Podcast in English
Bulgarian National Radio © 2022 All Rights Reserved

Traditional Bulgarian belt buckles - mysterious array of symbols and messages

Photo: pixabay

Belt buckles, called pafti are a typical Bulgarian folklore ornament. You will easily recognize them as an element of folk costumes from various regions of Bulgaria. These decorative accents from traditional Bulgarian clothing can be found oval-shaped; they could be cast, or forged. Usually, they are covered mainly with floral ornaments, and sometimes they have nacre decorations. In some buckles one also finds animal motifs. Peacocks, pigeons, two-headed birds and snakes seem to come to life on them.

The history of pafti in Bulgarian lands takes us back to the Middle Ages, when they used to show the social status of men. Archaeological discoveries near the village of Madara reveal that buckles were forged in the area as early as the 9th - 10th century, and were mass-produced during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom /1185-1396 /.


After the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule in the 14th century, Bulgarians lost their military power. That is why pafti gradually become part of the women's folk costume, symbolising guardians of the most important part of the body - the reproductive organs. Traditionally, they are worn only by married women after receiving them as a gift at their engagement or wedding.

In the second half of the 18th century, elements of the Baroque style appeared on the buckles. And in some of them whole biblical scenes are depicted - Christmas, Annunciation, Resurrection.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, folk costumes began to give way to modern urban clothing and pafti gradually disappeared from the wardrobe of Bulgarians to take their place in the museum or in the dusty chests of our grandmothers.


You will learn more about this unique decorative element of the traditional Bulgarian clothing from an article from Radio Bulgaria’s collection: Bulgarian belt buckles and the secrets they hold

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: pixabay, BNR-archive, botevgrad.com
Listen to the daily news from Bulgaria presented in "Bulgaria Today" podcast, available in Spotify.

More from category

Rila Monastery safeguards the relics of Bulgaria’s heavenly protector St. Ivan of Rila

“He who wants to be first amongst you, let him be the servant of all.” According to legend, that was the advice St. Ivan of Rila gave Tsar Peter while politely declining the royal gifts he had brought. The hermit monk set a personal example – tearing..

published on 7/23/22 9:30 AM

Feel the energy of Rupite area at the foot of Kozhuh Mountain

Bulgaria is blessed with a number of picturesque locations scattered across the country. One of them is the Rupite area at the foot of an extinct volcano, not far from the town of Petrich in southwestern Bulgaria. The area has been known..

published on 7/16/22 3:15 PM

Legends describe St. Peter as a stern and strict old man, and St. Paul as a fair and kinder man

The Day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Petrovden in Bulgarian) is a holiday much revered by Bulgarians. In Bulgarian folk tradition, it symbolizes the rise of nature and life at the beginning of the real summer, which in Bulgaria usually begins..

published on 6/29/22 6:10 AM