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 Folk medicine of Bosnian Bogomils

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PostSubject: Folk medicine of Bosnian Bogomils    Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:11 pm

In the folk medicine of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past a practice of healing based on the belief in the power of magic words was widespread, these words were included in shorter or longer texts, i.e. bajalice or basme. This form of folk medicine is called bajanje. The word stems from an Azerbaijani word bayati which symbolises a form of folk poetry. Bajanje in a nutshell is magic poetry meant for different aspects of people's lives, directed mostly at healing. The people believe that such knowledge steams from God and therefore it is not monetised, the diseased leaves a gift as a thank you for the service. Bajanje was always transferred orally, usually from one family member to another, usually when the practitioner grows old and loses his physical and mental strength.

People older than 40 years used to practice this type of healing from the old days. According to folk belief, Muhammad started to preach about Allah and spread Islam when he was 40, therefore the belief that people could be cured with words after that particular age was probably founded thanks to that religious data. Women usually practiced curing with magical formulas, they were called stravarke, although some men practiced it as well, but a much smaller number of them. Today the magical formulas are mostly used to cure the effects of spellbound eyes and fear, stomach illnesses, headaches or treating warts which grow on hands. In the past that list was much longer. Every time when tea's or some other form of folk healing method didn't produce the necessary results the diseased was referred to a local Imam or stravarka.

The uttering of magical formulas was always followed by specific rhythmical movements and the utilization of certain items made out of iron such as a knife, needle or scissors, which were used by the stravarka to touch the diseased part of the body. If during that time stravarka began to uncontrollably yawn it was considered to be a reliable sign that the disease will be cured. The magical formula is diligently repeated by her until the yawning stops. Then she will make a brake. Of course, there is no doubt that suggestions had a very important role in the practice of magical healing, for both the patient and stravarka.

Poganica (Arthritis rheumatic) is a name for the pain which appear in various places on the body and in the past it was usually cured by magical formulas. It is believed that it appeared because of colds, black magic, encounter with demons or from curses. The belief in poganica stems from the Bogomils which called this disease Nežit. Bogomils believed that this disease can only be cured with magical formulas and such belief remained after the Bogomil's conversion to Islam, which is shown by the ethnological data about folk medicine of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When a stravarka is visited by a diseased person and he/she shows the place where the pain is felt, stravarka usually comments: "By God, it could be poganica. I'll check to see if it isn't mine." According to Bosnian belief, if the stravarka experiences certain sensations while repeating the formulas, such as yawning, watery eyes, breathing heavily, etc. then it is firmly believed that it is her (poganica) i.e. she can help the diseased. If these side effects don't occur the stravarka sends the diseased to another woman to repeat the ritual.

While using an item to touch legs or arms of a diseased the stravarka utters:

Exit you dirty poganice.
Into the high sky,
into the great depths,
into the wide horizons,
into the high mountains.
Go there where an axe is not used,
where the ox doesn't roar,
where the sheep doesn't bleat,
where the goat doesn't bleat,
where the rooster doesn't crow,
and the hen's don't cackle.

If the disease is found in the part of the neck then the stravarka says this:
"In Sijerme nine children: from nine-eight, from eight-seven..., from two-one, from one-none."

Two plants are of great importance for the success of such a healing ritual and they are hapta (Sambuccus ebulus) and pomoćnica (Solanum nigrum L.) to which stravarka, according to belief, can transfer her healing powers if she utters the magical formula a few times. After she utters those words to the plant, they are then used to cover the diseased part of the body during the entire night.

Besides these plants the stravarka could also transfer her magical powers onto a skull of a dog. If she used the skull in her work only once it was considered that it had unlimited power therefore in the past one could see a dog's skull in houses in BiH, which was kept in a secure place inside the house. The skull was used for curing by being placed on a diseased part of the body for some time or it would be used to massage that part of the body, by dragging it alongside the body.
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