This is a short observation of the masquerade games that occured here in Bulgaria, in my hometown from 27.01 to 29.01. It captures one side of the games, a fiction one if I may say. This is how I see it, how I think it actually is deep in its sense. I attach some photos for a better picture of the event. Enjoy and if you are interested in the nature of the event you can check more here- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kukeri :-)
The Masquerade games: In the centre of the magic
So masquerade games I say. You probably think at first about a masked ball of some sorts. It is very different from a dance in a palace, from what Cinderella experiences, a night covered in silk, of rich clothing and fancy hairstyles.
These masquerade games are primal. They are animalistic, ancient, exotic, mysterious and frightening. And they do not last for only one night.
The day becomes bright. I can hear the distant sound of their bells. I imagine, hearing it days before that, echoing through the villages, the towns and the countries they come from. Closing my eyes I can hear it pounding back in the past, right to its very beginning.
It’s loud this shout of drums and kavals, but it’s beautiful. It comes from all around, different layers of music pressing each other to create a bizarre symphony of traditions gathered together for this one long lasting ritual. It is music that fills you with energy, with freedom.
Time stops. The arrows of the big clock are silent, they cease their movement for 3 days letting everything and everyone float on its sands lost, captured in a sweet reverie. I breathe it, making it fill my mind, taking me away from all that’s real. I smell dim in the air mixed with sweet wine and tasty bread. It feels like spring somewhere in my imagination although it’s cold and fierce winter. I ignore it proceeding through the crowds.
All around me I see the human faces of all those man, women and children today and tomorrow bearing one name – kukeri.
But I prefer looking at their demonic faces, at those masks made out of feathers, of animals, or carved from wood; horror black faces, long black hairs, horns, sticking out tongues and sharp teeth. Goats, bears, sheeps, creatures from old and forgotten myths with long bodies and hairy heads. Grotesque. Ridiculous if must.
Fire burns before my eyes. They set it as they put those animal skins and fur. With animal, beast resembling gestures and sounds they chase away the evil spirits that roam the mortal world. They make all the wrong, all that which makes us ill go away. Paradox or not, they hunt the devil while looking like one.
For those hours of display they transform themselves into something that lives deep inside them. With a simple ritual that binds people together they become exorcists of the paranormal which translates itself with the fears that nest in people’s souls. With their loud and heavy bells they rip the scary, poke it with pitchforks, hit it with clubs, and get married next by it creating a new beginning shutting off the darkness. Then a moment of silence occurs before 10 or 30 or 40 or a100 people jump all together making the bells sounds as one, chanting in the vast finally ridding people from the evil spirits.
Some do not believe in this ritual. Surely they take the fun out of it, but always look upon it too shallow. It has roots that go way beyond a simple drinking and eating all you can event. Hm, maybe they chose not to understand it and trouble themselves.
Many, like me, understand it, feel it close, feel it…ours, and without spoken words appreciate and admire it.
Truly it is very amazing to observe from aside this game of play pretend. You experience it with the participants in the masquerade. You cannot escape being dragged into the colorful event. You cannot ignore just how much the ordinary scene had changed into a theatre of creatures. You cannot chase the enchanting music of different nations from your mind.
There is however one thing you can do. You can release yourself from your everyday skin and dive “bare footed” and clear headed into the rhythm, the game, the dance with the devil, tasting all the elements from the materialization of this mysterious and masked tradition.