Where priest king meets Mother Goddess
Thracian sacred complex Beglik Tash combines a temple, a calendar and a sundialAdelina Lozanova
Beglik Tash, one of the largest Thracian sanctuaries in the Balkans, is located in a spacious clearing of a dense forest, mere six kilometres to the north of popular seaside resort Primorsko. The complex remained unknown to scientists until 2003 as it fell within the boundaries of a communist-era hunting residence named Perla. However, its exploration over the recent decade has shed light on the mystical spiritual and religious life of the Thracians.
The sanctuary functioned between the 14th century BC and the 5th century AD. Over time, it has been used by Thracians, Greeks and Romans due to it being relatively easy to access and in close proximity to the sea. Locals call it Beglik Tash (The Stone of the Beglik) after the name of a tax levied by the Ottomans on sheep and goat. The stockbreeders' route from Mount Strandja to the sea, where they paid the tax, passed through this region.
Located on a rocky ground, the complex spreads over about six acres and consists of a main part encircled by two layers of smaller structures. The megaliths have been partly carved and moved in place by men. The monolithic blocks and slabs are arranged in unique patterns.
The complex is believed to have served the cult of the sun-god and the mother-goddess. In the eastern part of the sanctuary, immediately next to the antechamber, is the “nuptial bed”, where supposedly the high priest and priestess were re-enacting the unity of the two deities. Bathtubs have been hewn around the bed, in which liquids representing the four primordial elements of the Thracian universe were poured - milk symbolising air, oil for fire, wine for earth, and water. A sacrificial stone hewn into the rock and the main altar - an enormous boulder standing on three points - are preserved to this day, as well as a throne of stone where the priest-king used to sit.
The sanctuary served also as a calendar and a sundial. There are holes carved in the rocks and at the times of solstice or equinox the sun rays shining through the openings between the arranged stones hit these points. The sundial is made of a big stone curved in a specific way and of six smaller stones, which now prop one another like a row of fallen dominoes. In ancient times, the main stone used to throw a shadow on the smaller ones, dividing daylight time into six parts.
Not far from the sundial, there is a dolmen called The Womb, symbolising feminine fertility and the mother-goddess. Right behind it is the entrance to a labyrinth used to predict the future, made of bigger and smaller megaliths. There is a narrow opening in it - six metres high by about 50 centimetres wide - through which only those pure in heart were believed to be able to pass.