Feast of St Elijah the Prophet (Ilinden)
On July 20 the Bulgarian Orthodox Church commemorates the great Old Testament prophet Elijah. Throughout history, people have paid tribute to his moral elevation and spiritual closeness to God. It is believed that upon his death a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and took him. This scene is even portrayed on icons – St Elijah is depicted in a gold chariot pulled by 4 white horses.
The Feast of St Elijah is one of the most celebrated Bulgarian folk feasts and all churches in the country hold a Holy Mass. People worship prophet Elijah as the master of thunder and lightning and the protector of crops from fire. He can control the rain and humidity and protects life. Because of his powers, Bulgarians call him Elijah the Thunderer. In folk tales he rides a gold chariot up in the sky and shoots fire arrows.
St Elijah is a patron saint of all furriers, saddlers and bakers. On this day, farmers pray for rain and in some parts of the country on the day before the feast a dragon is ritually chased away as it is considered to be a symbol of draught.