PETAR DIMKOV ~ THE KNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN
Author: Nikolai Kaftandjiev
Editor's Note: In passim, we wish to dedicate admiration to this self-made healer — viz., rather correctly denoted as the bulgarian Samuel Hanneman. As pointed below, Petar Dimkov gained wide popularity in the country even in the first half of the past century and his book "Bulgarian Folk Medicine" /illustrated !?/ was on the list of most wanted titles, ditto.
Petar Dimkov (1886-1981) is one of the most popular personalities of Bulgaria and while he was still alive became myth and legend. He is on the 67th place in significance in the reference book of Prof. Andrei Pantev and Borislav Gavrilov “The hundred most influential Bulgarians in our History” (Sofia, 1997) outstripping the names of writers, artists, men of science and social figures.
He is mostly known as the Healer, title given to him by the Bulgarian nation whom he healed free of charge - namely, as “for a gift, given by God, no money are to be taken”. This principle was applied not only to his Bulgarian patients, but also to all of foreign lands who could easily pay, due to which he lived very modestly with his small monthly pension.
The author of the book “Petar Dimkov - well known .. .and the unknown”, Nikolai Kaftandjiev, worked over the life and deeds of Petar Dimkov more than a quarter of a century. He had interviewed Mr. Dimkov over 200 times. He studied his work not only in Bulgaria but also in the former Soviet Union and in Poland. Turned out that Mr. Dimkov has contributions not only in medicine (he had worked here with his own methods, but is also a well recognized iridologist of the XX century). He had also worked in the field of cultural-historical upbuilding of the country and in esoterism - stories which put him among the builders of the Third Bulgarian State. Those are not much known (from them comes the title of the book). Petar Dimkov is a Homo cosmicus, not in general but a Homo cosmicus Bulgaricus.
The opinion of the author is that the future investigators of Dimkov must work not only on his capital contribution in medicine, the cultural upbuilding and the esoterism but also on his assumptions. He could show in those the new horizons of science. On the basis of such of his assumptions Kaftanjdiev has written several chapters of the book. On one of them he speaks about the important role telepathy has played in ancient times.
One of the deduction that comes after one reads the book is that Petar Dimkov is one of the humanists of the XX century whose name and deeds deserve to be known even out his own country.
PETAR DIMKOV THE HEALER ~ ESSAYS AND INTERVIEWS
There are many stanzas of folk medicine activity during the 1300 years of medieval and modern history of the Bulgarian state. As a matter of fact, the hordes of bulgars that came on the Balkan peninsula at the end of 7th century and have founded a well developed administrative infrastructure left from Byzantine-Roman times. The bulgars represented just another tribe from the vast Turkic Khaganate, which occupied the Eurasian steppe from 1st to the 7th century A.D. and after its dissociation parts from it have merged with the Arab Khaliphate and other parts /i.e., like Bulgars, Magyars, etc/ have founded indigenous states. From that period of time we can predate some roots of folk medicine in the lifestyle of the Bulgarian people, which themselves were pagans and have remained as such in many aspects /i.e., as we refer to religious secularity/ in the brinks of modern times.
The capital work from Petar Dimkov /1886-1981/ is one of the national treasures of the bulgarian people. They couldn't boast with world famous names as compared with other developed nations and since the Bulgarians have always been dwelling on the margins of the cultural world. This is quite reasonable and have its international logic, however from the standpoint of the people from the Balkan peninsula and the tiny nation around the vicinities of the Hemus mountain — this is the name of the Balkan mountain range that comes from the ancient Thracians — subsequently it appears that the Bulgarians are the utmost civilizers in the region.
So far, on the medicinal plane we haven't met such work of health wisdom with special connotations to the folklore of many other nations from the region /i.e., these comprise the majority of South-East Slav races of the former Jugoslavian stock plus the Romanians/. Further, his teachings have most ancient roots in cultural lore with mythology and religion, per se.
We have been wondering up until now, how to present the bulk of P. Dimkov's writings which represent some 1500 pages separated in three volumes and already in its fifth edition /i.e., the first four editions were issued by the author Petar Dimkov himself in the period from 1926 to 1937 years/. Also, the fifth edition was published with delay shortly after the death of the author in advanced age of 95 years and was edited on his behalf by specialist in internal medicine with phyto-therapy Prof. Stephan Todorov.
BULGARIAN FOLK MEDICINE
Let us proceed to our historical part and see what are the roots of bulgarian folk medicine. We transfer our exposition to the citation from a regular source of information in this project - viz., "The Editors of BAS. Information Bulgaria - a Short Encyclopedia of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1985, p. 550":
"... Many data revealed by historical and archeological investigations and cultural monuments from ancient Bulgaria testify to the presence of developed medicine and health care, combining the traditions and experience of the ancient Thracians, Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. Medicine, which was then connected with religion was distinguished for its wealth of empirical knowledge and methods and the use made of medicinal herbs, while the standards of sanitary construction, as can be judged by the water supply system of the first Bulgarian capital, Pliska, were quite high.
Bulgarian medicine reached a high point in its development after the adoption of Christianity by the Bulgarians (864 A.D.), when the dissemination of medical knowledge began, helped by the creation of a Slav alphabet and literature. The replies of Pope Nicholas I to the questions of the Bulgarians (106 questions were addressed by Prince Boris I to the Pope in 866 A.D.) testify to the great interest of the people in matters of health and to the medical-hygienic knowledge and practice in Bulgaria, which had reached the scientific level characteristic of the period.
The disciples of Kliment of Ohrid (c. 840-916 A.D.) studied hygiene and the treatment of diseases. Among the most significant works of this period are those of John the Exarch (9th-10th centuries) - viz., "Hexameron" in which are reflected the first Slav natural science terminology and certain medical data, and "Description of the Human Body" which is the first work of its kind in the literature of the Slav people on the anatomy of the human body and the functions of its organs. Other valuable documents dating from those times are: - cf., "Lekarstvenik or List of Medicines" by John of Rila (c. 876-947 A.D.) and the book on anthropology in the Old Slavonic language, written by Kliment of Ohrid. From these works it can be seen that methods and means were sought for treatment, but that there was also an effort to discover the causes of diseases.
The medical profession was regulated and there are data on the high level attained by surgery, asepsis and antisepsis. The first hospitals in Bulgaria were set up at the monastery of St. Pantheleimon in Ohrid (9th century) and at the Bachkovo Monastery (11th century). In the 10h century, at the order of Tsar Samuil and the swamps were drained near the head of the Drin river, which has its source in lake Ohrid, in order to stamp out malaria.
During the first half of the 10th century the Bogomil teaching made its appearance in Bulgaria, exerting a strong influence on the development of medicine and health care. The religious and legal norms of the Bogomil movement included a regimen of hygiene and diet, the complete exclusion of the use of alcohol and the banning of ritual practices in the treatment of diseases. Wide use was made of medicinal herbs. Priest Bogomil, the founder of the movement, enjoyed particularly wide popularity among the healers; as well as, Vassili Vrach (Basil the Healer, died c. 1111 A.D.), one of the main theoreticians of Bogomilism. The Bogomil healers also compiled collections of recipes and directions for treatment. The oldest collection of cure instructions with drug recipes on the territory of Bulgaria was called "Zelenik" (from 10th-11th centuries) ..."
WHO WAS PETAR DIMKOV?
He was born in Sofia on 19th December 1886 — St. Nicolas day. His father was a priest in St. Petka and St. Nedelya churches. His grandmother was a naturopath and she often dictated the little Petyo recipes. He was writing them down in a special notebook. During his life Petar Dimkov inscribed more than 10 000 recipes using over 300 types of herbs.
In 1900 Petar Dimkov enrolled at the Poltava Cadet Corps, which he graduated with honours. Then he studied in the St Petersburg's Military Academy which he graduated in 1909 also with honours. In Russia Dimkov met the work of the greatest Russian writers and the socio-political thinkers, which influenced him to believe in "the power of the human soul". Just about 16 years old he was enchanted with Tolstoy's ideas and as a first step he became a vegetarian. In July 1909 Petar Dimkov was enlisted in the Bulgarian army. He participated in the Balkan War, the Second Balkan War and the World War I. and along with the accoutrements he always brought with him the Bible. Petar Dimkov was decorated with all the military orders that were given in Bulgaria. He was injured eight times. His words say: "Respect yourself, have the faith in yourself. This is the best way to strike the others with respect and trust".
Through the recantation of the ruling circles, he was often asked for his help. Even the first leader of the communist world Leonid Brezhnev asked personally for his assistance. The meeting took place during one of the visits of the soviet leader. Dimkov gave him advice not to relay on the climate here — Brezhnev was curing in Bankia. He had to search for a better treatment for his disease. The daughter of the Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov — Liudmila Zhivkova, after a serious automobile accident, cured according to the prescriptions of Dimkov. After the treatment was over her headache disappeared completely, so did the scar on her forehead. Moreover, Liudmila was speaking for hours with the healer of Bulgaria. She began to take books from his personal library. She even called him: "Father Petyo".
Petar Dimkov was more than a doctor, he became also a teacher. Liudmila Zhivkova personally influenced him to write a book about Bogomilism. In July 1981 Liudmila Zhivkova unexpectedly died. A couple of months later, on 4th October 1981 Petar Dimkov suddenly died while he was sleeping. During his lifetime Dimkov had often met the celebrated Bulgarian prophet Vanga. Nobody witnesses their meetings. During one of her stays in the Sofia hospitals Vanga infected Dimkov with virus pneumonia. The doctors saved him with great difficulties. During his long sickness the healer often lost consciousness. Even in this condition, exhausted by the sickness and semi-conscious, he was trying to get up, to see and cure his patients.
Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.
(i). Title page from "Dimkov, P. Bulgarian Folk Medicine /vol. 1, edited by S. Todorov/. Sofia: Izdatelstvo BAN, 1993".
Copyright © 2006, 2010 by the author.