The childhood and the memories of another unforgettable time are deeply nested in us. When we are kids, the world is just a feeling and sense – deep and sincere. This feeling for me it is in the land of Dobrodzha – flat as a pancake, peace and grace are spread over it. As far as one could see – a sea of sunflowers, wheat, cornflowers and poppies… inebriating smell of fresh green, earth… burning sun, fluffy clouds traveling on the wings of the wind to the sound of crickets and songbirds. I loved to run in the meadows and stand among the wheat, and then got tired, ruddy and sweaty, I loved to play in a bowl of fragrant hay in the garden. There I often napped secretly, under the gentle caress of the breeze. Once I just fall asleep when the voice of my grandmother came:

– Gina, Gina! Where are you? Where are you hiding? Come on, in order not to fall asleep somewhere during the day, during the Mermaid Week.
– What does “Mermaid Week” mean, Grandma?
– ‘Tis a week in which the rusalii come.

I thought someone was coming to visit us. My grandmother was a famous healer, singer and povardzija*. “Povardzhii” were called the best chefs in the village who were invited to prepare dishes for the celebrations. They were looking for her at all happy and sad occasions. So some people constantly were coming home – some asked for help and advice, others – to thank her and to invite her on different occasions, third bounced just to visit her. She greeted them with her constant smile, and telling me who was who when they left. For the Roussalii I did not remember to have heard …

– Grandma,do the Rusalii belong to our family? How long will they stay with us?
– No, child. They have no family and they are from the invisible world. Today, they have arrived and will stay for one week here.

Well, that was amazing news! Strange how we will skip home with the invisible strangers for seven days! Surely for such things we say “nonsense”!

– Grandma, if they are invisible, how you knew that they were here?! –I asked her mischievously.
– Rusaliite arrive each year in the week after Whitsunday (50th day after Easter), but following the old calendar,as on the new one neither storks and swallows, nor rusalii are marked to arrive, only New Year comes! Where the rusaliite pass, the leaves of the linden trees are turning. Then I understand that they came. During the Mermaid Week nobody works. Nobody walks on the field and in the woods. Nobody sleeps during the day, nobody roams the streets.
– Why?
– Because they come down to us and rampage – play, romp, and make mischievous thing for seven days and then go. The guests should be honored, to be paid attention, to make them happy with what you have. Did you see me to sleep when some guests come to visit us?! Or digging in the garden, when someone asks me to pray for him? Has there ever happened not to invite someone who has crossed our doorstep?
– No. – I muttered softly and my grandmother continued:
– To the guests of the invisible world we must be very careful, as with the people around us, because we cannot see them, but they are watching us. When we feel that they are around us and treat them well, they will help us. People will be healthy, there will be no drought, the harvest will be good, and there will be joy in our eyes. However, if you wade their water from which the rusalii want to drink or you do not make them a road on a crossroad, if you trample their grass and disrupt their dance, they will be dissatisfied. If you push or step over someone, you will apologize, and he will forgive you. But how you will excuse yourself to the unseen? If you have not realized that you have to stay at home and make them successful, as they want – they will pass through you and their punishment will be to get sick. Haven’t you noticed how many people come after the Mermaid Week to pray for them? Some of them feel sick, have a headache, languish, others faint, go mad, often have fever… And those who slept with the infection and disease, the Lord calls them to His home.

Suddenly I recognized the meaning! I understood why grandmother strictly kept our customs and traditions with the words “I know it from my grandmother, she – from her grandmother. You have to know it and to teach your children, too”. She did this and passed away from this white visible world. I’m still here, but… what wakes me up?

Today, perhaps, most people have never heard of the rusalii. The relationship with nature and the invisible world has last for long but gave way to the relationship with the pharmacy and the visible world of commercials. However, when the Mermaid Week comes most people say they are sleepy, have headaches and many familiar complaints. They save themselves with coffee, cola and colored tablets. They wake up their minds, but do they wake up their senses for the invasion of the rusalii? Surely not. In the popular beliefs, beyond the outer side of the ritual customs, often featured exotic, there is a very, very deep meaning. It is the key to the “parlor” of the great invisible forces that govern our lives. Some of them are known: gravity, light, magnetism, love, emotions, wind… Others exist beyond our knowledge and scientific explanations. The beliefs and traditions of the ancestors are an indication how to be sensitive and responsible towards the unknown of the universe arriving as a guest, like the Rusalii.
MEng. Ginka Stoeva, PhD

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