Pilgrims dance in cosmic energy ritual in Bulgaria

Some 2,500 followers of the Universal White Brotherhood association gathered next to a glacial lake high in Bulgaria's Rila Mountains on August 19 to celebrate their divine new year.

The highlight of the celebration is "paneurhythmy", a ritual aimed to help devotees, who came from places such as France, the US and Russia, link with cosmic energy.

For about 80 minutes pilgrims move gracefully in concentric circles on a large meadow near Kidney lake 2,280 metres (7,480 feet) above sea level and some 90 km (56 miles) south of Sofia. They were accompanied by violins and choirs.

Every year devotees of the society, which combines a form of Christianity with Indian mysticism, celebrate their divine new year, which lasts for three days from August 19.

The society was set up by Bulgarian spiritual teacher Peter Deunov in the 1920s and its name does not refer to ethnicity or race but to the white light which is the synthesis of all colours. Followers say this white light describes the purity of the soul and the belief that all people can live in harmony.

Banished under Communism, the pilgrims are now free to perform dances, prayers, meditations and exercises which they say help create peace and harmony in the world and enhance physical and mental health.