The Secret Symbols In The Bulgarian Embroidery

Secret-symbols bulgarian Embroidery

A few weeks ago talking with a good friend of mine, he shows me a picture of some ancient symbols and he explained that those symbols are embroidered in the traditional Bulgarian dresses, and that and that could be a good article for Foreigner BG.

I got intrigued by this information, I had no idea that the embroidery has a meaning and not only a decorative function.

I decide to write about it and start the research, the information on the internet was very scarce, not much info about the symbols and less about their meaning, the Ethnographic Museum in Varna my first step, the people working there were very kind and explain to me many things about the traditional Bulgarian dresses, but unfortunately not much about the meaning of the embroidery, they suggest me to go to the Library and check for more information there.


The less concrete information I get, the more I feel intrigued about the meaning of the symbols, some of them start to repeat, the Tree of Life, the Mother Goddess, the Swastica and others.

In the library, the ladies working there did a great job and helped me a lot (and I got my yearly card for the Library).

All books were in Bulgarian language, that makes everything a bit more complicated but at the same time more interesting to have the opportunity to share with all of you information that isn’t available in English language.

Embroidery used to have great symbolic value. It was believed to protect the human body from evil spells and spirits. People believed that cutting a part of the embroidery of one’s garment would blaze a trail for the evil spirits and make the person vulnerable.

Bulgarian women were allowed to embroider only until their wedding day – after that, they were having the right to do it again only when their own daughters become 12 years and they need to learn how to do it.

The girls start at 12 years old embroidering what it will be later her trousseau when she gets married, and this was the highest skill of all domestic crafts.

Bulgarian Embroidery
Representation of the Mother Goddess, its represented as a pregnant woman in giving birth position, and with the sun and moon on the sides.
Thanks to История в шевици for the pattern

The color of the dresses as well have a significance, many colors dye the Bulgarian costumes, but the main ones are red and green, yellow and white.

The red color symbolizes the mother’s blood and the continuation of life. It will protect from “bad eyes” and spells. The bride wore a red veil (this was common practice until 1920′ s), and the newborn child was a red-haired diaper; red is also the first Christ’s egg painted for resurrection… Now I see the connection and the meaning of wearing a red wristband.

The green color was the expression of eternal life and was connected with the Tree of life – the universal human symbol of the universe.

The yellow with its shine was associated with the sun, the fire, and the light, and on the other side the dead and the prosperity of the people that they were predetermined.

The white color revealed the purity, the impenetrability, the immaculate youth, and the divine light. And to this day, as a transformation of the old traditions, the newlyweds have come to pay for whitewash; white wool set the bride in the wedding ceremony

Ethnographic Museum
Art work: Kreksofin

According to the ancient beliefs, evil (diseases, curses, “bad eyes”, all evil forces) strikes man just where the body is unprotected by clothes, and the clothes were conceived as a second skin and the embroidery has the function of protecting and assure the user, Placing embroidery is by no means accidental, they define the limits of man. The embroidery must be placed on the edges of the woman’s head, the bottom of her shirt, the sleeves and the socks of the male and female garments.

Traditional Bulgarian embroidery is characterized by great regional and local diversity and can be seen on regional costumes of both men and women. Once upon a time, Bulgarian embroideries revealed the social status and ethnic origin of a person.

Art work: Kreksofin

Because of the size and geographical construction of the country, with highlands and lowlands, mountains and valleys, Bulgarian costume varied quite considerably, as could the embroidery that went to embellish and identify the wearer. There was a tradition in various parts of Bulgaria for the use of floral or geometric pattern work. However, sometimes both styles could be seen as part of the same costume with different types of pattern work.

For five hundred years Bulgaria was a province of the Turkish Empire. However, despite this forced integration, Bulgarians were able to keep much of their cultural heritage intact. Some of this can be attributed to the cohesion that a common regional language, religion and custom base can engender within a larger empire, but much can also be attributed to native crafts. Embroidery in particular with its distinct and purposely defined decorative compositions was able to identify Bulgarians in general and the areas within the then Turkish province where Bulgarians lived, as being of a separate and unique identity to that of the rest of the Empire.

Tree of Life


It stands for a three-level vertical representation of our world. The crown symbolizes the Upper World or the Heavens, the trunk embodies the Earth and the roots stand for the Underworld, the home of demonic forces. The Young Sun or what Bulgarians called The Young Deity was believed to climb down the Tree’s branches at a certain time every year to illuminate human life and mark a new beginning. This motif appeared on cardigans and shirts in the entire country.

The Mother of Goddess

Tree of Life

This is an ancient symbol that represents a woman giving birth, there are many ways that this symbol is represented in an abstracted way, but it meaning its always the same, fertility, that the woman gives birth many children to continue the family.

The swastica


The Swastika is associated with the cult of the Slavic god of the sun and the fire of Svaroh.and have been in the Bulgarian embroidery since the early Neolithic period. For thousands of years, it has illuminated people’s best hopes for fertility, success, love, joy, and prosperity.

The Katanitza

Bulgarian Embroidery

Which is known as a symbol of the family. It gives strength, harmony, and balance in the family. The various motifs could be seen on carpets, wraps, tablecloths. Nowadays, you can also find them on pieces of jewelry like necklaces, rings, and earrings.

Health, fertility for the family and crops, keep the evil spirits away are the main functions of the Bulgarian embroidery.

The patterns of Bulgarian embroidery can be traced back at least 3500 years, to the Bronze Age of Thrace. Though their origins remain obscure, due to an absence of written records, it’s clear the Thracians left a lasting mark on the development of European culture and beliefs, having influenced both the Greek and Roman cultures.

Ethnographic Museum

These are just a few of the many symbols that are present in the Bulgarian embroidery, we hope that we were able to wake up your curiosity in this fascinating subject.

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