Herdelezi is an annual celebration common to Roma that involves a big toad, a volley of gunfire and some home-made brandy. A correspondent for Economist.com observes the spectacle ...
“Around midnight a big toad will appear—no-one knows where from—and then healing water will flow from the spring, only to dry up a couple of minutes later," said Iso, a 53-year old hodja fresh from reciting the Koran to sanctify the slaughter of six sheep. A volley of gunfire would then be needed to summon three angels to restart the flow, so the 200 pilgrims could take a bottle home.
Looking round it seemed it would be easy enough to muster the necessary fire-power. “It’s like Afghanistan,” said Iso, smiling as he surveyed the steadily growing encampment of gun-toting pilgrims. Even Almir, his 19-year-old pupil, had a pistol grip sticking out of his tracksuit’s waistband, and took an unsettling delight in brandishing a murderous-looking axe. Thankfully the guns were only there to satisfy the Balkan-wide custom of loosing off a joyous shot or two in high spirits, and the axe to lop wood for the fire.
I had made the two-hour climb up this mountain near the town of Prilep in western Macedonia with a group of Roma to witness “Herdelezi”, an annual two-day celebration common to Roma living in south-east Europe, which starts on the eve of St George’s day. "For non-Roma Christians St George’s day is just another name day. For the Roma it is much more," Iso said. While the Roma population in this area are almost all Muslim, Orthodox Roma elsewhere in the region mark the day with equal enthusiasm.