The village of Kosacha is 22 km away from the district town Pernik. The region is mountainous with beautiful coniferous and mixed woods. Not far away are the municipality center Kovachevtsi and Pchelina dam. In our days, the permanent inhabitants of the village are less than 100 people, but the cultural activities do not subside – the women’s folk vocal group regularly takes part in the national folklore festivals and frequently wins prizes, while in the masquerade at Surova participate all those who are born in Kosacha.
The day finishes with a common festal dinner, taking part until late at midnight. Therefore, the entire village does not sleep during the whole day and night, and afterwards for a long time all of the villagers recollect the joyful happenings and comment the masquerade: “If it doesn’t come to you from the inside, you would never disguise, but it is stronger than you and you do it every year again and again…”
The village fair is on St Petka’s Day and then the locals welcome many guests from near and far away. At a distance of 3 km, on one of the southern slopes of Cherna Gora, the ruins of the medieval ‘Holy Spirit’ monastery (12th–14th c.) can be found. On that place, the Kosacha inhabitants every year organize a votive offering – kurban. Some months later – on 8 November, they give another kurban – to St Archangel Michael.
The most abided and favorite feast in the year is Surova. For the occasion, on 13 and 14 January all those who use to live in the nearby or in some more remote towns come back to their birthplace. The village center is crowded with impatient spectators, and the houses are festively lit, awaiting to welcome the masquerade group. Towards the evening, at the spacious place in front of the municipality hall and the church, the festive fire breaks into flames. The masked men throng from everywhere and the surrounding hills resound with the ringing of their bells. Everybody takes part in the performance and both disguised and audience jump in step with the rhythm.
The masks of the survakari are manufactured from wooden hollows, which at their back are covered with white or black lamp pelt. The big animal horns make them even more frightening and beautiful. The mayor himself manufactures most of the masks with love, for he is among the most passionate adherents for safeguarding the traditional custom. Throughout the year, the masks are kept in one of the municipality’s halls, and in the days around Surova, the participants take them out and put them on their heads in order to revive the centuries old joy from the feast. The enormous bells, which everyone ties around his waist, resound all over Cherna Gora Mountain.
At the evening of 13 January, both masked and guests stay and dance around the fire until its last sparkles die out. Frequently some other masquerade groups visit Kosacha or the local survakari visit some of the neighboring villages – Kovachevtsi, Svetlya, Rakilovtsi. In the morning of 14 January, the masked group starts going around the village, visiting every inhabited house and wishing health and abundance during the whole year to come. At the beginning are the group’s leader, the ‘bride’, the ‘bridegroom’, the ‘priest’, the ‘wedding procession’. The neighborhoods of Kosacha are many and are scattered all over the mountain hills. Some years before, the masquerade group started from Polyana and then travelled many kilometers in order to visit the other neighborhoods – Tyutyundzhiyska, Domishlyarska, Poeva, Bradarska, Kyurkchiyska, Kovachka… Today some of them are uninhabited and the survakari visit only the houses, where people live. The hosts widely open their doors and welcome the masked with eagerness and joy. The survashkari priest imitates reading a prayer and with a bunch of box-shrub sprinkles all houserooms with ‘holy’ water. In the pot, he has poured a bottle of perfume and this is another reason for even more jokes and jests. The ‘bear’ maules the sick for ‘good health’, dances and tumbles in the yard, while the masked start their heavy survashkari chain dance (horo). And this is repeated in every of the inhabited houses. The parsonages in the masquerade groups are various and today become even more varied – now in this group there is a ‘tax-collector’. He carries a big writing-pad and puts gown all the donations from the visited hosts, as if gathering taxes. In that way, the merriment is even greater.
Recorded in 2019