5According to some legends the vine, not the apple, is the tree of knowledge that was the reason for the fall.

Our people put on level and dress in holiness the bread, wine and salt. In the folklore these are earthly incarnations of the Holy Trinity by which man rises and touches the divine. Grapes and wine occupy pride of place not only at the table but also in the spiritual world of our ancestors.

Once Bulgarians made a cross and tuned themselves godly before they sipped the wine. This ritual is an integral part of all important events and rituals in life – the newlyweds sip from a glass of wine, before going home to live in love and consent. A woman in labor sipped to give birth easily. A child fed with red wine by the fireside is healthy and vigorous, disease cannot not catch him, and his cheeks are rosy. The graves are overflowed with wine and water to appease the ground to swallow the buried bodies.

The attitude towards wine in folklore is twofold, as the proverb says: “Blessed wine, damn drunk”. There are two humorous names of wine, too “marry house” and “smash head.” It is “bright”, “brilliant”, “sparkling”, “crazy”, “young”. Wine is for fight, for love, for sorrow, for life and death. It is in our lifes, and it is in the songs, which our people chant wine.

It is a symbol of Christ’s blood, so Bulgarians respect and honor wine par with bread. With wine we communion and ascend to divinity. Only the bread and wine are not used in spells, because magic is not caught. Wine and bread are divine and chase the hell away. That is why our people believe that it is a great sin to throw grapes or to pour wine in unclean places. Even vinegar, which is prepared from wine has magical powers. It chases evil eyes. So “the one who catched the evil eye” is washed with vinegar over fire.

On the other hand, folklore texts warn of the dangers of excessive drinking, for example, saying “And the crazy run of the drunk,” “Drunk man – torn sack” or “goat drank wine, to seek the wolf to fight.” The controversial nature of wine is explained in the legend of grandfather Noah, who planted the first vineyard. He watered the vine with blood, so the wine took its color. He took the blood from three animals – lamb, lion and pig. For this reason, who drinks a little wine, becomes gentle and cheerful like a lamb; who swallows plenty becomes heroic and terrible as a lion, and who is poured without measure, becomes like a pig wallowing in the mud and turns into laughingstock.

3Some Apocrypha indicate that vine, not the apple tree of knowledge, which grew in the Garden of Eden, became the reason of temptation and fall of the first people. According to a legend the Lord himself created the grapes, and the devil, trying unsuccessfully to imitate him, made the bramble. Both the fruit ripen at the same time in late summer, but it is believed that we should not eat brambles before we tried grapes, in order not to find ourselves in the power of the devil

The miraculous grape is not only in fairy tales, but in real life. It is believed that the grapes of old vine that grows in the courtyard of the Rozhen Monastery “Virgin Birth” near Melnik, help barren women to conceive. In church worship the bread and wine are called by the Greek word  “Eucharist” which means gratitude. In Christianity, the bread and wine are tangible symbols of Christ. As recorded in the biblical texts during the Last Supper Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine, saying that these are his body and his blood. By adopting a piece of bread and a few drops of wine, Christians take Communion which is by religion the respect for Church.

2The ritual significance of grapes is illustrated by the fact that the entire cycle of wine production is marked by celebrations and prohibitions. Grapes is not served before Transfiguration (6 August). On this day the first grapes picked are taken to church to sanctify and since then eating grapes is already allowed. On the holiday Seknovene (felling head of St. John the Baptist) on August 29 all red foods and drinks are banned because of the shed blood of the saint – so on the table are served only white wine and white grapes. Even vintage traditionally begins on Holy Cross Day (14 September).

The most important place in the wine rites is the the day of St. Tryphon*, celebrated on 1st or 14th of February, when the vineyards pruning begins. In our folklore this Christian saint brings the features of the Thracian god of fertility and wine Sabazius, better known as Dionysus. So in folk art stands the pious youth Trifon, who died as a martyr for the Christian faith. He got nicknames like Tryfon the Cutter and Tryfon Drunk*, displayed on icons with scissors in hand, and the feast in his name is accompanied with lush festivities and ritual drinking of all participants.

Maria Petkova

 *The day of St. Tryphon is celebrated by winegrowers, falconers, gardeners and tavern-keepers on February 14th, not when the Bulgarian Orthodox Church solemnly celebrates St. Tryphon. It is one of the most persistent, but also the most controversial and complicated by its historical nature customs in Bulgarian folk calendar. This is the time when farm work is associated with the first business process in the annual cycle of treatment of the vine and marks the beginning of Spring.

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