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 Cult of the dead among the Bosnian people

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PostSubject: Cult of the dead among the Bosnian people   Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:31 pm

The Bosnian people are probably the only people on the Balkans which managed to maintain the burial custom of burying dead family members in the vicinity of the home. Even though there are mutual graveyards, usually owned by one family or village, the practice of burying ancestors in yards was not lost until the end of the last century. The remnants of that tradition probably stem from a Neolithic era of Old Europe and they are still present today in yards of many old houses.

Namely, in the Neolithic period the family members, especially women and children, were buried inside the house or between houses in the settlement which is a practice spawned by matriarchy. Such codex of behaviour is closely connected with the cult of fertility and worship of the Grand Mother which had patronage over the house and family. Burying ancestors close to the home had a social-magical background which nurtured the cult of the dead, respect of ancestors, and celebration of new life.

Among the Bosnian people we cannot find classic fear from death or graveyards, which is found among the neighbouring people, which is also recorded by certain historians such as Dr. Carl Steiner. They record in the supplement of "Bosnian folk medicine" that each Friday, but also during other days of the week, Bosniaks of differing age gather on graveyards in order to talk and rest. Reports especially stress that during such encounters among the people there are no external signs of sadness and depression, yet the people enjoy resting in the shade of a linden tree, acacia and other trees and enjoy the smell of lilac and the song of birds. The younger population spend time there and enjoy making jokes.

Bird - the symbol of the cult of dead

Special attention at graveyards is paid to the birds by the Bosnian people, trying to create favourable conditions for building a nest. Following that intent they would create holes on the tombstones so called nišan, which would be used to gather rain water and where they would leave food for birds. In the same way, the custom of planting trees next to graves was also widespread in order to feed the birds and in such a way to help the soul of the deceased.

Why was such attention paid to birds is best understood if we analyse those segments of Bosnian mythology that deals with religious-magical role of birds. In the mythic consciousness of the people, the bird is a symbol of the soul which is mentioned in the legend about the mysterious night bird Plačo or Meknjača which, according to folk belief, personifies a soul of a deceased child and whose voice announces death. And in the legend about the large celestial bird the connection to the cult of dead is evident because of the ritualistic practice which is widespread among the Bosnian people which used to burn the peel of the fruit in order to use smoke to feed the cursed bird. It, without a doubt, has a mediator role between humans and God since she is sentenced never to land on earth until judgement day. Feeding the large celestial bird with smoke the people are doing a good deed and in such a way symbolically they get rid of their sins in order for the soul to fly more easily to god since it is fee of its sins.

We cannot forget to mention gold winged utva, mysterious half woman half bird, which can be directly connected to the cult of marsh birds among the Illyrians, which drag the heavenly chariot of the sun god. The solar cult if inseparable from the cult of the dead since the sun represents a symbol of death and new life, which is born from the darkness and brings life to the entire world.



Votive chariot (Illyrian, probably Autariatae) in the form of two birds from Glasinac near Sarajevo in central Bosnia and Herzegovina - Iron Age.
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