Daily webcast

Bulgarian National Radio © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Embroideries from Sofia region preserve prehistoric knowledge and wisdom

"Prehistoric symbols in the svilenik (silk embroidered sleeves) from the Sofia region" is an extremely interesting study. The book is in two parts, authored by Julia Boeva. A graduate of the Pancho Vladigerov National Music, Doctor of Arts, she has been a research associate at the Research Institute of Culture at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for many years. After the closure of the institute she was a freelance artist with solo exhibitions and numerous participations in joint exhibitions at home and abroad. Julia is the author of five books on Neolithic wisdom carried over the millennia.

"I started with the prehistoric signs themselves," says the author. “All my life I have been interested in archeology and especially in the Neolithic era. At a relatively early age, I learned the meaning of one of the most characteristic signs of prehistoric culture, and so I began to observe and discover. In 2010, I published “The Wisdom of the Great Mother”, a monograph on the semiotic system during the Neolithic era, with a second edition in 2012. It mentions parallels with folk art phenomena, but somehow I did not pay enough attention. Suddenly, at an exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum, I saw in the embroidery motifs prehistoric symbols - the goddess in birth and horned heads.


The same combination, dating to 6 millennia BC, was discovered in Anatolia. I decided that I needed to understand the significance of this combination, which was obviously very important in order to be preserved for eight millennia."


Inspired by this discovery, she began collecting photos of embroidered sleeves from museums and the Internet. First she researched and systematized the geometric embroideries - in the svilenik there are a dozen types of crosses, identical to the prehistoric signs, including the swastikas.

"It's amazing that the embroideries have preserved the basic ideas and patterns found in prehistoric culture," Julia continues. “Rural culture originated during the Neolithic, traditions established that should have been observed. Especially in women's art and craftsmanship, which have stayed away from the changes imposed by public life. Due to historical reasons, too many old customs, costumes, etc. have been preserved in Bulgaria. And the embroideries on the clothes of the Bulgarians were mandatory - it was believed that clothing without embroidery was not sufficiently protected, they frame all the openings of traditional garments. One of the characteristic symbols is the cross sign. It is an orientation for the directions of the world, for the course of the sun, for human life, a sign of correctness, of cosmicness. The name elbetitsa appears in the Sofia region - a cruciform combination of four birds and four images of the goddess with raised hands. “


Once the name itself becomes known, it extends to all cruciform compositions in embroidery, the scholar explains. What is the meaning of the word elbetitsa - in Bulgarian and Turkish "elbetya" means - "as it is right", "as God said". The word is known to have entered Turkish from Arabic, where it means home, house, but there is another term - "bet el" - the house of God. The Bible uses "betil" or "vetil" - the place where one has received enlightenment, has connected with God. Usually these are stones in the shape of a cube, cone, pyramid - structures associated with a symmetrical structure with a cruciform base or circular symmetry. So Bulgarian elbetitsa signs have to do with the physical signification of something divine, Julia explains:

“I made an analysis of many elbetitsa signs from Sofia, it became clear that they present the origin and development of the world from one point, which increases and expands in the four directions in the form of a cosmos. At some stage in this geometric development, images of the goddess appear in the four (or eight) directions of the world and are usually of two kinds. In prehistoric culture, the goddess signified the whole world.”


According to Julia Boeva, the embroideries mostly describe the process of birth of the world and the beings in it, it describes what happens to the souls and bodies from conception to the birth of earthly life. There is also the opposite idea - dying is another kind of birth - upwards, from here to the invisible world. People in the Neolithic certainly knew what the symbols meant. Gradually, this knowledge began to disappear, but women, repeating exactly the inherited images, have preserved with them the understanding of the correspondence between the world and man. These signs are a way to consciously challenge and maintain order both in the world and in traditional rural society.

English version Rositsa Petkova 

Photos: courtesy of Julia Boeva

More from category

Kiten hosts a three-day folklore festival

Bulgaria’s coastal resort Kiten will host the Fifth National Folklore Festival “Kiten and Friends”. From September 4 until September 6, more than 46 folk musical groups, dance formations, as well as more than 90 individual performers from all..

published on 9/4/21 10:35 AM

Unique songs and traditions are preserved by the inhabitants of a neighborhood in the heart of Hisarya

Everyone knows Bulgaria’s Hisarya as a tourist town with a centuries-old history and 22 mineral springs with water with proven healing properties. During all seasons of the year tourists flock here - Bulgarians and foreigners, attracted by..

published on 8/15/21 9:50 AM

When "100 kaba bagpipes" play together, time comes to a standstill

A legend was born 60 years ago. Then, for the first time, unheard music echoed over the ridges of Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains. The simultaneous performance of 100 kaba bagpipes literally blew up the audience at the First National Folklore..

published on 8/13/21 10:15 AM