Hope and Miracles

September is here. We’ve had many sunny days this summer where I live in Virginia, but now the sunrise is coming a little later each day, and the nights are getting cooler. I find myself thinking about what changes autumn will bring in this unusual year. I want summer to go on a little bit longer, so I can savor the sun, the sand, and the sea. I want to linger in that lazy feeling of endless summer.

My grandmother used to say that when there is an “R” in the name of the month, it means that it is one of the cold months. We will have to wait until May to enjoy the warm rays of the sun. Maybe this is normally true, but this September has been like a summer month, with temperatures 20 degrees above normal.

On September 14, Bulgarians and other Orthodox Christians celebrate the Day of the Cross. On this day, a special festive table is arranged and a strict fast is observed. The apples have ripened, the grapes are plump and sweet, and the harvest has begun. However, it is forbidden to eat red foods such as apples, peppers, tomatoes, and others as an expression of respect for the cross on which Jesus shed His blood to save mankind.

The oldest woman in the house prepares ritual bread, called Cross Pitka (round homemade bread) for the holiday. She shapes a large cross on the bread before she bakes it. Its ingredients include half a kilogram of flour, half a teaspoon of honey, half a teaspoon of baking soda, half a tablespoon of vinegar, and water for kneading. According to tradition, you have to sift the flour three times before kneading the dough. The ritual bread is broken when the whole family gathers around the table. The bread will rise only a little while it’s baking, so you should eat it while it’s warm. Once it cools, it’ll become hard.

The Day of the Cross is considered the day on which autumn begins. Therefore, typical autumn foods like grapes (any but red ones) and tikvenik (a pumpkin banitsa) must be present at the table. (You can find a recipe and more info about tikvenik here.)

After families pluck the first grapes of the season, they bring them to the church, so the priest can consecrate the fruit. It’s also customary on this day for people to give each other grapes, so the next year will be bountiful.

On the Day of the Cross, thousands of pilgrims go to churches, monasteries, and other holy places to pray for health, forgiveness, and miraculous cures. One of these places of hope is the Cross Forest, located in the beautiful area in the Middle Rhodope Mountains. This was the birth place of Orpheus, the famous musician from ancient mythology. One of the most magical places in Bulgaria, Cross Forest gives you a sense you’re touching the mystery of nature.

The Forest of the Cross is said to be filled with unexplained, extraordinary power that can cure any sickness. The magical powers are at their peak on the evening of September 13, the night before the Day of the Cross. People believe the heavens will open, and Jesus will descend to Earth to grant the wishes and cure the illnesses of those who offer prayers with true faith. Many stories tell how people with cancer and other incurable diseases miraculously found a cure. They say the water cures skin diseases and helps women conceive.

Unfortunately, I’ve never visited the place myself, but my grandmother told me many interesting stories. According to legends, part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified is hidden in this place, but no one knows its exact location. Monks hid it after Turks attacked and burned the monastery.

People also believe the extraordinary healing energy of Cross Forest comes from an ancient sanctuary to Dionysius, which is said to be hidden somewhere in the forest. But the Rhodope Mountains keep their secrets.

Miracles happen there, but people must have faith. Magic or not, in these challenging days, we all need to find our own Cross Forest. We need strong faith and believe in something to keep us going, so we can stay positive as we search for cures, happiness, and personal fulfillment.

Pick up a copy of The Wanderer – A Tear and A Smile: Reflections of an Immigrant for more insight into Bulgarian faith.

Spassovden

An excerpt from A Study of Rusalki – Slavic Mermaids of Eastern Europe.

Spassovden (or the Ascension) is a zadushnitsa, one of many days throughout the year associated with the dead, although not specifically those who are “unclean dead” like Rusalki. Women pour wine or water over the graves of relatives, and give food to other people visiting their deceased loved ones.

In Bulgaria, Spassovden happens forty days after Easter. The name comes from the Bulgarian word spassenie (спасение, “salvation”), and so it’s the day of salvation of souls. It’s the last of the seven “Great Thursdays,” the first being Maundy Thursday (three days before Easter).

The official Orthodox holiday relates to the day Christ ascended to heaven after spending his first forty days with the apostles after he had risen from his tomb. In the same way, on Easter, God releases souls of the recent dead, so they can wander for forty days to the places they’ve known in life. Their wandering concludes on Spassovden, and the souls remain on Earth until they return to the other world on Pentecost.

In folklore, souls can appear as flies or bees, visiting flowers on trees, in meadows, and along riverbanks. If you want to hear the dead speak in their graves, all you have to do is put your ear to the ground; you’ll hear them buzzing like bees. They also appear as white butterflies that arise from the water and live only on this day. Windows remain open on Spassovden so these souls aren’t trapped inside homes. Another belief is that if you’re quiet enough when you go to a well early in the morning and peer into the water, instead of seeing your own image, you may see the reflection of a loved one you’re thinking about.

White Butterfly Souls. Illustration by Nelinda. © Bendideia Publishing.

A Day of Bread and Fertility

Spassovden is also a day of bread and fertility. Sveti Spas or St. Spas (the Holy Savior) is the saint associated with this day, although he doesn’t exist as an actual Orthodox saint. He’s a made-up saint to go along with the name of the holiday. On this day, people walk around the fields to ward off drought, praying to the saint, who “unlocks the sky and the Earth to let the rain through so there may be bread throughout the year.”[i]

Ritual traditions forbid both men and women from working on any of the Great Thursdays. If you work in the vineyard, no grapes will grow. If you work in the fields, no grain will ripen. On Spassovden itself, women avoid touching anything green, because it will bring hailstorms in the summer instead of rain. Every drop of rain that falls on this day is considered “a piece of gold,”[ii] because it means the harvest year will be rich and fertile. On the other end of the weather spectrum, to avoid a drought, women are forbidden from doing laundry and hanging clothes outside to dry.

[i] Bezovska, “St. Spas or Ascension Day.”

[ii] Bezovska, “St. Spas or Ascension Day.”

Herbal Remedies for Health

NOTE: The following information is not meant to be taken as a cure for any illnesses. If you’re sick, always contact your health-care professional. The information that follows is common folk medicine, which people have used from generation to generation.

In these times when people across the globe are stressed and anxious about the future, it’s important to maintain and strengthen our immune system. Look around your kitchen and you’re certain to find products that are beneficial to your health: fresh vegetables, fruits, spices. The kitchen, the garden, the meadows are gifts that are good for our health.

Every culture and every household have beliefs and recipes passed down from generation to generation. A number of herbs and products in Bulgarian folklore are believed to help us achieve this. Here are some of my favorites, plus a couple of tasty recipes with simple ingredients you can easily find.

Ingredients for Healthy Living. Photo by Nelinda.

Honey

Bulgarians honor bees and in the summer, on July 8, pay tribute to their patron, Saint Procipius, or Prokopia the Beekeeper. On this day, early in the morning, people who raise bees go to the hives to remove the first honey of the year. They burn incense, allowing the smoke to enter the hives. The beekeepers bring two pitkas (ritual bread) to the hives – one for God and one for the saint. They take the honey and the bread to the church, where the priest consecrates them with a special prayer. The beekeepers then spread the honey on the bread and give them to neighbors to ensure the health of both the family and the bees, so the bees will produce even more honey. The rest of the consecrated honey is used as a remedy for mumps, measles, and other illnesses throughout the year.

Honey is a delicious immune-stimulator! It’s rich in many vitamins, including B and C, and has iron, calcium, zinc, and more. Honey acts as an antioxidant, much like fruits and vegetables. Using it regularly will stimulate your body’s organs, helping to improve your physical and mental state.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm. Photo by Nelinda

The herb is native to the mountainous regions of Southern Europe, but you can buy it in the spring at Home Depot and other chains or local flower nurseries. The leaves of the lemon balm are well-known in Bulgaria and used in herbal teas. I have a few plants in my garden because its lemon smell keeps away mosquitoes and other insects.

Ever since ancient times, it’s been used to cure diseases resulting from the nervous system. The plant has a calming effect, it stimulates appetite and digestion, and suppresses nausea and vomiting. In folk medicine, the leaves are used to treat high blood pressure, dizziness, headache, vision problems, and tinnitus. Gargling with water infused with lemon balm also gets rid of bad breath.

Yogurt

Yogurt is an integral part of many Bulgarian meals. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I was a child, my grandmother used to make yogurt with jam and call it “ice cream.” It was a much healthier option than regular ice cream.

It’s good for the digestive system, bones, and teeth, but it also helps strengthen the immune system, fighting disease and helping the body resistant to infection.

Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in vitamin B, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, iron, and mineral salts. They are also high in calories, so limit them to no more than 42 grams a day. Even walnut leaves are a natural remedy, often used in tea to help prevent atherosclerosis, goiter, and skin problems such as eczema.

Nettle

Nettle is also a gift from nature that appears in the spring. If you pick it yourself, make sure to wear gloves, because nettle is not a friendly plant; it “bites.” My grandmother used to say that if you pick up nettle with your bare hands, it’ll prevent you from getting arthritis, but I never tried this. You don’t have to go and look for it in fields, though, because you can buy dried nettle online or in your local farmer’s market. You can drink it as a tea or add it to soup. I like to add fresh nettle to cream soup.

Recipes

Honey-walnut elixir

Combining walnuts with honey creates an elixir that boosts the immune system, and fights colds, exhaustion, and anemia. The elixir is suitable for children, because it naturally increases the body’s defenses.

You’ll need medium-sized jar, about 24 oz. like the ones used to make jam. Cut a handful of nuts into small pieces. Then peel a medium-sized lemon and cut the fruit into small pieces. Add the nuts and lemon to a half jar of natural honey. Stir the mixture well.

Take 2 or 3 tablespoons once a day.

Tip: Don’t throw away a used lemon after the juice has been squeezed out. You can use it to clean your cutting boards. If you add a little baking soda inside the peel, you can use it to clean pots. It works like magic. I even like to massage my hands with lemon peels and yogurt. It makes them soft and cleans the germs naturally.

 

Dessert

Here is one of my favorite desserts using yogurt, walnuts, and honey. If you don’t like walnuts you can omit them.

400 g yogurt

4 Tablespoons honey

50 g walnuts (or other nuts)

Divide yogurt into individual bowls, one per person. Pour honey over it. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Tip: You can bake the nuts for about 5 minutes in a preheated 220 degrees C (about 430 F) oven and then crush them and sprinkle them with milk. The dessert works well if you replace plain yogurt with strained yogurt. It’s best to look at the label and make sure it has Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria in it. You can substitute honey with liquid chocolate or your favorite sweet.

The Art of Forgiveness

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, The Wanderer.

According to Orthodox tradition, every spring before Easter, we ask our relatives for forgiveness. We also call our parents and other relatives in Bulgaria and ask their forgiveness. Even if we haven’t hurt or offended them, we use it as a way to get rid of the negative energy in our lives.

It’s important to differentiate between forgiveness and trusting someone again. Can you forgive a person when he hurt you several times? If you do, does it mean you approve of his actions? Are you giving this person permission to hurt you again? Some people don’t change for the better; they become more self-centered.

You can forgive, but you don’t have to forget.

Forgiveness is an important part of our lives. It’s no wonder Bulgarians, like other Orthodox, have a celebration called Proshka, Forgiveness. On the church calendar, this occurs before the Easter fast begins. The idea is to cleanse not only the body, but also the soul.

Although the church and other rituals were strictly forbidden during the Communist era in Bulgaria, my grandmothers honored them rigorously and taught us children to honor them. Before dinner, we had to kiss their hand and ask for forgiveness from them and our parents. It wasn’t just words; it was a serious matter. I saw the respect and dignity on their faces as we paid our respect.

Afterwards, for my cousins and me, the day was like a party. My grandmother made her delicious round bread, cooked fresh eggs, baked banitsa, and had homemade feta cheese and white halva. When she didn’t have white halva, she used Tahan halva, but they both melted in our mouths. We all waited for the dinner to end so we could make a hamkane.

My grandmother tied a red thread to the end of the dough roller, like a wooden rolling pin. To the other end of the thread, she attached a piece of halva, a piece of cheese, or a hard-boiled egg. We children stood in a circle on the floor or around the table with our hands behind us. We eagerly awaited our grandmother to shake the thread and make the halva dance. Like kids in America playing a donut game or apple dunking, each of us struggled to bite into the halva and get it to stay in our mouths. My brother and my cousins always won.

Symphony of Color and Light – A True Hymn of Harmony and Love

Orpheus

Bulgaria is known as the birthplace of the ancient singer and musician Orpheus. We don’t know exactly where his birthplace was, but tradition indicates it was somewhere in the beautiful Rhodope Mountains in southeastern Bulgaria, which was part of ancient Thrace. Legend has it that he lived there around 1400 BC.

According to Greek mythology, Orpheus was the son of the river god Oeagrus and the nymph Calliope. His unwavering love for his beloved wife Eurydice has inspired poets, writers, and artists in the past and to this day. His music enchanted everyone, and his sad songs made even the gods and nymphs cry. The heart of Hades, the god of the underworld, softened at Orpheus’s song, and the god agreed to allow Eurydice to return with Orpheus to earth. But she failed to survive the journey and disappeared forever, a brief but strong love.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Legend says The Muses carried Orpheus’s lyre to the sky after he died and placed it among the stars. His soul returned to the underworld, where he reunited with his wife.

Many visual artists, have taken up the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I find those of Francois-Louis Francais, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Edmund Dulac to be especially moving. But nothing can compare them to the renderings of the talented Bulgarian visual artist Keazim Issinov, who has more than 400 paintings devoted to Orpheus.

Magical Music

The light and love in his works are amazing. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him and spend time to learn and explore his art. He is not only a master of the brush, but a humble person, born ahead of his time. His art demonstrates much philosophy and prophecy and an awakening message to humanity. If life on Earth is ever destroyed, surviving future generations could use his paintings to recreate nature and humanity, a type of Noah’s Ark embedded in canvas. It’s no surprise he was given the Artist of the Century award in 2005 in the competition Millennium “1001 Reasons to Love the Earth” held in the Netherlands.

Orpheus’ Music

His paintings tell the story of Orpheus. Examine each of them, imagine their world, make up your own stories and dreams, and travel to the unknown.

Orpheus and Eurydice

I would like to close the article with few quotes about Keazim Issinov’s art

“Keazim Issinov is closely connected with the world of folklore – with its poetry of the legend which turns into a strange and thrilling fairy-tale not only the sagas but also the every-day life of the people. The essence of his style could be defined by the often used now term ‘magic realism’. For Keazim Issinov it is an organic combination of mythical and fairy-tale content, rich and striking imagination, primary ecstasy for nature and events, curios details while in technical aspect – of a calligraphic drawing, precision of the plastic form, magic lighting. In any case he is a gifted and productive artist who has a lot to say and knows how to say it to the people – in an unforgettable way.”

Kiril Krastev  

Orpheus’ Dream

“Great artists are always prophets. All of them, as well as Keazim Issinov, work with the past to create ideals of beauty that lead us to the future.”

Dr. Meter, Director of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

A Whiff of Antiquity

“Without losing from its depth, the art of Keazim Issinov fulfills a rare mission nowadays – to both delight and ennoble.”

Boris Danailov

 

If you’d like to buy an original or a reproduction or his art, you can contact the artist directly at https://www.facebook.com/issinov/ or by email at issinov.fine.art@gmail.com.

Eternity

BIOGRAPHY

Keazim Issinov was born in the village of Sadovets, Pleven region on April 16, 1940. He graduated from the National Art School in 1960, and in 1968 graduated from The National Academy of Art, the class of Prof. Nenko Balkanski in Painting. After graduation he worked as a restorer at the Institute of National Monuments of Culture. In 1969 he started work at the National Research Institute of Psychology and Neurology as an art teacher.

AWARDS & EXHIBITS

1971

Competition “1300 Years Bulgaria” – Shumen – 3rd prize for his work “Sava Dobroplodni”

Individual exhibition at the Union of Bulgarian Composers – paintings and sculpture

Individual exhibition at the Central House of the National Army

1973

Exhibition – competition in Bulgarian Sports Union – 3rd prize for his painting “Portrait of Maria Gigova”

1974

Exhibition – competition at the Union of Motorists – 3rd prize  

1975

The painting “A Television Fairytale” was printed by UNICEF

Second prize by the Bulgarian Sports Union for the painting “The Flying Dimo”

1976

Exhibition in Berlin

1977

Competition ‘’Portrait of Sofia’’, 2nd prize

International painting competition “Humor and Satire” Gabrovo – 1st prize

1978

Individual exhibitions in Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Razlog, Gotse Delchev, Razgrad

1980

Individual exhibition in Lovech

1981  

Exhibition in ‘’Sredets’’ Hall, Sofia

Japan – 1300 Years Bulgaria, Tokyo, Odawara, Nagoya

1982

Varna – Days of Fertility

Exhibitions in Pleven, Gotse Delchev

1983 

Sofia – May Literary Days

Szczecin – Poland – 10th Biennial of Painting – Honorary Diploma

Exhibitions in Zlataritsa, Veliko Tarnovo

1984

Exhibition in Dolni Dabnik

1985

Exhibitions in Algiers, Prague – Czechoslovakia, Veliko Tarnovo

1986

Exhibition in the Bulgarian Cultural Center Wiigenstein in Vienna, Austria

1987

Exhibition in Sofia

1989

Exhibition in Vienna, Austria at Lenderbank

Exhibition in the Embassy of Russia in Sofia

1990

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Art 36”

1991

Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan

1992

Exhibition in Sofia

1994

Exhibition in Pleven

1997

Exhibition in Sofia

1998

Included in the manual of the International Bibliographical Center of Cambridge 

Exhibition in Bursa, Turkey and “Sredets” Hall, Sofia

1999 

Plovdiv – Culture Capital of Europe – exhibition in ‘’Vazrazhdane’’ Gallery

2000

Exhibition in Sofia Earth and Man Museum

Registered in the 2000 World Foundation, Netherlands

2001

Exhibition in Sevlievo

Entered in the publication of the American Bibliographical Institute of North Carolina

2002 

Exhibition at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia

Exhibition in First Investment Bank, Pleven

2003

Participated in general exhibitions in Germany, Denmark and Great Britain

Exhibition in Razgrad

2005

Artist of the Year in the 10th Art Salon in the National Palace of Culture

Honorary Sign of the President

Awarded Artist of the Century in the competition Millennium “1001 Reasons to Love the Earth” held in the Netherlands

2006

Awarder the order “Cyril and Methodius” 1st degree

2009

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Arte”

2010

Jubilee exhibition at the National Palace of Culture, Sofia

First Prize – Art Salon

2012

Exhibition in the Bulgarian National Radio

Exhibition in London, Great Britain

Awarded the prize of the national campaign “Guardian of Tradition”

Exhibition in Dupnitsa

2013

Exhibition in Sofia gallery “Minerva”

2014

Exhibition in the Palace “Vrana,” Sofia

2015 

Awarded by the Ministry of Culture the Order “Golden Age”

During the 50 years of creative work the author has participated in Bulgaria and abroad in many events, connected with charity.

~~~

Симфония на цвят и светлина – истински химн на хармонията и любовта

България е известна като родното място на древния певец и музикант Орфей. Не знаем къде точно е родното му място, но традицията сочи, че той е бил някъде в красивите Родопи в Югоизточна България, която е била част от древна Тракия. Легендата гласи, че той е живял там около 1400 г. пр.н.е.

Според гръцката митология Орфей е син на речния бог Оеагр и нимфа Калиопе. Непоколебимата му любов към любимата му съпруга Евридика е вдъхновявала поети, писатели и художници в миналото и до днес. Музиката му омагьоса всички, а тъжните му песни са накарали дори боговете и нимфите да плачат. Сърцето на Хадес, богът на подземния свят, се смекчава от песента на Орфей и богът се съгласява да позволи на Евридика да се върне с Орфей на земята. Но тя не успява да оцелее в пътуването и изчезна завинаги в подземният свят, кратка, но силна любов.

Легендата казва, че Музите пренесли лирата на Орфей на небето, след като той умрял, и я поставили сред звездите. Душата му се върнала в подземния свят, където отново се събрал с любимата си жена Евредика.

Много художници са черпили вдъхновение от историята на Орфей и Евридика. Намирам тези на Франсоа-Луи Франсе, Жан-Батист-Камил Корот и Едмунд Дюлак за особено трогателни. Но нищо не може да ги сравни с магическите платна на талантливия български художник Кеазим Исинов, който има повече от 400 творби, посветени на Орфей.

Светлината и любовта в неговите картини са невероятни. Щастлива съм, че имах възможността да се срещна с него и да отделя време, за да се запозная отблизо и изследвам неговото изкуство. Той е не само майстор на четката, но един невероятно духовен човек, роден преди времето си. Изкуството му демонстрира много философия и пророчество и едно силно събуждащо послание към човечеството. Ако животът на Земята някога бъде унищожен, оцелелите бъдещи поколения могат да използват неговите картини, за да пресъздадат природата и човечеството, те са един вид Ноев ковчег, вграден в платната му. Не е изненада, че през 2005 г. той получава наградата „Художник на века“ в конкурса „Милениум – 1001 причини да обичаш земята », проведен в Холандия.

Картините му разказват легендата за Орфей. Разгледайте всяка една от тях, представете си техния свят, съставете свои собствени истории и мечти и пътувайте към непознатото. Оставам платната му да говорят.

Бих искал да завърша статията с няколко цитата за изкуството на Кеазим Исинов.

Много художници са черпили вдъхновение от историята на Орфей и Евридика. Намирам тези на Франсоа-Луи Франсе, Жан-Батист-Камил Корот и Едмунд Дюлак за особено трогателни. Но нищо не може да ги сравни с магическите платна на талантливия български художник Кеазим Исинов, който има повече от 400 творби, посветени на Орфей.

Светлината и любовта в неговите картини са невероятни. Щастлива съм, че имах възможността да се срещна с него и да отделя време, за да се запозная отблизо и изследвам неговото изкуство. Той е не само майстор на четката, но един невероятно духовен човек, роден преди времето си. Изкуството му демонстрира много философия и пророчество и едно силно събуждащо послание към човечеството. Ако животът на Земята някога бъде унищожен, оцелелите бъдещи поколения могат да използват неговите картини, за да пресъздадат природата и човечеството, те са един вид Ноев ковчег, вграден в платната му. Не е изненада, че през 2005 г. той получава наградата „Художник на века“ в конкурса „Милениум – 1001 причини да обичаш земята », проведен в Холандия.

Картините му разказват легендата за Орфей. Разгледайте всяка една от тях, представете си техния свят, съставете свои собствени истории и мечти и пътувайте към непознатото. Оставам платната му да говорят.

Бих искал да завърша статията с няколко цитата за изкуството на Кеазим Исинов.

„Същността на неговия стил може да бъде определена от често използвания сега термин „магически реализъм“. За Кеазим Исинов това е органична комбинация от митично и приказно съдържание, богато и поразително въображение, първичен екстаз за природата и събитията, подробности за любопитството, докато са в технически аспект – на калиграфска рисунка, прецизност на пластичната форма, магическо осветление. Във всеки случай той е талантлив и продуктивен художник, който има много да каже и знае как да го каже на хората – по незабравим начин“.

Кирил Кръстев

 

„Великите художници винаги са пророци. Всички те, както и Кеазим Исинов, работят с миналото, за да създадат идеали за красота, които ни водят към бъдещето“.

Д-р Метер, директор на Академията за изящни изкуства, Виена

 

„Без да губи от своята дълбочина изкуството на Кеазим Исинов изпълнява една рядка в днешно време мисия – едновременно да радва и облагородява“.

Борис Данаилов

 

Ако искате да купите оригинал или репродукция или неговото изкуство, можете да се свържете директно с художника на адрес https://www.facebook.com/issinov/ или чрез имейл на issinov.fine.art@gmail.com.

БИОГРАФИЯ

Кеазим Исинов е роден в село Садовец, Плевенска област на 16 април 1940 г. Завършва Националното училище по изкуствата през 1960 г., а през 1968 г. завършва Националната художествена академия, класа на проф. Ненко Балкански по живопис.

 

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

January 19, 2019

Why is understanding culture important?

If you take away all the national pride, political agendas, and religious (not spiritual) dogmas, you have the core of who we are. Not that these ideals are wrong when properly understood and implemented, but they can promote so much hate and antagonism by extremists that they really don’t define who we are as individuals or as a community.

Think of all the wars started on the premise of each of those three ideologies.

Learning about cultural diversity can be such a wonderful adventure. The common experiences that people share influence their perception of the world and consequently how they behave with each other and those outside their community.

Learn about other cultures

Learn about other cultures

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

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…

View original post 82 more words

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.