Stinging nettle in Bulgaria’s traditional practices and beliefs

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In springtime Bulgarians traditionally consume various dishes containing leafy greens like nettles, docks and sorrels. Old people say that when you hear a cuckoo and see nettle growing, this means spring has come.The stinging nettle is present in a great number of Bulgarian proverbs and beliefs. The healing qualities of the plant rank it among the most popular folk remedies for various conditions.

According to Bulgarian traditions, people eat nettle for the first time in spring on St. George’s Day.  The plant is also present in almost all the ritual practices associated with the holiday. A symbol of health, it is entangled in green wreaths. In the night before St. George’s Day women milk the sheep that was the first to give birth in spring. The milk vessel is decorated with green leaves, including nettle. A wreath of geranium, blackberry, nettle and hawthorn, tangled with a red thread is placed on the sheep’s head and the door of the sheepfold. Leafy greens are placed on fountains and wells and nettle is placed in vessels with water. In some parts of the country, the oldest woman in the family was allowed to sting children's legs with nettle while they are still in bed. It is believed that this will bring health to them.

The stinging leaves of nettle, intertwined with geranium and hawthorn, were placed on people’s doors as a means against various malignant influences and troubles. It is believed that stinging nettle drives away bad spirits. Nettle is also used for breaking spells. If a girl wanted to avenge her beloved for his cheating, she would givehim a stinging nettle bouquet. This action meant she wanted his heart broken and burning, too.

In the past people used to produce strong fibers that they used to produce textile. They also prepared dye and used it to color Easter eggs as well as textiles. In the past in every Bulgarian home there used to be large quantities of dried nettle stored – used for food and treatment during the cold winter months.  Nettle is an ingredient in many traditional vegetarian meals, as well as meat dishes.

In Bulgarian folk medicine, all parts of the nettle plant are used. Leaves and stems are harvested from their first appearance in spring, and roots are taken in autumn when flowering is over. Nettle application is particularly effective for paralyzed limbs, rheumatism, etc. It is considered that green foods help against depression. Nettle potion is used for heart conditions and has a general healing and strengthening effect. It is also beneficial against diabetes and overweight. Nettle is also a great remedy against fatigue.

English: Alexander Markov


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