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 Folk medicine – how to cure headaches

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PostSubject: Folk medicine – how to cure headaches   Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:17 am

Headache or cephalagia is a symptom of numerous diseases which affect the head, and sometimes the neck. Headache is one of the most frequent symptoms, and can encompass a wide span of diseases from harmless levels which require no treatment, up to the ones which are life threatening. In folk medicine of BiH there are numerous empirical methods of diagnostics and cure of this disease. According to the opinion of the majority it often comes about as a side effect of too much worry, fighting, hangovers, hunger, sorrow, etc. Draft is especially dangerous about which older women still today warn the younger generations to not go outside when they wash their hair since “draft will hit them” and their head will hurt. There is a whole line of superstitions about the origin of this disease and the most interesting one comes from Tešanj which suggests that women shouldn’t observe men when they gather in front of mosques on Friday, since they could get a headache. However people were most worried about having headaches on Tuesdays, since as people believe, whoever gets a headache on Tuesday will have one the entire week. Sickness of the head comes from supernatural causes such as "Ograma", curse or spellbound eyes.

According to intensity and the length it is divided into short, passing and long lasting headache. Among the folk it is believed that the worst headache is the one, a person goes to sleep with and awakes with it as well, also the one that forces people to puke is also worrisome. Curative action often included bloodletting (cupping/hidžama), because of the belief that “unhealthy blood” can cause a lot of difficulties in the organism, especially headaches, also curative processes included placing linings on the head, resting and taking pills. Washing the face with water as well as placing cold lining behind the neck or on the forehead, positively affects the soothing of the pain. Of course we shouldn’t disregard those curative processes whose result is for many relative, but despite that, they found their space in folk medicine. Though many enumerated procedures could be characterised as a mixture of superstition and placebo effect, we cannot even today claim that they’re exclusively that, since in each one of them there exists a small percentage of empirical testing and effectiveness. For example, many persons which have issues with this ailment are of the opinion that their headache will pass if they drink a bitter, stronger cup of coffee without sugar. Caffeine has a strong effect against pain and it is proven that it can cure headaches in numerous people, while in others, which react differently to it, it can strengthen or even cause headaches.

In the book “Something about the curing of Bosniacs in BiH” the following recipes are mentioned which our forefathers used in the past:

As soon as you get a headache, find three tops of nettle, and place them under your hat.

Cut a potato in pieces, and place them on your forehead.

Fumigate yourself on new cotton (Baumwolle).

Similarly beneficial is if you cover your head with burdock leaves (Petasites hybridus).

The best cure for headaches, is if one cuts one onion into pieces and spread the leftovers of coffee on them and place that mixture on the forehead.



Among our folk headache was traditionally considered a “female disease” and in accordance with that the belief that it affects the weaker gender in more percentage was widespread. Female complaints about headaches probably supported this as well as their various forms of curing from the home pharmacy such as placing pieces of potato or cucumber onto the forehead to “draw out” the disease. It was especially believed that cucumber has a specific bitterness from both sides of the fruit, and those pieces were cut and placed on the forehead because of the opinion that this bitterness will have a soothing effect through the skin on the head. Because of the traditional belief in south-western BiH that cucumbers were sown on Thursdays will be bitterer, than the ones sown on other days, they resulted in them being more sought when it came to curing headaches.

Area of the temple is considered to be the place on the face through which one can best act on pain in the head, and since the old days pieces of potato were placed on it to absorb pain. Numerous stravarke advise that this place before placing potato or cucumber should be massaged with the index finger and forefinger from both sides of the head, and with that the eyes should be raised towards the sky or ceiling. If someone has a strong headache, then individual stravarke suggest that the diseased should tighten his right hand and left leg, in order for the headache to pass sooner.
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PostSubject: Re: Folk medicine – how to cure headaches   Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:22 am

When only half of the head hurts

People are of the opinion that the head hurts least because of an internal issue, instead it occurs due to a specific supernatural cause such as a curse, ograma, worry or fear i.e. shock. If someone has frequent headaches around noon or sunset, that night it was suspected that there was a supernatural cause to it. Even today we come across a belief that someone can have a headache if someone from the family curses them. The best way to remove such issues was to give alms. Village women are particularly prone to this, they have a custom of passing the alms around their head “circling as the sun”, with a prayer, with the hope that it will cure their headache or insomnia.

Human being in and of itself and its structure is prone to effects of various occurrences and energies. In Bosnian occultism our body is divided into four elements based on all of these ideas: feet and legs, but also arms, belong to the element of earth, the middle of the body from the neck to the stomach, and backside and back are elements where fire and water intertwine, while the head is dominated by air. All four elements together unified together represent the fifth element – soul i.e. life. As everything else in the universe the elements themselves are of a dualistic nature and as such they can affect humans in a positive or negative way. Winds, whether faery or Jinn winds, belong to the element of air and are known to be completely disastrous to the human head, causing headaches, neck stiffness, pain in the eyes, etc. Also, for curses we can conclude that they belong to the negative manifestation of air since they come from the head i.e. eyes and mouth (tongue).

Common opinion of Imam’s which perform curing as well as of stravarke is that the best results are achieved by treating the headache using exorcist formulas, whether magical words, oral magic, or transfer of magical words onto paper – talisman science.

Dobarac is the name for a specific type of headache which can be recognised by having only one half of the head hurt. It is cured by exorcist formulas, throwing hot coal or molten lead into water as well as amulets. It is believed that in curing dobarac the best results are achieved by stravarke in comparison to Imam-healers or official doctors. It is good to undertake the ritual of healing 24 hours from the appearance of the headache, taking care that one tries to visit the stravarka in the afternoon, behind prayers, when the sun is heading west, so that the ailments can follow. Stravarka for the needs of the ritual uses four stones and this formula:

I'm not calling you,
but wind and dobarac behind you.
Let it exit the fat into the bones,
from the bones into the flesh,
from the flesh into the skin,
from the skin into the hair,
from the hair into hali mountain;
where the rooster doesn't crow,
where the call to prayer is not heard,
where the cow doesn't give birth,
where the mare doesn't foal,
where the sheep doesn't give birth.
Come, this trouble, around the world,
as a bee on the flower and world!
Kozalac - dobarac, ijed - med!
Veledalin amin.

If the headache occurred due to curses then the person will feel sleepy, apathy and loss of appetite. As individual exorcist formulas (basme) depicted that curses are a disease of nine customs or manifestations out of which one is the headache.

From nine curses and diseases
on N (name) eight,
from eight seven,
from seven six,
from six five,
from five four,
from four three,
from three two,
from two one and from one none!
What is left
will be carried away by a fly into dark
and desolate areas;
where the crow doesn’t crow,
cat doesn’t meow,
where a feast is served to the demons.
There, this disease should await judgement day,
with my formula and god’s will!

Stravarka repeats the basma three times above water and each time she extinguishes three embers. The diseased washes his face with that water, drinks it from three different sides of the vessel, always turning the vessel towards the trajectory of the sun, and the rest is spilled under a sapling. Embers are collected from the bottom of the vessel and is taken outside, when she goes for a walk, so that she can put them in nine holes or cracks in the earth which she accidentally comes across while walking.

The diseased could on his own perform a less demanding ritual for neutralising headaches such as the one with the most favourite plant among the Bosnian people – rue. The procedure is magical i.e. exorcist and is based on the fact that the person which suffers from headaches inside the vessel throws three stems of rue (Ruta graveolens) and repeats this exorcist formula three times and blows into the water:

Holly rue, my head hurts,
I admit to you everything you know about me
but please, all curses from me
pain and ograme, remove from me
with god’s will and my formula.

Diseased uses the water to wash his face, it can be used for several days.

Bosnian Imam’s write various forms of amulets for headaches, among the most interesting ones is the one on the leaf of Oman (Inula helenium) on which seven sawakita are written, letters which are not in the first prayer in the Qur’an, that leaf is placed in the pillow on which the diseased sleeps. Besides, often the Imam places the first parts of the prayer from the 19th and 26th chapter of the Qur’an. If the man has headaches he goes to see an Imam which writes and gives him an inscription with the directions that he should carry it sown inside a hat. In certain parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina headaches are cured by taking from the mosque (minaret) spider hairs and sow them inside a hat.

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PostSubject: Re: Folk medicine – how to cure headaches   Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:32 am

Lead as a cure

Demon gathering or faery ones from the old days were known as energy whirlwinds full of negative energy which if it comes into contact with the human body can cause a host of physical and mental issues. People believe that spiritual beings, if they’re disturbed in any way, can “pierce” with their gaze human aura and harm it. Encounter with demons and faeries is called ograma and is considered to be another type of supernatural danger which can cause among humans symptoms similar to spellbound eyes, among which constant headache was especially pronounced followed by weakness of the body. If consequences of such an encounter would be cured by an Imam then he would write three amulets; first talisman would be submerged into a bottle of water, which the diseased person would drink, the second into a bucket with bathing water. Third inscription in the form of an amulet the diseased carries with him, usually around the neck underneath the clothes. Help was also sought from stravarka which performed a lead melting ritual, and while it is being molten in a spoon on a fire, with a low voice she utters:

Nine faeries flew,
from nine clouds,
from nine mountains,
from nine forests,
from nine seas,
from nine meadows,
from nine crossroads,
from nine streams,
from nine rocks,
from nine rue plants,
they sang along the way,
danced in circles,
their path crossed by N. (name sickness person),
he angered the faeries.
They hit him with their arrows in the head,
in the heart, in the legs,
they floored him completely,
N. got sick.
N. yelled: “Help me Mujo, help me Halil,
I’m shot by faeries!”
When the faeries heard this,
each of them took out their arrow out of fear, N. was cured.
Out of nine faeries and arrows,
with my formula and god’s will,
only eight remained on N.,
out of eight only seven remained,
out of seven only six remained,
out of six only five remained,
out of five only four remained,
out of four only three remained,
out of three only two remained,
out of two only one remained,
out of one none remained.
By my hand,
formula and lead – good deed,
and from god salvation,
peace and cure, amen!




In rural areas lead melting ritual above a handkerchief was often practiced. If a woman would often have headaches she would send to by her child a handkerchief to a local stravarka so that she can melt lead above it. Stravarka would fold the scarf so that it gets a form of a triangle and she would place a vessel with water on it. While melting lead she would move the vessel each time down the handkerchief taking care that the last, third time, is placed on the end itself. The woman would carry the scarf on her head for three days at least, until her headache subsides.
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