A Bulgarian proverb says: “You can live without bread, but you can’t without water.”
We’re talking about water because today, January 6, is the Epiphany, the day among the Bulgarians when a priest tosses a cross into the icy river water. Whichever of those brave souls that rushes in after it and retrieves it is bound to have a healthy new year. This ritual is part of the Voditsi, a holiday divided into three parts: it starts the day before St. Jordan’s Day, continues with the Epiphany, and ends with Ivanovden on January 7.
Throwing the Epiphany Cross from the Stavros Bridge (Cross) or Hadjikavur Bridge, Ber, 1908. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
You can watch the “chilling” event here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TrYDDnMFZHc
Of course, the Epiphany is more than that. It’s a celebration of Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River. It’s also a celebration of the day the three kings, the Three Wisemen or Magi, visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
Bulgarians revere water and use it in all important rituals, for births, weddings, and farewells to the dead. Water is even a part of more ordinary events. I remember when my grandmothers or my mother poured a whole cauldron of water in front of me or my brother when I needed to do something important. They used the same words every time that can be translated into a simple “I wish you luck.” The wanted to make sure that everything would flow easily like water. To this day, this ritual has been preserved and is a part of the beginning of the school year, before an important school exam, or before a trip. Its purpose is to bring good luck. The ritual is done with special brass or clay vessels that are decorated with zdravetz, the Bulgarian geranium.
In Bulgarian legends and folklore, every water body, from rivers to lakes to streams, has its own spirit who guards and protects the water. These are places you’ll find all kinds of mythical creatures: nymphs, fairies, and dragons.
At midnight on Epiphany, Bulgarians believe that rivers and streams stop flowing and gain healing powers. Before the cross-throwing, river-jumping event, water is consecrated at the church. People bring this holy water home, keeping it all year to ensure good health. They will also put some of the water into wine to make it strong and keep it from spoiling. Additionally, people take a sip from the water and wash their faces to ensure good health.
After the event at the river, the sick are sprinkled with the holy water in which the cross was thrown. Some people throw three splinters from their Budnik (a ritual piece of tree that is burned on Budni vecher, Christmas Eve) into this the river as a means to remove evil from their homes. The Budnik is an important part of the Christmas Eve celebrations. The tree used for the log is preferably a young, straight oak. It’s cut own in a ritual early on the morning of Christmas Eve. Every part of getting the Budnik is surrounded by elaborate rituals: the cutting, the preparation, bringing the log into the home, and placing it on the fire.
We’d also like to tell you about what we’ve been up to. December was a month to relax, or at least get somewhat caught up on tasks that have gone undone for too long. At any rate, it was a month free of writing. I spent time tracking statistics from our website. We revised it in April of 2017, so data from the time we first published is lost. But from April 2017 until December 2023, we have had visitors to our site from 122 countries! And people have viewed our pages 19,523 times! We thank you for that. So many of those visitors have been you, our subscribers and viewers! And we’ve already gained one new visiting country in January.
We are excited about this growth. Back in 2014 when we first published, the thought of reaching almost two-thirds of the countries in the world would have been a fantasy.
Now, we are back to work and eager to write more stories and produce more nonfiction books for you to enjoy. Our current projects are to finish up the final two books of the Dragon Village series. We’re hoping to launch a Kickstarter campaign on the series in September or October.
Our second, ongoing project will be a book on Magical Healing Trees. We offered a short ebook during our Herbs campaign, but now we will be updating that information with more detail and adding several new trees that have a special meaning in Bulgarian folklore. And we’ll be making a hardcover version of the book. We’re hoping to run that Kickstarter campaign sometime during the March to May period.
Be sure to follow our Kickstarter profile to get notified the moment we launch these campaigns: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/ronesa-aveela.
As part of the Trees campaign, we are also participating in a Storytellers Oracle Deck project. Here’s our official description of the project:
The Storytellers Oracle Deck is a multi-author project spanning a variety of genres. Each author has designed a card that distills the essence of their book or one of their characters. Put them all together and you have a truly unique Oracle deck that can be used for divination or displayed however you see fit.
Each author will offer their own card plus a two-card starter deck in their Kickstarter campaign. Back as many campaigns as you’d like to assemble your Oracle deck. These campaigns will be staggered throughout the year and on-going into the years to come, resulting in an ever growing, ever evolving deck.
You can find the author who are running the first of these campaigns in January below. We’ll keep you updated about all new participants as they begin their campaigns.
I’ve seen some of the cards that they are offering, and they’re really awesome. If you’re an Oracle fan or just want some cool cards, be sure to check out and back these amazing campaigns.
In other news, we have more cool projects we will be working on throughout the year. Vampires will join the Spirits & Creatures collection, although this book likely won’t be completed until early to mid-2024. Plus, we have other, smaller projects we hope to fit into 2023. We’ll keep you posted.
Storyteller Oracle Deck Kickstarters
Here are the first of the Storyteller Oracle Deck projects for you to check out this month. We appreciate you taking the time to visit with our fellow authors. Be sure to follow the campaigns now, so you’ll be notified when they go live. Thank you.
100 Gilded Dragons Art zine & other fantasy art prints.
Limited edition art zine, gold-foil art prints, & more featuring hand-illustrated dragons! A make 100 project!
January 18 – January 28
Effigest Illustrated Hardcover: A Weird Western Fantasy
Saddle up for a tale of fierce outlaws, reluctant heroes, loyal pegasi, and magic. (Make 100 Project)
January 10 – January 26
Crossbow University Series: Books 1-3 Dark, NA, Romance
Additions to Book 1, and Books 2 & 3 four months before available anywhere else! Bonus content only available here.
January 10 – January 29