Squeezing through for fertility

A megalithic complex near the village of Lilyach has been a ritual centre since ancient times

Photo: BGNES The megalithic sanctuary and the nearby church of St. George the Victorious make an impressive complex.

Some 80km to the southwest of Sofia, at the southern foot of Konyavska Mountain close to the village of Lilyach, there is a unique rock sanctuary which the locals call 'Proviralkyata' (translated roughly as 'squeeze-through tunnel'). A cult place where fertility rituals were performed as early as the Stone and Bronze Ages, it was later inherited as a sacred territory by local Thracian tribes.

The site is a large megalithic complex comprising several naturally formed rock arches which have been additionally carved since olden times. The sanctuary consists of several huge rock blocks at the base of which a narrow tunnel has formed of about 30cm in height and 1.5m in length. According to beliefs, if a childless woman manages to fit through this cleft, she will find herself pregnant soon after.

The local people believe that if one takes a good look at the rock, he will see that it resembles the back of a female body sitting on the stones. They also believe that the ground beneath it is polished by those who managed to squeeze through the hole. In the immediate vicinity, there are two rock altars with clearly visible grooves carved in stone. A necropolis and a rock platform were also found in the region. Close to the sanctuary there is also a sacred and healing karst spring which is believed to never dry out.

The locals relate an old legend according to which Theodora, spouse of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I conceived a child thanks to a ritual performed under the rock. Another legend tells about a Roman military commander by the name of Aurelius who lived nearby. He and his wife were childless and grieved deeply about it. The local Thracians told him about the magic rock structure and its healing properties and advised them to visit the place. They followed the advice and after his wife performed the ritual the two of them became parents.

Near to the cleft, in a rock niche, there is a small chapel, and above the sanctuary the church of St. George the Victorious was built. At this place the locals every year make Kurban (a votive offering for health, usually lamb soup). Annually, mothers and their children gather for the traditional fest at the rocks as a token of gratitude for the miracle that has happened to them.

Experts think that the complex is connected with ritualistic and sacral practices dedicated to the rising Sun, with the sun rays going through the arc and falling on the platform where a worshiper stands during the ritual. Actually, many of the sacred sites on the Balkans are rock temples dedicated to the Sun, which was identified with the male deity worshiped in ancient Trace and with which the Orphic Thracian king merges in the end, as a culmination of his self-perfection.

The fact that sun rays reach the cave-like tunnels of the magical hole near the village of Lilyach may be interpreted as a symbol of the womb of the Mother Goddess - identified with the rock and the mountain, representing a form of a sacred marriage. In most rock sanctuaries with arches, this 'sacred marriage' coincided with rituals marking the coming of a new year, when nature wakes up for new life thanks to a new conception, ensuring fertility and abundance during the year.

Similar articles

  • Treasures for the afterlife

    Treasures for the afterlife

    The necropolis near the village of Duvanlii sheds light on Thracians' beliefs

    The afterlife beliefs of the ancient Thracians have always fired up the imagination of those who are fascinated with ancient history while the specialists are trying to elucidate them on the basis of the available material. One of the most abundant sources of data shedding light on these beliefs was discovered in the necropolis near the village of Duvanlii, where according to experts the mortal remains of members of the Odrysae dynastic family have been buried.

    60
  • Safeguarded by St Ivan of Rila

    Safeguarded by St Ivan of Rila

    The Ruen Monastery is built near the birthplace village of Bulgaria's most famous saint

    Amidst a picturesque beech forest at the end of a meandering road high up in the Ruen Mountain, over the small village of Skrino and near the town of Kyustendil, stands the Ruen Monastery of St Ivan of Rila. The saint after whom the monastery is named was born in that village circa 876. An older monastery, dedicated to Great Martyr St Demetrius of Thessaloniki, existed at the same place before. Experts presume that St Ivan of Rila took the monastic vows there and then started his secluded life in a cave which is preserved until today, not far away from the present monastery.

    82
  • Scent of figs and old wine

    Scent of figs and old wine

    The architectural reserve of Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria

    The smallest Bulgarian town, Melnik - with a population of less than 200 people - was first mentioned in written sources in the early 11th century as a border point between the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria. The first to live in the region were the Thracian tribe of Medi, to which the legendary gladiator Spartacus belonged. Centuries later, the Slavs settled in the area naming the town Melnik, from the word 'mel' for white clay. It is namely clay that the fantastic red golden sand hills surrounding the town are made of.

    88