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 BOSNIAN MYTHOLOGY - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE ILLYRIANS!

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PostSubject: BOSNIAN MYTHOLOGY - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE ILLYRIANS!   Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:10 pm

Cultural anthropology which combines a few special disciplines such as ethnology, archaeology or linguistics, gives us a perfect insight into the history and heritage of a certain people, and it tries, fairly successfully, to show in a logical sense the evolutionary trend present throughout history among a certain people. Influences are, of course, socially multifaceted, and so with the cultural the religious influence was supplemented and the circle would be complete.  

If we wish to monitor carefully that evolutionary sequence of events then we surely must reach out to mythology, its fantastic creatures and legends, mostly for the fact that mythology is the most archaic form of art which for the first time showed mankind's limitless imagination.  Inhabiting nature and the world around them with highly unusual and different beings and appearances, mankind first of all showed their social nature, but also the need to express its intimate fears, hopes, aspirations and frustrations. The tendency to express oneself in the best possible way resulted in the appearance of various stories, legends, drawings and sculptures about a different world where the principles of good and evil are highly accentuated, and what is more important, where they show their meaning and efficiency. Through those mediums we come across information about classic frustration with everyday life to which people were subject to in the old days as well as today. That's why mythology as a discipline always suggests that there is no one answer but that there are many.


Consistency of mythological legends is evident in various segments of a society in its entirety, even though it might not be so visible at first glance. Some of its parts, smaller or larger segments, are so incorporated in everyday life that no one pays attention to them, nor is their deeper meaning analysed. In more recent past mythology was present in social memory mostly when one wanted to achieve a political goal, which is always connected with nationalism and genocidal ideas, which we could witness during the end of the last century when the militant politics of Serbia specifically and deliberately used the historic event, defeat by the Ottomans at Kosovo, to start their military invasion on neighbouring republics which had catastrophic circumstances, such as the genocide in Srebrenica but also in other cities in BiH.

When we want to study the mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina but also of the entire former Yugoslavia we have to start from the historical fact that southern Slavs don't exist. There are only people of southern Europe which use Slavic languages, but those people are not of Slavic descent but Illyrian, especially the people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, which was proven a couple of times with the analysis of genetic origin. The mistake that historians made in their estimate of the origin of a certain people based solely on their language is catastrophic and, as we have witnessed, historically tragic. According to that theory todays Mexicans should be Spaniards, Brazilians or Portuguese, etc.  

One of the studies on genetic origin of the inhabitants of former Yugoslav republics was implemented in cooperation with: Institute for Anthropological research in Zagreb, Medical University in Skopje, Clinical centre in Belgrade, Estonian Bio-centre at the Tart University, Medical University in Priština, Medical Faculty in Tuzla, Clinical hospital "Bijeli Brijeg" in Tuzla, Health centre in Zagreb and Medical school in Edinburgh - Scotland. For the results to be as close to reality in the field, the tests were gathered in all cities of the former Yugoslav republic.

The results showed that the most dominant were the haplogroup's on the territory of former Yugoslavia: 1lb, R1a, R1b and E3bl. Haplogroup l1b or so called "Illyrian gene" was the most widespread in all countries of former Yugoslavia, and the most interesting fact is that the group l1b was present even in 70% in Herzegovina, Dalmatia and other islands.  In Bosnia this group was present in 52, 20% while the Slavic group R1 on the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina was present only in 24,60% of the cases.

Precisely those facts correspond with the ever present confusion of scientific circles, especially after genetic analysis, did the arrival of Slavic tribes to the Balkans really ever took place? There are indications which gain more authenticity, that such an event never took place, but that the Illyrians, after a difficult and long occupation by the Roman empire, created a pretty intelligent plan of survival and preservation through assimilation of languages of neighbouring Slavic countries in order to ensure some sort of peace and possibility for survival through a turbulent history.  

Many segments of Illyrian religion are still present today in all countries that made up the former Yugoslav republic such as the snake cult, belief in stars-guardians of souls, cult of fertility, and solar and lunar cults, worship of water through the cult of god Bindu, belief in spellbound eyes, the name spellbound (Urok) is an Illyrian word, etc.




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PostSubject: Re: BOSNIAN MYTHOLOGY - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE ILLYRIANS!   Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:27 pm

The mystical world of Bosnian people has in itself, besides its uniqueness, a rich religious-magical concept infused with shamanism. When we analyse the majority of registered beliefs we come to a unique entity which reveals a fascinating fact of how much the Bosnian people were linked with nature and its forces throughout their long history. Since the ancient times Bosniaks believed that each man had his own star in the sky, headquarters of the soul, and on Earth a snake, guardian of the house and family, his/her tree and stream and in the underworld a zviždenjak. Some anthropologists tried to classify all of the above mentioned elements into a thesis about human doppelgangers (astral, vegetable and animal), regardless of the fact that their lives and existence are completely independent from that of the human and they have no connection to him except in certain situations, i.e. the ones that deal with death. For that fact this presumption is completely irrelevant and unfounded. However, in the mystical connection of mankind and nature we notice a dominant influence of fatalism, which is common to all Mediterranean people and cultures, in combination with the Illyrian cult of the snake.

Traditional legends about the close connection of certain reptiles with humans can be separated into 4 chapters after an analysis of Bosnian mythology:

-about the snake, guardian of the house and family,

-snake which can enter a human and live inside its body for certain amount of time

-about sexual contacts between dragons and women and the birth of snijet, baby dragon,

-and about zviždenjak and its devouring of a human corpse

All of the above mentioned chapters are actually segments of a single cult of snake, a totem animal of our ancestors. Besides serving as a totem symbol the snake represented to the Illyrians the highest deity whose spirit permeates the entire nature and universe which is especially well reflected in the belief that a large snake stretches around the entire globe, creating a ring with its body. According to ancient belief the snake was created 40 years prior to any other animal and human which is the reason that her role is especially prominent in the cult of the Grand Mother. Namely, a snake, or in its celestial form a dragon, is a classic symbol of fertility. In Bosnian tradition the connection of a snake with a dragon can be connected to the personified idea of vegetative cycles analogous to the ones from Greco-Roman mythology. A dragon actually makes a circular journey, he exits earth from water, flies through to another location where he enters a pit, a hole and reappears after a certain period.
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PostSubject: Re: BOSNIAN MYTHOLOGY - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE ILLYRIANS!   Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:07 pm

Cult of zviždenjak

Animism, which is inseparable from shamanism is evident in many segments of Bosnian folk religion in whose auspice the longest living cults, which got their religious sense from the Illyrians, embedded their beliefs into the collective consciousness of Bosniaks. The cult of zviždenjak (Salamandra salamandra) among the Bosnian people is closely linked to the cult of the snake and the belief in dragons. The name zviždenjak was given to this lizard since people believed that his scream or whistle could instantly make you deaf. He is also called družđ or diževnjak.



Based on the ancient Bosnian belief we can conclude that in fact zviždenjak is a miniature form of a dragon on earth. Its yellow colour with black spots faithfully depicts Illyrian legend about the god of evil, a large black dragon, who managed to swallow two suns in the sky while the third sun was saved by a swallow. People still today believe that the yellow colour between the black spots represents traces of the two suns that he swallowed. The concept of swallowing in this legend is analogous to the devouring of a dead human body by a zviždenjak and this imposes a conclusion that a dragon feeds of life energy which he gives back to nature in its vegetative or even reincarnating cycle, all the while waking new life in nature itself.

Although in its miniature form zviždenjak has the power to hurt any human that tries to hurt him. Namely, still today it is believed that if someone disturbs or steps on a zviždenjak he can become deaf from zviždenjak scream. It is also connected to rain among the folk since according to folk belief it appears before rain or immediately after it.

Besides obvious fear of seeing a zviždenjak and the belief that this reptile is the messenger of rain, there is no classic divination among the folk about a chance meeting with this animal according to which someone's fortune or misfortune is predicted, as is the case with the fox, rabbit, wolf and the like. Analogous with the snake, the beliefs about zviždenjak are also contradictory; in some, respect is shown to it and in others it is suggested that one should throw a curse on it: "God willing, if you are mine, you should die before me!" or to even undertake more rigorous measures i.e. to kill it. In Kakanj it is believed that it is best to kill zviždenjak 40 days prior to one's own death?! The reason for such behaviour according to belief stemming from Glamoč, Livno, Kupres and Mrkonjić Grad, is that a zviždenjak enters a dead man's body through his mouth and spoils his physical purity, and it is a good deed to kill it. Killing a zviždenjak is in opposition with the attempts of certain anthropologists and ethnologists to proclaim a zviždenjak as man's animal doppelganger, since if that was the case, killing this animal would be forbidden and would represent a great sin.

According to a belief among the Bosnian people each man has his own zviždenjak, although it remains an unknown if one gets him during birth or it appears during one's lifetime. When a man dies, the third day after the funeral, zviždenjak visits that man inside the grave. If the man was sinful during his lifetime, zviždenjak will start devouring him from his nose, but if the man was noble then it will only lay beside that person. That's why one shouldn't kill zviždenjak, if one sees him on a road it is advisable to take it with your hand and place it across the road or onto a meadow. This act of kindness can be connected with a human's attempt to propitiate his afterlife companion so that he will spare him.

In another belief it is mentioned that after a man's death a zviždenjak will visit his sahibija (master) in the grave to welcome him and he will start devouring the cadaver from his big toe. It is interesting to mention that among the Bosnian people it is believed that after a man dies and is buried, at one moment the soul returns into his dead body, entering through the toes, which results in resuscitation of the body but also shock and fear which cause a man to try and get up, he then hits his head on the wooden beams above his head and dies again. That's why we can presume that a zviždenjak starts devouring the body from the toes in order to stop him from reviving; or this act can have a mythological depiction as "life devouring" or taking away life energy from someone.

Besides eating humans from the toes, people in certain parts of Bosnia believe that a zviždenjak eats a man's nose or eyes as soon as he enters a grave. Since eyes are, according to belief, god's gift to humans and are as such holly, which also supports another belief which claims that there is no greater sin then a man swearing by his eyes, we can conclude then that a zviždenjak always goes after tabooed parts of the body. According to folk belief god had the most trouble with creating a nose, and that's why making fun of someone's nose is considered to be a great sin. Analysing the above we come to a conclusion that a zviždnejak's task is to devour a man's toes in the grave (in order to stop him from reviving), or nose and then drinks his eyes i.e. to take away his heavenly gift after which the body will be completely lifeless and without any divine sanctity. By that the human body becomes a clod of earth, from which it was created.

In the myth about the black dragon and his devouring of the sun or moon, we notice the hunger of this being for all that which sparks and has a divine characteristic. The attack of darkness and evil on light and good is an anthological tradition about two universal principles through whose interaction, creation, destruction, life and death are possible. As zviždenjak represents a miniature dragon his devouring of evil people inside a grave can be seen as an act of feeding a dragon who needs strength from evil. This is clearly visible in those parts of belief which accentuates that zviženjak starts devouring the body at the beginning or end of the body, i.e. at the places considered holly. Besides zviždenjak in the Bosnian tradition it is believed that a snake visits a dead person inside a grave and devours him and in such a way he becomes a part of it. This fits perfectly into the Illyrian myth about the great grandfather of the Illyrians which turns into a snake after he dies.
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PostSubject: Re: BOSNIAN MYTHOLOGY - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE ILLYRIANS!   Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:47 pm

As a Bogomil legend says, zviždenjaci were created out of fallen angels. Namely, when god punished all evil angels and threw them from heaven into hell, there were so many of them that they were falling all day and night, until hell was full and until it closed its gates. Those angels that fell on earth after that were turned into zviždenjak.

According to the Bogomil doctrine human souls are fallen angels trapped in the body. Perhaps in this information we can find hidden the answer as to why it is believed that zviždenjak eats a dead body inside the grave - frees a fallen angel from the human body or better yet a demon inside an animal body is freeing a demon from a human body. But, we shouldn't ignore the historical fact that the Bosnian people before the advent of Christianity (Bogomilism) and Islam had a long continuity of pagan past with its numerous Illyrian cults of nature where a central place was occupied by the cult of fertility and the Grand Mother. That's why this Bogomil legend needs to be observed strictly from the point of cultivating that same cult through folk religion which existed along with monotheism.

The cult of the Grand Mother is full of magic, mystic rituals and codexes of behaviour based on the worshiping of natural forces which can appear to humans in a human, vegetable or animal form. A special feature of this cult is that from its beginning it had the role of a public service i.e. it helped human communities which is best seen through the belief that the Grand Mother thought people everything about agriculture.

In folk tradition zviždenjak is a classic example of creative energy. He has the power to endow a human with creative energy which leads us to the idea that this animal in folk religion of our people, and especially our ancestors, had a divine status and probably represented a form of natural force. This is supported by magical practice through which one asks for blessing from this animal.

When a young man wishes to master something, especially hand crafts, he would go at spring time in search for a zviždenjak. As soon as he would find him, he would take him into his hands and would pass him three times under his belt. After that, it was believed, he will be successful in any craft he chooses. In another example that man which wanted to become a skilful master would catch a zviždenjak and would pass him along with an axe through his clothes and his belt, from his chest, downward, letting the axe hit the ground but holding the zviždenjak in his arms and uttering: "As you managed to decorate yourself like that zviždenjak, so shall I be able to make everything I want with my hands." He would then place the animal on the axe and walk home. Tomorrow he would come back to check if the zviždenjak is still on the axe, if he is that means he will become a master, but if he is not then his wish won't come true.

Girls who were unable to make embroidery nor weave and make other hand crafts would at spring time search for a zviždenjak and would pass him three times through the sleeve of their right arm and would take him home and bound in him in a ball of yarn, a piece of cloth or something else and leave him there until morning. At dawn, before sunrise, the girl would take the bound zviždenjak and would go to a spring which is turned towards east. She would place the cloth (yarn) in the water and the zviždenjak as well, uttering: "As you are multicolored zviždenjak, so too shall I know how to weave and start all work: who gave you let him also give me!" She would then take the cloth and quickly, without looking back, go home leaving the zviždenjak in the stream.

In folk tradition, because of his name, zviždenjak is considered to be a male animal, besides the fact that there are female animals of this breed, that's why it has the title of uncle. On the other hand, snake and frog are animals of female sex.

In certain parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina zviždenjak is called diževnjak, družd, daždenjak, probably from the old word dažd - rain, but we shouldn't exclude the possibility that such a name comes from the Turkish word daidža, which was retained in the Bosnian language, and means uncle. The following example from ritual practice of our people gives us this idea, namely, farmers before Jurjevo or Hidirlez would catch a zviždenjak and would throw him into milk on the day of the holiday, the milk would be milked that morning and they would utter: "So shall we be multicolored lambs, like you are dazed, uncle!" They would then take him out of the milk and would bring him to a forest and would leave him there,

Why is zviždenjak called uncle in this formula is hard to discern. Eventual family relation between a snake and zviždenjak arises as a relatively acceptable idea, as two divine beings, i.e. they are brother and sister, children of the Grand Mother personified in nature overall. But, it's a motive for further research of interesting Bosnian mythology which constantly confirms the deep connection of our people with the ancient Illyrian cults of nature.
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