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 Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People

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PostSubject: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Wed Jan 20, 2016 4:30 pm

Cult of the snake

In order to write credibly and in detail about the cult of fertility of the Bosnian people, it is necessary to start from the beginning which goes back to the ancient times and speaks about our famous forefathers the Illyrians, and one of their most important deities - snake. Namely, Illyrian cult of the snake as a primary symbol of fertility in folk religion of the Bosnian people, is not only noticeable in the belief about the home snake - protector of the family, i.e. totem of the head of the family, usually a male, i.e. father, but also her sacred meaning.  The snake cult, on which the genesis of the grandfather of our forefathers is based on, has an even wider meaning and significance. In archetypal beliefs the snake is probably the personification of life force and without a doubt a personification of the spirit of the nature which encourages fertility and creates life. Remnants of the once extremely widespread cult of the snake among the Bosnian people are demonstrated in numerous beliefs. Some of them have been preserved and documented and are a type of reminder of our ancient past.

To represent all the beliefs of our people about the snake itself more credibly, and to bring them in connection with the Illyrian cult of fertility, it is necessary to cite what has been written down by Augustin Krstić in his work "Urežnjaci from folk healing of Bosnia and Herzegovina":

Snake skin as a cure

Though not many, in Bosnia, I stumbled across some female (rarely male) hands which had "punctuated" snake tattoos. When asked: why are the snakes punctuated? - I didn't receive equal or similar answers. Usually I have been told, that it should be like that (They often say: "It's a custom since the old days"). These three answers are perhaps the meaning of those snakes: "Brings good luck - Defends from spells - Won't be bitten by a snake". People spoke timidly about the tattooed snakes and snake skin, only in some villages I heard accusation about some women because "they carry snake skins".

Snake skin as medicine is usually taken in powdered form by folk, mixed with almost anything, while I barely came across a few cases of it being worn around the waist as a means of some help.

Snake skins are gathered in paramljeće (spring), when snakes change their skin! They are found in thorns, fences, etc. since snakes then move through something tight, in order to get rid of the old skin.

"Crush the skin" and drink in milk - and a nursing lady will get her milk. It is a cure for those women, which nurse children but which don't have milk of their own.

Crush the skin and rub your hands and feet with it, cure for those with sweaty palms and feet!

Women which can't get pregnant need to drink marigold herb, teucrium herb and a bit of the crushed skin, and she will get pregnant! She will achieve the same effect if she carries the skin around her waist.

A woman carrying snake skin around her waist will marry the person that she wants! With a lot of discretion I received some data on carrying "snake waist", such women are called in the village snake woman or girl woman.

To kill a snake which bit you and crush her head, place it over the wound will draw out the poison!

Through the mentioned data it is evident that the ancient beliefs about the snake have been preserved, a symbol of fertility, the snake also had the role of deity which enabled a girl to get married, start a family i.e. give birth and feed her children. The act of tattooing the snake among women has the same purpose since it is familiar through the history of religion that various people usually tattooed symbols of gods, their protectors, with the goal of achieving a more intimate relationship with them with the purpose of getting benefits which is evident by the statements of the snake defending from spells and snake bites. We should certainly take into consideration that the text originated in the first half of the twentieth century, which by itself creates a large continuity and testifies about traditional conservation of Illyrian traditions and beliefs among our people.

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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:56 pm

Snake - keeper of worlds

It is impossible to assume that the cult of fertility could exist without the snake which proves that numerous examples where it is represented as a kind of life carrier, since it takes care of the preservation of the human race which can be confirmed through a few examples from the Bosnian tradition (1). According to the legend which can be heard today from the older population in the northwest part of Bosnia during the time of the flood the mouse drilled a hole at the bottom of Noah's ark, bringing everyone in danger from water penetrating inside the ship. The snake was the only one that noticed it and quickly threw itself onto the mouse, swallowed him and curled above the hole in order to stop the penetration of the water in the ship.

Primeval connection of the snake, divine totem of the Illyrians, and the Bosnian people themselves was never interrupted, despite bloody and painful parts of our history. Even with the advent of the Bogomils, whose religion was dominant in the middle ages in Bosnia, there was a special reverence towards the snake and unlike other directions of the Bogomil faith, the character of Satan was not seen in the snake. Sin which got Adam and Eve ejected from heaven was not caused by the snake, but a sexual act of the first people, according to monotheistic belief.



According to a Bogomil legend, when god drove out people from heaven, he gave them various diseases, from which we still suffer. But God, in his vast mercy created an herb for each disease, so that humans can cure themselves when sick. Numerous legends speak of this, about a mysterious doctor called Lokuman or Lacmanin, about whom we don't know much, not even his nationality, nor religion, nor where he comes from. There is a possibility that we're talking about a man, doctor or mystic, from western Europe primarily because in the past the Bosnian people called all those people wearing a tight suit a Lacmanin, and later that same name was used to denote Germans. As legends say, on one occasion Lokuman accompanied by a villager headed to the mountains. When they came to the area with the thickest forest, he took out a wand and whistled with it, and immediately a multitude of snakes appeared around him. He picked out one of them, caught her, whistled and all other snakes dispersed. Lokuman slew the snake, he punctured the snakes body with a stick and cooked it over a fire. Since he cooked her, Lokuman ate the snake and said to his follower to bury the grill in the ground. But, since this all was strange and interesting to him, before burying the stick he licked it to see how the snake tastes. When they headed towards the mountain, the Lokuman's follower could understand all the plants around him, without realising how it happened. One plant said: "My name is so and so, and I'm a cure for such and such disease, another said a similar thing, etc." When one of the plants: "My name is comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and I'm a cure for hernia!", the follower laughed and the Lokuman asked him: "why are you laughing?" - "No reason!", - "Did you eat some of the snake?" - "No!" - "Open your mouth so I can check". The follower opened his mouth and the Lokuman spat in them immediately, and immediately the plants stopped speaking.

(1) There is a thesis that the Greeks, neighbours of the Illyrians, took a good deal of the religious beliefs tied to the snake and add them to Asclepius, god of medicine, which is depicted as a man with cane around which a snake is wrapped.
Because of such information, the Illyrian snake cult doesn't end with this example, there is other documented information which point to the conclusion that among the Bosnian people, the snake always had divine, supernatural abilities to influence people's lives.

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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:52 pm

Illyrian legends


Mythological involvement of the snake in the cult of fertility is evident through ancient Illyrian legends, with whose analysis we can discern in greater detail the connection of the snake with other elements of this cult, especially wheat. In the book "Ancient pledged monuments on the locality of BiH" (1977), author Enver Imamović mentions an interesting piece of information about the connection of wheat and a female deity: "For example, in Herodotus we find data about a female deity among Paionians which are identified with the Greek Artemisia. Illyrian women sacrifice wheat straw to her". Artemisia is known as the goddess of hunting, nature and animals, all things that Illyrians ascribed to the goddess Tana. With this data we are closer to the conclusion that Tana is behind the Great Mother, often times depicted on reliefs and monuments alongside god Vidasus. Wheat plays a pronounced role in the cult of fertility and the act of offering of wheat to the goddess has the goal of securing her grace and successful harvest. Dominant symbol of the one that gives life, first deity in human history, for the Illyrians wheat represented the biggest sanctity but also ancient sin.

During the time of the Roman's i.e. Roman occupation there was a father with seven sons and one daughter in Illirika. At one opportunity the sons out of boredom and wanton took the bread out of the house, placed it on a larger stone and used it for target practice with spears. The father was unaware of their actions, but hearing their laughter he decided to see what was going on. At the same time, while the father was exiting the house, the spear of one of the sons hit the bread, and to everyone's surprise, blood started to flow out of it. Seeing this the father yelled at his boys, asking what they have done, because now they caused the wrath of gods, which will punish them surely. Punishment is ruthless since god's sentence sons to banishment and they have to leave the home, parting on all four sides of the globe, and the only ones left are the father and his daughter. Soon the father died out of great sorrow for his sons. The girl wept and mourned since she was the only one left in the house. The god's decided to turn her into a huge snake which will guard treasure in a deep cave and each year, during spring, she would go out onto the daylight, to have a chance to meet a hero, whose courage will be so great that he will kiss her between the eyes. If he performs this feat he will receive the treasure and the girl as his wife.

Besides being interesting, the legend reveals some historical facts such as sons leaving the home for such a long time that their father didn't live to see them return. Namely, after a long Illyrian uprising against the Romans, the occupying forces decided to send Illyrian men to the boarders of the Roman empire where they would serve the army for twenty or thirty years, after which they will be allowed to return home, if they survive. Sorrow and loneliness of the girl and her transformation into a snake, symbol of fertility, similarly speak of girls which couldn't get married and achieve motherhood because of the lack of men. But, more than that, the appearance of the snake in spring hints to awakening of fertility in nature, regeneration of the eternal cycle of new birth, and throughout the entire content of the myth, we have a few crucial elements which mutually agree and complement each other: young men, whose sexual power is represented by a spear - phallus, and bread the symbol of the Grand Mother, i.e. virgin, which is being penetrated by a spear, act of defloration. We shouldn't leave out the meaning of number 9 (seven sons, father and daughter) which is the number of the Grand Mother, with which this legend represents one of the oldest Illyrian legends which remained in the collective conscience of our people. Also, bread placed on the stone and punctured with a spear could represent a type of sacrifice to Illyrian gods before the men leave for war.

In another Illyrian legend there is talk of a time of wellbeing, when the people lived in times of plentiful food; the people developed hubris and became ungrateful. In their arrogance they made shoes out of bread which angered the gods and they punished them with a period of hunger and poverty.

In this legend also we notice historical sequences about a period of peace i.e. wellbeing and a period of war (hunger), which are always connected with god's of fertility, which is understandable if we take into consideration the fact that survivability of people depended on their fertility from the beginning of times. That's why in traditional Bosnian belief we come across numerous taboos tied to bread;

it's a large sin to trample bread crumbs;

bread shouldn't be turned upside down on the table;

you shouldn't walk down the street and eat bread.

Hearth as the centre of a household and a place where bread was baked is holly and it is forbidden to thread on it, i.e. undertake blasphemy.

Not even rain was allowed to fall on the hearth that's why the dormers was closed every night, otherwise an owl could fly inside the house, personification of death in ancient beliefs of our people. Namely, if an owl enters the house through a dormer, the entire family will die.

One even swears on bread, namely, if it so happens that a person is talking while eating and holding bread in his hand he would utter: "It was like that, I swear by this nimet (bread)!"
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:52 pm

Infertility, polygamy and abuse


According to traditional understanding a woman has two main tasks; to do house chores well as well as chores in the field and give birth to children. If she is not up to the challenge which are expected of her, especially in the segment of fertility, she is sure to be exposed to public judgment and other repercussions. Without a doubt societies attitude towards infertile women is absolutely inhumane and every sterile woman was treated like a second class citizen - persona non grata. During a periods of crisis in our history such women were regarded as unworthy of life since resources are wasted on her which are more needed for the existence of "fertile" members of the society. Luckily such a stance did not last long since the collective conscious awoke slowly transformed under the influence of improved living conditions.

As Antun Hangi wrote in his anthological work about the life and customs if Bosnian people, a woman not giving birth to children is not dear to her husband, though she was once dear to him. He considers her to be a tree without fruit, rose without petals, therefore she needs to be cut down. Groomsman says to the bride:

Gaze upon those yellow oranges,
If the tree didn't bear fruit each year,
My brother would've cut it down.
Gaze upon the yellow lemon,
If the tree didn't bear fruit each year,
My brother would've cut it down.
Gaze upon the flush roses,
If the rose didn't bloom each year,
My brother would've cut it down.

Ali-bey has a wonderful wife, which he loves dearly. A year has almost passed, and she bares no children. This angers and saddens him. One day he goes to the village to visit his estate and commands his brother, wife's groomsman, to cut her down:

By god my brother Muhammad!
I'm going on my Timar,
when the young bride arrives,
bring her into the haz yard,
then cut her down,
when I don't have the heart,
let her not be my bride then!

In order to avoid the murder of a fertile woman the husband would decide to marry another wife, in order to ensure an heir, which is why polygamy was widespread in the past and was exempt from public judgement, especially if the first wife was infertile. Researching documented data on the subject, but also leaning on the statements of informants which were of an older age, average age 70-90 years, it is evident that military and political conditions influenced the behaviour of people and their social consciousness besides the pure desire for offspring. After WWII famine and scarcity came and once again changed the outlook on life of the entire community. But, what is fascinating is the resilience of people and their desire to survive. In such imposed circumstances polygamy had its practical purpose, besides the deficit of sexually mature men, since it fit perfectly in the sustainability of the family. Namely, since there was no industry at that time the entire existence was reliant on agriculture, another woman took care of the children, elderly or diseased members of the family as well as cooking and the first woman had a task to do all chores outside of the home. Such labour and obligation division had a practical purpose, however such relations were often inharmonious and full of conflict from the inside.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:53 pm

History of polygamy is a long one in Bosnia and it was recorded among our forefathers the Illyrians which is written in the work by Salmedin Mesihović "Ilirike":

For men from getskih and tračkih peoples, Strabon mentions that they had more than a few wives. (Strab Geo. VIII. 3,4-5, Steph) The presence of polygamy was confirmed in the ruling house of king Agron, which alongside his wife Teuta, which was his first and most influential wife, also had another wife called Triteuta, mother of Pines. It is possible that Agron took Triteuta for his wife, since he did not have any male offspring with Teuta. It is interesting to note that Teuta, and not the biological mother Triteuta or Skerdilaida, was the one who was the custodian of the successor to the Illyrian throne after Agron's death. With this we not only see that polygamy was not rare among the Illyrian people, but in fact that it was pronounced, probably more among the clan-based aristocrats, leaders of the brotherhood and royal family.

Though in the magazine Behar, 2001 issue, it is mentioned that "having multiple wives" was accepted in the strict part of the Bosnian krajina (border), from Cazin - Pecigrad - Velika Kladusa, however this does not reflect the real situation in the field since such phenomenon was documented in areas such as Jajce but also other parts of BiH, not only among the Bosniaks but also Bosnian orthodox and to a lesser extent Catholic.

In the ethnological work GZM called "traditions of private and family life", subheading "traditions tied to birth", the following is mentioned: "We're mentioning one example in an Orthodox family in the village Lubovo (Jajce). D.S. lived with a woman 30 years of age. He didn't have children with her. A few years ago he arranged with his wife to bring and marry another woman, a widow, from the same village. The village didn't object to this proposal. But, due to disagreements between these two women, the husband divorced the first woman and married the second."

But, it would be wrong to conclude that man married other women because their wives were infertile, polygamy evidently had connections with improper social norms i.e. a certain man was shown as being rich, capable of supporting two wives, but what is most important - it glorified his libido and ego. However, such marriages often failed and ended in extremely disturbed family relations and brought one wife in unfavourable position and often her children. One of such examples was mentioned in the Yearbook of the faculty of law in Sarajevo (1955) where a statement of a banished wife from Velika Kladuša is cited: "I lived with his second wife for 6 years, and two years ago she threw me out of the house and now I'm living with his aunt. I lived with him for 15 years. We have 3 children. I don't want to part from him nor my children, since with him I earned all my assets.(2)"

Though polygamy is an old marital tradition spread throughout many parts of the world it is interesting that in the past it often originated during difficult living conditions, or as a consequence of war, when a man had to take care of a few women and children that came about from such relationships. Deficit of male population in a certain area or region was a key issue in the area of northwest Bosnia, where the border between Islam and Christianity lasted the longest. With the death of a large number of adult males there was unquestionably a decline of population and polygamy should be analysed using this data as a social phenomenon which is not close to the wider European tradition. Due to tragic historical events, after the fall of Ottoman empire, especially WWI and WWII the need for polygamy was continued and its advent was recorded up until the middle of the twentieth century.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:54 pm

We can also read in the yearbook various court confessions of women who were targets of physical and mental abuse by their husbands, which is best presented by an extremely difficult position of women in Cazin krajina (border) in the 19th and 20th century.

"He beats her in certain moments when he should be extremely kind and gentle towards her. One man beat his wife while she was lying sick in bed (29/49), and another person, seven days after birth (119/48). This is what is stated in one appeal: "He tortured me in various ways, locked me all day inside the house without food, and when he arrived, he would beat me with a rubber until I would faint." (8/48) There were cases where husbands would rip out their wife's hair when angry (Velika Kladuša, 110/49). One cannot believe the ways in which husbands torture their wives. There was one person that beat his wife, tied her hands, and when in bed he would stand on her hands and he would slap her in the face. After that he would throw her out of the house barefoot into the snow (Velika Kladuša, 95/51).(3)

Of course, we should stress that the phenomenon of torturing women is not only characteristic for BiH but for the entire Balkans where the social trend of marginalizing women was pronounced for ages, this was deeply intertwined with physical and mental torture, which often ended in murders. It is unthinkable that today, in the 21st century, we have the same issues of the previous generations which is the result of primitivism which is, unfortunately characteristic for the Balkan. Though we're talking about a relatively small geographical area or Europe it abounds in pretty much unhealthy family and relations as well as nationalism, which is mostly thanks to Serbia and the Serbian people which suffers from a deep historical frustration and complex (4). Desire for hegemony and endangering surrounding peoples actually always produced negative effects to the consciousness of neighbouring peoples which couldn't develop internal social and family relations, unlike many European people, since they were under a constant threat from hegemony in all its forms (5). EU has a great task in trying to civilise that barbaric people and force it to face their catastrophic historical mistakes, and crimes, which would definitely have a positive effect on other people in the region, that would help in creating democracy and advancement of the society as a whole.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:54 pm

NOTE

(2) Patriarchal, and conservative society such as Bosnia, imposed the fact that the father should be the leader of the household, and that his wife is behind him, i.e. the mother, they lead the family in an authoritative way which was void of any possibility of choice. As the mother/mother in law was a victim of such a system, she acted the same way towards her daughter in law on purpose or not, and with this she consciously or unconsciously encourages and justifies mistreatment from her son. Mothers of daughters in law threatened their daughters that they have to be hard working and obedient and that if "your husband starts to hate you, so will God!" They threatened that they won't be able to return to their house, since "you chose your own husband and now deal with the consequences!" or they would say a fairly familiar phrase at that time: "My daughter, suffer, I also suffered!".
Of course, there were different parents which didn't allow their daughters to be tortured by their husbands in the husbands home; there were families which were harmonious and such things were rare. Because of the disastrous position of women in this part of our country in central part of Bosnia, especially Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, Banja Luka, people used to say "we wouldn't give our cat, let alone our daughter to get married in Cazinska krajina (Cazin boarder).

(3) Source of this aggressive behaviour should be sought in historical misfortunes and issues which were constantly present in this area, Dr. Husein Dzanic wrote about this in his work "Medicine and healing practices of Muslims in Mala Kladuša":
To go through all the things that the Bosnian's of Cazin have gone through and stay unschated is not a small matter. All things which were ours meant that it was owned by others for both kingdoms. Disease and hunger were an everyday occurrence for inhabitants of Cazin. The people remember, and Bašagić wrote down in 1900 :"On June 23rd 1790 general Walisch with numerous troops, good machines and cannons besieged Cetin from all sides, which was defended by a 120 year old captain Ali Bey Beširević with a thousand fellows. All inhabitants of Cetinje, beside the old captain and 124 of his fellows (which escaped to Mala Kladuša) found a hero's death in the battle for their hearth. Cetin burned for four days, until all things wooden burnt down." Daily attacks on villages around Kladuša, plundering and banditry left soot, dead and wounded to be a burden for the living. Continuous healing of the wounded helped people forge a wealth of experience.
Johan Weickard Valvasor in 1689 writes: "During the peace even our people go to Turkey (i.e. Cazin krajina/boarder) taking and plundering everything they can." Since he's writing about his own people, he's not saying that they're stealing, raping and killing "everything" they find, and behind such campaigns there are countless martyrs buried alongside the road and a lot of work for hospitals which helped the wounded.
After 1790, when Mala Kladuša was inhabited by victims from Drežnik, Cetingrad, Sadikovac, Tatarvaroš and other villages Kardun and Lika, one could hear groans from brushwood huts from the wounded and mutilated women and children, elderly and young people alike. There a refuge from the slaughter was found by once numerous families Keikić, Mujić, Galijašević, Murtić, Ćehić, Džanić, Kajtazović, Hasić.
They left their houses on Kardun and Lika, their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers who simply disappeared unless suffocated in caves by straw. Lapašić, though a servant of Austrain authorities, said about the crimes against Muslims: "But as the Christened Turks were tortured by Christian inhabitants in Lika, they killed most of them, they also tormented the poor Vrangradce (people from Vrnograč), not just the Christian and Orthodox people from borderlands but also military officers." They forced them to crush the tombstones of their deceased and to build roads with them so that all trace of "Turks" will be lost.
Inhabitants of Mala Kladuša brought the weak, wounded and the sick, as well as the experience in healing. Healing knowledge was transferred from one generation to the next from the grandfathers mouth to the grandchild and that's how today we still know how to bandage a festering wound, how to fix a broken hand or leg, how to make a cure for fever.

(4) During the war in BiH from 1992-1995 a mass torture was performed over the civil society, women, children, elderly but also male civilians. Around 80% of rapes took place in concentration camps. The main goal of systematic mass rape in Bosnia was a war strategy to accelerate deportation of non-Serb national groups from certain areas, as a strategy accepted by Bosnian Serbs and Serbian politicians. Rape of Bosnian women should be looked at through different goggles: since the attack on Bosnian women was one form of aggression. The most severe form of torture was sexual abuse. There is clear evidence that rape and other forms of sexual violence were not results of armed conflicts or a form of revenge of the brave armed forces, but a well-planned and systematic policy in the context of operation>ethnic cleansing>. Rape was one form of aggression. In December 1992 the Mission for finding proof from the EU, found out that 20 000 women were raped by the army of the Bosnian Serbs. In their third report the UN commission for human rights 10.02.1993 special correspondent on the situation of human rights on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia concluded with the help of medical and psychiatric experts: >That rape was used as a slow instrument of ethnical cleansing, most of the raped women were Bosnian Muslim women from BiH which were raped by Serbian forces> i.e. that rape must be considered as systematic and ordered action and important element of Serbian war strategy. Through medical centre for rape and sexual abuse under the name >Medica> in Zenica from 1993-1997 over 35 000 women passed. These numbers were mentioned to show the number and methodicalness of rape of Bosnian women and girls. All studies show that rape was not an aggressive manifestation of sexuality, but a sexual manifestation of aggression. In case of BiH it was the roughest form of aggression, which was only a substitute for genocide. In large wars in Europe it was known that victors would abuse the situation and would trample their victims, but there was never a systematically organized sexual terror. First time in history, rape of women, which was planned and organised during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was pronounced a war crime and a crime against humanity. ( http://www.accts.org.ba/sekcija%20z.html)

(5) It is interesting that this area, especially BiH, is historically prone to occupation and hegemony, starting from the Roman Empire, which occupied our Illyrian forefathers, all the way to the advent of the Slavs, Ottomans, Austro-Hungary and in the end Yugoslavia.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:55 pm

Historical adversities of Illyrian-Bosnian people

In this short reference on the history of polygamy among the Bosnian people we can conclude that numerous historical and environmental opportunities had influence on its appearance and that it often appeared at times of certain crises, more as a practical option for preserving the family, then a status symbol of economic power of a certain male. It is interesting to note that contrary to popular belief, Islam as the religion determinant of Bosniaks had the least amount of influence on polygamy which is not the case among the Arabic people. Actually, after the occupiers (ottomans) left, Islam never fully developed in Bosnia in the traditional and cultural conscience of its people unlike for example among the Arabs, Turks or Iranians, primarily because as a European nation we were completely different from the people through which this religion reached us. A similar thing happened with Christianity which the Bosnian people rejected in its enforced form, and instead embraced a Bogomil religion. Constant resistance towards everything which came from the outside is obviously a product of historical resistance of Illyrians towards the Roman empire, which largely destroyed the Illyrian people in its entirety, and left a constant need for resistance in the collective consciousness of this people.

The issue of traditional family violence is also less connected to polygamy, and it stems from the patriarchal upbringing according to which a man "can fit everything under his hat" - adultery, abuse of his wife and children, without any public scrutiny; the cult of man as a warrior, protector, head of family was largely based on this belief. On the other hand, women were systematically raised to be subservient to men, they had a role of pleasing their husbands sexual needs, taking care of the house, feeding and giving birth to children. Women had to accept this forced role and over time they too became convinced that this role suits them. But, this doesn't mean that they were pleased with this degrading position which is evident by numerous folk statements such as "damned is the one who is born as a woman!", "a woman is even hated by god!", etc. Patriarchy had, without a doubt pronounced hatred towards women in its principles and history has proven this on numerous occasions. Let's remember the medieval inquisition which burned them because they were "witches". Besides, how else would one interpret numerous folk statements such as this one: "it's better to give birth to a dead son, than a live daughter?!"

In Cazin krajina (borderland) the negative attitude towards women was pronounced to the point that even old women said "that even the smallest male child was older than an old lady" i.e. one must show him greater respect then towards an old lady. Another disastrous mistake of patriarchy was purposefully (constantly) accentuated to the daughters from early childhood that they are "foreign", that they will find a husband and leave the home. Actually, the biggest concern of the parents is for their daughter to get married and leave the house, i.e. to get rid of them. The fact is that the highest percentage of marital violence is caused by the parents of the wife which passively observe what is happening, and they even force their daughter to bear with the violence, out of fear that she will return to their home and embarrass the family?!
All of this had a huge impact on the self-consciousness of Bosnian women which has a great challenge in front of her even today, a fight to prove her equality to men.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:34 pm

Plum and gift for the Grand Mother

It is necessary to emphasize that cohabitation relationships in the past often resulted in a real fight between two women, which tried to harm one another in all possible ways and achieve the goal that one of them is physically removed from the house. Inoća i.e. the other wife of the husband could harm her rival via magic without discrediting herself, all the while hiding her animosity and antagonism.

It is known from the narratives of people that revolted women often sought help from local witches so that they can destroy love and fertility in their rivals. One of the more famous rituals which were undertaken by a witch entailed using the underpants of the victim, seven grains of wheat and three beads of beans. After wrapping the beads into the underpants the witch would bring them over a fire and light them a bit and utter a certain formula.

If pregnancy of the rival happens before inoća has undertaken some of the magical options, she wouldn't give up but on the advice of an elderly lady she would go to the graveyard and she would pick one weed each from the top of grave, then from the middle (hands) and in the end from the bottom i.e. above the legs of the deceased. She would bring those three herbs home, she would grind them and place them into the food of her rival discretely, in order to cause a miscarriage. She would also take a handful of dirt from the grave, mix it in some water and discretely rub the edges of clothes of the woman whose destruction she tried to invoke.

Whether she is acting individually or with the help of a local witch, the spells which were prepared at the time were extremely negative, filled with hate and desire for destruction. Even when, despite the undertaken actions, pregnancy was not stopped, inoća didn't give up her plan, she waited for the time when her rival will be in the most vulnerable state and position - during birth and after it. She would try at all costs to get some blood that exited her rival, she used that blood as the main ingredient for preparation of spells of hatred and discord. Similarly, she would often, while feigning care, make her maslenicu (maslenjak) and she would bake it on dried plum branches. According to legends of old Bosnian ladies if the woman that gave birth would eat that maslenica, she would lose weight in a very short period and her face would be pale, since "a woman is easily hit by magic during četeresnica (name for the first 40 days after giving birth".

As the plum is the first fruit that blooms in the spring it is no wonder that it is dedicated to Baba (the one that has "obabila" i.e. gave birth) i.e. Grand Mother, in folk religion of BiH. A large part of ritual practice of young girls and women is shaped by ritual procedure towards the plum, towards which one dedicates various prayer type formulas. From an elderly informant (Zejna Ćerimagić, 79 years of age) I found out that women in the past used to make and leave maslenica at the foot of the plum tree as alms for healthy birth. I am of the opinion that in that ritual, besides the mentioned, is hidden a thanks for the achieved fertility but also the desire for protecting the mother and her child. Ritual was usually needed since spells with baking maslenica on plum branches reveals a dualistic nature of the Grand Mother, her alter ego, which gives gifts but also takes away fertility and birth.

Studying the role of maslenica in the cult of fertility I noticed its pronounced role and some very interesting beliefs about it. In Tešanj it is claimed that maslenica "is the oldest pie in the world" and this claim opens the door for further analysis. Preparation of juhki or jufki (phyllo dough) and the process of spreading the dough was brought by the Ottomans to Bosnia, and generally the Balkans. According to some historical data the method of spreading dough with a roller pin was first seen in Turkey sometime around the 16th century. That's why it is perfectly clear that until the occupators have arrived in BiH, maslenica never existed. However, there remains the question why our elders i.e. women saw in maslenica the perfect offer for the Grand Mother? The answer is probably hidden in the way it is prepared. Traditionally maslenica was made out of, as her name suggests, butterfat, and it could replace bread. We shouldn't forget that the cow (milk, cheese, butter) was dedicated to the Grand Mother. On the table the dough was well oiled with melted butter, once the dough has soaked the oil, it is stretched by hand across the table. It then usually crosses over the edge of the table. Then follows the rearrangement from each side of the table, which is four times, and then another rearrangement follows, this time less, so that it is smaller, when visually we get a shape of an opening i.e. vagina. Laying the pie in the casserole, which is in the shape of a circle or stomach of the pregnant woman, speaks volume of the symbolism.


Maslenjak, maslenica or masnica

In descriptions of other rituals with maslenica we notice its direct connection with fertility and care for children. Namely, during the preparation of meals for a wedding, maslenica is always made and is offered alongside other meals to the newlyweds. After the first marital night and defloration of the bride, the remnants of maslenica would often be snatched away by the inhabitants of the household and guests because of the belief that all those that eat at least one bite of it will not have stomach aches during that year. To a woman that has given birth one usually brings maslenica on that or the next day, and if she gives birth to a daughter, she would ritually turn the maslenica upside down in the casserole before eating it so that she can give birth to a son next time. We shouldn't forget to mention the traditional statement of Bosnian women which are known for the ease of giving birth that they would now "give birth to a child for a maslenica with a grilled chicken!" If the child is having difficulty in making its first steps then the mother would mix dough for maslenica, spread it over the table and take the child by his hands and would lead him slowly across the dough, so that the child can leave footprints on the dough. After that the dough is rearranged and baked and the maslenica is eaten by all the household inhabitants, etc.

Because of the described magical and supernatural clashes caused by spite, envy and often the instinct for survival and existence, a great fear has been developed, especially among the female population, and the need for various taboos which would ensure healthy birth but also peace in the home. Repercussions is best demonstrated in the belief that the most life dangerous sihir (spells) are the ones created during Babine i.e. first 40 days after birth. They are difficult to cure and both the woman and the child can fall seriously ill. Also, still today in rural areas it is claimed that the woman can go mad from the shira (postpartum depression). Battle between the two rivals which live with the same husband, was so widespread that not even new-borns were spared and it used to happen, according to stories of old Bosnian people, since the inoća used to perform dark magic over the stake which was used to tie livestock in the field during grazing, which she would then use to place underneath the child's crib after she has completed certain magical rituals. Children would often die quickly after such spells.

Attacks on sexual strength, as we can conclude, are the basic parts of magical folklore of the Bosnian people. But, men were not spared of magical procedures because of the general belief that the one that rules over someone's sexual power actually rules over them. In the past there existed a somewhat unusual custom of intentional postponing defloration when shirbaza (old lady that practices magic), would heat a sowing needle on the fire and bend it into a circle and give it to the bride. She would place such a needle under her tongue which apparently stopped her husband from achieving an erection. Apparently, such a woman would discretely commend herself that she was still a virgin, with which a certain domination was achieved over the thing which is colloquially called "male strength".

Main reason for child mortality in the early age was considered to be black magic and misfortune. That's why various prophylactic measures were undertaken, out of which the most frequent one was wearing an amulet constructed by an Imam, known for his gift in healing and helping. Tilsumi, shorter or longer citations from the Qur'an, were valued, mixed with mysterious names and symbols, which the Imam, with the desire to cure sterility, would usually make seven, which were according to his instructions burnt, placed in water or under the pillow, etc.

Besides the mentioned, sacrificial rituals were also performed, which are remnants of archaic pagan beliefs that a blood offering can only neutralise the power of evil and postpone death. When someone's children are dying, "they're not kept", to the next child that is born a kurban (offering in the form of a young ram) is slaughtered for him on the first day of Eid, on the place where the wife has given birth. The skin of the ram was usually given to the mosque or was given to a neighbour and the meat was placed in a caldron and was boiled until the bones separated from the meat by itself. Then all the bones, large and small would be gathered and placed in a casserole and so buried in the ground while the meat was shared. Namely, it was allowed to the inhabitants of the household to eat just a piece or two of the meat and the remainder of it had to be distributed. With this one would ensure the life of the new-born child.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:40 pm

Magic, religion and infertility

Describing folk beliefs dedicated to the issue of fertility and magical encouragement of fertility, Rabija Hasanbegović (folk belief for ensuring fertility in marriage) observes well that Bosnian folk usually ascribe infertility to women, while it is rare to even consider sterility in men. This is of course a product of patriarchy but also an archaic understanding of women as a symbol of fertility. Humanity is taken away from barren women and they are mockingly called jalovica (fruitless), barren, neroduša (childless). Under such social pressure women tried to achieve motherhood obsessively without choosing a method.

Anthropological research, such as this, clearly show us how a longer time period of our history there was no professional medical knowledge and with that no tolerance towards persons, primarily women, which had this issue. Social scrutiny doesn't stop with humiliation of women but the entire family, namely, people believed that infertility in women was god's punishment or a cause of some curse. That's why a woman that couldn't get pregnant should give alms during nine months in the hope that this good deed will be rewarded with motherhood.

In the past there were numerous ways with which women tried to stimulate fertility. In order to get pregnant she would fumigate herself over balsam herb (Tanacetum balsamita) when her period ends, before she has intercourse. Some of them practiced a method of mutual bathing with their husbands in water in which they previously placed nine splinters from the woodpile "so that children fall off of her like splinters.", then red and white turnip and "herb which grows in water and whose leaves are blinking." In certain customs social solidarity is noted with barren women to which fruits were gifted from a fruit grafted in spring, by people who own the fruit tree. According to folk belief, after the consumption of the fruit the woman would, during the same year, stay pregnant, therefore it was a good deed to give fruit to such women who desperately wanted to become mothers. In order become pregnant women would drink coffee with violet seeds, etc.

In the desire to achieve motherhood the women used both religious (their domination) and magical practice. The best example of how women from all three Bosnian constitutional people around Jajce spurred fertility was recorded in the ethnological work called Customs related to birth published by GZM from Sarajevo:

"Barren woman is looking for a cure for her flaw. Recently, she would usually turn to a priest for inscriptions and use divination. In Dobretići one would use this: when a woman lays with her husband, she covers her husband and then herself. She does this for nine Tuesday's. Whenever the husband wakes at night, he should uncover his wife up until the knees. In Lendići: one should take water which "praz" (castrated) a horse pukes from his mouth when it raises its head when he drinks water, place ground hooves of a donkey inside it, and the woman should then drink that water. In Grbavica; barren women wowed to celebrate saint Sisoja (July 19th) or; not to sleep with her husband on the eve of Sunday or holidays; she should bathe on St. George's day before the sun with water "omeljom" (small drops of water which sprinkle from the watermill rudders), fast on young Sundays."

In Nevesinje and its surrounding a barren woman would drink catnip (Nepeta cataria) on an empty stomach, or to gird the herbs. A woman which cannot get pregnant "zapne"easily should fumigate herself over baked coffee beans, in such a way that no one notices it. Desperate women visit places of worship and the woman is advised to unlock a door of a church or a mosque early in the morning. Frequent visits of the Tekke in Blagaj were recorded, as well as rituals of threading through prayer beads, which are located on a tomb. Women guided by an insatiable desire for motherhood go to graves and scrape dust off of tombs and later they drink it mixed in water.

Homeopathic procedures have a lot of influence in ritual beliefs of our people with the goal of achieving fertility and all that which has any connection with fertility is taken as a magical drug. It is good for a barren woman to lay down for a while on a maternity bed, because she can stay pregnant more easily, it is recommended for her to eat a stew which contains boiled eggs of a fertile male animal, such as an ox or rooster, or to place some dried uterus of a rabbit in her stew.

A woman which has recently given birth is ascribed powers of fertility and the apple which she has bitten is given to barren women to eat. As we have seen in a folk song a barren woman is often compared to a fruit tree which bears no fruit and she is looking for a fruitful tree, she bends down its branch and passes underneath it three times uttering: "as you are not barren so I will also not be barren", etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:42 pm

Nine padlocks

All these means should spur fertility of females and enable motherhood. Besides this, a woman wanted to be sure that her hard work was not in vain and there were some good indicators which pointed to fertilization, namely, when a woman reaches her "time" (menstruation) more frequently, it was considered that she will soon "get pregnant". But, if the result is missing, despite everything she has undertaken, people often suspected black magic to be afoot.

According to folk belief, the largest percentage of black magic is done in special cases, usually during a higher concentration of people and pronounced emotions, whether we're talking about sorrow or euphoria, i.e. during funerals and marriages. Adversarial sihir (magic) mostly scared those mothers whose child died. It was believed that if during the decent of a dead child into the grave a malicious person yanks the child by its feet, the mother will become sterile. If a woman believed that she couldn't get pregnant because of such a magical procedure, she would do the following: she would dig up the grave, take a rock which was placed under the dead body for it to lay straight, she would scrape some dirt from the bottom of the grave. She would take the dirt home and place it into the water with which she would bathe herself.

Special caution was practiced on the day of the wedding when a malicious person, usually a heartbroken boy or girl, could place an unlocked padlock and key on two opposing sides where the bride and groom shall pass. As soon as the couple would pass between these items, the key would be placed in the padlock, after locking it, following this principle it alluded to a locking of the womb. In the end, the locked padlock would be thrown into the river or buried in a grave, a place which associates with transience and nothingness.

If the newlyweds were victims of such a magic then it would be manifested in such a way that the woman would always lose her child when she gets pregnant, in the second or third month of her pregnancy - "the child is ripped out of the womb and turned into blood". Various counter measures were undertaken against such evil and they were recorded in the area of Velika Kladuša; a woman would take salt, amount which she would use for a stew, she would wrap the salt into paper and would place it under the bed. After that she would make love to her husband. The salt would be taken under the bead and the salt should be used for a stew which both of them should eat.

In the folk song "nine padlocks" it is described that a girl by the name of Fata was in love with Adembeg which was getting married to another girl. Out of spite and pain she cast a spell on the newlyweds making both Adembeg and his wife infertile. When after nine years of marriage the couple didn't get any children the mother talked her son into trying to bribe Fata with jewellery so she can annul magic:

-Undue the spell, which you did!
Fata whispered to him:
-I will never undo them!
I made nine padlocks,
Passed you through all of them
and threw them into the cold water!

Realising that he has no other choice Adembeg took Fata by her hand and lead her home with the intent of her becoming his wife. In another folk song Dizdar's daughter made a spell on Halil-aga's wife and she couldn't get pregnant, which is why Halil-aga beat her every night.

Džeferbegovica, her sister-in-law, gave her an advice to make a cake and bring a sown shirt and to beg Dizdar's daughter to undo what she had done. When mentioning a woven shirt, she replied:

-Undo what I cast!
I made nine spells,
I threw all nine into the fire.

And when they mentioned the cake, she replied that she threw all nine spells into the water. Only when they promised that they will marry her for the brother of Džaferbegovica, she opened colourful coffers and a golden box above the head of Halil-aginca and said:

Go now, Halil-agince
have a son by next year!

In the above mentioned songs from the Bosnian folk we can notice the number nine i.e. symbol of the Grand Mother which is traditionally present in numerous other examples of folklore magic and beliefs.

It was considered that magic didn't always have to have a negative use, but that it can help in stimulating fertility so that a woman can have her desire to achieve motherhood fulfilled. Women sought help from staravarke with this goal in mind, even gypsy's and even Imam's, which would usually create seven inscriptions with which one wanted to influence the fertility of a married couple. Sometimes even the girl herself tried using magical rituals to summon fertility, especially if she is married to a man she doesn't love. When a woman wants marriage without children, on the day of the wedding she would place her hands on her backside in front of the register and utter quietly: "I want to get married, but I don't want children!" and it is believed that she won't have any.





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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:57 pm

Birth of a child


Biggest influence on the process of birth in the past was living conditions which dictated its trajectory from region to region in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also outside of the country, especially in Sandžak. Until the first half of the twentieth century women, especially in rural areas, gave birth spontaneously, i.e. at the place in which they found themselves in: on a meadow, field, forest, house or some other area. Still today people often tell the story of a woman going to work in the field being in late pregnancy and coming back home carrying a child in one hand and a sheaf of grains in the other.

In those more natural conditions, usually the entire family was preparing itself for the birth and arrival of the new member. The mother in law would be more engaged around everything and would take care of the smallest details. It is important to mention that still today there is fear prior to birth, which is after all a generational i.e. traditional fear from complicated births which in the past used to have a tragic epilogue, which was initially caused by lack of medical staff and knowledge. Although the arrival of a new family member in this world always signified good luck, all that preceded it was always permeated with feelings of worry and fear which was a reason for constant prayers which asked God for a happy resolution. The mother in law would usually go to some local stravarka for her to utter the 36th chapter (Surah Jasin) of the Qur'an onto three sugar cubes, she would then place one by one into a glass of water and would offer it to the daughter in law to drink during the birth. For the birth the sugar which was used during the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad was also kept, the so called Mawlid sugar, this sugar would be poured in a cup of water which was then drunk by the woman in labour.

When a pregnant woman notices that her labour time is soon approaching, she wouldn't leave the house, and no one enters the house either. If it happens, that someone enters the house accidentally while the woman is giving birth, then she has a more difficult birth and the more people know about it, the birth is more difficult, allegedly, she needs to suffer all sins from all people that are familiar with her situation. While she is giving birth, but also after it, one would always strive to keep tongs close to her so that they can guard and protect her from attacks by hostile beings. When she is moving, entering or exiting the house, or even crosses from one room to the other, she should use the tongs as a cane on which she leans, because of the belief that when the tongs are clinking, nothing can harm the child. According to Bosnian mythology the Jinn, devils and witches are scared of tongs and its sound and they start running hysterically as far as they can. Out of this reason people had a habit of forging miniature tongs, which were sown onto the child's hat, "so that hale (evil beings) won't harm him".

Women would give birth standing up, with legs extremely spread apart, holding onto a wall or some other object. They often gave birth on the floor in the house, lying on her back or on the side with knees bent, if the woman was physically weaker. If the child was bigger or with a bigger head, then the woman would give birth squatting or kneeling. If the woman had a lot of difficulties in giving birth it was believed that the mother could curse him easily, "it is sufficient for her to have a deeper sigh because of him", alluding to all the pain, and even risking her life to bring him to this world. Before that,  she would drink a spoon of oil and would pace around the room to better prepare her body for the exertion which awaits it. Usually the mother in law or some other older woman is with her, a woman which had experience in giving birth, which massages her and places a warm tile on her back. The pregnant woman would unfold her hair before birth if she had a braid, she would take a rolling pin into her hands which she would use as an auxiliary prop for support, if she gives birth squatting down. Though it is considered that the husbands were never present during births, Antun Hangi, citing folk belief gives us a different conclusion. He writes that it is good if the woman is reporting her feelings to the husband as she is giving birth since it will lessen her pain, sine she is sharing it with him. Similarly, if the husband is not present, it is not a sin for her to talk about her pain with her grandma or someone else who is present during birth.

In case the birth takes longer than expected, various magical procedures were undertaken with the goal to ease the procedure for the woman mentally, and also to offer her certain support but also stimulation. She would be given water which was previously poured down the cover of the Qur'an into the glass, all doors were open on the house and even in the mosque. The pregnant woman was also offered water in which the hand of Hazrat Fatima (Hypericum perforatum) was submerged, this was often brought back from Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). On the chest of the pregnant woman a vessel with water would be placed and then the plant, i.e. its root would be submerged, which swells up after some time, since the root takes up water, and in such a way "opens up" i.e. spreads. As soon as this would happen the pregnant woman would be sprinkled with the rest of the water over her entire body, they would then let down her hair, down her back. If the birth ended successfully the plant was given as gift so that its roots are wrapped in silk, golden or silver threads. In the absence of such a root the ritual of taking apart tespih (prayer beads) was practiced above the vessel with water which was then drunk by the pregnant woman. When the birth has finished, the thread which held the prayer beads together would be used to tie the child's belly button.

According to the belief of the Bosnian folk, for the child to even get the opportunity to exit the mother's stomach, all bones inside the woman's body need to separate themselves, besides the one's in the chin, which after birth, during the period of 40 days, again join together. Birth was always considered as beneficial for the woman and her health "since it cleanses her from everything" due to which her entire body is regenerated and this is why it is considered that women have a longer life span than men. We need to mention that the woman is compared to planet earth, among the folk, this is especially evident in the belief that the earth cleans itself through natural disasters or wars every 40 years.

Our folklore is extremely rich with various magical beliefs connected to birth, which best presents how much attention has been given to that important event. It is believed among the folk that if the mother gathered strength to tell her child while it was exiting her: "Come on child, be happy and blessed!" that the child would have good luck and health throughout its entire life, but due to great pain and hardship almost none of the women giving birth remember to utter this sentence. As soon as the child exits the midwife cuts it's umbilical cord and ties it, bathes the new born baby and wraps it into a warm blanket. In the past there was a custom of cutting the umbilical cord on a pencil or axe for boys so that he might be good in school or in a craft, for women it was done on a rolling pin so that she may be a skilled and good housewife. Since the belly button is tied to the new born baby, the part which falls off and dries is sown onto his clothes: then it is believed that a perda or curtain is opened to the child, division to the human world. This is of course an interesting belief of our people which has its origin in the Islamic mythology. Namely, when Allah banished first people from heaven, according to legends, he had to place an invisible curtain (perda) between the human and Jinn world, since their heart could not bear to see the horrible forms of the demons and people would literally die out of fear.

Precisely in the belief of sowing the dried umbilical cord skin to the child's clothes is hidden the answer of why the new born and the mother are subject to various spiritual dangers during the first 40 days. Namely, as I have written previously, pregnancy is called among the folk "another state", during which the woman takes on some supernatural abilities, since the act of creating a new life is in and of itself magical and divine. Pregnant woman is, also according to folklore, "with one foot in the grave", or better yet, a pregnant woman is considered to be a person which connects heaven and earth, light and darkness. She is not a common person but someone which represents a certain medium for supernatural forces. Among the folk, for example, it is believed that rain will fall if the pregnant woman throws the stretcher into the river, etc. We shouldn't foget to mention another example from the spiritual science which states that the Jinn are trying to be born in human form through women i.e. trying to materialise themselves, which is why, allegedly, mentally challenged children are being born, which is proof that a symbiosis of man and demons is not possible in some normal frameworks.

Similarly, while the child is in its mother's womb, it is invisible to our material world, and obviously more connected to the spiritual one. Proof of this can be sought in the belief of the Bosnian people that Allah determines the child's entire destiny in its first 40 days from its conception in the stomach. Leaving the security of his mother's womb the child arrives in the human world, material one which causes anger and wrath among the supernatural beings which then try in various ways to attack both him and his mother. And all this in the first 40 days, until the mother's, and obviously the child's, transformation isn't completed which then breaks all ties with the previous state.      

That's why the practice of using amulets which were written by an Imam was widespread, these amulets were placed under the child's pillow or were hung on the crib. But what is more interesting is the collective need of the community to fend off evil and disease from a new life. Namely, women weren't the only ones that participated in the defence of a new life by undertaking some defensive rituals, men were also active. Traditional custom of our people is that during the first visit to the child, especially if we are talking about men, is to give money as gift, it is said "place money on his forehead", i.e. "on the star", and which would consider himself extremely lucky and this money would be used to pay an amulet which was commissioned by an Imam. Along with an amulet caring mothers usually placed some additions such as rue leaves (Ruta graveolens), root of Elecampane (Inula), horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), yew (Taxus), etc. Also, all metal items such as scissors, nails, knife had a prophylactic function because of the belief that Jinn and devils run away from metal and they were part of an apotropaic arsenal.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Mar 28, 2016 3:06 pm

Cheating evil destiny


Frano Murgić in his ethnological work "Visoko in Bosnia - Folk life and customs" mentions high birth rate which was frequent in the previous centuries among the Bosnian folk, mostly in rural areas. But, reason for this was hidden mostly in the average life span which was at that time between 50-60 years and extremely long and cold winters, when temperatures dropped to -27 degrees centigrade, which caused frequent deaths among the people, especially children, from hypothermia and fever. Besides, the author notes that every month or two there was a registered case of a child dying.

"People which have one wife, used to have up to twenty children, those that had two wives, were known to have up to 25 children. There are women, which gave birth up to three children at once, and in short time they give birth to two at a time. There are around 10 women which never gave birth. There are those which when their husbands died, gave birth to her second husband's children. Halil Vranac  thought that there was nothing else but infertility which caused women not giving birth".

This quote is important because of some data, from the fact that polygamy wasn't present just in some areas of BiH, as some authors are trying to show, but that its radius encircled a much larger area, and that it was alongside high birth rate a classic phenomenon for less inhabited areas while its intensity was lost in urban areas. Also, it is again confirmed through the statement of the quoted Halil Vranac that the Bosnian people had the least understanding for infertility.

In accordance with what is written it is pretty clear that sterility and fear of children dying were very pronounced in the past and as such they caused the emergence of various prophylactic rituals and measures with one very clear goal - trap misfortune, which could be hiding a family curse, as it was believed by folk, spellbound eyes, black magic or even unlucky predestination of a woman to give birth to dead children. Antun Hangi also touches this topic mentioning that there is a certain category of pregnant women on which the supernatural influence is stronger and they are more prone to giving birth to dead babies.

-"There are women which give birth to dead children. This happens, when a woman has sweet blood, and ghosts, witches and other apparitions torture her and so suffocate the child inside of her. For her child to survive while it is still in the womb she must take off a horse shoe from a dead horse. She needs to get a black smith to forge a hoop in the middle of the night and she should girdle the hoop and wear it until her child is born, when it is born, she needs to bend the hoop and place it under the child's head. Similarly it is good for such a woman to go at night in front of a mosque and from a stretcher which carry dead people, to take out a nail. Out of the nail she needs to have someone forge at night a few hoops and she should carry them with her until she gives birth, when she gives birth, she should sow them to the child's hat, so that spirits and witches don't suffocate the child.

If children die and the mother cannot nurse them, she should take nine rags from nine widows, she should sow a shirt to the child, and it will not die. Similarly it is good for such a mother or someone else to find some wool from a sheep that a wolf slaughtered. She should wash that wool, comb it and then on gargaše (a contraption for tidying up wool) to tidy it up so that it looks like silk. Once she has tidied up the wool in such a manner, she should knit a string like the waist of the child and she should girdle the child with it. Who comes late there is no luck for him that's why it should be started as soon as the child is born, since if she misses only one dekiku, minute, it will be of no use".

In Vinac next to Jajce there is a custom that to the couple whose children keep on dying after birth, call another woman to breastfeed their new born in order to fool the misfortune. This woman will also cut the child's umbilical cord and fix it and that's why she is called eba, short version of ebejka, grandma. If male children were dying other forms of magical activity was undertaken with the intention of stopping the misfortune. To a new born son one would give his father's name or even the holly name Mohammed, and it used to happen that parents would go to the extreme of actually hiding from all the neighbours that they had a baby boy. They would clothe the boy as a girl and they would teach him to act as one, and these habits used to stay with children their entire lives.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:52 pm


Magical and physical causes of sterility

Infertility could have been caused by the actions of the individual himself. Namely, in folk medicine in BiH it is still today considered that one of the causes of sterility could come from the so called "dislocated stomach". We're talking about a disease which equally affects both men and women and it would usually come about as the result of difficult manual labour while among the population today, according to stravarke, the stomach "shifts" usually due to stress and worry. Among men the disease was mostly manifested by poor sperm motility, which was often accompanied by strong belly pain which spread towards the stomach, the belly is always bloated, the person has dark circles around the eyes, has a feeling of suffocation, etc. In women a "dislocated stomach" can affect the womb and ovaries, causes frequent inflammations and thus prevents conception.

There are a few methods of curing; the diseased person is massaged, drinks various teas and women which cannot get pregnant along with these procedures also "bind" themselves around the waist, i.e. underneath the stomach. Method of tying a cloth underneath the stomach, around the hips or placing a coffee cup upside down on the belly button, and a cloth over it, which was previously around the hips, would return the stomach to its place and cure this issue. According to folk belief, proper diet had a crucial effect on fertility because of the belief that unlike a skinny and undeveloped woman, a woman which has pronounced curves, especially hips and back side, represents an ideal type for procreation - "such a woman is full of children!"
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:54 pm

Abortion and pregnancy

As soon as girls get married they tell fortunes whether they will achieve motherhood and how many children they will have. One of the ways which is familiar to us from the north-western part of Bosnia is that a woman needs to look for a rosehip bush in the autumn. She will locate a wool ball next to the fruits. In it, allegedly, must be a white worm. Whether alive or dead he is necessary for divination. The woman must secretly pass it through her right sleeve and place it in a glass of water. She will give the water to her husband to drink without telling him what she had done. As soon as he drinks the water she will look to see if the husband swallowed the worm or if he stayed at the bottom of the glass. If she sees the worm at the bottom she will only have one child with the man if he swallowed it she will have multiple children.

Desire for a child was traditionally pronounced from the marriage ceremony and until recently the primary goal of a young couple was thought to be quick realization of parenthood, no matter the material status- In the last decade, and especially since the military aggression by Serbia and Montenegro on BiH with the beginning of 1992, such a trend disappeared due to a difficult economic situation which dominates the country and larger migration of the young to the countries of the EU or USA.

But, it would be wrong to conclude that all pregnancies in the past were wanted, especially if in the family there was already a lot of children or the pregnancy was a result of an extra-marital relationship. It often happened that due to a couple of previous births, but also difficult manual labour, complications and miscarriage happened. It was considered as a great sin to provoke a miscarriage (abortion) on purpose, since it was considered to be sacrilege. Older women traditionally scared younger women with stories of abortion being a huge sin and that every woman which dares to perform this act, will have to eat that offspring in the second world. However, that propaganda didn't have a profound effect on the thinking pattern of many Bosnian women since most of them resorted to various methods to interrupt their pregnancy. One of the most widespread ways is insertion of the root Christmas rose (Helleborus), otherwise a poisonous plant, into the womb, or even root of marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis L) and in the lack of the above, especially during winter times, a spindle was used.
From the more familiar ways was the practice of drinking a bitter potion out of boiled (unroasted) coffee beans. In certain parts of BiH, such as Rogatica and Žepe, women placed a spicy clove in the coffee. With the intent of causing complications a pregnant woman would fumigate herself with hot lye, breathing in steam for longer time which would force her to vomit. While vomiting her stomach muscles would contract forcefully and would cause uterine contractions, which could lead to miscarriage. Among the more familiar ways of causing miscarriages was lifting heavy things, sitting in cold places or bathing with cold water.

Folk name for pregnancy is "other state" which clearly stresses that the woman during that period is in a totally different physical and mental state, and so is subject to other norms of behaviour and living. Similarly, this name implicates that the pregnant woman is in a special state when certain elements of the cult of fertility come to the fore. At that period the woman takes on some of the religious-magical features of the Grand Mother, which is demonstrated by certain widespread beliefs such as a person eating a food next to a pregnant woman must offer her food if she desires it. The punishment is reflected in an eye sore.

Such an aspect supports numerous beliefs and taboos but also purposeful mystification of the entire process which lasts from the disclosure of pregnancy until the 40 days after birth have passed. Namely, codex of patriarchal moral resulted in pregnancy being hidden from inhabitants of a household, as long as possible, especially male members "because of shame". That's why usually the news was first told to the mother in law, which would then discretely transfer the news to the husband and then other members of the family. Another reason for discretion was contained in the fear of the pregnant woman of spellbound eyes or enemies spells. Envy of a barren woman was always suspect, and all things which she could undertake to hurt the pregnant woman. Older women, usually mother in law or grandma, suggested to the pregnant woman to protect the stomach, i.e. cover it with an apron or some other clothing item, in order to ensure herself from eventual evil but also to warm the child.

Under the pressure of various rules and taboos the pregnant women was subject to a special regime which determined all of her activities for the entire duration of pregnancy, and even a shorter period after birth. Analysing them it is easy to notice a pronounced care and even fear of the unknown called new life, which is in its certain segments still today a mystery for modern medicine.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:56 pm

Divination about the future child

Antun Hangi wrote that among the Bosnian people it is considered that the child while in the stomach gains most of the physical but also character features of the person which the pregnant woman fancies the most. If the pregnant woman thinks of someone during the time of the lunation or full moon then it is very likely that the child will have a lot of similarities with that person. When the mother gazes at someone while the child "comes alive" in the womb, the child will resemble that person the most.

If the pregnant woman loves to eat bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium), oranges and quinces, it is believed that she will give birth to a beautiful child. Also, the child will be pretty if the pregnant woman looks at her reflection in the mirror while the child is moving for the first time.

-"When the child comes alive, and moves a lot inside the mother, he will be restless or a jolly fellow and he can't wait to come into the world to perform marifete, kunstove, umjetnosti (art). If the child is calm inside the mother and barely moves, it will be calm and introvert, he will be a weakling."

Further in the text Antun Hangi states an interesting belief of the Bosnian folk about snakes, which coincides with the Illyrian belief about the snake - symbol of fertility and also protector of life. Namely, the author writes: "When the woman gets pregnant, and a fox or snake crosses her path, the child will be happy and have a long life. If a rabbit crosses her path, the child will be unlucky, selfish and a bum and there won't be any use for him. If a rabbit crosses her path the woman shouldn't proceed so that she doesn't cross his path, she should return home immediately so that she may have luck. A pregnant woman needs to watch not to eat or drink from a chipped dishes, since the woman which drinks or eats from chipped dishes will give birth to a child which will have a rabbit lip. Also she should take care not to make fun of someone, since her child will be šišijasto, crooked eyed. When a pregnant woman is eating, she needs to take care that her hands are completely clean, since the woman which eats with hands covered with flour, her child will have dandruff."

Among the Bosnian people there are a lot of superstitions tied to what a pregnant woman should follow if she wants to give birth to a normal and healthy child. All these rules begin with the words "it is wrong" or "it's not good" and the most interesting ones have been published in Gračanica (Gračanica herald: magazine for cultural history of Gračanica and its surrounding, Volume 14, 2002) in the text written by Fikret Ahmetbošić "Some national customs and beliefs in Sokol, Doborovci and Džakule.

-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to kill a snake, her child will have bad breath.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to stare into an open flame - the child will have a red face.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to eat fish - the child will be restless.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to sit on a washboard - the baby will be misshapen.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to cross over a vine or a rope - the child will suffocate during birth.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to go back - she will have a difficult labour.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to de-feather an animal - the child will have a skin disease.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman eat a fruit which was bitten into - the child will have crusts on the body.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to carry eggs in her lap - the child will be slobbery.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to pour water onto water - the child will get a hernia.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to pull over a knife - the child will have a rabbits lip (cut lip).
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to eat chicken stomachs, the child will have big lips.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to sit on a doorstep - the labour will be difficult.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to eat walnuts - the child will have lichen.
-It's wrong for a pregnant woman to look at a dead man - the child will be yellow.
-It's not good if a cat passes through the pregnant woman's legs - the child will be hairy.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Mon Apr 04, 2016 7:17 am

Time after birth

Before birth the pregnant woman receeds from the community in order to bring a new member of the family into the world in this short period. Separation is not coincidental, instead it has socio-magical characteristics. As is commonly known men were never present during birth, in fact, it was hidden from them if possible, and if he happens to be in the vicinity he would be removed without question. Birth was similarly hidden from the mother of the woman who was giving birth, because of the belief that the birth will be lighter and that latter the child will receive all of his teeth without much pain.

Right after the child from the pregnant woman a placenta (posljedak or pošljedak) should exit, in order to finalise the procreation process. It was usually tossed in a river or stream. If the pregnant woman doesn't want to get pregnant in a couple of years, she will cut the placenta in four pieces, tie them into socks and bury in the ground. The pregnant woman is named lohusa in the next 40 days, because of a type of quarantine, since according to folk belief she is "as weak as a bird on a branch", and her hair needs to be completely covered with a white scarf, otherwise Jinn and devils will hang on her every hair and cause her harm.
Woman which assisted during birth is called ebejka, or shortened eba or bika, she covers the young mother immediately out of fear that she will freeze, because of the traditional belief that wind and cold bring numerous diseases. Besides the bed, but also the entire room need to be clean, so that lohusa can make a full recovery, which was often not long enough, usually the young mother would get up after three days and would be included in lighter housework. She did this mostly because of other people, i.e. so that she can keep her reputation of a worthy and hard-working woman, or earn such a reputation.

Before there was a rule that lohusa should rest seven days after birth while women from richer families stayed in bed between 14 and 40 days. But, that wasn't the only social difference. Antun Hangi describing the procedure of beautifying the child actually reveals a classic and inborn desire of the Bosnian people to look good, which was primarily an occupation of the more affluent part of the society, such as merchants, craftsmen and noblemen, while among most of the poor people such a custom wasn't particularly nurtured. The author writes:

As soon as ebejka washed the child and clad it, she strokes its head so that is more beautiful and formed well. As the ebejka is doing, so shall too the young mother, which needs to watch out that her child's forehead doesn't get too big. Bosnian people don't like large foreheads. A child which has a large forehead, is made fun of and is said that his forehead is big as a hangar. In order for a child's head to develop properly, it needs to be wrapped with not one, but two bandages. One goes from the forehead and is tied at the back, it is called connector, the other one goes underneath the beard and is tied at the top of the head, and it is called chin guard. These bandages are tied numerous times so much so that one feels sorry for the poor child, and once the bandages are removed we notice red markings on the head since the blood couldn't move freely in and out of the head. But they're not only striving to beautify the child and make his head of a proper shape, but all parts of the head, namely the forehead, nose, lips, eyes, ears, eyebrows and chin. Though I have to condemn this practice out of health reasons, I will mention how and why they do them. The forehead is usually covered with oil, thick milk or slime so that the child doesn't get wrinkles around the eyes. Folk, especially more common people, hold that people which have wrinkles around the eyes are troublemakers, ready to do all sorts of evil. A girl which would see large wrinkles in a boy wouldn't marry him. People love like that the nose of the child is nice looking and harmonious that's why they squeeze and thin the noses of the children since no one likes a wide nose. The eyes are usually stroked by mothers while nursing the child so that the eyes won't be murky and to turn out to be healthy clear and large since the larger the eyes, the dearer they are to the people. They tighten the ears and place them closer to the head so that they don't become large and loopy. Similarly they gather the lips of the child between the fingers so that they don't become large. They push the chin towards the throat so that it's not protruding like a saddle. The neck of the child is also stroked so that it is not too thick and that the child doesn't get goitre. They place ham-pamuk (cotton wool) on the child's chest so that the chest will get nourished and grow stronger. Similar things are done with the hand and feet of the child. They tighten them with bands like criminals so that the child looks like a little mummy. The lazy stomach is not exempt. It too needs to be tightened and furbished, so that the child is not tubby and a binge eater.

The mother is taking care to first nurse the child with the right bosom, since if she does so with the left initially the child will be left handed its entire life. Lactation among Bosnian women in the past lasted quite long, often a few years, there are testimonies that some mothers nursed their sons until they were fifteen. It was believed that it was desirable to nurse the male child for longer, because of the physical strength and growth, while the female child, it was not because it could turn out  to be temperamental and promiscuous. There is a prevailing opinion among the Bosnian people that people in general have lost empathy, became less humane and sensible, since the younger generation of mothers stopped nursing their children. That natural and intimate contact of the mother and child during lactation, obviously has the same value for the human being as the need for food itself. Mother's bosom for the child are a source of gentleness and closeness, during contact with them the child develops both physically but also mentally, and thus builds consciousness about the relationship with others which needs to be intimate. It is noticeable that a large percentage of people which were nursed by their mother in their earliest age have a developed habit of hugging other people, they exchange small signs of tenderness while greeting, they're more open and with that more sociable. All of this also makes them more resilient to stress and everyday issues. It is evident that some environmental preferences and social habits we acquire during the period of lactation and if they're not offered to humans in their earliest age they then have smaller or greater consequences for our healthy development.

Nursing is an intimate moment and the mother will always take care that she doesn't nurse the child in front of someone else who is not her husband out of shame. Also, the woman hesitated to nurse her child in front of people who are not family members out of fear for spellbound eyes, since the evil effect of this spell can cause her to, allegedly, lose her milk. Similar scenario will happen to her if a drop of milk falls to the ground and she or someone else steps on it. If she becomes a victim of spellbound eyes or her own recklessness, and loses her milk, by the advice of the mother in law, she will look among her neighbours for some trahana (small dough used for soup) three years old, which she will cook at her home three times and eat, the milk will then return.

News of the new member in the family spread fast, especially if a son was born, and then the spread of the news would become a small competition because of the monetary reward which was given to the messenger. It is still today called muštuluk (good news).
There was also a custom to rip the shirt of the father on the chest when the good news is given to him, obviously that ritual had its origin in the pagan beliefs and rituals of fertility. Namely, a ritual recorded in Vlasenica describes that a woman in late pregnancy during the period of full moon would knead bread, and when the full moon showed up she would go around the house three times. She would break of one piece of bread and store it, the rest she would eat. When she gave birth she would then again wait for a full moon in order to rip the first shirt she made for her child at the chest and she would pass through the hole in the shirt the piece of bread that she made. She would then put the shirt on the child uttering: "As the moon is full in the sky, so may you be full as well." After a few months, when the child starts eating food other than his mother's milk, during the night of a full moon the mother would submerge that piece of bread into cow's milk and would give it to the child repeating the same formula.

The mother and the child usually never left the house until the period of 40 days has passed, and during the first few days of the child's birth one would avoid giving or loaning to others in the household, it was even forbidden to take out the trash when night fell. People took care not to bring in children's clothes which were washed and dried after sunset, until the sun has come out the next day and has warmed up the clothes. Otherwise the child could suffer from a disease called mračnica.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:41 pm

One foot in the grave


Though the entire cult of fertility among the Bosnian people in the past was based on magical-religious beliefs and rigid social attitudes, still, in some of its segments, we come across empirical knowledge with which medicine today also agrees. Namely, in order to reduce the possibility of damaging the vagina, rectum and bladder, the pregnant women knew that all positions, except the one when the woman is lying down, reduces the possibility for episiotomy i.e. cutting the perineum, which in the past could have had serious consequences for the health of the woman. Steiner writes that the majority of Bosnian women will not call a doctor/male during birth, not even during a complicated birth, instead she will, during a difficult birth, cut the perineum herself is the bladder is pressed or when the baby is in an uncomfortable position, this is in fact an impossible task for the pregnant woman, therefore she would let the woman assisting her with birth perform the procedure and even sow the wound.

Though it is obvious that such an unreasonable and completely irresponsible attitude towards her own body and life is a by-product of the conservative society, in which the husband is the only man which can see a woman's intimate parts, he also jeopardized his woman by exposing her to deadly danger due to the lack of professional medical assistance. Data that most of the women that assisted during birth had no professional knowledge is ironical, they based their skills on the folk belief that a woman's womb consists out of three parts; in the first part are premature births, in the second normal birth and in the third post mature. Similarly, it was believed that in the womb itself there is a part that creates male children (right part) and left part which creates female children.

Chronic lack of education but also a dominant influence of religion, which unquestionably creates a conservative society which is hostile towards any type of progress and enlightenment, stopped the Bosnian people from advancing for centuries and inflicted more harm than it did good. Particularly alarming state was among the youngest population, namely as we can see, morbidity and mortality of children in the past in BiH was extremely high, various causes contributed to this fact from hypothermia and fever, to various infectious diseases such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, smallpox (variola), measles, etc. Besides this, women weren't in a better position to whom every birth was literally "one foot in the grave" i.e. it exposed them to direct danger of death, primarily because of the lack of medical care but also bad living conditions.

Analysing the look of Bosnian girls, Karl Steiner (Bosnian folk medicine), noticed well that frequent pregnancies and scarce living conditions resulted in physical deterioration and abrupt aging of the face after a pretty short period of youth (15-25 years). Author writes: "Childbearing women get up on the third day after birth, and starts doing house chores. This crooked custom is the culprit of rapid aging and deterioration of Bosnian women. Poor nurturing of young women after birth, when they need nurture and care the most, is avenged by women losing their beauty and vigour quickly. In this we should look for interpretation in what we notice every day that besides numerous beautiful and well fed women, we see few healthy and beautiful young women."  

When we take into consideration the above mentioned we come to a conclusion that the claim by Frano Murgic that women in Visoko gave birth to twenty children is simply impossible because of some very logical reasons based on the living circumstances; every pregnancy, and especially birth, physically drains a woman. Especially if the woman nurses the child for long, which was often the case with Bosnian women, coupled with poor nutrition but also hard physical labour in essence didn't leave a lot of room for frequent pregnancies. It is medically proven that 98% of cases women cannot get pregnant during the first six months after birth while they are nursing their child - lactation amenorrhea. Analysing mathematically for a woman to give birth to twenty children she would have to give birth for 30 years, which is in stark opposition to the fact that women often got married in their 18th year. According to the writing of Karl Steiner women were physically drained in their thirties, their reproductive abilities weakened, probably due to poor health, which in the end could be an overture to premature menopause.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:46 pm

Egg - symbol of fertility and luck

During the time of četeresnica (40 days from an event), which we could also call postpartum quarantine, while the body of the young mother gradually returns in the form and the new born is getting adjusted to the outside life; increased fluctuation of people was avoided and they tried to limit visits to the closest family members only. Reason for such a behaviour was manifold, but the most important one is for the mother and child to rest and gather strength, since in such a state they are more prone to negative effects or disease.

Time after birth, usually during the following 40 days, though not limited by time, babine take place, ritual of gifting the new-born, but also his mother and even the whole family. Babine are primarily a reflection of female solidarity and it needs to be characterised as a socio-humane gesture, with which one is showing concern of the community for their new member. Besides, according to folk belief, this is the period when every day, during the 40 days, out of the womb of the young mother one by one a postekija is being removed. It is believed that after a woman has given birth in her womb 40 postekija are being laid, from which each day one of them is being raised and removed. As postekija is a prayer mat we're probably talking about angels praying for the young mother and protecting her from attacks from all those evil creatures which are trying to harm her in this most delicate moment.

Women went to babine on Monday and Thursday, usually before noon, while the sun is rising in the sky, wanting to bring positive influences besides the gift so that the child will develop in a healthy manner. Monday and Thursday are usually considered in Bosnian tradition as blessed days, since they are located in front of two holly days - Tuesday and Friday. While Tuesday was the holly day of the Bogomils, Friday is a holly day in Islam.

In Sandžak there is a custom that people perform babine right after birth out of practical reasons, to offer help, if there is a need to do so, and check what the mother and the child need and they bring it as gifts. As pregnancy, birth and time after it, were reserved exclusively for women and their activities since the old days, men were completely distanced from all activities, which is a rule forced by patriarchy. However, there were certain situations when they did get involved, at least during this last stage of fascinating ritual of new life, which could be characterised as "male babine", though there is another name for it - jedvoček. As the name itself reveals we're talking about a situation where a married couple is awaiting birth of a son or child generally for a long time. Men gift the child in money but also chicken egg and the child is sprinkled with some flour on the head and eyebrows "so that he may live long to an old age".

Chicken egg in the Bosnian cult of fertility is primarily a symbol of luck, life and fertility and it was mandatorily gifted according to the rule, one egg for a female and two for a male child, especially when the mother visits someone's house with the child. Among the Bosnian people a custom called Pološke was recorded, when a mother visits someone for the first time after birth, usually someone from the family, members of that family gift the child with eggs. Entering the house, the mother would ritually utter: "I'm here, the other in Pološke!" indicating that it is time to gift the child with eggs. It is interesting that the name Pološke itself comes from položak i.e. egg which is not taken from the place where chickens usually lay eggs and there is a possibility of some of them to peck.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:56 pm

When a couple get exclusively female children, then the woman goes to babine on a Friday, in order to try and influence her faith i.e. if the last time she gave birth to a girl, now she will give birth to a boy. In Sandžak there was a custom that young mothers ensure a cradle for their first grandchild and everything that the new-born needs: diapers, swathe, shirt, shoes, etc. Also, they bring gifts for the adult members of the family, so that all can be happy and content. Among the presents for the new-born, especially if it's a girl, there must be some jewellery, such as earrings, bracelet or necklace. Gold for its value but also a symbolism of eternity, represented respect for the family which was visited. If for some reason the mother didn't have milk in her breasts to feed her child in the first few days, another woman will do it for her, this woman is latter called by the child a second mother or foster mother, this was considered a special gesture and that's why children of these women could not marry one another.  

The child was named at noon, while the Imam is calling for prayer, and in the past it was usually chosen based on a distinguished ancestor. In Velika Kladuša, however it is believed that it isn't good to give a child a name based on a dead member of the family, only one that is alive. It was once told that a child brings his own name with him i.e. it was given to him according to the Arabic name of the months such as; if the child was born during the month of Ramadan then the son would be named Ramo and daughter Ramiza, if the child is born during month Muharam the names could be Muharem, Muho, Muharema, etc. And if the daughter is born on the eve of the holly night Laylat al-Qadr her name would be Lejla, but if the child is born on Eid - Bajram or Bajrame, Birame, etc.

If the household inhabitants cannot agree on the name of the child it was a tradition to call an Imam into the house. He would take scissors and a piece of paper, and he would cut it into 40 equal pieces. On each piece of paper he would then write one name and in the end he would place them inside a fez. The Imam would mix the papers and then he would offer the mother to draw a piece from the fez. The name which is drawn becomes the name of the child, and none of the household inhabitants could object to that.

Sometimes it happened that a name doesn't suit a child, it is unlucky to him, which is manifested in that it is sick for no reason or pale, grows and develops slowly. In order to stop this evil, the mother would early on Sunday, at dawn, take two apples and give each of them a name which she fancies. She waits at an intersection with the apples for someone to pass by. She asks a random passer-by to choose one of the two apples and the one which stays in her hand represents the child's new name which will bring luck and health to him.
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:58 pm

In fear of faeries and spells


One of the old prophylactic traditions which got lost over time was that the child, especially male child, an Imam or some other "learned" person, such as Hafiz, learned Muslim woman or stravarka, would utter azaan into the ear for all preventive purposes such as diseases whose causes are often supernatural, according to folk, and the children are subject to shock, paralysis, great fear. Beneficial activity of azaan is that it neutralises the effect of spellbound eyes. The ritual is pretty simple; the Imam stands above the child, which is sitting in front of him alone or in the hands of his mother, they're all turned towards the Kaaba. While uttering prayer Basmala the Imam is placing his right hand, thumb and forefinger on the forehead and begins to utter azaan. When he utters half of the prayer he blows in the direction of the right ear of the child and then lightly turns his head with his right hand to the right and when he finishes the second part of azaan he blows into his left ear. Then the child gets up and the Imam wishes him god's blessing and good fortune. People believe firmly in the protective powers of azaan, which is also uttered when there is a great storm outside and before the prayer is started one would throw a rolling pin outside of the house.

A special category is taken up by children which have no mothers, whether she had died during birth or after it. They are called orphans no matter if their father is alive or not. Namely, among the folk it is still claimed today that a father can be anyone, but there can only be one mother. Result of strict patriarchal upbringing which forced a rule on men that they mustn't show pronounced feelings or care towards the child, especially in public places, gave birth to a folk saying "the father is as stiff as a board!" i.e. he has no feelings nor understanding for his child.

Orphans are especially pledged among Bosnian people, partially for the fact that god's messenger himself, Muhammad, was an orphan. It was always said, if there is no other way to help an orphan, that one should at least stroke him on his head, since among other things he has been bereft of warmth and attention. Similarly, there is no greater sin from abuse of an orphan since "the tear of an orphan is as heavy as the greatest sea!". In Velika Kladuša it is believed that the sun wouldn't shine if there were no orphans in the world, since it needs to warm them. It is still today claimed that good children (orphans) can call upon rain during draughts, if the Imam takes them on top of the tallest hill in that area (remnant of the Bogomils's beliefs about the holiness of the hill), where the Imam will utter a rain prayer and the children will bless the prayer by saying amen. A child whose mother had died during childbirth, was believed to have power to stop a fight (bad weather) if it eats a few grains of hail. The same was believed about the youngest child.

In the past people were afraid of the activity of the Jinn and devils, especially birth demons called Al Karisi, which alongside the female Jinn Sibjan, represented the greatest danger for both the new-born and his mother. In order to chase them away there was a tradition for a family member to shoot a weapon outside when the child is born, because of the belief that lead but also the sound of the weapon can scare and chase away the evil spirits. The mother would be scared to leave the child in the crib alone, if she had to leave the house for some reason, fearing that faeries don't steal or replace her child. In order to protect him, she would place a metal item underneath its pillow, a stem of nacre, garlic clove or something else which could chase away the faeries. Namely, according to a Turkish legend which became popular in our region, the humans stole the first faery child and from that time the faeries are avenging it by stealing or exchanging human children. Besides the mentioned beings, the child was in danger of witches, nightmares, spells and spellbound eyes.

Antun Hangi writes: "As soon as a child is born, until it grows up, one needs to protect him from spells, ograma, strava, nightmares and witches. Spells as we have said, come from the eyes. Everything that is on earth is subject to evil eyes and there is nothing in the world which cannot be harmed by a spell, both children and adults die from spells, and it is not a sin to say that half of the world has died due to spells. The smaller it is the easier it is to cast a spell on it, the easiest being a child. That's why you should say when you see a small child: "Masha'Allah!" or "May you not be cursed!", so that you do not curse him. When the child doesn't want to sleep when it needs to , and doesn't want to eat its mother's milk, and what is worse keeps crying so much so that it seems as if it is dying, then we know that it is cursed. Cursed child cries and screams, doesn't eat nor sleep and if it sleeps for a while, it tosses and turns in its sleep, until at one time the screaming stops. If the child is cursed, it needs to be bajati (utter a spell), since the spell resurrects in the child after three days, and it could tear the child apart. The child is easy to put a spell on when numerous women come into the house and look at the child and when the mother is walking around the neighbourhood a lot. It is especially perilous, that a young mother goes out of the house with a child at night, since witches fly outside at that time, air faeries, ghosts and spectres, and they could harm a child."        

Autor: Raif Esmerović

https://www.scribd.com/doc/307234850/Cult-of-Fertility-Among-the-Bosnian-People
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Tue May 03, 2016 4:00 am

Izvrsno Smile ali po mom mišljenju moglo bi se tu još toga napisati poput rituala sa djetetom za zdravlje i slično.
Naravno to je samo moja sugestija Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Cult of fertility among the Bosnian People   Today at 5:01 pm

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