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 Bosnian Traditional Medicine

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PostSubject: Bosnian Traditional Medicine    Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:22 pm

Just few decades ago, every settlement in Bosnia, no matter how big it was, had its traditional healers, herbalists, stravari, faladžija, Nowadays, situation is completely different and traditional occupations and crafts are condemned for disappearance. Disinterest of newer generations to preserve cultural heritage is not a problem only in Bosnia but in the rest of Eastern Europe.

Klinčići (hidrokela): a sickness that is present in newborns aged up to one year. It is manifested through a swollen scrotum which causes crying, nervousness and lack of sleep. The old Bosniak women regularly control their grandchildren's scrotum out of fear from them having klinčić. They are looking for water inside of them, if they are swollen or if they have changed their colour. This is done for the simple reason that the klinčić wouldn't evolve into a kila (hernia).

Klinčić can be cured in several ways. The most famous way of treatment is for the child to be brought to a folk doctor which possesses the gift of healing which he received from Allah. That gift can only be bestowed upon those children whose father dies before they are born. In Bosnia it is believed that they possess the gift of healing.
The treatment method is very simple; the sick child is laid down on the floor, his legs are raised so that his scrotum is free. The folk doctor makes a circle three times around the scrotum with his heel, clockwise, and the he lightly touches the scrotum with his heel. The therapeutic process is repeated three times. Then the doctor exits the room leaving the parents to dress their child. There is a rule for him that he mustn't turn backwards and that he must say "Alahimanet!" when the parents leave with their child. The most successful doctor in curing Klinčić is Derviš Husagić from Kakanj.


Strunjen želudac (Gastritis) If a person feels pain in his stomach right after eating then it is believed in Bosnia that his/her stomach has been moved out of its natural position, to the right or left side of the stomach. One determinant that the stomach has been moved is the pain under the ribs. The Bosniak women that treat such problems are called Želudarice. Before treating the ill they touch their right hand, the part between the index finger and the thumb, and if they feel a knot in form of a small pellet, then they are certain that there are problems with the stomach. That uncomfortable and painful experience can be caused by various factors but the most common are; if a hungry person lifts heavy weight, bad diet, stress, emotional problems, falling and hitting oneself, strong coughs, etc.
Stomach problems can be treated with massages, vacuum or magic. All three methods warrant success.


Namještanje pršljena: A large number of people have the "atlas" moved (their first vertebra) which can cause various psychophysical problems. This problem is often first encountered in childhood, caused by falling or sudden head movements. The movement of atlas is noticeable by a barely visible blue line across the nose, it looks like the capillaries burst. A few days after the injury, the child loses appetite and has problems swallowing food. As soon as that happens, the neck should be returned in its natural position so that the vertebra can straighten, because if they stay in that unnatural position, they will cause many problems in the man's life.
If a child falls down suddenly, there is a practice that his mother or some other person, takes his head with both hands near the ears and lifts it off the ground, in such a way the vertebra will be returned to its place.


Podizanje tjemena (angina tonsillaris): when a small child falls off the bed or from somewhere else, he can usually "padne tjeme", it is sometimes called the "third tonsil", this causes a lot of vomiting and loss of weight. The woman that deals with such problems, dips her middle finger in oil, places it into the child's mouth and pushes it upward towards the roof of the mouth. When she completes this process she then massages the child behind the ears, then takes it by the legs and turns it upside down and shake's it a little. This completes the healing process.


Vađenje truna: Hava Čebić from Banovići is one of the last practitioners of this ancient method of curing the inflammation of the eye epithelia. When a small piece of wood, stone, metal dust, hay or something else falls into a person's eye then epithelia gets irritated, the eye reddens and hurts. Before the treatment, which lasts less than half a minute, Hava rinses her mouth with alcohol and then holding the eye lids of the patient she searches for the foreign object in the eye with her tongue, as soon as she finds it she removes it with her tongue.


Warts are treated among the Bosniak people in various ways and the most common one is to rub the warts each morning with one's own saliva. If one persists in such a treatment he warts will soon disappear
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PostSubject: Lead pouring - melting the fear   Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:09 pm


Stravarka Aiša from Sarajevo practices a form of ethno-medicine characteristic for Middle East and the Balkans, a method called salivanje strahe or salivanje zrna „melting the fear“ in Bosnia. This method consists of ritual behaviour and a special text known as a „basma“ (or magic poetry), used together with the aim of healing the patient.


Another part of the technique is the melting of lead (or 'melting the fear'), which consists of the ritual melting of a small piece of lead, by means of which stravarka Aiša ' sees' the cause of the illness. This piece of lead represents the condensed illness and its cause as well. The shape the melted metal assumes is interpreted by the conjurer (stravarka). At the end of the interpretation, the conjurer gives this piece of lead to the patient and he must liberate himself from it by throwing it ritually back over his shoulder without turning back his head, while pronouncing a charm.


That ritual can be performed by man or woman, but women perform it more often, as they used to, traditionally, care about their family's health. Women who does that ritual in Bosnia is called „stravarka“ or "stravaruša", and she is usually older lady who has been passed through menopause. The illness which stravarka Aiša heals and from which the term 'melting the fear' originates are defined in the folk speech as straha or strava - a terror, a fear, a spell, or evil eyes. These are different psychic crises, neurosis, states of stress and nervousness.


Stravarka, in the process, uses a few props; metal spoon, bowl for water, 3 or 4 pieces of lead and red towel or scarf. Ritual follows the strict religious pattern and therefore Stravarka, before she starts performs abdest (muslim religious washing). Stravarka, over the lead and bowl filled with water, pronounces some individual Quranic prayers, with El-Fatiha first Quranic chapter and Ikhlas 112. chapter dominating.


When treating a frightened child, Aiša first put little pieces of led through the gun barrel and then puts them in a spoon and melt in the fire. However, when treating her adult patients she holds a larger or several small pieces of lead in her hand and rotates them 3 times clockwise round around the patients head saying: „Euzubilahi mineš šejtanir radžim bismillahir rahmanir rahim“. While the lead is melting in fire, Stravarka, over the bowl with water, quietly speaks prayers and basma (magic words) that seek the salvation of God and the health for a patient.

Between the prayers she repeats the following words:"Dear Hazrat Fatima, my dear mother, tell your father Mohammed that the patient needs help day and night" - "Draga moja hazreti Fatime, draga moja majko, reci svom ocu Muhamedu pejgamberu da bude u pomoći i u danu i u noći". When she pronounces all the words and prayers due to which she normally experiences some harmless sensations like uncontrolled yawning or tearing eyes stravarka covers patient’s head with a cloth or red scarf (patient sits on a chair). Then, while holding the bowl of water in her left hand over the patient’s head she takes a right handed spoon with melted lead and quickly pours it into the water. On this occasion stravarka says; “lead to break and all evil to bounce from (name of patient) Amen!, Amen!, Amen!” - "Olovo puca i sve zlo razbija sa N Amin! Amin! Amin!" When pronouncing the magic words she looks out into a high mountain intending, in such a way, to positively affect the recovery of a patient.

Namely, in BIH high landscapes such as mountains, are considers as symbols of happiness and good health; this is originating from the old Bosnian Sun-worshiping Cult. During this ritual, several times encounter the segments of those beliefs when stravarka 3 times moves in clockwise direction; following the path of the sun, when circling lead around the patients head or during her prayers’ chanting over the bowl of water that she, after every prayer, rotates in clockwise circle.

After she throws dissolved lead in cold water, on which occasion leads form various shapes, Stravarka Aiša commences analyses of the obtained shapes what leads her to the cause of problem/disorder. If lead forms in a shape of a needle or number of them Stravarka is convinced that the patient was a victim of an enormous shock of fright. Lead formed in a circle is a sign of a direct patient’s contact with the spiritual world of Jinns, on which occasion spirits harmed the patient.

After Stravarka Aiša performed the analyses of the obtained forms of lead, she collects all the lead by the spoon and brings it back to fire in order to re-melt it. Then, she repeats the same ritual that has already been described above, with a difference in lead being melted in water this time over the patient’s stomach not head. When stage two is completed the last time Stravarka melts lead over the patient’s feet, what is the final/ending stage of the ritual.

The sign of successful treatment is sought in the lead itself. Namely, so-called heart (srce) appears in the very lead (shape of tear), what is a sign of all the evil being neutralized in the patient. The patient washes his face 3 times with the water lead was melted in 3 times, drinks a bit of it too, washes his/her hands up to his/her elbows and washes his/her legs up to his/her knees. The rest of the water is spilled under bush of rose.


Heart or tears of lead is kept for a month time under the patient’s pillow and then thrown down the river stream.
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PostSubject: Re: Bosnian Traditional Medicine    Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:58 pm

People in Bosnia and Herzegovina always believed that one’s stomach (gastritis) can get dislocated from its natural position, what further on causes health problems.
Stomach in humans can be dislocated in any of the following situations: hunger during hard work or a heavy burden; jumping or falling from a tree or some highness; nightmare or general stress, which is most common cause. It is important to say that stomach never dislocates because of nutrition/diet.

When a human’s stomach (gastritis) dislocates people in Bosnia say: "strunuo se" or suffering from stomach (gastritis).From the shifted gastritis patient feels severe pain in stomach, vomiting, decreased appetite and often being tortured by insomnia. Although the very method of treating gastritis is not that complicated and does not require particular knowledge, though there are some conditions to pursue and one of them is that the person (stravarka) have warm hands.
The people of Bosnia believe that there are nine forms of “struna” that differs in color. Blue string (plava struna) is considered to be the easiest form of the disease that is easily treated. Red string (crvena struna) caused by the stress, worrying, emotional problems; its manifested by weight loss, pallor and nausea.
Black string (crna struna); women often suffer after childbirth, and men from carrying heavy burden; it is manifested by sudden weight gain, abdominal distension, pain in the stomach and intestines.
Stravarka pays full attention to diagnosis to which direction stomach (gastritis) dislocated, as, according to their believes, stomach can move/dislocate all the way up to the spine or legs. This is why the most important part of their treatments is massage.
In order to find out whether the patient really suffers from that disease Stravarka touches patient’s skin located between thumb and forefinger. If, during such a diagnosis attempt she senses a small ball underneath her fingers/palms it is seen as a definite sign of the stomach (gastritis) disorder. Then, she starts massaging the patient up his/her arm all the way up to his/her shoulder until she “locates” stomach and bring it back to its place.
There are several more methods of bringing gastritis back to its place using massage; stravarka puts a cup (in up-side-down position) onto a patient’s belly and massages patient from the hips to the navel. While she practices this routine she constantly chants the following magic words: “Come Hazrat Fatima take your feather and remove from this patient all his/her pain, and return his/her gastritis in place!” Then she, using a scarf or bigger piece of cloth, wraps up a cup around patient’s stomach and leaves the patient to lie down in that position for half an hour or until the patient get well.

After the treatment patient is recommended to follow a strict regime of diet for the next seven days; to eat only cooked food, fruits and vegetables and avoid meet, greasy meals, canned salads, fried eggs and so on…
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PostSubject: Daira - exorcism ritual   Sun May 05, 2013 11:24 am

Daira is an Arabic word which means a circle. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the phrase "sazivanje daire" has the meaning of collection or collecting of the Jinn in order to get answers from them to certain questions or to find a remedy for mental patients. In most cases daira or exorcism precedes ograma (an accidental meeting with demons) when a man unbeknownst walks or violates a tabooed space such as an old graveyard, walks over a crossroad, walks across a place where a dead man was ritually washed before burial or walks next to a river at night, etc. When he comes across one of the mentioned places a human experiences an emotional shock, in Bosnia they say "zgrane" or "ograjiše", from which he falls ill both spiritually and physically and sometimes a person can be paralyzed from it. Today it is considered that the worst ograma is the one done on "džinska sofra" i.e. a place where the Jinn gather in order to eat and talk. As soon as it is determined that a person has suffered from a Jinn attack one of the members of the household seek help from an Imam or a Dervish. He decides if there is a need to form a daire. If he concludes that this is the only way to help the diseased the Imam searches for a child which hasn't reached puberty to assist him with the ritual. During that time the diseased is at home and the Imam has no contact with him.

The ritual i.e. exorcism is done in various ways by the Dervish which are more or less similar. The daira can be gathered on a mirror, on a fingernail covered with black ink, on the palm of right hand or a coffee cup. In Arabia the daira are performed using a crystal cup holding a small amount of black ink over which a few drops of olive oil are added in order to form a thin layer of oil on the surface. Before the ritual the Dervish writes on a long piece of paper using Arabic script the following words: "Certainly you were heedless of it, but now We have removed from you your veil, so your sight today is sharp" (50:22), and fastens it to a child's (the medium) forehead using an elastic band. This is performed by the Dervish in order to prevent the shock that can be caused to the child by the grotesque figures of the Jinn.

Drawing a circle is the most important part of the ritual which is used by the Dervish to symbolically separate himself from the physical world and to create a shield against the Jinn attack. Another important item for the ritual is incense. It has a sedative effect on the Jinn, sooths their wrath and at the same time incites them to cooperation. When the Jinn appear, which usually takes a lot of time since the Jinn procrastinate on purpose, the communication with them begins over the child (the medium). A form of bargaining and outwitting takes place during this stage in order to find the culprit among the Jinn for the pain caused to the diseased. Of course as one could have predicted once the culprit has been identified his spiritual leader makes him leave the human body which causes the diseased to lose consciousness, and when he regains it he is healed.
But even when the ritual has a positive outcome the Dervish needs to practice patience and wit while disbanding the Jinn. Namely sometimes they don't want to leave the room where the ritual was performed because they are waiting insidiously for a mistake from the Dervish in order to attack him. That's why the Dervish calmly utters chapters from the Qur'an which have a devastating effect on the Jinn and they flee.

Ljudevit A. Ivandić in his book "Folk superstitions" (original title: Pučko praznovjerje) touches upon the gathering of daire where he says: "Gathering of the daire is always a dangerous affair. Most of the times the gathered Jinn don't want to leave, and if there is a guide that will soothe their anger with verses from the Qur'an and incense, they will surely take revenge upon him. In Bosnia, as far as I know, the gathering of the daire was until recently done in Novi Šeher-Žepče, while in Bihać there is an Imam who practices it, the most famous instance of daire was on Oglavak between Fojnica and Brestovski, in Živići not far from Busovača towards Fojnica and Fojnica itself."

In his other descriptions the author mentions the claims from folk that witnessed the dangerous consequences of these rituals: "The Catholic folk claim that during the daire various disaster occur; furious winds, trees breaking, dust being carried by the wind, buildings being knocked down. According to it the Christians knew that a daire was taking place. In Herzegovina in a few places the people refer to daire as "okupljanje daire". Ivan Zovko describes an event of "okupljanje daire" in the area of Livno, claiming that the Imam places his face over a bowl with water filled to the brim and stares in it until he can see the vision of the thing that afflicts the diseased.

Other authors also mention this bizarre ritual. M. Ružić describes the ritual of daire as follows: "the Imam makes a circle around himself using a knife in which he repeats prayers until the Jinn gather around him. but none of them can enter the circle. He then questions them about the diseased until he finds the one that caused the suffering and then he secedes the Jinn from the diseased”.
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PostSubject: SUGREB   Mon May 06, 2013 8:36 pm

Sugreb (Urticaria)

Skin rash, usually in the area of legs or face is called sugreb in Bosnia. The name comes from a verb grebanje (scratch) which alludes to a dog or cat scratching around once they go to the toilet. According to belief if a human walks over that place he might become a victim of the Jinn who dwell around such places. Manifestation of their attack is seen through a skin rash, the skin on the legs reddens and starts itching. Additionally, sugreb can occur when one comes across a spider i.e. spider web, then the rash is manifested on the persons face.  

Among the Bosnian folk there are several ways to treat sugreb. In central Bosnia, Banja Luka, Brčko and other places a person that is suffering from sugreb needs to go to the bathroom during dusk, strip naked and take a woollen glove and rub in on the place where the rash is manifested. After he does that he throws the glove over his shoulder, and without turning around he leaves the bathroom.

In eastern Bosnia from Foča, Višegrad, Goražde up to Zvornik and Bijeljina after sundown a person that has sugreb strips down, turns his clothes inside out and puts it back on. Then he goes to a quince tree and under the tree he uses a broom to scratch the place where the rash has manifested.

In the south-western part of Bosnia from Jajce, Bihać up to Velika Kladuša, the place where the rash has manifested is rubbed by a piece of bread which is after that fed to a cat or a dog. If the rash is located on the face then an old rag is used to wipe that place during dusk. The rag which was used for the ritual healing is thrown into a fire inside a fireplace and one needs to spend at least half an hour outside the home after that.
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