Field Research on the Vlach Minority in Northwestern Bulgaria

Georgieva, Albena; Lyubenova, Milena (Articol)

“The region of Northwestern Bulgaria has been the object of intense folkloristic research in the last 40 years. In the course of these investigations many villages from the contemporary districts of Montana, Vidin and Vratsa are studied, the Vlach community included. The recorded field materials are preserved in the National Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage (NCICH) at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The field materials predominantly consist of traditional folk genres – tales, historical and religious legends, anecdotes, toponymy. Some stories about the history of the village and the village families are recorded, as well as calendar rites and folk beliefs. During the project “Traditional Cultural Relationships and Ethnic Self-identity in the Contemporary Situation on the Balkans: on materials from the region of Timok – Vlach, Bulgarian and Serbian Villages”, the academic interest is orientated towards various ethnic communities, the object of the field research being Bulgarian, Serbian and Vlach villages from the region of Timok River. As a result, in the archive are stored materials documented in the town of Bregovo, Vidin region, which are kept in the phono-archive and in the paper-archive of NCICH. The field materials from Bregovo contain information about the origin of the town and its inhabitants, about its name, about the Vlach language, the town fair, the offering sites around the town and its holidays – Christmas, St. Nicolas’ Day, St. Lazar’s Day –, on rain rituals, medicine, fortune telling, funeral practices, life histories, stories about dreams and maledictions, about everyday life in Bregovo, and about the socialist period. From those materials the stories about dreams constitute the most impressive group and show that dreams are actively present in the culture of the town community and play an important role in its social life. They take part in various situations – foretelling the future, interpreting the present, motivating ritual practices and connecting real life with the other world. Seemingly, their most important function is to be a medium connecting the living with their dead relatives. The great number of recorded stories about dreaming the dead, told mainly by women, indicates the constant and intense interest and their anxiety as well as of the world they inhabit. This anxiety is partly due to the conviction that, already beyond, the dead are entirely dependent on the living and their actions: if forgotten, they try to get in contact through dreams and to demand the care they lack. Dream images show what lies in the unconscious layer of mind – the individual as well as the collective one. Their appearance is deeply rooted in human’s biology, but is also dependent on the cultural context, which to a still higher degree determines their apprehension and interpretation. In the more or less closed and constant in its structure society of elderly people in the small town Bregovo, participants are involved in some common, standard models of reactions and behavior, which are inherited from the previous generations and which have become their second nature. The adoption of these models is the condition for an adequate involvement in the respective social and age group; the continuous reproduction and preservation of those models is part of the group’s identity. Being a minority in the Bulgarian state and living on the edge of the Bulgarian-Serbian-Romanian border, the Vlachs in Bregovo are relatively closed society, quite conservative and somewhat capsulated towards outer influence. Thus they have retained their traditional respect for the supernatural other world and have preserved the belief that dreams are the medium for getting in actual contact with the dead.”

Cuvinte cheie: Archival Materials, Dreams, Field Research, and Vlach Minority

Revista de etnografie și folclor / Journal of Ethnography and Folklore

2012, nr. 1-2