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Wedding falcons

Photo: Wikipedia
The Sakar Falcon, a bird of prey on the verge of extinction these days, was a popular symbol in the Bulgarian tradition. Its ancient name “kraguy” has survived in old wedding songs. In Radio Bulgaria’s Folk Studio we discover how the symbol of the sakar falcon fared in the imagery of the traditional Bulgarian wedding.

In olden times winter was the right time for weddings. Wedding rituals went on for as long as a week. Special songs were attached to every part of the sophisticated wedding ritual to describe poetically its content. When the bridegroom leading the wedding pageant, took the bride to his home, his parents would go out to meet the young couple. The singer-girls watching the ritual started singing a song with a symbolic text and an atmospheric melody. “Do come out, mother of a strong son, to see the good coming: a falcon is coming, bringing a partridge with him. Another ritual song recounts of a mother who brought up two sons, two gray falcons, and sent them hunting in the forest, to catch a partridge. When the falcons were back home, one of them told his mother that he had brought a bride, a partridge. In other songs the bride unwilling to leave her father’s home, flees to the forest turning into a partridge. However she has no chance of freedom, because two gray falcons, the bridegroom and his brother come to take her back.

Why has the falcon emerged as a symbol of the bridegroom? A folk song recounts a hunting scene. Young Nikola goes across the forest, holding a hunting falcon on his hand. The bird however feels that the hunter’s thoughts are far away, and starts speaking. The falcon offers to fly to the girl’s place and to order the bride to get ready with her dowry. The follow-up of this story emerges in the lyrics of other songs. They tell us how the falcon reaches the girl. The bird alights on a rose bush and starts picking rose petals. Family members urge the girl to banish the falcon for ruining her lovely rose bush. She however replies that she has planted the bush with a vow for love and marriage. From her answer the falcon realizes that the girl accepts the message for marriage, and turns into a bridegroom.

The falcon is not a big bird, a trifle larger than a pigeon, and with a grayish color. While flying however, its wings stretch to reach 130 cm. A song recounts that under the shadow of falcon wings goldsmiths sit founding gold reins for the horse that should take bride Dragana away. The bride does not come from a high-born family, but the bridegroom looks quite happy with the forthcoming wedding. In a pre-wedding flight the falcon flies high with stretched out wings. He has ordered the goldsmiths to prepare lavish decoration for the horses. In another song the bride has asked God to send her falcon eyes – to see better. In this way the symbolic image of the falcon reveals a diversity of worthy features and roles that the man has to play at the transition from unmarried to married life.

English version Daniela Konstantinova

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