Lock up the Priests, Don the Goat Hair

Koukery Fertility Festival Music: Bulgarian girls singing, accordion and drum, bells ringingIn small villages throughout northern Bulgaria, this month marks the celebration of the Koukery Festival, an ancient ritual of fertility which heralds the coming of spring. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.The Koukery Festival originated as a springtime ritual, encouraging fertility within the tribes of northern Bulgaria. Apparently, the early versions of the festival were licentious enough that by the mid-19th century, Orthodox Church authorities attempted to ban elements of the celebration. Rather than tone it down, legend has it that the locals simply locked up the priests for the day and went about their business. Over time though, the festival has, of its own accord, toned down a bit, and today, it’s celebrated with parades, folk dancing, music and song.The central figures in the festival are the koukeries — several dozen men dressed in goat-hair outfits, wearing painted cloth masks. They have huge cowbells, which they ring as they dance throughout the village. Traditionally, the koukeries are supposed to pay a visit to each house in town. In the past, this visit was the only way a young man was permitted to drop in on his bride-to-be. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Lock up the Priests, Don the Goat Hair

Northern Bulgaria's traditional fertility festival heralds the coming of spring.
Air Date:03/22/2021
Scientist:
Transcript:

Koukery Fertility Festival Music: Bulgarian girls singing, accordion and drum, bells ringingIn small villages throughout northern Bulgaria, this month marks the celebration of the Koukery Festival, an ancient ritual of fertility which heralds the coming of spring. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.The Koukery Festival originated as a springtime ritual, encouraging fertility within the tribes of northern Bulgaria. Apparently, the early versions of the festival were licentious enough that by the mid-19th century, Orthodox Church authorities attempted to ban elements of the celebration. Rather than tone it down, legend has it that the locals simply locked up the priests for the day and went about their business. Over time though, the festival has, of its own accord, toned down a bit, and today, it's celebrated with parades, folk dancing, music and song.The central figures in the festival are the koukeries -- several dozen men dressed in goat-hair outfits, wearing painted cloth masks. They have huge cowbells, which they ring as they dance throughout the village. Traditionally, the koukeries are supposed to pay a visit to each house in town. In the past, this visit was the only way a young man was permitted to drop in on his bride-to-be. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.