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 In the footsteps of the Bosnian sun god

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PostSubject: In the footsteps of the Bosnian sun god   Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:13 pm

The names of sun god in Bosnia:

Illyrian times: Trzance, Trzan, Tir

After arrived Slavs: Oganj, Ognjev pir, Zvizdan



While the moon symbolised a goddess, the sun symbolised a god i.e. the male principle without which life could also not be possible. According to the description of some folk beliefs and customs about the sun we can assume that he was called god Trzan, Trzance or Tir.

Every large or small place in Bosnia and Herzegovina practiced a cult ritual dedicated to the sun. On the eastern side of a certain place there was always a holly place where people would gather to celebrate the solar deity. There they practiced the rituals dedicated to sun and also ritual games, which imitated the trajectory of the sun, competition and general fun. Such a place was usually called Igrište (a playground) or Trzan. One would always come to the holly place barefoot and one would also travel on foot which corresponded to the ritual reverence of the holly place. What is especially characteristic for the cult of the sun is playing rounds. Rounds is a game where everyone holds hands and makes a circle which symbolises the sun, its eternal cycle but also vivacity and cheerfulness. There are data that claim that until the middle of the last century, the Bosnians went to a place called Vrbanja in central Bosnia to practice Trzan and to organise various games and festivities.

We shouldn't disregard an interesting analysis of folk belief according to which the sun deity had a dualistic nature. We need to enumerate a few examples to make it a bit clearer. For starters we need to mention the belief from north-western part of Bosnia where women would cover the bowl that contained cow milk when they would carry it from one house to the other. They did it out of precaution so that the milk "doesn't see" the sun since it can harm the milk with its spellbound eyes, i.e. the cow that gives milk would lose its capability to produce milk. Milk is a classical woman's symbol of fertility and food which is a characteristic of the goddess. Is there a small part of a larger myth in this belief, a myth that speaks of the possessive nature of a god towards a goddess or is there a small dose of ancient patriarchy, it's hard to conclude.

Besides that people still believe that the sun is malicious and poisonous until 6th of May passes (Hidirlez) and that's why people don't recommend being exposed to the sun for long periods. A similar taboo is connected with the earth for which it is believed that it's not good to sit on it until a certain date passes or better yet the cold part of the year. So we come to a conclusion that everything in nature is harmful to humans until May because after that the danger recedes. Hidirlez or Jurjevo is also called among the folk Mijena, which literally means change, since it symbolised a change of seasons - the end of winter and the cold part of the year and the arrival of summer and the fruitful part of the year. In the past the calendar in Bosnia was divided into two seasons and not four. Therefore it is easy to assume that the cult of the sun god could be celebrated only in the second part of the year which perfectly corresponds to the old pagan division of the calendar year to the light and the dark part. It is necessary to mention that 6th of May is not the original holiday of the sun god that is depicted as returning strength and fertility to nature with his warmth, but the beginning of the month of May. However because of the strong influence of Christianity, which in fact couldn't fully ban the old pagan rituals, the holiday was moved from the 1st May to the 6th and was thus transformed into the holiday of Jurja who slays a dragon. A Dragon or a snake was always the symbols of paganism for the Christian clergy and therefore the symbolic slaying of the dragon should represent the destruction of the old religion. But, this Christian myth was also taken from a much older myth from the Iranian religion and myth about god Mithras who according to legend slays a bull out of whose dead body nature sprouts, especially grain which is necessary for the human race. However, for this text it is more important that Mithras was the sun god. The continuity of sun worship according to some available data never lost its basics but was only supplemented with new beliefs which came along with the Slavs but also with the members of the Persian religion. How strong was their influence is best depicted by the shrine of Mithras in Jajce which was built in 3rd century AD.

Of the other folk belief about the sun we need to mention those that can be classified as imitative magic based on the invocation and pleas for help and blessings from the sun. Today also Stravarke in Bosnia turn their hands clockwise while doing the melting of lead ritual, it is said that they are "following the sun". Also when they need to throw three embers into the bowl with water the Stravarka does it by first encircling the ember three times also in a clockwise direction. The above mentioned rule clearly shows the folk belief about the beneficial power of the sun when it comes to healing and annulling negative influences. However this isn't only practiced during the lead ritual, every time when one wants to do a magical step which needs to have a positive outcome or some benefit like giving to the poor, turning the beans when fortunetelling, kneading bread, etc. the rule of making three circles clockwise is always adhered.

In the past every wedding procession followed this holy rule which was understood as being beneficial for the wedded couple. That's why the wedding procession always went from the bride's house towards the groom's following the "sun route".
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PostSubject: Re: In the footsteps of the Bosnian sun god   Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:38 pm

Besides the competition part which is dedicated to the imitation of the sun's movement and the strength competition which were performed on Trzni, the rituals have to do with sun worship which is shown by the following beliefs: on this day the children, before sunup, buried butterflies in the ground believing that after sunset they will find coins on that spot. In the early morning people used to effuse kernels of corn around the yard in the wish to feed the pigeons, ancient symbols of luck in Bosnia. Both in the first and the second example we see that yellow colour of the coins and corn point clearly to gold i.e. the colour of the sun. Among the Bosnian folk the sun is the greatest symbol of happiness which is depicted by the feeding of the pigeons in the early morning, before sunrise. The pigeon is also a bird dedicated to sun which is proven by this legend, namely the pigeon gained its enviable reputation according to legend after the great flood. Noa, wishing to find out if the water receded from the land sent a raven, but the raven lured by the smell of dead animals started feasting on them forgetting to return to the ark. Then he sent a pigeon to scout and he quickly returned with good news that the water receded. That's why Allah stroked his head and on his neck the golden glow remained on his feathers. A humpback also attended the rituals on Trzna whose hump was stroked early in the morning in order to invoke luck for the upcoming year.
Because of everything that was written we can claim with certainty that worship at Trzna survived as the cult of the sun among the Bosnian folk, primarily because of its strong symbolism of a happy holiday and hope for a better future which sun brings in spring both to nature and to humans.
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PostSubject: Re: In the footsteps of the Bosnian sun god   Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:39 pm

With a chronological analysis it is easy to notice that Trzan lost its religious importance throughout the ages, which is understandable due to the strong influence of Islam, however it kept its sociological value. In ethnological notes which encompass a wider area (Sarajevo, Visoko, Žepče, Zenica, Kiseljak, Sutjeska) Trzan became a synonym for green pastures that are found in the centre of the village or on its outer side. Children and the young gathered on Trzan for fun and the elderly met there to discuss village jobs of common interests.



Even though the original belief about Trzan (Trzni) has been suppressed during the ages its sacred importance has never been forgotten which can be perceived in a couple of examples. In the village Vardišće there is a place called Trzan in whose vicinity there are a few Stećci (Tombs) and there is a Muslim cemetery on Trzan. In another description there is mention of a Trzan in a village called Jelići which is located above the village houses but in front of the cemetery. On that particular Trzan the deceased person was usually laid there before being buried. In the village Bučići the Trzan is located on a crossroad, however such examples are rare.



Although these examples could be connected with the old cult of the dead, however such an assumption would be erroneous for several reasons. From the Illyrian and the Bogomil times, the Bosnian people managed to save only a small fraction of the ancient sun cult through various beliefs and relationships with specific places. They knew that those places had sacred features which were pagan and therefore forbidden. Hence, in order to save that ancient connection they continued the tradition but specifically through get-togethers, games and competitions, and in some cases by burying the dead in holly places. In such a way they kept their relationship with the ancient cult.



In the end we need to mention an interesting fact that supports the theory about Trzan as an old solar deity in Bosnia. Namely, it is known that the Illyrians didn't build temples but that they dedicated specific places in nature to their deities, for example, to the god Bindu, streams were dedicated, Vidasusu and Thani the forest, etc. The same tradition resumes during the

Bogomil's ages which refused to build churches and instead they gathered in nature in order to pray and hold counsel. If weather conditions (snow or rain) didn't allow for this then they chose a house as a gathering place.
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PostSubject: Re: In the footsteps of the Bosnian sun god   Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:41 pm

The human species inhabited the Balkan area a million years ago, at that age the remnants of humans found in the caves of Šandalj next to Pula in Croatia were estimated. Throughout all that time our ancestors carried inside of them a feeling of security that the cave offered. That feeling became a part of the human gene.

Numerous caves in BIH are known for having ritual and religious significance in various periods of this area. The oldest holly caves are in Badanj in the canyon Bregava next to Stoca and the cave "Pod lipom" not far from Kada's village next to Sokoc whose cult significance is depicted by drawings on the walls. The drawings can also be seen on the entrance of Ledenjača cave next to Miljevina, on the cliff "Pod pismom" next to Višegrad in Robovići next to Foča, in the Djevojačka (maiden) cave next to Kladanj and also at the entrance to Vjetrenica. We could say that the presence of these drawings in the caves separates BIH from the other countries of south-western Balkans. Out of ten drawings, seven were found in BIH, and the other three are located more to the south in Montenegro and Albania, countries which constituted major parts of the ancient Illyrian kingdom. The mere arithmetic fact gives Bosnia a unique cultural and historical significance. The drawings in the Bosnian caves are situated from the early Palaeolithic period, around 14 thousand years BCE, until the Middle Ages. This shows the multiplicity of religious beliefs where the medium of pictures is only a symbolic means of expression. Without knowledge of this language it is impossible to have a clear insight into the holly Bosnian underground.

Places which simply flourish with deep meaning for the Bosnian spiritual history is the space around the royal city of Bobovac in central Bosnia. Here too the spiritual tradition is long which confirms the numerous cemetery tombstones. On the cliffs above the monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska there are twelve caves. They are smaller in size which can house one or two people. Previous research has shown their ritualistic significance. Cave Ljuba has an artificially carved semi-circle bench stipadium, famous from when the Christians used to pray sitting in circle. From that bench there is a carved path which leads to two resting places or two praying places. When it comes to the morphology of the cave there is no need for this path since the sides of the cave are not steep. It is obvious that even walking along that path had ritualistic significance. The path ends in front of an altar, artificial window which is oriented towards the east. Who were these people that directed their prayers to the rising sun?

It is difficult to answer this question fully because we can only follow history satisfactorily to a certain period until ancient Bosnia (Bassania), but deeper into history things haven't been researched as far. However, undoubtedly the undisputable fact is that the cult of the sun god (Oganj, Ognjev Pir, Zvizdan) has its genesis in the Bosnian region. Its traces are interspersed throughout the religious practice of the Greeks, Celts and the Romans, i.e. people who came into direct contact with the Illyrians. We can't disregard nor forget the influence of ancient Persia through temples of the god Mithra which are also placed inside caves, and the one which is best preserved in Bosnia is located in Jajce and dates back to third century AD. The sun cult didn't even disappear when the Slavs arrived and mixed with the Illyrian tribes, only the name changed into Svetovid, although this name wasn't the sole name of the sun god, since we come across a very widespread name which is derived from the word star (zvijezda, zvizda), Zvizdan. However, all religious practice of this cult still remained unchanged and under strong antique influence, especially Roman and Celtic. The best proof of this is the practice of keeping various rituals and competitions which is undoubtedly of Roman origin. From ritual competitions stems the toponim playground on the Hotijelj hill on mount Ratiš, as well as toponim playground on Trebava.

In ancient and medieval Bosnia all hilltops were dedicated to the sun god, and that's the reason why all rituals took place up high. That's why many mountain tops have the name Zvijezda (Zvizdan) in their root, which is also a folk name for sun today, like the hill Zvijezda above Malešić, terrain Podzvizd on the slopes of Monja, locality Zvijezda in Sladna where the cult area Rahimin tomb is located. Above the village Priluk there is a hill called Sunčevo (Sun's) hill. We shouldn't forget the medieval city Podzvizd in Velika Kladuša which was built on top of a hill, etc.
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