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It may sound like a timeworn cliché, but it cannot be denied that in March the entire nature, all the plants and animals start to wake up to a new life. Spring comes and so do the typically cheerful celebrations that characterize these days. Inimitably, rites and customs contribute to a euphoric spring mood. In their experience over numerous centuries, the Bulgarian people appreciate the significance of this period. In the folk beliefs, the month of March is associated with the fertile qualities of the female nature. Even today, this is the only month which traditionally has been designated as a female one. All the rites and customs subject to the idea of the new birth and the anticipated resurrection. Yet in spring, alongside with the returning good, there is also the dangerous that is sneaking by. The milder weather brings along the harmful powers from the beyond. All those wood nymphs, dragons, serpents and terrible otherworldly forces appear among the people. Hence, the power of the colour red and the protective amulet which is most Bulgarian in spirit, the martenitsa ornament made of red and white yarn, come to the rescue. Each corner of Bulgaria has put forward its own legend about how Sechko, the folk name for the month of February, receives from Baba Marta (i.e. Granny Marta, as a personification of the month of March) a loan of several days to keep the winter, or how Baba Marta takes away several days from April to pour out her fury onto the people through gale winds and cold weather. It is as though the days belong simultaneously to each of the months and are a transition of sorts between the two periods – the time before the new birth of the world in terms of chaos and disorder, and afterwards the time of creation in terms of calm equilibrium and harmony. An old woman, such as the Great Mother Goddess the progenitor of the clan, should indeed carry out the magic transfiguration. This new beginning is, not accidentally, richly dyed in red. For centuries, the Bulgarians have been welcoming in Baba Marta, i.e. the start of the month of March, with the colour red. They spread out a piece of red fabric, a red shirt, apron, scarf etc on the window, over the fence, on the roof or over the gate as a barrier and a magical neutralization of everything evil that accompanies the mythical otherworldly image of the old lady and comes from the mystical, unknown world of the beyond. In a ritualistic and symbolic fashion, each housewife sweeps and takes out the winter, throws away the old, the evil, the infertile, the death, and welcomes in Granny March to a clean place. In our tradition, the colour red is a sign of vitality, health and love. Red is likened to the light of the rising and setting sun, to running blood, to fire, to love. This is the colour of victory, of life. It contains fecundity and is a symbol of maturity. The red with its magic protective powers is tangibly present in the old Bulgarian tradition. Its intertwining with the white, the symbol of purity, light and the male beginning, transforms the martenitsa in a powerful amulet to protect from trouble, terrible demons and diseases. The woollen threads, unfailingly twisted to the left, together with the additional elements woven into the ornament such as snail shells, garlic cloves, beads and coins, recreate a long thread of life and an invisible magical defence against the evil eye and jinxing, attract health and strength, prosperity and well-being. If you are in Bulgaria in March, you will see the young and old decorated with martenitsas. Why don’t you try as well? Decorate your garment with a martenitsa and take it off when you see a blooming branch or a stork!It may sound like a timeworn cliché, but it cannot be denied that in March the entire nature, all the plants and animals start to wake up to a new life. Spring comes and so do the typically cheerful celebrations that characterize these days. Inimitably, rites and customs contribute to a euphoric spring mood. In their experience over numerous centuries, the Bulgarian people appreciate the significance of this period. In the folk beliefs, the month of March is associated with the fertile qualities of the female nature. Even today, this is the only month which traditionally has been designated as a female one. All the rites and customs subject to the idea of the new birth and the anticipated resurrection. Yet in spring, alongside with the returning good, there is also the dangerous that is sneaking by. The milder weather brings along the harmful powers from the beyond. All those wood nymphs, dragons, serpents and terrible otherworldly forces appear among the people. Hence, the power of the colour red and the protective amulet which is most Bulgarian in spirit, the martenitsa ornament made of red and white yarn, come to the rescue. Each corner of Bulgaria has put forward its own legend about how Sechko, the folk name for the month of February, receives from Baba Marta (i.e. Granny Marta, as a personification of the month of March) a loan of several days to keep the winter, or how Baba Marta takes away several days from April to pour out her fury onto the people through gale winds and cold weather. It is as though the days belong simultaneously to each of the months and are a transition of sorts between the two periods – the time before the new birth of the world in terms of chaos and disorder, and afterwards the time of creation in terms of calm equilibrium and harmony. An old woman, such as the Great Mother Goddess the progenitor of the clan, should indeed carry out the magic transfiguration. This new beginning is, not accidentally, richly dyed in red. For centuries, the Bulgarians have been welcoming in Baba Marta, i.e. the start of the month of March, with the colour red. They spread out a piece of red fabric, a red shirt, apron, scarf etc on the window, over the fence, on the roof or over the gate as a barrier and a magical neutralization of everything evil that accompanies the mythical otherworldly image of the old lady and comes from the mystical, unknown world of the beyond. In a ritualistic and symbolic fashion, each housewife sweeps and takes out the winter, throws away the old, the evil, the infertile, the death, and welcomes in Granny March to a clean place. In our tradition, the colour red is a sign of vitality, health and love. Red is likened to the light of the rising and setting sun, to running blood, to fire, to love. This is the colour of victory, of life. It contains fecundity and is a symbol of maturity. The red with its magic protective powers is tangibly present in the old Bulgarian tradition. Its intertwining with the white, the symbol of purity, light and the male beginning, transforms the martenitsa in a powerful amulet to protect from trouble, terrible demons and diseases. The woollen threads, unfailingly twisted to the left, together with the additional elements woven into the ornament such as snail shells, garlic cloves, beads and coins, recreate a long thread of life and an invisible magical defence against the evil eye and jinxing, attract health and strength, prosperity and well-being. If you are in Bulgaria in March, you will see the young and old decorated with martenitsas. Why don’t you try as well? Decorate your garment with a martenitsa and take it off when you see a blooming branch or a stork!

Text by: Aneliya Ovnarska - Milusheva