A Kukeri? What is That?

If you are from that Eastern European neck of the woods you might likely know but for the uninitiated…

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If that image is not ringing a bell, Wikipedia says:

Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits, with costumed men performing the ritual. Closely related traditions are found throughout the Balkans and Greece (including Romania and the Pontus). The costumes cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt. Around New Year and before Lent, the kukeri walk and dance through the village to scare evil spirits away with the costumes and the sound of the bells, as well as to provide a good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the year.

Never knew they existed? Most folks likely will not unless they grew up or visited that part of the world. This year’s Christmas Revels will give the audience member a chance to see several kukeri acting as part of a mumming competition as mentioned in our previous post. (If you are curious about the tradition of mumming, take a look at our webpage that provides some of the Revels traditions, including mumming.)

There was a recent National Geographic Article, Europe’s Wild Men (published April 2013) that provides not only a fascinating read but also some amazing pictures of kukeri, some of which you might recognize.

What do kukeri look like in real life? Below is a YouTube video of a Bulgarian Mummers festival that will show them in action:

A short video about the annual “Shiroka Laka” mummer carnival in Bulgaria. The mummers (called “kukeri”) dress up with spectacular clothes and masks to scare the evil demons. They dance at the sound of traditional Bulgarian music. The whole festival is pretty amazing and we hope you can feel the spirit through this video.

In a future post we will explain some of the details of how the Portland Revels kukeri were made and also provide some photos of the in-process machinations. Come back soon to check out kukeri construction!

Don’t forget, order your tickets now from Box Office Tickets or call the Portland Revels Box Office 10-4 PM Monday-Friday at (503) 200-1604.

Until then we will leave you with a few more photos of the wild and wonderful kukeri!

From National Geographic

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