal to them, she kept trying to bite it off. When she heard the songs of friends she had once known, she became frantic and died when her heart burst with the effort of removing the tail. The girls buried her by the well. Every year thereafter they performed a buenetz dance, not the traditional circle horo dance. In the buenetz, they dance in a snakelike fashion in honor of the dragon maiden.

While researching for the book, I’ve discovered many creatures of Thracian, Slavic and proto-Bulgarian mythology. The hardest question has been which ones to include in the first book. On this page, I’ll post information about them to try to open the door to the magical world of Dragon Village (Zmeykovo).

Samodiva

Diva the Wild Samodiva

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.