Could you say a few words about yourself, please!
My name is Ivailo Ayanski. I come from the town of Smolyan. Having
been brought up by my grandmother, I am a bearer of the indigenous
Bulgarian culture. She is a medicine-woman, applying the methods
of the traditional Bulgarian medicine for an eighth generation
in a row. After graduation, I have been working in the field of
my university specialty - ethnology. I am also a bearer of the
nestinar ritualism and charisma. Few people know that Nestinarstvo
is charisma - it chooses the person, not the other way about.
One is born to be a nestinar… Some day the "door" leading
to the "castle" simply opens in him, and the way is
waiting, straight ahead. One enters the "castle", everything
seems familiar to him though he has never been there before. Why
is it that? Because Nestinarstvo belongs to those ritual systems
whose roots were deeply implanted in the very origin of Man's
concept of secular and sacred. If we start with the ancient times'
nestinar in his position of priest, who was the mediator between
the world, God and the world of afterlife, and finish with the
modern psychoanalyst, we would conclude that human society has
always needed its mediators. Fortunately, the ritual system of
Nestinarstvo has remained intact throughout the centuries, in
terms of its philosophical and notional aspects; and it has kept
its thorough meaningfulness.
You have started with the phenomenon called Nestinarstvo, so is
there a relation between it and your prophetic gift?
No doubt. To my regret, it is still unknown that the very essence
of Nestinarstvo does not lie in its visual representation. The
mere dancing on embers does not meet the need for a miracle. I
have in mind another need, felt when the nestinar transcends the
physical dimensions and finally receives information of the Past,
Present and Future. The embers could be treated as the "door",
I mentioned in the beginning. In fact, they are the intersection-point
of the time and space axes. They remain somewhere between heavens
and earth, change the nestinar's body, and present it to the community
completely transfigured. In other words, the particular living
matter does not react in the usual way to the temperature change,
and the nestinar reaches the state of trance; the so called "fit"
or "obsession". That "fit" leads the him to
an "information field", which is the source of his visions.
Unfortunately no records have been made and kept, except some
partial ones in Michail Arnaoudov's researches; but many of the
local people still remember the famous prophecies made by some
nestinars - Granny Dobra, Granny Zlata Daskalova. They predicted
the disaster that befell Bulgaria under the reign of Czar Boris
III, the onset of the communist system, and many other things
that are facts today. They are not susceptible to any type of
interpretation, except reading. They are simply facts.
Could you be more specific about the way one feels during the
I may sound disappointing, but while dancing, one has no sensation
of reality; the only sensation is that of flying, of fluttering
wings…It is worth mentioning that the state changes in the nestinar's
body precede the act of dancing. I mean the "fit" that
one has in the "konak", the "fit" on the way
to the embers; when one feels feverish, his sight is blurred,
and his sense of orientation is lost, together with his auditory
perception. The only sounds the nestinar can hear, are the tune
of the bagpipe and the beat of the drum. At that moment, his body
is controlled by a power belonging and coming from another world.
So, it is deprived of its conscious processes and reaches the
level of subconscious contacts, in which mind does not participate.
How many true nestinars do you know at present?
Very few. Vesselina Ilieva, who is a bearer of the traditional
culture of the Strandzha Region, is a true nestinar for me. She
practises the kind of Nestinarstvo I like and respect. I do not
want to qualify the rest; some of them can cross the embers and
dance, but that by no means represents Nestinarstvo in its complexity
and depth. The thing they do is only a form of attraction.
Can we speak of "commercialization of the dance"?
When answering such a question, one should rely on one's own experience
only. The dances, I have seen in the Black Sea resorts, have purely
entertainment character and purposes.
Does a special technique of walking on embers exist?
No, it doesn't. All the things, I have just mentioned, prove that
when one is "obsessed", he certainly cannot rely on
a technique. For example, Vesselina Ilieva usually treads on embers
that reach the calves of her legs. In my trances I rake up the
dying fire with my legs, then squatting, I strew my face with
embers. So the idea of the existence of a technique is out of
I am already aware that Nestinarstvo is a whole complex, a phenomenon
of long standing. How do you see its future?
Definitely, Nestinarstvo will not disappear. But we should follow
all the traditions and ritualism described in Michail Arnaoudov's
works and those written by the number of specialists who devoted
their lives to the thorough research of the phenomenon. Nestinarstvo
follows its own path of development. Perhaps new elements will
appear but its essence will remain unchanged.